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Community Engagement: Interaction Design

The Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Bureau of Rural Sciences has released Towards Whole of Community Engagement: A Practical Toolkit. It offers some interesting insights into design processes that foster community engagement and are therefore of interest to anyone interested in improving interaction, conversation, and dialogue regardless of their particular area of expertise. There are some interesting parallels to Connected Intelligence Network Learning Design. For me, the tools and techniques described here are directly related to the interaction design of any learning environment and the focus could just as easily be training, education, e-Learning, instructional design, brand development, marketing, and so on.

In relation to interaction design and learning environments, I found the following areas of particular interest...

Consulting, Participation, Engagement

  • Consultation occurs when an agency,group,community or individual goes out to seek advice from someone else. It implies a purpose-driven process in which someone takes the initiative to seek advice. It does not necessarily imply anything about what will be done with that advice when and if it is received.
  • Participation simply means the act of participating, in whatever form. People can participate by writing letters, ringing up, attending events, sending e-mails or using a host of other forms of communication. Participation is very similar to involvement– the act or process of being involved.
  • Engagement goes further than participation and involvement. It involves capturing people’s attention and focusing their efforts on the matter at hand – the subject means something personally to someone who is engaged and is sufficiently important to demand their attention. Engagement implies commitment to a process which has decisions and resulting actions. So it is possible that people may be consulted, participate and even be involved, but not be engaged.

Good Community Engagement

Good community engagement, as used in this toolkit, refers to engagement processes and practices in which a wide range of people work together to achieve a shared goal guided by a commitment to a common set of values, principles and criteria. It doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone in the community can or should be involved,but that we are making efforts to be as inclusive as possible and to offer everyone a chance to be engaged if they wish to be. Good community engagement can be achieved by using a wide range of tools and techniques, not by applying a simple recipe or prescription applicable to all situations.

Knowledge Systems

  • local knowledge: the local reality based on lived experience in the region,built through shared stories, memories of shared events and locally-specific relationships between people and places
  • specialised knowledge: the collected advice from a wide range of experts, including geologists, ecologists, economists, engineers, sociologists etc., each constructed within a particular knowledge framework or paradigm
  • strategic knowledge: the tactical positioning of people and resources for future action within given political and administrative systems
  • integrative knowledge: the mutual acceptance of an overarching framework,direction or purpose, derived from a shared interpretation of the issues.

Engagement Tools and Techniques

  1. General public involvement and participation tools
  2. Negotiation and conflict resolution tools
  3. Information,education and extension tools
  4. Rapid and Participatory Rural Appraisal tools
  5. Stakeholder analysis and social profiling tools
  6. Survey and interview tools
  7. Planning and visioning tools
  8. Team building and leadership tools
  9. Participatory Action Research tools
  10. Deliberative democracy tools
  11. Lobbying and campaigning tools
  12. Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation tools

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