The key to successful community engagement is often to use multiple engagement methods, each designed to capture the thoughts and interests of different demographics.
One of our clients, the Joint Melksham Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group, did exactly this for their formal Regulation 14 consultation which they held during the first lockdown of the pandemic in 2020, achieving amazing results in difficult times.
The Steering Group produced “talking heads” videos which helped to engage broadly. The videos were short, topic based, and explained different aspects of the plan and the process. A variety of local people, from young people, to business representatives and local interest group members agreed to speak on the videos. Nearly 800 people watched the videos from a link on the Neighbourhood Plan website, over 26,000 people were reached by Facebook with nearly 14,000 videos watched from that link. Quotes and images from the talking heads were also used in the Plan itself to really highlight the community voices within the document.
For those not online, members of the public could ring either the Town or Parish Council and ask for a hard copy of the Plan to be posted to them, and the consultation was initially advertised by a leaflet delivered to every dwelling (business and domestic) in the Plan area.
We think the range of approaches worked well to make sure everyone knew about the consultation, how to respond, and how it relates to them as people who live and work in the area. The videos in particular were a great way to make the plan accessible and to spark the interest of a wide range of people.
The approach to engagement is included in recently published guidance by Locality as a best practice example of meaningful engagement with your community, which you can access here.