Community engagement – it’s all gone quiet – that’s a good thing right?

Man with his hand cupped behind hie ear, listening

That depends. How proactive have you been in identifying and engaging with the people and communities who care about the area where you are looking to developing new infrastructure.

Most people and communities lack the opportunity, time, energy and enthusiasm to engage in a lot of debate – and low levels of participation and engagement inhibit the growth of knowledge and understanding in this area. Ultimately, that does you little favour, whether you are building energy from waste facilities, proposing new wind turbines or upgrading transport infrastructure.

Reaching the quiet and busy majority can be vital – because objectors will always be loud and noisy – as is their right. They will be passionate and emotional, well connected and maybe even right, at least about some issues.

So, in order to enable communities to take an active and meaningful role in developments, line with the government’s localism principles, thinking that everything is all quiet is not necessarily a good thing.

Engagement needs to be accessible and inclusive – developers and planners need to use tactics that reach out to all sectors of the community, ensuring you hear from beyond the loudest voices and ‘usual suspects’.

That means using a multi-channel approach to engagement – one size doesn’t fit all. Making the extra effort to engage with all stakeholders will show your desire to involve them in the development of the plans – what you get out reflects what you put in.

For example, we think there is a huge role to play for video, animation and other rich content snippets through local media, project websites, social media channels and in direct engagement to help bring the science or technical fact narrative to life and produce a compelling and clear case to encourage communities and stakeholders to support the process.

So, I’d suggest you stop presuming that no news is good news. It may mean a nasty surprise is just round the corner, and forewarned is forearmed.