Better Together: Principles of Engagement

principles of engagement
a foundation for engagement
in the South Aust ralian government
Foreword from Premier Jay Weatherill .................................................................... 4
Introduction from Senior Management Council ...................................................... 5
A vision for community engagement ..................................................................... 7
Why engage? .......................................................................................................... 7
Definitions ............................................................................................................... 8
IAP2 Public Participation Spectrum .......................................................................... 9
Continuously improving our engagement.............................................................. 11
Six principles .......................................................................................................... 12
What the principles are all about ........................................................................... 13
Principle 1: We know why we are engaging and we communicate this clearly...... 14
Principle 2: We know who to engage ................................................................... 18
Don’t forget about local government..................................................................... 22
Principle 3: We know the history and background ................................................. 24
Principle 4: We begin early..................................................................................... 27
Principle 5: We are genuine .................................................................................. 31
The feedback loop: We asked… you said… we did .............................................. 35
Principle 6: We are creative, relevant and engaging ............................................. 36
Social media ........................................................................................................... 38
Get me out of the groan zone ................................................................................ 40
Evaluation ............................................................................................................... 41
How we got here .................................................................................................... 43
Inform: High quality communication ...................................................................... 44
For more support… ................................................................................................ 46
from the premier
Since becoming Premier, I’ve placed special emphasis on community engagement and
conversation – involving people in the decisions that affect their lives and giving them a
genuine role in making such decisions.
We are working to move from a culture of “announce and defend” to one of “debate
and decide”.
I believe that people have a right to be involved in conversations about decisions that
affect them – but I also fundamentally believe that decisions emerging from a process of
consultation are better and more stable decisions.
As a government we need to put more effort into getting this right. This will mean
breaking down barriers to genuine engagement and giving public servants the
opportunity and the skills required to do the job well.
Public servants tell me that they want to engage with the public, but they don’t feel they
have permission to do so or that they are afraid to take the risk. I want to assure you that
Better Together gives you a mandate to engage and genuinely bring the community into
a conversation about your work.
We must be prepared to try new ways of accomplishing things in order to achieve better
and more effective engagement – so there cannot be genuine improvement without an
accompanying degree of risk. We must collectively agree to take risks in pursuit of our
The principles laid out in Better Together: Principles of Engagement, provide a strong
foundation on which to build excellent engagement practices. I encourage you to
explore how they can be applied to your work and to consider their potential to help us
improve South Australia’s democracy.
Jay Weatherill
from senior
Welcome to Better Together: Principles of Engagement, the state government’s guide to
engaging communities and stakeholders in decisions which matter to them. This guide
is underpinned by our belief that engaging people affected by government decisions
results in better decisions and in turn drives better outcomes for South Australians.
Premier Jay Weatherill has made a strong commitment to putting community and
stakeholder engagement at the heart of how his government works and he’s shared his
desire to see a ‘debate and decide’ approach to decision-making widely practiced across
government departments.
This guide provides you with a foundation upon which to build a continually-improving
culture of engagement practice. It details six principles which will equip you with a
solid understanding of what should be done to ensure a good engagement strategy is
developed and implemented.
We’re committed to engaging with
communities and stakeholders
and we want to ensure that as a
public service we have the skills
to undertake high-quality
engagement processes.
We look forward to being
part of the innovative
engagement practices that
bring the community into
shared decision-making.
Jim Hallion
Chief Executive, Department of
the Premier and Cabinet
on behalf of the Senior
Management Council
A vision for
community engAgement
Our vision is for government to make better decisions by bringing the voices of
communities and stakeholders into the issues that are relevant to them. To make this
happen, we want to nurture a public service which has the skills to engage with the
community and drive a culture which respects and welcomes community input.
Why engAge?
Engagement helps to develop strong communities and stakeholders, it gives them the
confidence to participate and develops their interest in being part of the solution. This, in
turn, can build the cohesiveness and capacity of the community.
We engage because we believe it results in better outcomes: better decisions, better
projects, better policies, better programs and better resource use. As the title of this
guide suggests, we strongly advocate that when community and government join forces,
we are better together.
This may sound straightforward and in many ways it is. We believe that communities and
stakeholders are best placed to identify and understand the challenges they face, and
more importantly, help design and implement the solutions needed.
Engagement is about bringing the voices of communities and stakeholders into decisionmaking which is relevant to them. This relevance might be because they are directly
affected by the decision being made, or they might have a personal or professional
interest in the issues being discussed. Regardless of the motivation for being part of it,
the key to good engagement is giving people who want to contribute, the opportunities
to do so.
We don’t want to get bogged down in definitions, but we’re keen to see a common
language develop across government when we’re referring to engagement. For the
purpose of this document we’ve put together the following definitions:
Ê UÊengagement: the practice of actively bringing community voices into decisions that
affect or interest them
Ê UÊi˜}>}i“i˜ÌÊtools and methodologies: the things we use to activate the community’s
voice, e.g. social media, a community meeting, an internet forum or survey
Ê UÊÜiÊi˜}>}iÊ܈̅\Ê
The community
A general term for individuals and
groups of people not part of an
organised structure or group, e.g.
residents of Hallett Cove, people
impacted by a new road, parents
interested in childhood obesity.
People who are organised under
the banner of a defined group
or organisation, often providing
representation to a broader group,
e.g. Business SA; SACOSS, a local
environmental group or school.
iAp2 public
pArticipAtion spectrum
The International Association for Public Participation exists to advance the practice
of public participation (engagement). It provides support and guidance on how
organisations including, but not limited to, governments, can engage people in the
decision-making process. Information about IAP2 can be sourced online at
Many government agencies in South Australia use the IAP2 Public Participation Spectrum
to support their engagement work.
The IAP2 Public Participation Spectrum is designed to assist with the selection of the
level of engagement that defines the community’s or stakeholder’s role. The spectrum
shows that differing levels of engagement (referred to by IAP2 as ‘participation’) are
legitimate depending on the goals, time frames, resources and levels of concern in the
decision to be made. However, most importantly, the spectrum sets out the commitment
being made to the public at each engagement level and this helps us to be transparent
about the level of engagement being used.
The document uses the IAP2 Spectrum as its basis because in engagement it’s vital to be
clear about what level of participation people have in the decision-making process.
A comprehensive list of engagement methodologies can be found online at
iAp2 spectrum of public
Increasing Level of Public Impact
Collaborate Empower
To provide
the public
with balanced
and objective
information to
assist them in
the problem,
and/or solutions.
To obtain
public feedback
on analysis,
alternatives and/
or decisions.
To work directly
with the public
the process
to ensure that
public concerns
and aspirations
are consistently
understood and
To partner with
the public in
each aspect of
the decision
including the
development of
alternatives and
the identification
of the preferred
To place final
in the hands of
the public.
continuously improving
our engAgement
Better Together aims to be much more than just a framework to drive good
engagement. Through our principles-based approach we aim to build a strong
and consistent culture across government, where government agencies and
public servants are working to continuously improve their approaches to
engaging communities and stakeholders.
No doubt there are many examples of good engagements happening across
government. There are individuals and teams of people who are delivering
excellent engagement strategies, but at the same time there are examples
where engagement practice is not so robust. It’s this inconsistency that we aim
to see reduced through the nurturing of a consistent culture of high-quality
six principles
Principle one:
We know why we are engaging and we
communicate this clearly
Principle two:
We know who to engage
Principle three: We know the background and history
Principle four: We begin early
Principle five:
We are genuine
Principle six:
We are creative, relevant and engaging.
