There are three main activities that form the basis of engagement:
"Giving information" is when local people are given a wide range of information on issues affecting them, but are not invited to influence them directly.
This could be information on public services including, how to access them, how they are performing or proposed changes to how a service is delivered.
Information should be available in a range of appropriate formats and must be accessible, easy to understand and tailored to the audience.
Consultation happens when the views of local people are appropriately sought to influence decision making about issues that might affect them.
This could be a future change to a borough-wide service or a local issue such as the introduction of traffic calming measures.
Some consultations are statutory; others are carried out in recognition of the value of the opinions of local people.
In the case of statutory consultation, there is a need to be aware of the appropriate legislation and/or guidance on the scope and timescales required.
Consultation can take different forms
- Focus groups
- Web forums
- Community events
People are invited to make comments and give views on the subject of the consultation. Thought should be given to the complexity of the issues being consulted on and the support people will need to participate meaningfully.
Community involvement covers the range of other activities that can be undertaken to involve local people in influencing issues such as service delivery and design on a borough-wide or more local basis.
Involvement implies that communities are being included in the process of decision making and this may include deciding how they want to be involved.
Unlike consultation, community involvement may be ongoing and give opportunities for the community to raise their own issues.
- Partners and Communities Together (PACT) meetings
- User group forums
- Interactive online involvement
Things to remember when engaging with citizens
It is important that:
- Any involvement activities are appropriately targeted to the right audience
- The terms of reference are made clear to the participants as well as what can and cannot be influenced.
- The consultation process should be inclusive, taking into account the diversity of the people in the local area, and ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to be heard
- Feedback on the outcome of the consultation should always be provided to those who were consulted on the decision taken, or the outcome of the engagement activity.
- You consider how best to involve local councillors in the engagement process.