Engaging everyone

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Certain groups are often considered “hard to reach” or “seldom heard” and their views are less often represented in engagement and consultations than others. This typically is thought to include people from minority ethnic backgrounds, younger people, older people, and people who work long hours.

Anyone who has fewer resources and skills, or less confidence in dealing with institutions, or who has little free time, may find it hard to take part in engagement exercises.

The general principles that should be applied to engagement to reach everyone are:

  • go to where people are likely to be rather than expecting them to come to you. This could mean going to the mosque, or the barbers, to the station to catch commuters returning home after work, or the bingo session
  • you may need the help of engagement specialists to speak to some groups. For example many young people will be suspicious of adults they do not know asking questions, whereas people with the right skills and experience such as youth workers can get past these barriers
  • language can be a barrier for people without strong spoken and written English. But providing translated materials and interpreters can be impractical given financial constraints and the sheer number of languages spoken in Waltham Forest. It may be more realistic to plan to work with community groups and networks to use community members as translators and interpreters
  • digital engagement reaches many people who traditional engagement may not (particularly people who will find it easier giving their opinions online rather than face to face); however digital engagement leaves out a lot of people who are not online, or people who are not comfortable dealing with written engagement materials online. Many young people are online for gaming and social media but may find information websites daunting
  • if you want to reach a diverse range of people, use a variety of methods. No one approach or method will reach everyone. The marketing adage “if you target everyone, you reach no one” applies to engagement too
  • be creative. Your engagement need to compete with all the other messages being sent from businesses, charities, government, so using creative and eye catching methods really helps.
  • check your assumptions. No group is homogeneous, and will include people with different interests, backgrounds and enthusiasms. Test what you know about how people will react to engagement, and review against evidence of what has worked in the past.