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Consult

The second level of engagement entails stakeholder consultation – in essence providing some mechanism to gather input on the issue, problem, or process you are concerned about.

Depending on the issue at hand, your objective with this goal may be to elicit citizens’ opinions, perspectives, ideas, underlying values, solutions, or priorities.  Regardless of your approach you should strive to gain as much feedback from local citizens and stakeholders as possible (DSE et al, 2013).  Keys to obtaining strong citizen feedback consist of engaged listening, purposeful design, ensuring widely shared information and an understanding of the engagement process, it’s goals and limitations, and a clear demonstration of concern for what stakeholders have to say (DSE et al, 2013).  Tools for consulting include:

Interviews

can be a crucial part of preliminary research into an issue, allowing for leaders to get a sense of community ideals (NCDD, 2010).  Interviews are often a good way to make contact with local people and gain a clearer idea of the community context (DSE et al, 2013).  An advantage of interviews, rather than surveys, as a community engagement tool is that interviews often allow for great detail An interviewer is likely to gain more insight into an issue through an interview than they are through a survey, which often has limited space for responses. However, interviews are generally more costly to conduct, with respect to both time and money, than a survey.

Surveys

like interviews, surveys are useful in preliminary research and can also be as a “Needs Assessment” tool to gauge the state of a community (DSE et al, 2013).  General advantages to using both surveys and interviews as community engagement tools are that they can identify stakeholder demographics, gauge citizens’ values and priorities regarding a local issue, allow citizens to voice their opinions/concerns, and assess citizens’ support for a potential solution or policy (DSE et al, 2013). Surveys, specifically, can ask questions that aid in measuring the success of a program or meeting, without fear of interviewer bias (NCDD, 2010).  Generally, surveys are systematic and used in a series, including follow-up events. A final strength of surveys is their delivery flexibility – they can be administered online, by mail or over the telephone. 

Focus groups

bring community stakeholders together to probe in-depth considerations and perspectives.  Focus groups work best when they are well-planned and built around a consistent set of questions. While the limitation is that your time and space limit the number of participants you can have in a focus group, the in-depth nature of the discussions, and the ability to meet stakeholders ‘where they live’ can often provide valuable insights. 

Nominal group process (NGP)

is similar to a focus group with the goal of enhancing clear communication, fostering creative thinking and improving problem solving skills in an organization and is frequently used in the framework of management training (Delbecq et al, 1971).  The nominal group process is a good method to use when you want to brainstorm, gather ideas, and prioritize issues. This process works best when a larger group of people is first brought together to discuss a community issue or problem (Bassler et al, 2008). A good description for conducting a Nominal Group Process can be found in ‘Developing Effective Citizen Engagement: A How-To Guide for Community Leaders

Delphi technique

is a procedure that started to evolve during the 1950s with the goal of gathering as many reliable expert opinions on a topic as possible (Rowe & Wright, 1999).  The method for gathering the opinions is based on questionnaires that allow for opinions to be stated (Rowe et al, 1999).  Once the feedback from the questionnaires is gathered and organized, the information could be incorporated into a larger group meeting for further feedback (Rowe et al, 1999).

Appreciative Inquiry

is a change method that encourages stakeholders to explore the best of the past and present in their organizations and communities. AI involves, in a central way, the art and practice of asking questions that strengthen a system’s capacity to apprehend, anticipate, and heighten positive potential. (NCDD, 2010) (Appreciative Inquiry).

Roundtable discussions

are another strategy in community engagement which allows key players in a specific context to gather together to analyze an issue (Frost & Sullivan, 2014).  At roundtable discussions there is usually no set agenda, rather the point is to have each participant contribute and bring forth points they would like to discuss.  Generally, roundtables last approximately 90 minutes (Frost et al, 2014).

 

References:

 
"Resource Guide on Public Engagement." National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation (NCDD), 2010.

Delbecq, Andre L., and Andrew H Van de Ven. "A group process model for problem identification and program planning." The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science 7, no. 4 (1971): 466-492.

Bassler, A. et al., "Developing Effective Citizen Engagement: A How-to Guide for Community Leaders." Center for Rural America, 2008.

Rowe, Gene and George Wright. "The Delphi technique as a forecasting tool: issues and analysis." International Journal of Forecasting 15, no. 4 (1999): 353-375.