Community engagement over the last 2 years  – What we are keeping and what we are throwing out.



Community engagement over the last 2 years – What we are keeping and what we are throwing out.

Over the last two years, we learnt how to adapt to a new normal and overcome the challenges that affected our projects and the communities we work with. We don’t want to spend time dwelling on the challenges, instead we choose to reflect on what we discovered about our work and ourselves. By doing this, we can pave a way forward in our practice as communication professionals, more equipped and resilient than before. 
 
Our passionate team at Becscomm have recalled personal insights from their experience working during an unpredictable two years on the community front line.  Here are some simple pieces of wisdom to keep you inspired while you continue the meaningful work in community engagement.
 
The intrinsic need for personal connection is more essential than ever  
 
“The increase of social isolation over the last two years has challenged the way we engage with communities. Nothing will ever replace human connection and face-to-face engagement. It remains the most effective way to listen to the important voices of the community – without risking technical error or misunderstanding.”
Suzanne Von Kolpakow, Becscomm Consultant
 
When it comes to getting to the core of the problem, nothing is more meaningful than personal interaction. Communicating in-person is essential for building trust and understanding the emotions underneath our concerns and behaviours. Where reasonable and safe to do so, go the extra mile for community members and stakeholders by meeting them in person.
 
Digital tools will stand the test of time if we use them with intention
 
“Digital tools that were necessary during the pandemic have now become part of our permanent engagement toolkit. In some cases, tools like digital breakout rooms and online whiteboards have improved community participation by encouraging interaction for people who may feel unheard in face-to-face setting that can favour the loudest voice.”
Amanda Mikhael, Becscomm Senior Consultant 
 
Now that we’ve mastered the basics, we can use digital tools and techniques more intentionally. The key is to think about the additional value they can add to both an audience and an engagement program and use them to your advantage.
 
Before including digital tools in your engagement design, ask questions such as: Is your tool inclusive and accessible? Will everyone have an opportunity to be involved? How can you ensure the tool will provide meaningful and usable results?
 
The power of self-compassion will lead to better outcomes for everyone  
 
It’s no secret that almost everyone felt symptoms of burnout over the last two years. This affected not only our performance, but also our patience, empathy, and responsiveness to others. All traits essential to doing our job well.
 
From my own experience when I wasn’t meeting my own needs, it was much harder to collaborate and communicate effectively with others. Something as simple as leaving the phone at home and going for a 30-minute walk made a huge difference.
 
Take some time out each day to do something solely for yourself and ensure your needs are met. Then you can tackle the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. This can empower how you communicate with others.
 
Our Managing Director, Rebecca Spencer, is a fierce advocate for addressing the very real issue of burnout in our industry. She provides her top 6 tips for staying ahead of burnout in this previous blog: https://becscomm.com.au/2019/12/09/protests-picket-lines-and-personal-attacks/

Post Credit: Callum Roberts – Engagement + Communications Consultant @ Becscomm

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