How to Get People to Participate in Community Engagement: 7 Steps

August 6, 2017
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 Planners are required to invest considerably into public participation, communication, and collaboration with citizens and various stakeholder groups to strike a balance among competing interests and values. For these investments to be successful, planners and community specialists have know how to get people to participate in community engagement activities.

For more than a decade, Maptionnaire worked in the field of public participation in planning. Here are some of the proven steps to increase public participation in community involvement.

1. Make Community Participation Fun, Online and Offline

The foundation for any effective engagement strategy is to apply a mix of conventional and modern outreach tools. But as everyday life increasingly happens through various internet platforms and mobile devices, people’s interest is rapidly shifting towards online participatory applications.

When you use digital community engagement tools for surveying opinions, you can turn it into a fun experience for residents. A positive atmosphere lowers the bar for sharing opinions and attracts more people to get involved. For example, use the right survey question types and gamification elements.

2. Be Sure to Use Visually Appealing Tools

An enjoyable visual appearance awakens people’s interest. Check our tips on making a visual survey with Maptionnaire to make your questionnaires more eye-catching.

3. Be Open and Honest about the Urban Planning Project

Urban management is becoming a more complex challenge for today’s cities. In a world of accelerated urbanization and globalization, affordable housing, public transportation, energy efficiency and social sustainability are just a few examples of the interrelated issues that need careful attention in planning processes.

Even when dealing with controversial issues, be honest and transparent within your planning process. This will help citizens trust you – also in the long term. Check out how an active travel project in St Andrews transparently communicated with residents and stakeholders throughout the consultation and planning phases.

4. Use the Data Productively

Share public consultation results using attractive visualizations and maps. Check how the City of Gothenburg used data gathered with Maptionnaire to visualize the place of arts & culture in the city.

Furthermore, things don’t need to end with communicating outcomes: if you asked where new flower benches should be placed, invite residents to plant the flowers with you! 🌻

5. Be Creative

Participation programs don’t always need to be the same. There are many interesting ways to organize your participation work. How about using interactive content or adding a little gamification to your project?

If you’re setting up in-person community meetings, you can also make them fun by bringing in digital tools into the process.

6. Don’t Be Afraid of The Public

Community participation is at the core of urban planning. During recent years, the design of a good public participation strategy that reaches out to as many as possible, has become a key question for implementing successful development initiatives.

Don’t be afraid to reaching out to people and asking for their opinion — a solid public participation strategy will ensure that you get helpful and relevant feedback.

7. Involve Residents from The Beginning

The earlier residents are involved in a public participation process, the more likely they are going to participate during the later phases. If you’re conducting a community needs assessment at the beginning of your project, community participation tools will also be helpful on this stage.


infographics on how to get people to participate in community engagement activities

In our work, we are excited to observe how cities and towns across the globe have started to understand the importance of well-thought community participation. Increasingly many are boldly experimenting with new tools to invite residents to join in co-shaping their surroundings.

It can take a lot of time and energy to organize and plan an effective participation process that is accessible to everyone. But if you’re striving to make your city liveable, it’s worth it.

Discuss effective public participation for your project with Maptionnaire experts.

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