WhAt the principles
Are All About
The principles provide an at-a-glance guide to good engagement. We believe
that if you’re able to ‘tick off’ on each of them as your put together and
deliver an engagement, you can have confidence in your interaction with the
community and stakeholders.
The principles are not instructional, they do not demand or force you to do
anything. They recognise and promote the incredible breadth and variety of
engagement opportunities. They acknowledge that each engagement has
a different purpose, undertaken in different places, with different outside
influences and with different people involved.
All six principles are integrated. They rely on each other and if you chose not
to pursue one, the overall success of your engagement could be hindered. Of
course, the level of emphasis won’t be equal across all of the principles, this will
vary depending on the circumstances, but all six principles should receive fair
consideration as you plan and implement your engagement strategy.
principle one:
we know why
AnD We communicAte
Renowned self-development author, Stephen Covey has written: ‘‘[T]o begin with the end in mind
means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means to know where you’re
going so you better understand where you are now so that the steps you take are always in the
right direction.’
Covey’s words here are relevant to good engagement. We need to know why we’re engaging
with the community and stakeholders. This is not about knowing what we want to achieve in terms
of final outcomes (that is for the community and stakeholders to shape), but we need to be very
clear with ourselves and our colleagues about why we’re heading out there to engage. Our ‘end
in mind’ should be better outcomes for the community and stakeholders.
We can divide this principle into three elements:
1. Knowing your engagement’s rationale and objectives
2. Understanding the public’s level of influence in shaping these
(choose a level of the IAP2 Public Participation Spectrum)
3. Communicating this clearly to everyone who needs to know about it.
It’s vital that you have a clear personal grasp of your engagement’s rationale and objectives and
can articulate this to your colleagues and audience. Put simply, your rationale is why you are
engaging. The objectives outline what will happen as a result of the information gathered from
the community and stakeholders. If you know why you’re engaging, it follows that you’ll know
what to do with the feedback and ideas received from the community and stakeholders.
Why am I
What will I do with
feedback & ideas?
Action undertaken
based on your
answers to ‘what?’
Once you’ve established the rationale for your engagement (the why), your objectives can be formed
around the what. The answer/s will help you shape the audience (Principle 2) and the strategies and
approaches used to engage (Principles 5 and 6).
Note: This is not about knowing what you want to hear from your audience (you should never know
what you want to hear from your audience!) Rather, it’s about knowing what you will do with the material
once you’ve received it.
KEY INSIGHT: Your initiative doesn’t stand alone. It will occur within a specific context and may be
shaped by resource pressures, with different personalities seeking influence and competing priorities
stealing its limelight. It will mean different things to different people: some will be passionate about it,
while others won’t care. Within this wider context you need to work out what challenges you want to
solve and how you think this might work. This gives you a starting point from which you can begin to
engage stakeholders.
Your starting point is important, but while you may think you know what the challenge is and what
the solutions might be, it’s vital to remain open to a reshaping of your approach as you gain a better
understanding of it through early engagement (Principle 4).
Once you have an idea of the challenges and have started to think about potential solutions, you need
to understand the extent to which the community and stakeholders can influence the decisions or
directions. The IAP2 Public Participation Spectrum provides a framework for engagement.
It’s vital to be clear about what level of influence the community and stakeholders have in order to
ensure that expectations are not raised and this is where the IAP2 Spectrum comes in. If you can
pinpoint which level you are aiming to fulfil, you can then be very clear with your stakeholders/
community that the objective of your engagement at a high level is to: inform them or consult them or
collaborate with them, etc. The practicalities of your engagement should then be focused on making
your desired level of engagement a reality. So for example, if you know that you can only inform a
community, you should ensure you have a sound communication strategy in place, including innovative
communication techniques (perhaps using multimedia, imagery and social media to get your message
out there).
Selecting the correct level on the IAP2 Spectrum will also help you to choose which tools are most
appropriate to engage the community and stakeholders.
The level of influence the community and stakeholders have will vary depending on the initiative’s
characteristics and may also change as an initiative develops. You may find yourself working on
different elements of the IAP2 Spectrum as you progress. For example, the broader community may be
consulted on the development of new mining regulations, but mining companies and industry bodies
may collaborate to draft them.
Not every initiative will be able to have a deep level of engagement from the community and
stakeholders (e.g. collaboration or empowerment on the IAP2 Spectrum). There are occasions when
time, resources and confidentiality pressures will limit how much engagement can occur, though you
should always be able to reach at least Inform on the spectrum.
Once you know what’s happening and have a good understanding of who needs to be engaged,
and how much, you need to communicate this.
A good communication strategy provides your community engagement with the ability to reach
out to its intended audience, tell them what’s happening and making it really clear to them how
they can get involved.
Expectation management is an important role in community engagement. Be very clear with
communities about what they can and cannot influence by being engaged. There’s no point
leaving a community with false expectations, only to be faced with rampant opposition down the
track when they realise their ideas and opinions have not influenced a particular aspect of your
KEY INSIGHT: Jargon, government-speak, bureaucratese… call it what you like, this
destruction of the English language has no place in any government document let alone those
destined for the public. Work hard to eradicate the buzzwords from your communications — your
audience will thank you!
Case study
Department for Manufacturing, Innovation, Trade, Resources and Energy & the Urban Renewal
Initiative: Tonsley Park
Principle 1: We know why we are
engaging and we communicate
this clearly.
The Tonsley Park Redevelopment
Project in Adelaide’s southern
suburbs aims to bring together
‘learning, innovating, making and
living’ in the one place — creating
a new type of integrated industrial,
educational and residential
community on the former
Mitsubishi Industries 61 hectare
industrial site.
The co-location of educational, research, high-value manufacturing, commercial and residential land
uses will provide technologies, products and services for the mining, renewable energy, health care,
construction and environmental sectors in a high-quality urban environment.
Engagement with key stakeholders has been undertaken at the earliest possible opportunity in the
project. This was to assist and support the planning process to gain the best planning outcome, and to
prepare the local community for the subsequent development activities.
One additional element not contained within the original engagement plan was subsequently added
to the engagement process — being a series of design forums, with specific industry groups, key
stakeholders and broader community representatives to further refine the master plan, taking it to the next
crucial level of detail.
What became clear through the engagement was the deep connection with the site particularly by the
former employees of Mitsubishi/Chrysler and their families, and by many local residents (Principle 3: We
know the history and background). They expressed their strong wish for that history to be reflected in the
future development. A Cultural History Study is now being developed to further explore and document
key aspects of the site’s history and then identify ways to integrate it into the development.
The engagement has ensured that the community is better informed in regard to the master plan and
has a sense of involvement in the future plans for the site. There is local excitement that the site will
be developed and provide training, employment, retail, and recreational opportunities and this has
generated early momentum and goodwill for the project in the community.
What went well…
the opportunity for community members to meet and discuss the concepts with the design team.
The main Open Day attracted over 700 people. It also enabled former employees to ‘re-connect’
with the site and to share their stories.
What we would have done differently…
displays at other venues may have gained more feedback at that stage.
principle tWo:
we know
Who should you be engaging with? Is there more than one group? Are there
hidden audiences, people we should be engaging with, who may not be
the obvious communities or stakeholders? These are key questions to ask
at the beginning of an engagement and will then help you determine which
methodologies will attract people to your engagement (Principle 6).
