Trust is a two-way street. To convince your community that your engagement efforts and digital community engagement platform are trustworthy, they need to feel heard and included. In our experience, it takes time to build trust, but there are several good practices to help you get started. 

To build trust, communicate clearly and transparently

Community members should be able to trust the messages they receive from you – clearly brand your platform or other engagement materials with the visual identity of your city to make it easy to recognize who is asking these questions and why. Be upfront, and offer all community members the same access to any information they might need to make well-informed decisions when they participate in your project. And show them how you value their participation by sharing upfront how input will be used, and by being clear about the weight community input could have in any final decision(s). 

Make sure your platform offers a genuine and concise answer to the following questions: 

  • What is the goal of this project?
  • Who is it aimed at? 
  • How will input be used? 
  • Which selection criteria will be used? 
  • How will the ideas be implemented?

To build trust, showcase your city’s community engagement results

We said it before, but we’ll say it again – building trust takes time. The best way to gain and maintain trust is by keeping your promises: showcase the direct results of earlier participation projects to illustrate that your community members can make a real impact by participating. In the early stages of your project, showing results may be less straightforward, but not impossible. You can either share early results while the project is still ongoing, or you can share previous offline participation projects that you have launched. Both will underline the fact that you are listening to input and genuinely care about the voices of your community, and will hopefully inspire them to engage with your new project(s).

To build trust, take privacy seriously

Privacy and data ownership are thorny topics these days, and for good reason. Explain clearly why you’re asking for specific data from community members, and what you intend to do with that information. Only collect the data you need to influence your decision-making process and be mindful of collecting personal information when it’s not relevant or will not be used. 

In some cases, you may need to verify who is participating in your project, such as when you have official voting or if a project is limited only to residents in a specific neighborhood. The City of Orsay, France, implemented ID verification on their community engagement platform for a budgeting project and saw a 213% increase in the rate of registered users compared to the average of other platforms. Orsay led a good communication campaign to help increase the visibility of the platform and gave residents the confidence that the platform was legitimate and serious.

“Our aim was to involve as many people as possible while avoiding any risk of fraud; the projects we are talking about would cost the city several million euros, so we needed guarantees that the obtained results would not be biased, and it’s real residents that are voting.”

Antony Pereira, Director of Communications for the city of Orsay

Learn more best practices and guidelines for community engagement: