Engaging With the Community

What Is Community Engagement?

Community engagement is any planned process that involves the community in problem solving, planning or decision-making and uses community input to assist in making decisions.  

Plans, services, strategies and policies are developed to serve the community, so engaging with the community to make sure we understand what they think about them is an important part of the process. It's a chance for them to find their voice and make a difference.

Why Is It Important and When Do We Engage With Our Community?

We recognise that people likely to be affected by something the City does should have the right to be involved in the decision-making process. Our Stakeholder Engagement Policy identifies the City's clear commitment to engaging with the community to complement the decision making role of the Council. This policy is supported by our Stakeholder Engagement Strategy.

We aim to engage with our community whenever we intend to do something that may have a positive or negative impact on their quality of life or wellbeing, or when were are required by legislation.

How Do We Engage With Our Community?

The first step we take is to work out who is most likely to be affected by what we are going to do and to what extent the change might have an impact.

The next step is to work out the appropriate level of community participation based on what can be influenced. Some things can't be influenced by the community, and we will communicate with the community so there are realistic expectations about what they can influence in any engagement.

If there is no opportunity to influence outcomes, it is still critical that impacted people are promptly informed about what will happen.

Below are examples of what can be influenced through community engagement, the level of participation and the methods used. All current and past engagements are shown on the Melville Talks engagement listing.

What can be influenced?Level of participationWhat this meansPossible method/s used
The scope of the projectInvolve during project development phase and inform during subsequent phases

We will work with our community to ensure their ideas and concerns are reflected in the development of the project and we will provide feedback on how community input influenced decisions. Our community have the most knowledge of, or concerns about the likely effects of a project so we will engage with them early on, usually in the project development phase, to avoid negative impacts or potentially mitigate them

  • Community Reference Group (CRG)*
  • Community panel or think tank*
  • Live polling (see Mobile Participation in the FAQs below)
The options and alternatives for the implementation of a projectPartner/collaborate during all project phasesWe look to our community for advice, local knowledge, advice and innovation in formulating solutions to problems, incorporating their advice and recommendations into decisions to the maximum extent possible.
  • Community Reference Group (CRG)*
  • Community panel or think tank*
  • Live polling (see Mobile Participation in the FAQs below)
Preferences for specified options and alternativesConsult as necessary from project development to implementation 

We will listen to and acknowledge community views and concerns, and provide feedback on how community input influenced a final decision/s made by Council or the City.

Multiple methods can and may be used.

  • Survey
  • Community panel or think tank*
  • Workshop/focus group*: To make sure these processes are conducted in a ‘safe’ space, they will be facilitated in such a way as to encourage openness and accountability among all participants.
  • Online discussion forum
  • Interactive maps
  • Ideas walls 
Final decisions on a matterEmpowerWe will implement what the decides
  • Participatory budgeting 
  • Online or in person voting

*The community are invited to nominate to participate in a CRG or Panel/Think Tank via an Expression of Interest, however final make-up of groups will be based on the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) profile of the City. CRGs are typically made up of less than 15 people and are project specific, while Panels/Think Tanks can have up to 50 people and consider policies, strategies and service improvements.

FAQs

Below are some of the questions we are frequently asked about Community Engagement.

How do you decide when to engage with the community?

There are many drivers for community engagement and a number of factors which influence the way we engage with the community. Community engagement will be carried out when:

  • Something the City is intending to do has an impact on the community
  • it is required by legislation such as the creation of a local law or planning scheme
How do you decide which methods to use?

There are a number of ways to carry out a community engagement process and the preferred methods are determined by the project, plan or strategy and its possible impact on the community. We identify which engagements require simple notification as opposed to in-depth community engagement using a social impact matrix.

How long are engagements open for community participation?

An engagement may include multiple methods to maximise opportunities for the community’s interactions.

  • Establishment of a Community Reference Group (CRG) will include sending out direct invitations to a random sample of people and inviting them to complete an Expression of Interest (2 weeks)
  • Serving on a CRG could include attending meetings for several consecutive weeks with the longest period of service being 8 weeks in duration and the shortest being 2 weeks.  

All online engagements such as online surveys, interactive maps etc are open for a minimum of two weeks. We find that most inputs from the community happen within the first 48 hours of an engagement opening.

How do you promote engagements?

There are many ways in which the opportunity to get involved in an engagement can be promoted including:

  • Via the Melville Talks page
  • Social media including Facebook and Instagram
  • Invitations sent via random sample to City of Melville residents, ratepayers, library and LeisureFit members
  • Letters  
  • Posters on public noticeboards
  • Advertorial in Melville Gazette
  • Information in the Melville Talks eNews and other City of Melville eNews
  • Signage if an engagement is for a specific location
  • Information in media releases  
Why do we send direct invitations for surveys via random sample?