Knowing who to engage will flow naturally from knowing why you’re setting out
to engage (Principle 1). It is the next logical step: know what the community’s
challenges are, then engage the people who are most affected and interested.
Throughout your engagement activity there are likely to be different voices vying
to be heard and it may be appropriate to engage them at different points.
It’s important to identify people who are affected by and interested in the
issue/s. Affected communities may fall into particular geographic, demographic,
social or economic categories. People living near a new freeway are an obvious
geographic audience; freight carriers whose journey times will be cut by the
new road will be an economic audience; while people living in the outer suburbs
which will be reached by the new freeway might be a social audience.
KEY INSIGHT: In most cases, affected stakeholders and communities are
at the heart of your community engagement. In most instances they are the
people you are there for: your reason for being. They will provide firsthand
experience of how a particular initiative will impact their lives (positive and
negative) and they are the people who will ultimately measure your success.
Interested stakeholders may include non-government organisations such as
advocacy groups, peak bodies, industry groups and unions. Or they may include
academic bodies such as universities, research centres and think tanks. These
stakeholders can often provide knowledge and insight which complements the
affected stakeholders’ firsthand experience. In the example of the new freeway,
you might approach a business peak body to understand the impact of the
project on industry in the area, while an environmental organisation could give
advice on the native vegetation likely to be disturbed by the construction.
Often, interested stakeholders will be able to help you interact with affected
stakeholders. For example, peak bodies in the disability health sector may be
able to provide advice on the appropriate ways to access and work with people
with a disability.
It’s important that you’re able to identify the key people in the community who will both
be able to speak for the community and attract more people into the process. These
may be obvious such as local businesspeople, councillors, Aboriginal or multicultural
leaders. Or their leadership role might be more subtle (and more difficult to find) —
people like a local teacher, environmental volunteer or doctor.
To help you identify leaders, it might be useful to monitor local media, looking out for
people who are writing columns or regularly corresponding with the editor. It can also be
useful to identify community groups and attend local community events to discover who
is in the know.
Canadian journalist and author, Malcolm Gladwell, identifies in his 2000 book The
Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, the types of people we
need to connect with to drive change. He describes these people as being either
connectors, mavens or salespeople.
UÊ œ˜˜iV̜ÀÃÊ>ÀiÊ«iœ«iÊ܅œ ‘link us up with the world… people with a special gift for
bringing the world together.’ They are described as ‘a handful of people with a truly
extraordinary knack […for] making friends and acquaintances.’
UÊ >Ûi˜ÃÊ>Àiʼˆ˜vœÀ“>̈œ˜ÊëiVˆ>ˆÃÌýÊ܅œÊ>Àiʎ˜œÜ˜ÊvœÀÊ>VVՓՏ>̈˜}ʎ˜œÜi`}iÊ>˜`ÊÊ
sharing it with others.
UÊ ->iëiœ«iÊ>Àiʼ«iÀÃÕ>`iÀý]ÊV…>ÀˆÃ“>̈VÊ«iœ«iÊ܈̅ʫœÜiÀvՏʘi}œÌˆ>̈œ˜ÊÊÊ
skills who can sell ideas and opinions to the public.
These categories might be useful for you, as you plan your community
engagement. Try to gain insights into the community you want to engage with to
identify the people who fulfil these roles.
It may also be useful to understand the background information which will ensure
that any obvious pitfalls are avoided and an engagement will be more likely to
progress without surprises. Both the community and the subject matter being
engaged on will have been shaped by many events and influencers over the
years and the static point in time when the engagement is unfolding is only a tiny
slice of the overall story.
KEY INSIGHT: Who are the leaders? Identifying the ‘community leaders’
and seeking their help to draw the community into an engagement process
can deliver dividends in both numbers engaged and the quality of information
gained. Also, remember that the leaders might not necessarily be the people
who say they are!
A good engagement is one that draws people into the process, understanding
what will motivate and interest them. You should take the time to understand the
community you’re going to engage, getting a handle on the people involved,
their motivations and their desires. Do some research into the community. Are
there other issues at play aside from the one you’re engaging on? What has been
achieved (or not achieved) in the community in recent years? And what makes it
You need to understand what will motivate people to get involved in your
engagement. This is the ‘what’s in it for them?’ question, but shouldn’t be seen
as necessarily a selfish thing (the ‘value proposition’). For some people this will
be the opportunity of a financial gain (for example, an entry into a prize draw);
for others it will be a chance to improve their community; some may be keen
to share their ideas and opinions because they think they are worthy of a public
airing; while others may have a leadership position which compels them to be
If you are unable to identify any audience or motivation to be involved, it may
be the case that there is none. Occasionally there is no one to engage, no one
is interested, and if you can confidently identify this straight up, it can save you a
lot of time and effort undertaking a needless exercise.
KEY INSIGHT: Australian social researcher Hugh Mackay writes about the
importance of a sense of place in his book What makes us tick? If you’re
engaging with a geographic community, you should recognise that their
sense of belonging to that place is likely to be high. Showing respect to and
understanding of their community can help build strong relationships.
KEY INSIGHT: IS THERE A QUIET MAJORITY? This is an incredibly important aspect
of effective engagement that practitioners need to carefully watch. There is sometimes a
risk that a noisy minority will overwhelm the engagement process and prevent you from
hearing the views and opinions of the quiet majority.
Reaching the quiet majority will require extra effort. You’ll need to identify that they do
in fact exist, discover why they are silent (e.g. not participating in your engagement)
and look for innovative ways in which to engage them. Having trust-based relationships
with on-the-ground community leaders can be helpful with this, as they can give you the
pulse of the community and you can ‘reality check’ what you’re hearing with them.
Of course, it’s important to listen to the minority view too and not ignore them simply
because they are ‘noisy’ and presumed peripheral. They may have a good reason to
want to be heard and could have some very valid points which you need to take into
Don’t forget About
locAl government
It’s often acknowledged that our third tier of government is the closest to the people,
simply because of its daily interaction with communities in the provision of on-theground projects, services and facilities. Councils can provide insight into the big (and
small) issues in the community which people care about and which might need to be
understood before an engagement process begins (useful to help fulfil Principle 3: We
know the history and background).
Even closer than the organisational level are individual elected members and staff who
have intimate local knowledge and strong working relationships with individuals in
their communities and if appropriately engaged can become great champions for your
engagement activities.
Keep local government in mind when identifying your engagement audiences. Should
you be catching up with the CEO, Mayor or Chairperson for coffee? Is it worth asking
the council to promote engagement sessions through their networks? Or does the
opportunity exist to partner with a council in the delivery of an engagement?
The development of this guide has included discussions with local government,
including individual councils and the Local Government Association of South Australia.
They have shown enthusiasm for its objectives and are open to working in partnership
with the state government whenever an opportunity arises. The State-Local
Government Relations Agreement provides a written commitment to local councils
that they will be consulted on issues specifically affecting their local communities. The
agreement can be found at
Case study:
Department of Primary Industries and
Regions SA
Drought Response Program
Principle 2: We know who to engage
As the cropping season of 2008 steadily
descended into one of the worst droughts on
record, the Department of Primary Industries
and Regions SA (PIRSA) resolved that regional
communities should play a major role in
developing and implementing any programs
to provide support to rural businesses,
communities and families in hardship and stress
as a result of the drought.
