Participants in the national workshop series told us there are three key challenges and opportunities when it comes to value:

Understanding the value

Perceptions about the need for community engagement appear driven by costs incurred due to community opposition. This creates a negative relationship in which community engagement is reactive and in which its value becomes apparent only when it is employed to combat costs. But engagement can also support cost avoidance, which is much harder to quantify and, therefore, value.

Building the evidence base

Practitioners largely believe that better integration and valuing of community engagement could be driven by quantifying the social, political and risk-management value delivered. An evidence base of this kind is needed at an industry level and requires sharing of data and case information.

Defining success

As workshop participants surmised, ‘success is rarely defined in terms of community outcomes and project success needs to be separated from ‘political success’.

They also wanted to see the following questions solved:

  • How can social costs and benefits be better measured and incorporated into a context in which the majority of costs and benefits are quantified and tangible?
  • How can the value of community engagement to project performance be better articulated without detracting from its role in realising outcomes of intangible value such as community resilience and goodwill?
  • To what extent does the politicisation of projects hinder best practice? What policy mechanisms could provide greater certainty to support best practice engagement? 
  • How can better assessment of return on investment in community engagement, especially in terms of costs avoided, be measured? And how might this be incorporated into business case evaluation?
  • What evidence could shared data provide to support a shift in understanding of community engagement from one of cost-to-project to value-add-to-project? How might data-sharing be encouraged in a highly competitive environment?

What do you think?

Do the challenges and opportunities resonate with you?

Is there a challenge that should be added to the list in terms of how engagement is valued?

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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