Online tools are not a replacement for traditional engagement methods, they are a valuable addition to the public participation process, providing key benefits for communities, including:
Reaching a Broader Audience
For those residents who lack the time, who don't live nearby meeting venues, or lack the inclination to contribute to face-to-face engagement process, online engagement offers an alternative participation medium.
Online platforms present data in a more digestible format, offering residents the option to consume essential background information and delve into varying levels of detail based on their interest.
Inviting a Larger Range of Perspectives
Online participation offers a medium for broader, more moderate views. Residents have the ability to follow a more engaging process online; i.e. place a pin on a map, upload a photo, post a comment, and invite others to collaborate.
Producing Hard Data
Online engagement makes public participation visible and transparent and encourages input from everyone. In the traditional public participation process, capturing and analyzing data can be time consuming and inaccurate. With online tools, data is collected throughout the process and is immediately available for analysis; turning softer issues into more quantifiable data.
Online platforms pave the way for continuous Placemaking, helping our staff to capitalize on the community's opinion and inspiration. This data can be drawn on in future projects, helping staff develop an engaged and informed community, ready to take part in future public participation projects.
A Reduction in Cost
Traditional forms of engagement can be expensive, particularly newspaper ads and radio (it’s also hard to track how many people are reached and informed through these methods of communication). Many online methods of engagement are free. Those platforms that do cost a fee are well worth it for the tools the platform offers and the data it is able to track, indicating which tactics are effective and which ones are not.