Not just early in the process, but as a first step,
the department convened a series of forums
with leaders of the business and finance, natural
resource management and social welfare
PIRSA then facilitated the formation of a
network of regional task forces of recognised
leaders, making it clear what the government
was looking for, and how government would
realistically respond.
These regional groups went on to provide
intelligence on the impacts of the drought that guided the development of the Drought Response
Program, and on-ground leadership to interface between government and the farm sector. At the
same time, a significant emphasis was put on an integrated approach within government and regular
and frequent cross-agency Director level and Chief Executive Forums were established to develop,
then oversee, a single but integrated program.
The community effectively saw one face of government.
This engagement process built on previous drought response programs with an increased emphasis
on engagement with those most affected.
The result was a four-year program that was widely acclaimed for its creative and relevant responses
that were built upon the mutual respect engendered between the regional task forces and PIRSA, and
by extension, between regional communities and the South Australian Government. Knowing who to
connect with in regional communities was vital for the success of this program.
What we did well…
UÊ/…iÊi˜}>}i“i˜ÌÊ܈̅Ê̅iÊÀˆ}…ÌÊÃÌ>Ži…œ`iÀÃÊLi}>˜Êi>ÀÞÊ>˜`Ê܈̅Ê>ÊV>ÀˆÌÞʜvÊ܅>ÌÊ̅iÊÊ Ê
government sought to achieve that was clearly communicated.
relationships within regional communities that PIRSA had, underpinned the whole program. That
and its deep understanding of farming and the impacts of drought were critical to the success of
the program and engendered a sense that PIRSA was listening, being responsive and was genuine
about the task.
UʘÊiÃÃi˜ViÊ̅iÊ«Àœ}À>“ÊÜ>ÃÊVÀi>̈Ûi]ÊÀiiÛ>˜ÌÊ>˜`Êi˜}>}ˆ˜}°Ê7…ˆiʈÌÊVœÕ`˜½ÌÊiÛiÀÊ«ÀœÛˆ`iÊvœÀÊÊ Ê
the entire range of community wants, it delivered the important and urgent services that provided
the support for the community to manage through and recover from the drought.
What we would have done differently…
have ensured that the activities were adjusted and even stopped when no longer required.
principle three:
WE know
and background
“We told you lot all of this when you were here six months ago”, the farmer
complained loudly to murmurs of agreement from around the hall. Engaging
communities and stakeholders too much, or failing to build on previous
engagement activities, can be as bad as not engaging at all. Nothing seems to rile
people more than being asked for input, time and time again, yet being unable to
see where their last lot of feedback was used.
We often hear high-profile examples of communities and stakeholders not being
engaged, but in reality there’s a lot of engagement going on and it’s important for
there to be effective coordination of this.
Knowledge of previous government involvement in a community or with
stakeholders is vital. This should include knowledge of activity by all tiers of
government (often people do not distinguish between the three) and by all
government agencies (remembering that their names often change and this can be
confusing for the community). A bit of research can often reveal that engagement
activities occur with surprising frequency (especially in regional areas), however,
they’re often uncoordinated and lack the depth of knowledge that could be
obtained from being aware of previous engagements.
Corporate knowledge of engagements can be hard to obtain, but you should look
for significant government projects undertaken in the recent past which may have
spurred community engagement. Try to locate reports and outcomes based on the
engagement and use these to influence your own work.
When undertaking an engagement, it’s worthwhile to specifically refer to any
previous engagement activities in the community, explaining their outcomes, how
they intersect with the current process, and why a new process is required. Where
possible (and it won’t always be possible) it can be worthwhile to build on the
existing outcomes of previous engagements.
Survey the horizon. Are there other engagement processes or community events
underway that can be piggy-backed on? If there are, you may be able to save time
and resources. Another tier of government, government agency, or not-for-profit
may have stronger networks in the community and you may find it much easier
to partner with them to deliver an engagement rather than starting from scratch.
However, remember the community is at the centre of everything you’re doing, so
be cautious about this approach and if you think it might offend people, or distract
from your aims, don’t do it.
Case study
Department of the Premier and Cabinet
Update of South Australia’s Strategic Plan
Principle 3: We know the history and background
In 2010/11 the update of South Australia’s Strategic Plan was informed by the biggest community
engagement process ever undertaken by the South Australian government. In total, almost
10,000 South Australians were involved in this process through face-to-face meetings, social
media, online forums and targeted outreach activities.
This extensive consultation directly informed the update of the Plan, with many targets changed
or added in response to what we had heard from stakeholders and communities. As well as
providing an initial source of information about what South Australians want for the future of
their state, the engagement process has provided the Department of the Premier and Cabinet
(DPC) with an ongoing resource that can be accessed by other government agencies to give
them insight into what the priorities and needs are for South Australian communities. (Though
compiled in 2010/11 it remains relevant and many communities – particularly those in regional
areas – will remember the Plan consultation.) This information can be accessed via the Strategic
Plan’s website at:
The update of the Plan has received international recognition, winning the 2011 IAP2
International Project of the Year and coming second in the 2012 UN Public Service Awards,
Fostering Participation in Public Policy-Making Decisions through Innovative Mechanisms
What went well…
The size and breadth of the consultation was very good, with many diverse groups reached and
their ideas brought into the process. This success was attained because we actively sought out
groups who would not normally be involved in community engagement, rather than expecting
them to come to us.
What we would have done differently…
Longer planning time to focus the strategy around the engagement would have been beneficial.
More stakeholders could have been involved in the design of the engagement process.
On reflection we could have had an overarching champion as the ‘face’
of the project. With such a large,
disparate engagement process, a
single, recognisable face of the
campaign may have worked well.
principle four:
we begin
This principle urges you to engage as early as possible, bringing outside voices into the process long
before government has made a final decision.
Early engagement will result in better outcomes for both the community and government. An
early understanding of the community’s needs, motivations and desires will help government make
decisions that are in line with these. Early engagement may also save time and resources down the
track, as the public’s input at a project’s genesis can reduce the risk of running into problems (including
community opposition) later.
For communities, early engagement can build a sense of ownership and stewardship. It can help to
bring people together for a positive purpose, rather than seeing communities coalesce around a
negative cause further down the track.
‘Beginning early’ can be divided into three steps:
1. Meet the community and build relationships
2. Work together to identify the challenges faced, rather than starting from a predetermined solution
3. Commence a journey together towards the solutions.
Relationships are incredibly important and form the foundation upon which to build a successful
community engagement. Strong, authentic relationships lead to trust, understanding and openness
between stakeholders in government and community. Put in the groundwork for good relationships
before doing anything else.
We then need to work with communities to identify the challenges (and opportunities) they are facing.
This means taking a blank canvas approach, asking communities to come up with issues that matter to
them, and moving forward from that point. If we can establish goals and plan clear pathways towards
solutions together, all parties can embark on the same solution-focused journey.
To participate fully, stakeholders often need to self-identify the challenge and be part of designing
the engagement process. This means asking them how do they think that they and others should be
engaged, and what works best for them.
KEY INSIGHT: As an engager, one of your less obvious roles may be bringing your engagement,
communications and policy staff together. Their collaboration is important to ensure that activities
are well communicated and that those responsible for implementing the final outcomes understand
the community’s priorities.
