Leaders in infrastructure delivery told us there are three key challenges and opportunities when it comes to value:

1. Risk profile/approach alignment: 

Findings suggest that substantial value could be gained from combining a better understanding of social risk profiles with the toolbox of community engagement approaches to allow for evidence-based, strategic matching between the two. If risk profiles and engagement approaches could be better aligned, this knowledge could also inform curriculum development, engagement planning and improved assessment of whether certain approaches are likely to be successful in particular situations. 

2. Early engagement: 

It was noted that engagement practitioners rarely have a seat at the table during preliminary risk assessment and participants suggested this contributed to the lack of consideration of socio-political risk as part of project design. Questions about whether engaging too early would lead to greater community comfort or stoke concerns were also prominent when discussing the timing of engagement. Evidence-based advice could assist in determining when is the best moment to engage. 

3. Lifecycle integration: 

Findings also suggest that community engagement needs to be better integrated throughout the project lifecycle. In certain instances, contributors suggested that late entry or early exit of the engagement role from a project resulted in lost value or increased costs. Participants suggested that evaluation of engagement can be a particularly helpful component of lifecycle integration, capturing ‘lessons learned aligned to best practice engagement methods.’ Findings indicate that there is often a lack of program budget allocated to the problem definition and closeout phases, with the latter resulting in a lost opportunity for potential lessons learned or lack of benefits realisation. Lifecycle integration of community engagement into a project was also seen as a means of ‘closing the loop’ and helping to maintain a sense of community ownership and connectedness to a project. 

They wanted answers to the following questions - what do you think?

  • How could new and better social risk metrics contribute to the choice of community engagement approaches for particular projects/situations? 
  • Could better pairing of social risk profiles and engagement approaches lead to improved community outcomes, reduced project costs, or both? 
  • To what extent is each community engagement trial and error, based on experience? To what extent might the choice of engagement approach become more systematised with better data? 
  • When is the most appropriate moment for engagement to begin and through what measures can that entry-point be judged? 
  • How could the tighter integration of community engagement into a project team facilitate earlier involvement? What would that look like? 
  • How could earlier involvement of community engagement practitioners assist more thorough consideration of socio-political risk in problem definition? What value could be achieved or costs avoided through this? 
  • What costs are incurred or value gained based on the timing of community engagement entry or exit into a project’s lifecycle? 
  • How can community engagement be better integrated throughout the entire project lifecycle, including allowing appropriate time and resourcing for evaluation? 
  • To what extent does community engagement in the closeout phase contribute to long-term project success and a sense of community ownership? 

Do the challenges and opportunities resonate?

Is there a challenge that should be added to the list in terms of how we could better select or justify recommended timing and approaches for different engagement scenarios?

Would addressing these key questions help you to improve community and project outcomes?

Is there a question that the group agrees should be added to the list which would better assist you in improving community and project outcomes?

 

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