“Inform” is the first step on the IAP2 Spectrum of Public Participation. For an effective and productive public dialogue, people need to be provided with “balanced and objective information to assist them in understanding the problems, alternatives and/or solutions”.
However, citizen engagement processes often involve complex policy issues which may include technical documents, jargon, and other specialized information. For example, municipal bylaws or architectural drawings can be inaccessible and confusing to individuals without specialized training or knowledge. When people are confused, they may feel intimidated, inadequate or unqualified to speak on a certain issue, and be deterred from participating.
Incorporating multimedia as part of your engagement process can help reduce barriers to comprehension. It’s a great way to translate complex ideas into smaller, easily-digestible bits of information. It also provides the opportunity to deliver a clear and engaging message that can appeal to a wide range of participants with varying levels of technical knowledge or language ability.
In this post, you will learn the benefit of incorporating different types of multimedia as part of your engagement process. We’ll also share some free resources so you can get started without breaking the bank!
A picture is worth a thousand words. Enhance your online consultation with high-quality, high-resolution photos and images to draw people in. Consider uploading poster boards or presentation slides from public meetings or town halls to enhance comprehension. For example, a consultation on land-use might include current photos of the block slated for development or renderings/concept drawings of the proposed project.
It is unrealistic to expect participants to wade through hundreds of pages in order to gain context prior to a public consultation. Graphs, charts, or roadmaps are a great way to visualize, simplify, and highlight key ideas or share statistical findings. Showcase the engagement process or timeline (e.g. multiple phases) in a clear and transparent manner by using a roadmap infographic. At the end of the engagement process, design infographics to share poll or survey results to “close the loop” with your participants and let them know how their feedback contributed to the final decision.
- Make infographics, charts and interactive maps with Infogram
Online engagement doesn’t have to be impersonal. To encourage higher rates of participation, film a short video (~30 seconds) of a project lead outlining the project, why they are consulting, and the impact that the feedback collected will have on the decision-making process. Consider creating short explainer videos to break down complex topics in an engaging and relatable manner. (Vox does an incredible job.) Finally, as livestreaming becomes more and more ubiquitous, try streaming public hearings or town hall meetings for people who are unable to attend in-person.
Whether you’re running errands at the grocery store or working out at the gym, podcasts are a great way to access information and learn on the go. They also lend themselves uniquely well to a personal, in-depth form of storytelling. Local government organization ELGL’s (Engaging Local Government Leaders) GovLove podcast shares informative and unique stories about the work being done at the local level. Find creative ways to incorporate podcasts into your organization’s engagement and outreach. For example, feature short interviews with community members and key stakeholders about how the project will impact them. Alternatively, take a deeper dive by telling a story or sharing the history behind the issue at hand, a la This American Life.
Do you use any other multimedia tools to enhance your consultations? Share them in the comments below!