Knowing the right time to engage is a judgment call that only those involved in the process can make.
It’s a given that there should be some initial thinking to come up with the idea, the strategy, the project
or policy you’re engaging on (unless the concept emerges directly from the community) and then
some internal planning to understand what is being taken to the community for input, but from that
point on there should be opportunities for the community to be involved.
On some occasions you may not be able to engage as early as you might like, but you can plan
engagement activities further along in the process. If this is the case, let your stakeholders know
about it. Undertake a communication strategy that tells them what the current state of play is and
reassure them that there will be engagement opportunities in the future. This will help dispel rumours
and speculation and give people the confidence that they’ll be able to have their say in the future.
KEY INSIGHT: Engagement will make things take longer (at least in the upfront parts of your
project). If you’re committed to doing a good job and undertaking a thorough and high quality
engagement, you need to be aware that it will make your overall process take longer – and this
isn’t a bad thing. You need to factor in engagement time from the beginning, that way it won’t
become an onerous add-on.
KEY INSIGHT: If your first stage in the engagement process is presenting a range of ‘options’
to the community and stakeholders, it’s likely you’re engaging too late. In most cases the
community should be involved in developing options.
Case study 4: Renewing Woodville West
Department for Communities and Social Inclusion / Renewal SA
IAP2 elements: Inform, Consult, Involve, Collaborate and Empower
Principle: We begin early
The project was funded and launched very quickly to take advantage
of significant funding sourced from the Commonwealth, with very
tight timeframes for delivery. The timing of the announcement and the
engagement process that followed was concurrent with the protests and
significant community disquiet about the nearby St Clair development.
The Woodville West project was largely welcomed by the community and
received unanimous support from the council.
The following is a brief chronology of the community engagement phase:
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given selective demolitions had been occurring for some years
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anticipation of approval by Cabinet
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with opportunity for input from residents
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two experienced relocation officers in the first year of the project (partly
due to the need for an early construction start forced through Federal
Government timeframes)
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local kindergarten in December 2010 to explain the project’s objectives
and impacts
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feedback sessions aimed at learning from local residents and
incorporating their ideas into the master plan
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incombination with community days to engage with residents
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discussion of traffic management issues, extensive displays of the history
of the area and Housing SA’s history in urban renewal at other sites, and
a large scissor lift for locals to ride to understand the scale and height of
the development
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incorporated a four storey high accessible scaffold tower to inform
residents about the proposed heights
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2010 and into 2011.
What went well…
Elements that went well included the broadcasting of information to the community
creating a process of consultation resulting in a willingness to participate and
contribute to achieving community outcomes.
What we would have done differently…
We could have improved the collaboration between approving authorities. Some
aspects of the project, eg, upgrade of railway intersection required a multifaceted
approval process. A lack of empowerment of the project team to expedite approval
and decision making through government departments and local authorities escalated
project risks.
principle five:
Keep it real. Nothing could be truer when it comes to engagement. People quickly pick
up when our actions lack authenticity. People can see through engagement activities that
are undertaken for the sake of fulfilling a process or ticking a box. And as soon as they
do, cynicism sets in, they disengage from the process and lasting damage can be done.
Engagements that aren’t genuine damage the public’s goodwill towards government and
make it harder for those others that are being done with the right intent.
This principle encompasses several elements:
Genuine engagement means listening to understand. Through active listening, we will
better understand the community and stakeholders we wish to engage; we’ll be able to
get a handle on their motivations; know what makes them tick; grasp what they recognise
as challenges and opportunities; and learn how to effectively engage with them.
Listening in order to understand asks you to step back for a moment, taking time to listen
with empathy and gain a better understanding of the state of play in a community. Upon
deeper listening you may be surprised by some of the insights you gain and there’s every
chance your perspective will shift with your new information.
Stephen Covey describes empathetic listening as getting inside another person’s frame
of reference: ‘You look out through it, you see the world the way they see the world…
you understand how they feel.’ This approach is likely to change how we design the
engagement, how we communicate and how we interact with the community and
KEY INSIGHT: Speak to people who’ve gone through it before. If you’re trying to
understand how a family impacted by the closure of a school might feel, try speaking
to someone who has been through a similar experience. Catch up with families who
have been through a school amalgamation or closure sometime in the recent past and
ask them what they experienced during the project and what community engagement
activities helped, or could have helped, their situation.
At his Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln spoke of ‘Government of the people, by the
people, for the people,’ to proclaim the value of democratic government. Today we could
add a fourth clause: ‘with the people’, emphasising the arrival of participatory democracy
and the importance of genuinely engaging people in government decision-making
beyond political participation.
A successful engagement places the person, not the issue, at the centre of the
engagement, because it’s the person who is affected by the issue, and the person who can
help us design government’s best approach to the issue.
At the end of the day, everything we do in the public service should be focused on
making the lives of South Australians better. Government does this by investing time
and resources in a range of issues which are seen as the priorities of the time. The areas
are diverse and the policy and program responses complex, but whether about economic
development, environmental protection, reliable health care or excellent education, the final
outcomes are for people and so should be shaped by people. That’s why it’s so important to
engage those people in the decisions of government, because only by doing that can we be
sure that what we’re doing is right for them.
Ensure that the engagement has a high level of accessibility, providing people with as many
opportunities as possible to participate. This can mean ensuring timeframes for responses
are appropriate; that venues (if a physical meeting is being held) are physically accessible and
comfortable; and that people feel welcome and valued (provide refreshments and take the
opportunity to personally welcome people).
Accessibility also means choice. The more engagement opportunities you provide, the greater
the volume and breadth of community interaction is likely to be. Provide people with multiple
engagement methodologies. For example, you could hold a community meeting; publish the
outcomes for comment on an online discussion forum; promote this work through a social media
strategy; and gain additional information through a written survey.
Because it’s all about people, we need to recognise and celebrate what participants bring to
the process. This includes their time, ideas, special knowledge of their communities and often
their networks and other resources. In doing this we need to first remember that people who are
participating in your community engagement are usually doing so voluntarily. It is crucial that we
show our appreciation for this.
This can be as straightforward as providing verbal recognition at the close of a meeting,
following up with letters of thanks, and then coming back to participants to let them know what
we’ve done with the material they’ve provided. This demonstrates that even if we were unable to
do anything with their input, we recognise that it’s valuable because time was taken to provide it.
This is discussed in more detail in the feedback loop on page 35.
Case study
Department of Environment, Water and Natural
Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth (CLLMM)
Principle 5: We are genuine
In 2009, at the height of the drought across the Murray
Darling Basin, the Department of Environment, Water and
Natural Resource’s (DEWNR) Coorong, Lower Lakes and
Murray Mouth Program was funded to develop a long
term plan for the CLLMM region which addressed the
severe environmental issues which were damaging the
The communities in the CLLMM region were suffering
as a result of the environmental impacts of the drought
and it was important that they were involved from the
beginning in the development of the Long Term Plan. The CLLMM Program instigated three
rounds of public consultation that were designed to actively engage the community. The process
involved in-depth discussions with individuals, community listening posts, targeted consultation
with key community groups, a long term plan reference group and a variety of on-line and hard
copy responses to enable people to provide their ideas and opinions. The community was able to
review and comment on the draft Long Term Plan which ensured their views had been considered
and included. As a result, the community felt that they had been listened to, creating a sense of
community ownership of the plan.
