1 Guidelines for developing a community engagement strategy June 2016
2 3 Guidelines for developing a community engagement strategy Part 1: Introduction Purpose The purpose of these guidelines is to assist staff in following the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (DEWNR) community participation in decisions policy, which has four elements: As early as possible, communities should be provided with meaningful opportunities to participate in decisions about DEWNR policies, plans, programs and services that may affect or interest them. Particular attention should be paid to ensuring Aboriginal communities and individuals have meaningful opportunities to participate in decisions about DEWNR policies, plans, programs and services that may affect or interest them. Strategies for ensuring community participation in decisions should be developed using DEWNR s guidelines, which are based on the Department of the Premier and Cabinet s guide, Better Together: Principles of Engagement, and the values and practices of the International Association of Public Participation (IAP2). Engaging the community to participate in decisions about environment, water and other natural resources management (NRM) matters should (in most circumstances) be done either with or through NRM boards and/or the staff that support them in the relevant region. Please refer to the policy on community participation in decisions for further details, including staff responsibilities. Definitions In the context of these guidelines: A community is defined as a group of people, whose members reside in the same geographical area or have a shared background or interest. A stakeholder is defined as any individual or group of people that has an interest or investment in a matter. Community engagement is defined as any process or interaction used to occupy the attention or efforts of a community, including communication, community participation in decisions and community participation in activities. Community participation in decisions is defined as participation by communities in the process of decisions being made about matters that affect or interest them. Communication is defined as imparting or exchanging information or ideas. It is particularly important to note the scope of these guidelines. Although community engagement is understood more broadly to include communication and community participation in activities, these guidelines apply when developing strategies that ensure community participation in decisions. This more narrow definition of community engagement is adopted in Better Together and by IAP2, on which DEWNR has agreed to base its approach to community participation in decisions. When is a community engagement strategy required? According to DEWNR s community participation in decisions policy, staff developing and implementing policies, plans or programs or delivering services that may affect or interest a community need to consider whether the community should participate in any decisions made about those policies, plans, programs or services. This will depend on the level to which the decisions are likely to affect or interest the community, and the capability and willingness of the community to participate in the process. If it is decided that the community should participate, staff should then develop and document a strategy for engaging the community using these guidelines and the accompanying Better Together Engagement Plan template. The participation strategy should include the communications activities that will support the project, including media liaison if required, rather than these being covered in separate communications and/or media strategies.
3 If the objective is to encourage community participation in activities to achieve outcomes such as conservation and sustainable use of natural resources, then a community participation in activities strategy should be developed. If staff simply wish to raise a community s awareness about a matter, encourage discussion and debate about problems and ideas, or share knowledge and information, then a participation strategy is not required. A communications and/ or media strategy may be required, if the matter is expected to be significant or sensitive. This template is a useful guide to developing a communications plan when informing the community. Staff can also refer to DEWNR s Community Engagement (CE) Branch or regional communications staff for advice. Regardless of the form/s of engagement required, it is important that a strategy to plan, document, implement, evaluate, report on and, if necessary, adjust the participation process is developed. In situations where only one form of engagement is required, a strategy for that form of engagement i.e. a communication (Inform) strategy, a participation strategy or an activities strategy should be developed. However, in situations in which more than one form of engagement is required, an overarching community engagement strategy that includes details about each form of engagement should be developed (using the Better Together Engagement Plan template) as a guide. For more information about other types of community engagement, refer to DEWNR s (detailed) and (summarised) community engagement framework. Why is community participation in decisions important? People have a right to participate in decisions