The importance of early and genuine stakeholder engagement to establish trust and faith in a planning process should not be underestimated. In fact, as we know the continuing reform of the NSW planning system has further embedded engagement early in the strategic planning process. In recent strategic planning projects, we have undertaken a number of pop-up style engagement activities as part of our consultation approach which have proved very successful. This month we share our six top tips to ensure your next pop-up engagement activity is a success.
What is pop-up engagement?
Pop-up style engagement is generally temporary, outdoor engagement. It can range from a government agency stall at local markets, a sporting event or a shopping centre, all the way to tactical urbanism. This is where stakeholders make low-cost, temporary changes to the built environment (often in the form of art). It basically means taking your engagement activity to the people.
Now is perfect time of the year to undertake pop-up style engagement activities – spring has sprung, summer is on its way. And communities all over the place are popping outdoors into public parks and other public spaces.
Top tips for success in your pop-up engagement
1. No preferred, pre-determined outcome
Pop-up engagement is informal, simple and works well in the early stages of a planning process. A key element of success is that facilitators do not present preferred options or strong opinions. They genuinely engage one-on-one with those stakeholders that may generally not attend more formal engagement activities. It is often the case that the pop-up engagement is followed by a suite or other engagement activities as the planning process creates more detailed plans / documents and continues to a decision-making point.
2. Purpose driven
Know why you are holding a pop-up engagement activity! A simple point but so important to making sure your purpose is realised in the context of your planning project, and is clearly communicated to all stakeholders. Focusing on this will ensure you structure your pop-up engagement accordingly. Or may even mean choosing a different method to get the best outcome.
3. Partner your pop-up!
Think about hosting a pop-up engagement activity in conjunction with another community event (such as at a local school, sporting event or festival). This can decrease potential engagement fatigue and increase buy-in / boost numbers at your activity. It can also help to make the engagement human centred. If you can’t co-locate your pop-up, you can always create interest through use of music, colour and multiple activities within the same space.
4. Planning is paramount
The location you choose may be perfect for ease of access by stakeholders and be smack bang in the middle of your study area -.but how does it fare on a windy day? Being prepared for all environmental conditions is critical to success. You also need to plan the best techniques to share and record information – tablets (new school) or chalk and post-it notes (old school) or a mix of both? Often, any foreseen issues can be easily addressed with the right equipment in your engagement tool box and good venue selection.
5. Pound the pavement
Pop-up engagement allows facilitators and other professionals to ditch the formalities, get away from behind their desk and mingle with communities to improve stakeholder reach. On a practical level, wear sensible and comfortable shoes. Be prepared to move about the pop-up engagement space and beyond in order to access more stakeholders. This often gives stakeholders a feeling of freedom to share their thoughts.
6. Prepare for passionate people
Passionate people are an important part of stakeholder engagement. However, at pop-up engagement activities they can ‘sideline’ facilitators if there is no plan in place on how to engage with such people. Facilitators are trained to ensure more than one voice is heard at pop up engagement activities. It is often a good idea to nominate the person who will negotiate and resolve any issues that arise with people who are preventing others from engaging. There are many techniques that can allow a passionate person to be heard, whilst not allowing them to monopolise the activity.
Pop-up engagement is popular for a reason – it can take you to hard to reach stakeholders, help to build relationships and trust in communities, can be resource efficient and complements other engagement methods. Like all engagement activities, success rests with preparation as evidenced in our top tips for success above.
So, as Locale continues to facilitate this increasingly popular engagement method on behalf of local government clients, please contact us if you would like to learn more or have us “pop-up” and undertake some community engagement for you!