The old adage ‘if you fail to plan, you plan to fail’ certainly applies to community engagement activity. You’ll get the best results from your consultation process if you plan it well as good planning = good results! To this end, we’ve put together some top tips on how to get the most out of running a local community consultation.

Top 10 Key Considerations

  1. Set your objectives
  2. Understand your community
  3. Set your community challenge
  4. Set project parameters
  5. Create content
  6. Set up your engagement activity (dialogue, consultation, budget simulation, etc.)
  7. Create your moderation / facilitation strategy
  8. Plan your outreach and social media strategy
  9. Launch!
  10. Close, analyse and feedback

We’ll cover the first five today, and finish off tomorrow:

1. Set Your Objectives

Understanding what you want to achieve with your engagement activity is key to a successful and well-run project.

  • What do you want to achieve through your community dialogue process?
  • Who do want to involve? Will you consult general members of the public, key internal and external stakeholders, etc.
  • What kinds of targets (numeric) are you aiming for? How many responses / ideas / submissions do you hope to get?
  • What do you plan to do with the results?
  • How does this activity fit into your policy making process?

2. Understand Your Community

When planning a community dialogue it’s key you understand who your target community is, how they’re structured online and who the key influencers are.

  • How is your target community made up? What main demographic groups are in your area? What are the key stakeholder groups?
  • How does your target community use the internet? Do they use social media? Are there any local online community groups?
  • Who are the key online influencers in your target community?

3. Set your community challenge

The best way to set up the basis for your community consultation is to phrase it as a challenge. Challenges are much more positive, inclusive and participative for people to get involved with.

  • Phrase your overall question as a community challenge, e.g. ‘how would you balance the 2013/14 budget?’ or ‘we want to improve transport links in your area; please help us by suggesting your transportation improvement ideas’.
  • Set rewards for your challenge, such as, ‘the top 10 best ideas will be included in the Citizen Recommendations section of our strategic policy plan’.

4. Set project parameters

Setting parameters around your consultation is important to ensure the process is well defined and tightly run.

  • Set the timeframe for the consultation, including how long it will be ‘live’ and when you will feed back to the community on the results of the activity.
  • Be clear about how the consultation fits into related activities, like public events.
  • Decide who is running the activity. Who can citizens contact with questions? Who will be reviewing the results and providing feedback? Clearly allocate roles within your team. Who is responsible for the content? Who will analyse results and prepare the report? Your engagement timeline is important here as well, so that your team can plan their workload.

5. Create content for your consultation

To encourage participants to provide the best ideas and feedback, provide top quality consultation content. Multimedia content – videos, maps, pictures, etc., helps to engage participants.

  • Contextualising your community dialogue by integrating relevant content and information is important.
  • Multimedia content can be very effective. For example, you could embed a map that shows the area you are consulting about, or a video that demonstrates your challenge.
  • With text, always be concise, and use clear language. We love the GOV.UK style guide at as the information provided applies to all community-facing writing.

Watch out for our next five top tips tomorrow!