E2A launches in NSW

By Megan Girdler

Blog-image-1.jpg

Help us to organise free and low-cost E2A events in Sydney and NSW

Earlier in the year, ten of us met in North Sydney for a glass of wine and a stimulating discussion about how local E2A members might collaborate to progress best practice community engagement in NSW.

Now, we're working to establish a network of Sydney-based volunteers to help kick-start E2A in NSW.

Our NSW organisers will meet again in October, where they will discuss ideas for future free or low-cost events for people with an interest in community engagement. (You can read more about what was discussed during their first meeting at the end of this post.)

The NSW group has expressed a desire to bring new energy and increase awareness of the latest NSW community engagement initiatives and techniques.

Anyone with an interest is welcome to join them to help organise and/or attend future E2A free or low-cost local events.

Get involved in NSW

Read on learn more about what was discussed at the NSW launch workshop...

Join the E2A collective to get updates about local events (membership is free!)

Or, email hello@engage2act.org to:

  • Let us know if you’d like to attend the organising committee meeting in October.
  • Register your interest to help E2A in the future, mentor others or write content for the E2A blog.
  • If you’re not in NSW, learn more about organising events near you on our organiser’s page.

About E2A local groups

The E2A mission is to progress best practice community engagement, and we’re able to achieve this through the volunteer efforts of our collective.  

Until now, E2A has only offered local events in Victoria and South Australia. But in the next year, we hope to see more members meeting up in Sydney, Perth, Wellington, Brisbane, Adelaide and Melbourne.

E2A was brought to life by the South Australian and Victorian organising committees, who have been delivering inspiring, free and low-cost events since 2013. 

Email email hello@engage2act.org to let us know if you'd like to start up an E2A committee in your local area. 


 

What’s happened so far in NSW?

In mid-July 2017 we held an informal launch event, where we talked about community engagement skills-sharing opportunities and challenges.

We also explored everyone’s aspirations for how E2A ‘progress the practice’ of community engagement in future.

People who attended the launch workshop were from a mix different professional backgrounds and everyone brought relevant and fresh perspectives to the table.

Many thanks to KJA (our local sponsor for the night) and our ten attendees. 

Questions/topics discussed...

We covered four key topics across the evening: 

  1. Where do you see knowledge, skills and resource opportunities and challenges in the sector?
  2. What do you want to see Engage 2 Act achieve in the next 5 years?
  3. What community engagement topics do you most want to learn about?
  4. Where do you see knowledge, skills and resource opportunities and challenges in the sector?

Here's what everyone said: 

1. What’s your definition of community engagement?

The definition of community engagement differs depending on the industry and even the location you’re working in. 

It’s important to note some attendees of the workshop did not have as much familiarity with ‘community engagement’ in the context of the public sector and decision-making as others. 

We discussed the importance of using simple language to describe E2A Sydney to make sure the group is accessible and welcoming to community engagement enthusiasts from all walks of life.

Insights:

  • CE is decision-making – wherever it happens. 
  • CE encompasses a “spider web” of disciplines: PR, project management, communications, working with community (int and ext), social change, change management, engagement, community engagement, community development, and public participation. 
  • CE has different definitions depending on what state, country or industry you’re working in.
  • CE is not solely PR & communications.  
  • CE has many names, stakeholder engagement, public participation, etc. We should pick the one term for E2A and run with it.

 

2. What do you want to see Engage 2 Act achieve in the next 5 years?

This was a fun and energetic exploration of what the E2A collective could achieve in the future. 

Aspirations: 

  • E2A plays a part in helping government to fully understand value of engagement
  • E2A contributes to a code of ethics for CE. 
  • Our community co-leads E2A and is actively involved in decision making for the organisation. 
  • Media looks to E2A for comment.
  • Government looks to E2A for advice. E2A gets more involved with government advocacy. 
  • Education. The public expect to be engaged and understand what “good” engagement is. 
  • The public looks to E2A for information, tools and advice. 
  • We need a quantifiable figure for cost of poor/no engagement. Note: the Melbourne University Next Generation Community Engagement project will give us in-roads into this, and E2A is already a proud partner. 
  • E2A collective has strong representation from left-brained and technical people. 
  • E2A belongs to everyone (not just practitioners).
  • All people with an interest and practitioners are members of E2A.

 

3. What community engagement topics do you most want to learn about? 

We discussed ideas for Sydney events, topics people most wanted to learn about, and lessons learned from previous E2A events in other states. 

Ideas for engagement sessions and workshops that ‘progress the practice’:

  • Identifying the gaps
  • Collaborate with organisations to deliver pro bono engagement
  • Bring a technical team member to an event

Ideas for toolkit sessions for practitioners and the public to learn more about CE:

  • Delivering the bad news
  • Project communications basics
  • Next generation insights
  • What is best practice?
  • Genuine engagement
  • Tools you can use to save time
  • Modern formats and techniques for communications and engagement

 

4. Where do you see knowledge, skills and resource opportunities and challenges in the sector?

This question was designed to get participants thinking about opportunities and challenges around E2A progressing best practice community engagement in NSW.

Opportunities:

  • Environmental Impact Assessment review. Provide submission?
  • Create a generation of people who expect to be consulted.
  • Advocacy for the industry
  • Align/build relationships with Customer Service Commissioner
  • Central benchmarks and measurement/evaluation metrics for engagement
  • Education pathways/university etc
  • University of Melbourne's Next Generation Engagement Project

Challenges

  • Challenge to communicate with colleagues our multi-disciplinary offer e.g. communications, engagement, strategy.
  • Quality of engagement/expectations lower than they should be
  • Quality of tertiary level education for community engagement