Two shop fronts were set up in the CLLMM region to facilitate the sharing of information between
government and the local community. The ‘Lakes Hubs’ ensure communities have current
information about projects being undertaken in their region and the CLLMM Program receives
regular local community feedback to guide projects. The Hubs also provide community training
opportunities in revegetation projects.
A Community Advisory Panel was established to provide advice and guidance on CLLMM projects.
The membership includes a wide range of community knowledge and experience to feed into ongoing works in the region.
Individual projects within the CLLMM program actively seek community participation and input in
the development and delivery of projects.
The CLLMM program works with the Ngarrindjeri community through the Kungun Ngarrindjeri
Yunnan Agreement (KNYA), which facilitates Ngarrindjeri engagement and participation in CLLMM
and other government-led projects.
The KNYA “listening to Ngarrindjeri speak” builds the capacity of Ngarrindjeri Regional Authority
(NRA) and community through training and on-ground works. Through the KNYA, DEWNR coordinates the State Government engagement with NRA.
This inclusive approach to community engagement for the CLLMM Program ensures the wider
community is involved in a manner that empowers them as part of decision-making processes.
What went well…
The community engagement worked because we had an engaged community. The drought
brought the community together and the opportunities provided by the CLLMM Program enabled
this community to be meaningfully informed and genuinely involved.
What we would have done differently…
We would have sought to engage with an even broader section of the community.
the feeDbAck loop:
We AskeD… you sAiD…
We DiD…
What happened to my idea? Did you listen? Did you care? Did it make a difference?
The feedback loop is one of the most important elements of the engagement
process and without it you cannot show real respect for your audience’s contribution.
Closing the feedback loop means taking people and their ideas and opinions
seriously. In his book What Makes Us Tick? social researcher Hugh Mackay says that
one of the things that registers highly in our personal needs is the desire to be taken
seriously. ‘We all want our voices to be heard as authentic, legitimate and worthy of
attention. We resent being overlooked, dismissed or belittled.’
The concept of the feedback loop can be broken down into three elements:
1. We asked…
It’s likely that time will have lapsed between the original engagement and when it
comes time for feedback, so remind people what it was all about. Restate the context
and remind people why the engagement was carried out in the first place. If specific
questions were asked and materials provided, provide them again.
2. You said…
Provide people with an overview of what was said at the last engagement session. In
a small group this might be individual feedback, but in a larger group it should be a
broad overview of what was said, highlighting the key and interesting points. It may
be useful to provide graphically-displayed statistics so people can see where their
input ranked in comparison with others’ priorities.
3. We did…
Outline what happened with the community and stakeholder input gained at an
engagement and explain why it was or wasn’t used. People will appreciate getting
this transparent and honest feedback, even if their ideas and opinions were unable to
influence the final outcomes.
Fulfilling the feedback loop demonstrates that we’re genuine about the engagement
and will give those involved confidence that time was spent listening to and
analysing their input. Those who complete the feedback loop will have a much better
chance of re-engaging the community and/or stakeholders in the future and can
retain the community as an activated, interested asset which can be partnered with
again and again.
principle six:
we ARE
relevant and engaging
Is it possible to have an engagement which isn’t engaging? Absolutely! There are
plenty of examples of engagement activities which fail to inspire and it shows up in
turnout figures, in the quality of responses and in the lack of goodwill present at future
Our final principle looks to the engagement activities themselves, the things you want
people to take part in: the online discussion forum; the public meeting; the Facebook
page; the workshop (complete with butchers’ paper) and the list goes on…
To make sure our engagement methodologies capture the community’s imagination
and draw people into the process, we need to take them beyond mere tools. We
need to think about personalisation, using creativity and relevance to make them as
engaging as possible.
Engagement activities which stand out as highly successful are those which captivate
their audiences and give them a clear purpose for being there. Sometimes that will
mean fun and games, the use of multimedia and enthusiastic facilitation. On other
occasions it will mean carefully constructed discussion papers, presentation of data and
use of detailed case studies to add a real-life dimension to the words on the paper.
As you work through principles one to five, you’ll begin to understand what makes
your community tick. The better you know the community, the greater your ability to
shape engagement tools that will draw them into the process.
Relevance can be developed and increased by ensuring that there are multiple
engagement platforms. Introducing additional and innovative engagement methods
will make it more likely that a participant will find the engagement option that they’re
most comfortable with. For some people that will be a small group conversation
over coffee in a café, for others it will be online via social media tools. We advocate
going to people rather than expecting them to come to us. If you’re in a space they’re
comfortable in, whether that be on Twitter or in their local shopping mall, the quality
and honesty of what’s provided is likely to be much greater. The case study below
shows how the South Australian Police have used Facebook with great success to
reach people who wouldn’t normally get police information via the mainstream media.
KEY INSIGHT: What’s in it for me? If there’s something to be gained for your
engagement’s participants, then you’ve made it relevant for them. And this isn’t
about having their say in lofty policy goals, instead it’s about immediate value, e.g.
the mother who has some time out during a community conversation because a
crèche is provided; the elderly woman who gets to enjoy the company of others
when being interviewed over a cup of tea; or the food and sense of community
enjoyed during a suburban barbecue.
Case study
Staying relevant through Facebook
Principle 6: We are creative, relevant and engaging
South Australian Police (SAPOL) is using social media to connect with the community,
raise awareness about the services it provides and tackle crime at a statewide and
local level.
In June 2012, SAPOL launched a three-month trial of seven ‘local’ Facebook pages,
building on the already successful ‘SA Police News’ Facebook page (which has over
50,000 followers!) but taking a more grassroots approach, with local police stations
and branches interacting directly with the communities they serve.
SAPOL’s Facebook pages are another means of getting information to and from
the public while also reaching a section of the community who are more inclined to
monitor and comment on news and events through social media sites rather than
using traditional methods such as newspapers.
While SAPOL will use the pages to inform and reassure the public about local
policing issues, it will also provide a forum for the local communities to share their
views, voice their concerns and help develop local solutions for local problems. This
will increase the public’s access to police, promoting confidence and satisfaction and
providing additional communication channels in times of emergency.
What went well…
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and communicated to the page administrators ensuring a consistent and
professional approach across all trial sites.
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support for the initiative and the response to appeals for help or information.
What we would have done differently…
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it took seven days for the pages to appear on
the Facebook ‘search’ function
once activated.
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complete understanding of Facebook
security requirements in relation to how we
wanted our pages to operate.
sociAl meDiA:
We couldn’t develop a guide to engagement without having a section on social
media. We wanted to pull out social media and have a specific discussion about
it, because our experience shows there are a lot of questions about how, why and
when to use this growing set of engagement tools.
Social media is an important and growing method of reaching out to a broad
group of people. According to the 2012 Yellow Social Media Report, 62% of all
Australians are using social media with Facebook dominating the market (97% of
all social media users are on Facebook). Other social media sites to note include
Twitter and LinkedIn which have a significant presence in the social media market,
and rapidly growing Pinterest and Instagram which have highly visual content.
The increasing number of people using social media presents a huge opportunity
for government to connect with communities and stakeholders about issues that
matter to them. However, as you can see from the successful SAPOL case study, it’s
not as easy as just setting up a Facebook account and hoping for the best — social
media takes resources, careful planning and imagination to make it successful.
