Oftentimes it can feel like your community engagement project is just one of the many things competing for your residents’ time. As a result, you’ve probably found yourself wondering how you can make engagement more appealing and participation more exciting. The good news is that there are plenty of creative ways to engage your community members!
While we always encourage local governments and organizations to run meaningful engagement projects, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for fun and lighthearted activities. After all, your community engagement platform should be a space where your residents and other stakeholders want to return to when there are opportunities to provide input and deliberation.
The components of creative community engagement
While the very nature of creative community engagement projects makes them quite unique, there are several factors that most of them have in common. Besides the fact that they tend to be fun, here are the other creative principles that unite these projects:
1. They’re welcoming and inclusive
Creative projects tend to be community-wide, so it’s important to make everyone feel like they belong and are welcome to participate. Consider including a welcome message that’s encouraging and nudges people to be active participants rather than silent observers.
2. They are informative and level out the playing field
In order to be truly inclusive, creative community engagement projects recognize that knowledge is power and therefore level out the playing field by sharing any background information that might be necessary or helpful background information for participants.
3. It’s clear why participating matters
While creative projects can be lighthearted, they should also create community impact. Therefore, it’s important to make it clear how the input shared will be used so that your community feels their time is valued and well-spent.
6 examples of creative community engagement
Our community of 300+ governments and organizations has proven time and time again that creative community engagement is not just possible, it’s the perfect blend of fun and impact. Here are some examples of creative projects from across our core markets.
🇳🇱 Den Helder’s “lunch with the Mayor”
In the Municipality of Den Helder, Mayor Jan de Boer launched a “Lunch with the Mayor” project on the municipality’s platform. The first phase invited platform participants to throw their name into the hat for one of 8 lunch seats, after which the Mayor shared a video of himself pulling names out to show that participants were randomly selected. Finally, the municipality shared a video and photos of the lunch event to keep the entire community updated on progress and discussions. By creating a casual space for residents to have an informal but deep conversation with city leadership, the Mayor has set a new standard for what leadership looks like and creatively drove residents to the platform for future engagement projects!
🇩🇪 Bad Dürkheim surveys the community about wine preferences
Looking to kick off both their online engagement and re-engage their community in person, the City of Bad Dürkheim decided to start on a less serious note. While the city’s traditional New Year’s reception would normally attract over 1,000 attendees, it had been postponed because of the pandemic. To kick it back into high gear, the city’s leadership opted for a spring reception in wine country and as part of their communication efforts they used their engagement platform to survey participants on their wine preferences – a creative way to start small, ease into engagement, and raise awareness both about their platform and new spring reception!
🇫🇷 Antony restores a forest while providing video updates
After a big storm in 2018, the Bois de l’Aurore, a forest within the City of Antony, was badly damaged. In order to restore the area, preserve biodiversity, and adapt it to extreme climate conditions, the city kicked off a restoration project that would also make the area more attractive for walking, games, and relaxation along the way. To keep the community updated on the various consultation phases and progress, they have been sharing video updates from inside the forest. A clever way to show progress on a very visual project!
🇺🇸 Durango looks at tourism from a different lens
Tourism is an important economic component of Durango’s La Plata County, so when the city launched their participation platform they wanted to ensure they took into account the needs of residents and visitors. On that note, one of their projects focuses on a tourism topic that’s often overlooked – what not to promote. By surveying their community on the hidden gems they want to keep hidden, they were able to identify the places they should not include in their tourism advertising to keep them special and preserved. On top of an interesting project angle, they also had a creative way to drive participation – by doing giveaways which incentivized sign-ups to the engagement platform!
🇧🇪 Lokeren looks to visibly make its inclusive values clear
The City of Lokeren wanted to take their rainbow sidewalk up a notch. So, they turned to their residents for creative and innovative ways to make the symbolic rainbow a permanent city installation. To advertise the project and drive engagement, city leaders got creative and wrapped a bus stop at the market square with a rainbow and information about their engagement platform. After several phases – from ideation to analysis and decision – they decided on the popular idea of a rainbow picnic bench that is open to the public in the middle of the city. A little creativity went a long way to institutionalizing the city’s welcoming and inclusive values!
🇬🇧 Wokingham celebrates Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee
With more than 7,000 registered participants, Wokingham’s Jubilee project renewed engagement by inviting residents to share celebratory notes for Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee on their platform. Residents had the option to contribute to the offline and online Reminisce Project by sharing stories and memories of the Queen and previous jubilee celebrations, and also by sharing upcoming Jubilee celebrations on an interactive map to drive attendance at street parties, afternoon teas, and other public events!
Creative community engagement is possible everywhere
Whether you’re launching a creative project to kick off your community engagement in a lighthearted way or you want to attract more participants with a fun option, we hope the guidance and examples in this article have inspired you to take the next step.