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Define better project outcomes

5 takeaways from our inclusive engagement webinar

May 10, 2021

Recently, PRR hosted a workshop on inclusive engagement during COVID-19 focused on our work with Washington state clients in the environmental sector. Collaboratively with participants, we defined inclusive engagement, considered how inclusive engagement leads to better project outcomes and talked through four strategies for success with tactics for each. Strategies included:

  • Meet people where they are, on their own time
  • Speak to people in a way that resonates for them …
  •  … in the language they are most comfortable using
  • Be intentional about reaching people who are historically overlooked, underserved, and seldom heard

One of the big things we heard: virtual engagement is here to stay. Every participant said they expect to keep using virtual engagement tools, and a majority of participants said they don’t think in-person engagement will resume until 2022.
Five key takeaways from the workshop:

  1. Time and money are limited, especially for agencies whose budgets have been impacted by the pandemic.  Start by focusing on who will be most impacted by a project and designing engagement strategies to reach those people, rather than starting with a standard strategy and trying to fit in tactics for specific populations.
  2. Gaps in internet access are a real concern when considering virtual engagement approaches. A thorough demographic analysis can help you understand the gaps in your project area. Some ways to address this are to optimize virtual tools for mobile, offer remote solutions that don’t rely on technology like postcards or signs, and prioritize socially distant in-person engagement.
  3. Bring your audience to the table early to help inform engagement strategies and develop messaging that will resonate with the people you are trying to reach.
  4. Include a mix of strategies and tactics to reduce barriers to participation for as many people as possible. Consider those barriers to participation as you plan and try to include tactics that overcome different barriers.
  5. Track participation metrics. There are free online tools to help with this for virtual engagement, but all engagement strategies benefit from tracking. Tracking helps you know where you are successfully reaching people, and where you might need to adjust your strategy.

For many of us, the need to conduct outreach and engagement remotely for the past year has highlighted newer or less familiar outreach tactics that reach audiences we’ve previously struggled to reach. We’re excited to see how a blend of these remote tactics combined with a return to in-person tactics shapes community engagement strategies moving forward.

 

 

Lynsey Burgess
Written by:
Lynsey Burgess

West Coast Environment Sector Lead

I lead PRR’s west coast environmental sector, guiding integrated solutions for clients that keep our air and water clean, provide […]