The top reasons that people use social media are: catching up with friends and
family, sharing photos or videos and coordinating social events. Engaging with
government agencies is not on the list! Which gives us an added challenge.
Social media is ever-changing and so rather than tell you how to use individual
tools, we’ve come up with six practical tips to help you get the most out of your
frolic with Facebook! Our tips should be read in conjunction with the Office of the
Chief Information Officer’s Social Media Guidelines. The guidelines are available at
1. Do one well, then go from there
It’s hard to be in multiple places at once, and it’s even harder to be really good at
being in multiple places at once… (think jack of all trades, master of none!) There
are lots of social media tools out there, but the big four (for now!) are: Facebook,
Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn. Our advice is to pick one of these platforms and do
it well. Get to know how it works, do some research (Google will help!), build your
presence and online community, and get to know what works for you and those
you want to reach. Many of the things that are successful in one platform will pay
dividends in others, so once you feel really comfortable with one, you can spread
your wings and confidentially start experimenting with another.
2. Ask questions
Ask, don’t tell. Throughout this guide we’ve been emphasising the importance
of listening rather than telling, and social media is no different — in fact it’s an
area where the importance of asking questions (and listening to the answers) is
magnified. Social media thrives from dialogue. If you can spark a conversation,
things take on a life of their own (and that could mean less work for you to do!) The
best way you can get a conversation happening is to ask questions: ‘What do you
think of… [insert topic of your engagement]?’ People really appreciate being asked
for their opinion.
3. Keep it real (be social!)
In line with Principle 5: We are genuine, it’s vital that social media users are able to
project authenticity. You need to be able to demonstrate that you’re in it for the
right reasons, not just because you want to be ‘cool’. Your posts on social media
will quickly betray how genuine you are. People can see through someone posting
for the sake of posting as your input quickly becomes boring and repetitive (this is
one of the top reasons for people deciding not to follow a particular social media
user). You also don’t need to stay on topic all the time. Feel free to be social,
wishing people a happy Easter; pointing out that the weekend’s coming up and
asking what people plan to do. This may sound frivolous, but it’s not. It gives you a
sense of being real and not simply an electronic website set up for the purposes of
an engagement exercise.
4. Be visual
Social media thrives on visual input. For every written update you provide, you
should try to balance it with a visual post. A picture really is worth a thousand
words and users are far more likely to interact with images rather than text. If
you have the time and resources to put together a quick YouTube video this is
also a great strategy. The fastest-growing social media networks at the moment
are Pinterest and Instagram, which are both platforms based completely around
5. Integrate, integrate, integrate
Weave your social media into all other elements of your
engagement strategy. If you have a website, make
sure your social media icons are prominent to ensure
visitors to your website can quickly link through to
your social media pages. It can also be useful
to get your Facebook and Twitter feeds linked
through to your website so updates on
these platforms are propagated onto the
website. Similarly, if you’re sending out email
campaigns, make sure your social media
icons are part of the template. And get
staff to integrate social media icons in their
email signature blocks — a small action,
but one that can pay big dividends.
6. Measure your success
Measurement is incredibly important.
There’s the obvious measurement of
keeping tabs on how many people are
following you on a particular platform,
but you should also try to dig deeper,
looking into the analytics of particular
platforms and seeing how far your
posts are reaching into your online
get me out of the
groAn zone!
So… your engagement is over, you’ve fulfilled the feedback loop but now people
don’t seem to be at all happy! On paper, you’ve delivered a very successful series of
engagement activities. People were enthusiastic and dished up a whole variety of ideas
and opinions about how to tackle the challenges presented. And this is the problem… we
now have too many ideas on the table to reach a satisfactory conclusion — participants
can’t be anything other than disappointed with the proposed outcomes.
This is what we call the ‘groan zone’. It’s often a symptom of engagements which aim
to bring the public’s voice into high level processes such as strategic planning. In such
situations, we’re regularly left with an array of divergent ideas which don’t come to a point
that we can focus our efforts on. This situation is not ideal and an engager’s role in such a
situation should be to try to bring divergent views together (turning them into convergent
views, if we want to use the jargon!) to reach a clear decision point.
The area between divergent and convergent thinking can be described as the ‘groan
zone’ and as a community engager you shouldn’t be surprised to find yourself in it! A
groan zone is a natural part of any engagement process, but it is important to ensure that
it does not become the end of your engagement. The ideal outcome is to be able to
bring issues to a head prior to find decision-making.
Source: Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision Making, Sam Kaner
One of the best ways to shift your participants towards a decision point and away from
the groan zone is to acknowledge that it exists and to talk about the difficult, awkward
and frustrating effects it has on group dynamics. Acknowledging and identifying the
existence of the groan zone is the first step towards getting out of it.
Overcoming the groan zone may require strong and direct facilitation so if you predict
that the subject of your engagement is likely to enter the groan zone, you should consider
bringing a strong facilitator on board early in the process. It may also be important to
carry out the engagement over a number of predetermined stages, clearly mapping out
the expectation of entering the groan zone and planning the stage when you will get out
of it!
A list of engagement methodologies that enable divergent and convergent conversation
can be found at
To advance practice, we need to know where we stand now, what progress we are
making and where best to focus our efforts.
- The Australasian Evaluation Society
What do we mean by evaluation?
Evaluation is the interpretation of information collected to better understand an
activity, primarily for the purpose of achieving better results. The success of a
project can be viewed differently, based on whose value judgment is used and
what elements are assessed.
Why evaluate?
It’s important that we understand whether we actually have achieved what we set
out to do and continue to learn how we can do things better. Therefore, evaluation
is learning what works and what doesn’t. Additionally, from an accountability
perspective, evaluation can inform us if funds could have been better spent.
As mentioned, we engage the community because we believe it will result in better
outcomes, decisions, projects, policies, programs, and better use of resources.
Evaluation provides us with an opportunity to ‘check or test’ our thinking and
practice, to ensure that we are achieving ‘better results’. It provides spaces
for critical reflection and ongoing learning; it can build transparency and
accountability. For community, meaningful evaluation can mark milestones and
celebrations, provide opportunities to debrief or reflect on learnings and through
these build a stronger sense of community.
There is increasing demand from community for engagement that’s more
meaningful, and increasing public and private interest in effective community
engagement. Along with this comes a need to ensure that the community
engagement is not undermined by the disparate understanding of practitioners in
the use of principles of engagement.
Our principles are based on respect for community. Evaluating our engagement
strategies ensures that we build our evidence base, collectively identifying good
practice and improving future practice to better capture community voice and
reduce unintended harm to community.
When should we do it?
Planning an evaluation framework should commence as early as possible. The
scope of activities in building an evaluation framework will vary based on the scale
of community engagement and the purpose of evaluation.
Early planning is essential because it enables the identification of what information
needs to be collected and what resources need to be allocated for the process of
Early evaluation planning also provides an opportunity to clarify the purpose and goals of
the engagement process. For example:
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How should we do it?
It’s critical to understand there’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach to evaluating community
engagement. There are multiple evaluation methodologies and these can be scaled
proportionate to the engagement strategy. Similar to planning our community
engagement activity, it’s important to ensure that evaluation methods and tools are fit for
purpose, and are inclusive of community expectation and feedback.
When establishing evaluation tools, flexibility is important and, from a community
perspective, our responsiveness to community voice should be empowering so that
community can see the impact of their contribution during the course of the engagement
process. For example, a tidy town community measure, from a government perspective,
might be the number of rubbish bins filled at the end of a week (output). From a
community perspective, it’s seeing a clean park or shared space (outcomes).
