Meaningful Engagement at a Time of Social Distancing (COVID-19)
Quatro has been providing support to the Property and Infrastructure sectors for over a decade. During that time the industry has changed profoundly. In the past, engagement and consultation were perceived as good practice. More recently the direct involvement of residents, decision makers and the wider public is now essential to the success of a project.
COVID-19 presents limitations around the ways in which we speak to our communities. For instance, the traditional public exhibition, a mainstay in most Statements of Community Involvement, is for the time being “on ice”. And with uncertainty around the length of time this is likely to last, alternative means of engaging are critical to keeping projects on track. The need for good communication remains but it must take place in a way that respects NHS guidance and prioritises public health
So how do you continue to engage meaningfully in an era of “social distancing”?
1) Digital platforms and social media are crucial to keeping residents in the loop. When delivering infrastructure or development at scale it is crucial to ensure that not only are you aware about what is being said online but that you are an active part of the conversation. This means a number of things: agreeing a digital strategy from the outset of your project, consistency between what you’re are saying online and offline and above all a commitment to transparency.
2) Work with national and local planning authorities so they know your approach is evolving. COVID 19 has changed a lot but it has not changed the need to keep residents, decision makers and communities engaged. In fact, that need has only been underlined during this crisis. Local, Regional and National Government will need to approach engagement differently, you will need to work with them to show how engagement can be both safe and meaningful.
3) Be creative and remember that a mix of approaches is always the best way to involve the widest possible audience. At Quatro we work across the country from the Highlands to Sussex, from London to Cardiff. What works in the city might not work in the country. When working with remote communities where access to digital media is less widespread it is important to share your plans in a way that is both accessible and engaging. Making sure you explore every medium whether that is online or good old-fashioned print, is crucial to ensuring inclusive consultation.
We pride ourselves on working with communities and our clients to help realise the potential of each and every project. COVID-19 means everyone pulling together to get through this unprecedented challenge, Quatro is determined to do its bit. Now more than ever good communication is crucial, not only to the health of our industry but the health of the communities in which we work.
Quatro has developed a 10-point plan outlining how we can support your project over the next few months. If you would like to know more about it, please contact me on my details below.
Gary Pleasants, Managing Director
020 7566 7963
19 March 2020 | Hollie Ivy