3 steps to help you avoid outrage and create community engagement success. Lessons from the Max Hardy TEDx Talk.

It was exciting to see a TEDx Talk by none other than Max Hardy released earlier this month.   Here is a link to Max’s website. His TEDx Talk is on the front page.

For one, it recognises Max Hardy as one of the leading community engagement practitioners out there. And two, it gets a conversation going about what it takes to deliver great community engagement.

Max choose to focus on a community engagement fundamental in his talk. That is, how to craft a great question that will engage the community right, right from the start. As he says, getting your community engagement question right can be the difference between conflict and outrage or, a great experience and enduring solution.

One of the things that struck me about Max’s TEDx is his feeling that most community engagement misses the mark and a lot of the actions taken in the name of ‘community engagement’ is really just marketing or communicating a solution to the community. And so, by default, the question you are asking is:


This is the solution. What do you think?’


This is the solution. Isn’t it great?


Sadly, when the community (or segments of the community) don’t think it’s great – they can be thought of as a bit stupid or ungrateful. Taking this path will lead to relationships quickly spiralling into distrust, conflict and outrage. Or the community choosing to not engage. All of this, of course, is not good for brand and adds unnecessary risk to working with the community.

Luckily for everyone, Max offers a really simple solution.  It’s all about taking some time to think, plan and ask the community better questions.

What questions have you asked when you’ve engaged with the community? Let us know in the discussion below.

As Max points out in his TEDx Talk a great question should be like a puzzle.  It should inspire people to engage and work towards a solution even if there are different positions involved.

To put it simply, a great question makes all the difference and time should be spent planning the question and the engagement process.


The steps that will help you draft a great question

Of course, you can’t just pull a great question out of the air so here are 3 steps to help you review your project and craft your question. Working through these steps will help you pose a question to the community that is mindful of the history and the position and interest of all stakeholders.

  1. Investigate the Background – Has the community been engaged before? What was the question? (even if it wasn’t written down … there was a question. Take some time to reflect and write down what it was.)
  2. Map the stakeholders.
  3. Identify the position and interest of the stakeholders. Don’t forget to include the position and interest of the sponsor organisation.


Want to learn more and get help crafting your question?

I’m thrilled to developing an online course with Max Hardy. The course will extend Max’s TEDx Talk and give you the steps and tools for you to review your own project and move forward with your own powerful, community engagement question.

As part of the course, we’ll work through the step-by-step process that will help develop a great question for your project – a question that will encourage engagement and avoid conflict and outrage.

You will get access to course videos, a workbook and the tools to guide you through:

  1. investigating the background
  2. mapping stakeholders and
  3. crafting your question through identifying the stakeholder position and interest.

You will also have the opportunity to attend one of 2 live, online training sessions hosted by Max and myself.  The tools we teach in this course can be used again and again. They will work on small projects or for very large and complex projects.

With this course, you will be able to create a community engagement question for your project that will help create a positive engagement experience and avoid the kind of conflict and outrage that can come with a poor question.

The course will be launching in mid-February 2018 with the live, online training sessions held in the week starting March 10.

Find out more about Questions Change Everything here

Click the link below to join our waiting list and get the early bird price!

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