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6 November 2019 6 min read

Community engagement in the attention economy

We are living in a time when everyone is busy and when it comes to community engagement – that’s a problem. Multiple devices, time constraints, and limited attention spans are part of modern life.  At the same time – everyone wants and expects their say, but on their terms. It’s known as the attention economy – and put simply by Matthew Crawford, “Attention is a resource—a person has only so much of it.” 

 If you work in community or stakeholder engagement, you will know that there are so many benefits to keeping the community informed – allowing them to express any concerns, which may lead to community support for the project, which in turn can increase the likelihood of planning success, and of course,  engaging community members in the process can ensure that they benefit from (or are not negatively impacted by) the development in question.

When it comes to community engagement, you need to put yourself in a stakeholder or a community member’s shoes. They will have to weigh up between answering your questionnaire, attending your event or doing something fun, something for the family or another commitment.  You need to cut through the noise by asking them to be present with you and you need to ask for help and your ask has to be specific, tailored and genuine to the person you are speaking to.

We think what is key innovation. Looking at this further, the Community Engagement Good Practice Review by Dr Mhairi Aitken, Dr Claire Haggett & Dr David Rudolph had a great quote caught our eye.

“We find the importance of wide-ranging and innovative methods; methods which strive to facilitate dialogue; instances where action is taken on the basis of responses gathered; measures to keep engagement ongoing through all stages including approval and construction; the role of identifying and implementing tangible benefits.

We also find that where minor influence only is granted, and people are not perceived to be affected – even though they may feel that they are – this tends to cause resentment, and the benefit of taking people and their concerns seriously has an impact on acceptance across all cases.”

Cut through the noise

You need to cut through the noise by asking them to be present with you and you need to ask for help and your ask has to be specific, tailored and genuine to the person you are speaking to. If you can show your community members how appreciated they are, that you bring them value, the more likely it will be that they will be to return that favour.  This means not asking the same people time and time again and being really diverse in your methods.

People like to help, so we envision more campaigns that are overarching  – such as ongoing engagement such as steering and. advisory committees, task forces, social media campaigns and periodic engagements – focus groups, workshops events and interviews as well as public hearings, but also smaller, one to one communication. 

We have read interesting reports, such as that of Burton Wold Wind Farm South where the consultation process included access to a free-phone number, a free-post system and a consultation website through which people could get in touch with the developer directly to raise concerns or provide questions.

Naturally, the role of community engagement is best suited to someone that likes talking (and listening!) but what we expect to see is a continued increase in the wide range of engagement methods being used. Alongside awareness-raising activities such as public exhibitions and drop-in sessions, consultation exercises such as surveys or comment cards there may be more digital techniques including crowd-sourcing exercises to explore ideas and workshops in addition to conventional meetings to drive more active engagement with community members and increase greater dialogue and interaction.

Don’t do it alone

If you are looking to amplify and accelerate the innovation in your engagement, don’t do it without Tractivity. Our system is designed specifically to help you keep your engagement data and communication tools in one place.

A dazzling CRM suite may offer plenty of options, and newsletter, survey and events tools may offer some solutions – but only Tractivity offers specific stakeholder engagement and management tools in one place with a UK support team.

Tractivity is an all in one management system for Stakeholder Communication, Engagement and Reporting used by a whole range of organisations in the Energy, Utilities, Transport and NHS sectors to manage their stakeholder interactions.

Tractivity organises stakeholders, communication and reporting together for one central source for stakeholder management, allows you to gather reports from the entire project and summarise key activity whenever you need it and also includes communication facilities such as newsletters, surveys and event management tools.

We never charge per record which means you will never be penalised for using your system over time,  we don’t cap newsletter sends, all our modules are included whatever your licence and we include onsite training, data importing UK based support

 and bespoke reports, alongside the support of a dedicated account manager and access to our support team via telephone or email.

To discover more benefits, book in for a demonstration at a time to suit you.