about matters that affect them. Similarly, the government has a responsibility to develop and deliver effective policies, plans, programs and services aligned with what communities need and value. Community participation in decision-making has many benefits. It allows governments to access community knowledge to achieve better outcomes and more enduring solutions, encourages community stewardship and shared accountability for decisions made, and establishes new and better relationships with community members. Conversely, engaging with governments allows communities to become more aware of and responsible for matters that affect or interest them, be heard and feel empowered and gain the skills and confidence to take on leadership and stewardship roles in future. The Premier has made a strong commitment to putting community participation at the heart of how his government works. He has encouraged all South Australian government agencies to become more citizen centric by providing meaningful opportunities for communities to participate in decisions about matters that affect or interest them. The principles that government agencies should follow when engaging communities in decisions are described in Better Together: principles of engagement. It s important we acknowledge that consensus won t be achieved on every issue. However, by encouraging debate about issues, and ensuring communities are involved indecisions about those issues, communities are more likely to understand and accept the consequences of decisions that are made, even when consensus is not achieved. Furthermore, when communities contribute to decision-making, it is often an empowering experience that nurtures a sense of social and environmental consciousness and responsibility. It generates greater awareness, encourages more participation at the grassroots level and results in people working together to identify solutions to challenging issues. More generally, DEWNR staff understand that engaging communities is critical to managing the state s natural resources effectively. Community engagement is a central component of DEWNR s Corporate Plan and the State NRM Plan, and is listed as one of the seven principles for effective, high quality NRM practice in the NRM Standard. The importance of community engagement is also reflected in legislation DEWNR is responsible for administering, such as the Natural Resources Management Act 2004, National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972,Wilderness Protection Act 1992 and Water Industry Act 2012, as well as in South Australia s Strategic Plan, the Public Sector Act 2009 and the Code of Ethics for the South Australian Public Sector.
4 Why is it necessary to develop and document a strategy using these guidelines? DEWNR has decided that having a common approach and process to community participation in decisions for staff to follow, based on recognised best practice, will help the department improve, evaluate and demonstrate its performance in this area. Documenting this approach in a strategy developed using these guidelines is important because it increases the likelihood of the process being followed, makes staff more accountable for decisions made during that process,and guides participation as it unfolds. What is the relationship between these guidelines and the project management framework? DEWNR has developed a project management framework (PMF) to ensure that projects are managed effectively using a set of principles and a range of resources, including a project plan template. Staff using the project plan template are directed to the CE Unit or relevant regional community engagement manager, and DEWNR s community participation in decisions policy and guidelines, if they need to consider developing a participation strategy for their project. Once a participation strategy for a project is developed, it should be incorporated into or referred to in the project plan. Consider the following: Take the time to build trust. Research the community s background and history to get to know what makes them tick. Become familiar with the physical, situational, political, cultural, historical, social or economic factors influencing or affecting them. Be aware of cultural protocols. Understand the community structures and networks. Trust that decision-making may be restricted to or shared between chosen community representatives or Elders. Understand the chain-of-command and the time and effort decisions will require. Respect that there are acceptable behaviours within certain groups. Become familiar with the implications of legal decisions binding land tenure or land use, such as Native Title and Indigenous land use agreements (ILUAs). Get to know the community s support structures, such as government agencies or non-government organisations (NGOs). Be flexible, adaptable and relevant in your approach. Click here for information on the PMF. Are there particular considerations when engaging with specific needs groups? Whether engaging with Aboriginal communities, young people, seniors, culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) groups, people with disabilities or people with gender-specific needs, the aim should be to be as inclusive, respectful, equitable, flexible and accessible as possible, within the legal or policy requirements of working with specific needs groups.
