How to Measure Community Engagement and Its Impact

April 21, 2023
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Measuring community engagement helps you track the quality of participatory activities, improve related processes, and show residents and stakeholders how their input influences decision-making.

Below we present a set of community engagement metrics, or KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)— select those that relate to your end goals and planning directions and set up an infrastructure for tracking (we have some tips on that below). These KPIs for community engagement can be used for a single project and on an organization-wide level. 


Why do you need community engagement metrics? 

How well did your last community engagement survey perform? How have the collected residents’ insights influenced that planning project? Without proper community engagement metrics, evaluating the success and impact of these activities is hardly possible. 

And without understanding where you’re now, how are you going to improve, replicate what’s working, and ditch what doesn’t? 

Understanding how to measure community engagement is also beneficial for justifying the spending, especially if you run these initiatives not only because they are required by law.

Why is it so difficult to measure citizen engagement?

Community engagement is in the realm of soft data that is challenging to calculate and reduce to a few KPIs that would be comparable across projects. Deliverables often feel intangible and hard to put a finger on. 

Commonly used metrics, like the number of respondents or a percentage of involved residents against the population of the area, are not enough on their own. Because they simply don’t reflect the quality and impact of citizen engagement activities. 

So here is a set of KPIs that help you measure community engagement projects. 

How to use these community engagement metrics? 

Don’t follow all of them at once. First, understand what success is for you and what is valuable for your project and organization. 

Is it broadening outreach, bringing in diverse voices, getting new insights that define the project’s trajectory, securing the long-term impact of the data on multiple projects, or increasing buy-in of the project? Then, select the KPIs that you’ll follow and report on. 

KPIs for the Engagement Process 

How effective, appealing, and transparent are your engagement actions? Is the outreach strategy efficient? To understand that, look into these metrics.

  • The number of engagement steps in a planning project
    Do you engage residents only on the public hearing stage or also before?
  • The levels of participation opportunities offered
    Consultation, decision-making, discussions, or surveys — check a more detailed guide on the types of participation
  • People involved in the design process
    Do you involve only planners, or also residents and stakeholders?
  • The variety of engagement methods and tools used
    Do you use only online tools or a blended approach?
  • The number of channels used for outreach
  • Response rate: the number of people reached vs the number of respondents
  • The depth of engagement: the number of people who landed on the webpage vs completed the survey 
  • Engagement satisfaction
    You can ask about it at the end of a questionnaire or poll the workshop participants
  • Security and compliance
    Ensure your activities and digital tools are compliant with the relevant data protection legislation (GDPR or other).  

How to track these metrics: follow these KPIs in your project documentation during the design phase and during the preliminary data analysis. When it comes to response rates and engagement depth, you can monitor these KPIs on the fly while the engagement process is ongoing to adjust the strategy if needed.  

Example: A mobility planning project from St Andrews used several stages of engagement through the process and regularly reported to residents and stakeholders about the results.

KPIs for Residents & Stakeholders 

Whom are you engaging — is it a homogenous group of residents or are respondents coming from diverse backgrounds? Who’s browsing your engagement hub, visiting on-street pop-ups, and taking surveys? 

Answering these questions requires mainly demographics-based KPIs. You’ll be able to understand whether your activities attract the groups you’re interested in and if the answers are representative of the local community. 

Collecting this information will also help you explore the preferences of specific groups — for example, how women experience the city and how safe the district is for children.

  • Variety in age groups
  • Gender balance
  • Geographic reach
  • Variety in income classes
  • Variety in education and working status
  • Diversity of cultural and linguistic backgrounds

But the metrics you choose depend on your overall goal: you can look for a proportional distribution of age groups or target specifically the youth. When analyzing and implementing the results, it’s possible to oversample or undersample specific demographics to prioritize usually underrepresented groups.

How to track these metrics: add demographic questions, usually at the end of your online survey — but make sure you don’t ask for any personally identifiable or sensitive information (here is a guide to making GDPR-compliant surveys). For in-person events, you can ask visitors to answer a simple online or paper-based survey.

Example: This participatory mapping project on the values of the Green Belt attracted 770 respondents, while Jalisco's community engagement plan involved more than 45.000 residents. Although the second case involved more people, both projects scored high on representativeness of the sample. In both cases, background demographic information was collected as a part of the map-based survey and it is known that the resulting datasets are fairly representative of the local population when it comes to income, education, and gender distribution.  

KPIs for Data Quality

The quality of resulting data defines how well local insights and opinions will be reflected in a project. Here are the parameters to track to monitor the quality and applicability of the results you are getting from citizen engagement activities.

  • Amount of feedback
  • Balanced sentiment of feedback
  • Spatial dispersion of resulting GIS-based data
  • Usability of the data type for the project in question
  • Suitability of data for the level of the plan and the area in question
    For example, if the resulting data is suitable for a detailed plan of a well-defined area.
  • Compatibility of resulting data with planning directions
    If the main goal is to encourage active travel, suggestions regarding increasing car parking capacity in the city center won’t align with the planning direction.
  • Easiness of data analysis

How to track these metrics: Maptionnaire’s Analysis functionalities are well suited for checking data quality regarding the amount, general sentiment, spatial coverage, and compatibility with planning directions. 

Example: In a public consultation regarding the placement of EV charging stations, the City of Copenhagen received good quality feedback that was generally compatible with the level, area, and directions, as well as broadly distributed.

KPIs for the Impact of Community Engagement on the End Result

Planning projects are often completed a few years after the related citizen engagement activities took place, making it really challenging to estimate the impact of residents’ and stakeholders’ feedback. Here we propose several interim metrics that will help you estimate the usage and impact of collected data in planning work, also on an organization-wide level.

  • Frequency of the data usage
  • Variability in profiles of those who use the data (department, professional capabilities)
  • The number of projects that include citizen engagement and the profile of those projects
  • Usability of data in other projects 
  • The number of opportunities for continuous involvement 
  • Number of changes motivated by the public input
  • The percentage of compatibility between public sentiment towards an area development and an initial and/or updated plan
    When doing spatial data analysis with grid cells, you can overlay public comments and a draft plan visualized in a grid format to estimate their alignment. For example, a revised area plan suggests no development within a specific grid cell, while residents perceive this grid as being suitable for development (the point density of answers in support of development is high). The level of compatibility between the plan and public input is low in this case, implying that the public input did not have an impact on this particular space. 

How to track these metrics: You can establish internal procedures for monitoring the usage of data in your citizen engagement software and cross-departmental collaboration. Maptionnaire Dashboard helps you with getting cumulative data on all projects and surveys done within your organization.

Example: A study of 9 Finnish municipalities using Maptionnaire shows that in most of the planning projects, planners could point out the areas or solutions impacted by citizen input.

Impact on Continuous Engagement 

These metrics for community engagement are not only valuable as an internal tool for measuring success and impact. Reporting to residents and stakeholders about the influence of their ideas and decisions on the planning outcome plays a huge role in building a long-lasting relationship between the city and its residents. 

Maptionnaire enables you to organize citizen engagement activities and gather invaluable spatial data for your projects — and also to assess your performance and analyze data. Get in touch with us if you want to learn more about these capabilities.

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