There was a Council meeting today beginning at 10 a.m in the Council chambers. I was there, so were two other people who didn't have to be. A little later two more arrived and it was almost a party in the gallery!! Upon arrival we were presented with the fattest wad of paperwork I have ever seen. I estimate it was 8 c.m tall and largely full of waffle. There were several slightly interesting parts to the whole proceedings but one in particular which I would like to share.
We are unfortunate not to have a trolley for loading the manuscript out of my car and my back will thank me for leaving it in there so I won't go into detail about which agenda item it was, who put forward the motion or seconded but can tell you that it passed. It was related to the community engagement process that encompasses the 30 year 'vision' locals have for this region. It was full of praise for the process, mentioned several 'fringe' festivals that officers attended with the paperwork and stated that the process is continuing and all was well in the world.
Then the fun began. Apparently the amount of locals who have been 'engaged' in this process is minimal at best. According to all reports the emphasis has been on marginal groups and ensuring that those who would not normally contribute, can and do. It was further stated that the online aspect of the mainstream marketing was not particularly engaging either and it was urgent that this be addressed.
It's pretty simple really. Give every school, sporting club, shopping centre and bank hard copies for every interested person to take home. This gives the recipients adequate time to read through the paperwork (which is quite complex) and discuss the issue with their family before writing a measured and educated response to the questions. Following that, all shopping centres should have large boxes (similar to ballot boxes) placed at all customer service desks for completed surveys to be dropped into.
The cost? It can't be more expensive than employing staff to stand around at Envirofiesta and other small festivals handing out this same paperwork. It can't cost much to get some large boxes with slots in the tops. Schools, sporting clubs and banks might be willing to be part of this community engagement process for free, it's part of what they represent anyway. All in all, the cost is minimal but the benefits would be much more substantial than those seen so far.
It is months into the process and the completed surveys number in the just over one hundred, the community is clearly not engaged and continuing along the path of irrelevance is not doing anyone any favours, least of all the Council.
I previously blogged on this urging the public to fill out the online survey and received quite a few responses from locals who had done as I suggested so apparently I am more successful than an entire group of staff at a festival. For goodness sakes people, there are ways of engaging the community that are much more effective.......but they require you to actually be part of your community.....maybe that's where it's failing.