5 Part 2: The IAP2 spectrum of public participation Before developing a strategy to ensure community participation in decisions, it s important to understand the five types of participation defined by IAP2, as illustrated on the spectrum below ( public participation is the term used by IAP2 to describe participation in decisions, with public equivalent to community ). Increasing level of public impact Inform Consult Involve Collaborate Empower Public participation goal To provide the public with balanced and objective information to assist them in understanding the problem, alternatives, opportunities and/ or solutions. To obtain public feedback on analysis alternatives and/or decisions. To work directly with the public throughout the process to ensure that public concerns and aspirations are consistently understood and considered. To partner with the public in each aspect of the decision including the development of alternatives and the identification of the preferred solution. To place final decision-making in the hands of the public The spectrum is not intended to imply a linear model of participation, where one type of participation should be completed before progressing to another. It is also not intended to suggest that some types of participation are better than others, or that only one type of participation is appropriate for each process. Rather, different types of participation may be used at different stages of the process, or regarding different aspects of the matter, or with different communities, depending on the appropriate level of influence or impact for the community to have on that stage or aspect of the matter. For example, it is usually necessary early in a participation process to inform the community about the matter at hand, so people understand the issue or problem. Later in the process, the community may be collaborated with so their advice and ideas directly contribute to the decision that is made about the matter. Both types of participation are important parts of the process, but collaboration provides the community with a Informing Informing is usually the first step in ensuring public participation in a decision that needs to be made. It consists of providing balanced and objective information to increase awareness and understanding about the matter at hand greater level of impact or influence on the decision than the earlier stage of informing. It is not necessarily important that we use the types of participation to the right of the spectrum more often rather that we choose the type of participation that is appropriate. The process described in Part 3 of these guidelines, which requires considering a range of factors, should be used to determine what is appropriate in different circumstances. The following descriptions of participation types, activities often associated with them, and the strengths and weakness of each come from guides to community engagement prepared by the Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment 10 and the former South Australian Department of Families and Communities 11. Each description concludes with an example from DEWNR s Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth (CLLMM) Program to illustrate ways the types of participation may be used. It s important to note that providing information or raising awareness about a matter does not constitute community participation unless is it part of a process that gives a community the opportunity to participate a decision otherwise it is simply communication
6 Activities used for informing may include: advertising (print, television, radio and online media community meetings community events briefings open days news conferences telephone hotlines newsletters The strengths of informing include: usually increases knowledge and understanding about the matter at hand can be used to clarify what level of influence or impact the community is anticipated to have on the decisionmaking process can be a useful way to establish contact and help build or support established relationships. The weaknesses of informing include: no opportunity for the community to participate in the decision-making process if not supported by other types of participation, in which case it would be considered inauthentic engagement fact sheets media stories shopfronts displays education and awareness programs informal club forums newspaper announcements. information may be mistrusted or contested can be expensive high risk of the right audiences not being reached, heard or represented may attract criticism or interest that is not truly representative of all stakeholders can raise expectations that may be difficult to manage. An example of Informing the community from Marine Parks On 1 October 2014, sanctuary zones within marine parks became operational. Market research conducted in September 2013 showed that 32 per cent of respondents believed fishing would be allowed in the majority of marine parks with only 25 per cent believed fishing would be allowed in small areas, and 34 per cent believed that fishing would not be allowed at all. In order to address the remaining uncertainty about fishing restrictions and sanctuary zones, or their location, DEWNR undertook a state-wide community awareness raising activity. The approach involved an integrated mix of advertising through press (regional and metropolitan papers), popular specialist publications (both hard copy and electronic), and radio to deliver on the communication objectives. The call to action encouraged the target audience to visit the DEWNR website and view their relevant marine park, download the marine parks app or secure a copy of the Recreational Fishing in SA Marine Parks Guide that provides all the marine park regional sanctuary zones, FAQs and an explanation of the different zones. Additional awareness raising included regular media announcements, a direct mail campaign through boat and registration notices, redevelopment of the rec fishing app, launch events celebrating the milestone, social media, distribution of Recreational Fishing in SA Marine Parks Guide across the state in bait and tackle shops, marine outlets, caravan parks and tourism offices, distribution of the GPS coordinates of sanctuary zones on CD, compliance signage explaining the location of local sanctuary zones at major boat ramps and beach access points, regional staff attending field days and updating the marine parks website.
7 Consulting Consulting consists of collecting feedback to consider in the decision-making process. Activities used for consulting may include: discussion and focus groups blogs roadshows workshops survey research feedback discussion forums open days internet surveys online consultation one-on-one interviews websites polls. The strengths of consulting include: usually results in the community having some level of influence or impact on the process relatively cost-effective can be iterative and evolve over the course of the process face-to-face contact can establish and foster relationships. The weaknesses of consulting include: may be resource-intensive risk of the right audiences not being reached, heard or represented can raise expectations that may be difficult to manage communities can feel consultation fatigue and not trust the process An example of Consulting with the community from the CLLMM Program The communities in the Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth (CLLMM) region were suffering as a result of the environmental impacts of the drought, and it was important that they participated from the beginning in the development of the long-term plan for a healthy region. The CLLMM Program instigated three rounds of public consultation on the draft long-term plan, with a variety of online and hard-copy response forms made available for people to provide their ideas and opinions. After each round, a consultation report was prepared and published identifying how the community input influenced the longterm plans development.