If you want to consult with the community using a survey and have certainty about the results, you must have two things:

  1. A sample frame or list from which you draw the sample
  2. A sample size which is representative of the population you want to survey

Until recent times, market researchers could use the phone book as their sample frame, randomly selecting potential participants from the listings and would for example call every 10th person in the phone book until they reached the correct sample size for the required demographics.

Our sample frame

At the City of Melville, our sample frame is our customer service database which contains over 25,000 email addresses collected from people using one of our 200 produces and services. It includes ratepayers, registered dog/cat owners, Library and LeisureFit members, people who have a pool inspected or report graffiti to name a few.

We know that inviting people to participate via email is the most efficient and cost effective way to get the best results as opposed to letters, using market research services and advertising in local newspapers. By sending direct emails people are made aware about opportunities to engage even if they choose not to respond to our invitation. This is reflected in the open rate of our email invitations and the visitor numbers to Melville Talks which is consistently higher than the number of people who choose to participate.

Demographic data

When conducting a survey we also ensure demographic data is collected from participants. We can then determine the extent to which a sample is demographically representative by comparing who responded against the Australian Bureau of Statistics profile for the same area. 

What if I want to participate in the survey but don't receive an invitation?

While not everyone who is interested in an engagement will receive an invitation to participate in a survey, it is not the only method we use to gain community feedback about issues affecting them. 

We use multiple methods to engage with the community, to find out how you can get involved in an engagement your interested in just visit the Melville Talks Engagements page to see what is open for you to participate in. All information shared by the community is analysed and reported on.

How can I become part of the sample used by the City

We encourage the community to update their contact details with the City, including email to ensure they are part of the sample frame we use for engagements.

Why do we use mobile participation, how does it work and what happens with the data?

Mobile participation (M-Participation) gives everyone a voice and involves participants using smart phones or tablets at a public event.

It's a dynamic, interactive and fun tool which allows everyone present the opportunity to speak for themselves and be heard.

More conventional workshop methods have a number of disadvantages:

  • Confident and articulate people will control discussions.
  • People who are uncomfortable with speaking in a public setting will not contribute.
  • Records of the event are likely to be incomplete or inaccurate, particularly in circumstances where volunteer scribes are used.
  • If audio recordings are used, the costs of set up and transcription are likely to be prohibitive.
  • Outcomes from workshops are unlikely to be available for several weeks, rather than immediately following an event.

How does it work?

Currently we use Poll Everywhere which allows attendees to use mobile phones and tablets to get to know each other through a series of icebreaker questions.

This is followed by a presentation where attendees will be asked a series of questions including multiple choice, open response, live word clouds, clickable images, up- and down-voting for Q&A, and rank order.

The best part about mobile participation is that all the responses are displayed live allowing for conversations to develop and evolve.

What do you do with the data?

We use Mobile Participation to maintain a true and accurate electronic record of workshop proceedings.

After each workshop the information is published and shared on the relevant Melville Talks project page.

How do we use Poll Everywhere at a workshop?
  1. Attendees can either use their own mobile phone or one of the iPads made available by the City.
  2. To participate in the workshop attendees will then need to either use their own data or log into the Wi-Fi Network and then open their internet browsing app.
  3. In the URL bar, type www.pollev.com/melvilletalks
  4. The presentation will only be available at the time of the workshop and does not require participants to provide a name.
What if I'm not confident participating using mobile devices?

City of Melville staff are always available at workshops to help attendees participate using mobile devices and answer questions. Alternatively you can bring someone who is confident with mobile technology (kids are great and love to use it) just let us know when you RSVP.

If you would like to submit your answers on paper that's fine too. They will be added to the final report but unfortunately will not be shared at the time of the workshop.

What happens with my feedback?

In community engagement processes, all comments, ideas and suggestion are collected and reported alongside other inputs, including legislative, financial and technical requirements to inform Council on decision making processes. Depending on whether the information is quantitative or qualitative in nature, different methods are used to analyse and then report back to the community.

Why can’t the community always influence what happens?

While there are many occasions where community influence can be applied, for the most part the democratically elected Council is responsible for making decisions on behalf of the whole community, for the ‘good of the district.’ This is particularly so in the case of long-term planning for the future, where Council need to take into account factors such as population growth and the needs of future generations, demographic trends, new technologies, changing social expectations and the impact of climate change. 

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