Improve your community engagement results.
Here’s a simple strategy to improve your community engagement results. All you have to do is undertake some planning and ask your stakeholders the right question. Making sure you’re asking the right question was the subject of a recent TedTalk by Max Hardy. You can view Max’s TED Talk here http://maxhardy.com.au/.
There are stupid questions!
As Max points out, in community engagement, there are stupid questions. That’s because, in community engagement, the question you ask can frustrate or confuse people, make them angry, or make them withdraw. Sometimes, the wrong question can start a fight between stakeholders. To put it simply, asking the wrong question (or no deliberate question) will cause new problems, make getting good input very difficult and fracture relationships.
In fact, if you are having trouble with community and stakeholder relationships it is probably because the question is poor or even divisive.
There are questions you didn’t mean to ask
Now, you might be thinking ‘I’ve never asked a community engagement question before…’
Well…yes, you have. Even if you have never planned or asked a question on purpose, your stakeholders have absolutely perceived a question from you when you’ve engaged with them.
If you haven’t planned your engagement process or asked a deliberate question it is likely that the question your stakeholders perceived was something like:
- This is the solution. What do you think?
- This is the solution. Isn’t it great!?
Or, if you have started engagement early before there is a solution:
- We don’t know what we’re doing, what do you think we should do?
– was that question what you intended?
– Was it positive or negative?
– Was it an open or closed question?
– How did my stakeholders react to the process?
– Did I (or my stakeholders) get anything valuable from it?
– Did I just increase or decrease my organisations or personal brand?
Engaging with stakeholders when you don’t get the input or relationship development you need is a waste of time and resources.
It’s not going to get you anywhere! This kind of approach will not help your project, relationships or your brand.
Max has some great examples of what happens when you ask great and not so great questions in his Ted Talk.
So, what does asking the right question mean practically?
Luckily there is a way to fix the situation, and it’s as simple as this:
Do some planning and start your engagement process right by asking a deliberate question.
It will change everything!
Developing the right question is a 4 step process:
You cannot achieve successful community engagement without planning for it. Here’s a previous blog article on community engagement planning.
Drafting a good question utilises the initial steps of the planning process.
- Plan your outcome
- Scope the background
- Identify your stakeholders
- Draft your question
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Does your Community and/or Stakeholder Engagement Plan need a review by an Independent Engagement Specialist? Do you need to learn how to craft a great community engagement question? Do you need to improve your community and/or stakeholder engagement skills or the skills of a team?