8 Involving Involving consists of creating opportunities for dialogue with the community throughout the decision-making process, so that community needs, concerns and aspirations are understood and influence the outcome. Activities used for involving may include: advisory committees photovoice world cafes citizen juries nominal group workshops online blogs one-on-one interviews focus groups design workshops interactive sessions community visioning deliberative polling. Note: Because involving, collaborating with and empowering the community all create opportunities for communities to participate more actively in the decision-making process, their strengths and weaknesses are much the same and are summarised together below. The strengths of involving, collaborating with or empowering include: the community contributes more to the decision-making process and its outcome less risk of the right audiences not being reached, heard or represented can target specific groups in the community with expertise, or bring together various perspectives, voices and stories, to increase awareness, generate new ideas and, in some cases, achieve consensus can be iterative and evolve over the course of the process. The weaknesses of involving, collaborating with or empowering include: if process not well organised and resourced, may not be able to sustain participation throughout may generate too many ideas, not reach consensus and generate dissatisfaction among communities may be resource-intensive An example of Involving the community from the AMLR Region Levy funds employ staff from Natural Resources Adelaide Mount Lofty Ranges specifically to liaise with community and industry representatives, providing a way for the community to influence government decision making. An example of this in action occurred in 2013 with these staff working with key industry groups and community representatives to explore options for flexibility provisions in metering requirements for licensed water users in the Western Mount Lofty Ranges (as part of the water monitoring requirements following the adoption of the WMLR water allocation plan). As a result, approximately 75 per cent of the licensed dams in the area were identified as low risk dams, not requiring a meter. This outcome represented a significant change from the starting position, and significant savings for many landholders.
9 Collaborating Collaborating means actively working with the community to ensure their advice and ideas strongly influence the outcome for example, by identifying and developing options for potential solutions to the issue and sharing the responsibility for decisions made. Activities used for collaborating include: Taskforces summits charrettes inquiry by design consensus-building activities deliberative retreats advisory committees regional committees citizen panels photovoice community reference group An example of Collaborating with the community from the SAMDB Region The SA Murray-Darling Basin NRM Education Program plays a critical role in contributing to the skills, knowledge and confidence of young people and educators to manage natural resources sustainably. Strategic planning sessions were held with members of the community (teachers, community group members, NRM Board and Group members) to review the NRM Education Program and set direction for the future. The strategic planning sessions produced a set of priorities (developed through a voting system), which were taken to the two NRM Education Working Groups. These groups are open to any interested community members (usually teachers) and work with the NRM Education Team to guide the NRM Education Program. The Working Groups assessed the priorities and developed action plans, relying on their expertise and networks to advance the projects.
10 Empowering Empowering occurs when the responsibility for the decision-making is delegated to the community. Activities used for empowering may include: champions community cultural development deliberative retreats participatory editing community reference groups charrettes photovoice workshops An example of Empowering the community from the SE Region The South East Natural Resources Management Board has always valued the community being empowered to achieve their outcomes and has fostered this by offering a Community Grant which runs all year round. The grant terms are very broad to allow a wide range of applications from the community who have identified an issue or opportunity and want resources to achieve a positive outcome. One such example is the McKay s Children Centre in Penola who recognised their outdoor space was not engaging or educational for young children. They successfully applied for our Community Grant to develop an indigenous garden, outdoor classroom and nature play area. The garden was designed and built with parents and the school communities input and was a good example of social inclusion and people coming together, talking and networking. The children now can learn about the importance of native plants and habitat, Aboriginal culture and sit outside for lesson time on a nice day. For further information Contact Lyn Baxter Community Engagement Unit Ph:
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