From a continuous learning perspective, it’s critical that we continue to build our evidence
base of what works well and ensure that people remain at the core of the engagement
process. Additionally, it’s important to share evaluation findings for learning and promoting
community and government confidence in community engagement.
There are many online resources available for your use — here are just a few:
hoW We got here
We want you to be assured that we didn’t develop this document in isolation, in fact we attempted
to practice what we’re preaching — bringing stakeholders into the process, asking public servants
how they would use the guide, and seeking the views of external stakeholders about how they
believe governments should engage.
To help shape the guide, we brought various voices into the process:
1. Across government reference group
Each government agency had a Chief Executive-nominated representative on our acrossgovernment reference group, with members being people with experience in community
engagement and communications.
2. Presentation at Institute of Public Administration Australia (IPAA) seminar
In March 2012, we had the opportunity to present to an IPAA seminar attended by over 400 public
servants. We outlined our vision for the principles and sought input from attendees. We’ve also had
a number of other opportunities to present this body of work to government and non-government
audiences at various events. On each occasion feedback has been sought.
3. Survey of public servants
Attendees at the IPAA seminar (above) were provided with an online survey that sought both
quantitative (rating) and qualitative (open responses) on each of the principles. Over 120 people
completed this survey and provided invaluable advice as to the shape and direction of the principles.
This feedback was used to refine the principles and shape the content.
4. Couch conversations with non-government stakeholders
The Premier’s Department manages the Alliance Program under South Australia’s Strategic Plan.
Alliance members are a group of non-government stakeholders who provide advice on the Strategic
Plan and related projects. To gain feedback on the principles from a non-government perspective,
a series of informal couch conversations were convened with this group. These provided excellent
insight into what these stakeholders expect from government departments when it comes to
engagement. They also shared how they engage with their own stakeholders. Again, this was an
invaluable process which did much to shape this body of work.
5. Research
To inform the development of our principles we conducted research at a local, national and
international level. We’d like to acknowledge the following individuals for their role in shaping this
UÊThe Power of Co, Twyfords
UÊWhat makes us tick? Hugh Mackay
UÊComing to Public Judgment, Daniel Yankelovich
UÊRescuing Policy, The Case for Public Engagement, Don Lenihan
U Cities: Who Decides? The Grattan Institute
UÊCommunity Conversations, Paul Born & The Tamarack Institute
UÊEngaging South Australians, A guide to community engagement levels and
techniques, Department for Families and Communities
UÊFacilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision Making, Sam Kaner
inform: high quAlity
While the IAP2 Spectrum provides the theoretical underpinning for this guide and is referred to
throughout, we wanted to spend some time exploring the inform element of the spectrum.
Even though ‘inform’ is the first element, it is not a default position and will not simply
happen. Effort and investment is required to deliver what should be in essence a high quality
communication strategy, which honestly and openly provides high quality, accessible information
to those affected by and interested in (see Principle 2: We know who to engage) the
government’s decisions.
Fulfilling the inform element in the spectrum can be achieved by:
There are many good reasons why you would only be able to fulfil the inform element of
the spectrum, but we are also finding that there is a blurred understanding of when deeper
engagement (eg, consult, involve, etc) can be legitimately sacrificed for a communication
strategy. It’s important to be clear upfront why you can’t do more, be ready to explain this if
asked (because you are very likely to be asked) and understand that while you may not be able
to do anything more than inform in the first instance, there may be opportunities down the track
to engage the public in a more rigorous way.
Knowing upfront what you want out of the communication strategy is vital. Again its about
asking yourself why you’re doing this and what you want to achieve by sharing this information
with the public. For more detailed advice on this see Principle 1: We know why we are engaging
and we communicate this clearly.
Getting your message out to the right groups is also fundamental to your success. This guide
refers to the importance of reaching those who are affected by government decisions and also
those who are interested in a particular decision (refer to Principle 2: We know who to engage).
Once you have identified the right groups, develop profiles on them, gaining an understanding
of their traits, motivations and skills. The reason for taking the time to look this closely at your
audiences is that this kind of background information is essential in choosing the most effective
ways to communicate with the audience.
Your messages are closely tied to your goals. They deliver important information about the issue
and compel the targeted audience to think, feel, or act. Messages can:
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Communications channels carry the messages to the target audiences. Channels take many
forms and there is an infinite list of possibilities. Your communications should be creative,
relevant and engaging to your target audience to maximise reach and impact. See Principle
6: We are creative, relevant and engaging.
Groups, organisations, or businesses may exist that will assist you in reaching your goal
by providing funds, expertise, support, or other resources. Local councils, community
leaders, NGOs, businesses and community groups are all examples of groups that could be
partnered with to drive your message further.
The practical rollout of the communication strategy should occur systematically, along a
clear timeline with appropriate staffing and support in place.
You can never truly know if something is going to work until it has been set in motion.
Set aside time to take stock of progress in implementing your communications strategy
at various points throughout its progress. Determine strengths and weaknesses, identify
obstacles you are facing and create and implement new approaches for success.
for more support…
The Participation and Partnerships team within the Department of the Premier and Cabinet is
here to help! The team has authored Better Together and is now developing strategies to drive
high quality approaches to engagement across government.
The team’s work includes:
Personalised engagement advice
The team is available to provide tailored support and advice to any state government agencies
planning an engagement. Give us a call and we’ll sit down with you and see what we can do to
We manage YourSAy at This is our online engagement hub, where
you can access an electronic version of Better Together, see what engagement activities are
happening across the state, access regularly updated case studies and host online discussion
Social media
We’ve been nurturing our social media platforms for several years now and have built strong and
engaged online communities. We can promote your engagements via these platforms to help
you talk directly to the public.
Community of practice
We manage a community of practice, bringing together like-minded people who have an
interest in doing great community and stakeholder engagement. Please get in touch if you’d like
to be part of our regular mailing list and receive invitations to our events.
More details about the Participation and Partnerships team, including how to get in touch, can
be found at
AppenDix 1 – cAse stuDies
A range of case studies from state government agencies are detailed below. These case studies
demonstrate community and stakeholder engagement in action across the public sector. Each case
study highlights important learnings that have come from their delivery, including what went well
during the engagement and what we could have done differently to ensure more success.
Case study 1: Skills for All
Department for Further Education,
Employment, Science and Technology
IAP2 elements: Inform and Consult
Principles of engagement showcased:
We know who to engage; We know
the history and background
Skills for All is an initiative of the South
Australian Government which has
delivered the biggest-ever reforms to
South Australia’s Vocational Education
and Training (VET) sector.
Skills for All was designed to transform
and modernise the training system to
raise the skill and qualification levels to improve productivity and participation in South Australia.
Such a critical reform has fundamental implications for the state’s economic and social development
so consultation, feedback, engagement and buy-in from community and industry were critical to
develop, implement and manage change.
The consultation requirements for Green and White Paper development are explicit and DFEEST was
guided by these. The engagement strategies undertaken for Skills for All were focused on the Inform
and Consult components of the IAP2 spectrum.
Initially, a cross-Government Steering Committee was established, co-chaired by the Chief Executives
of DFEEST and DPC and guided by input from the Training and Skills Commission to identify the
potential policy response in a Green Paper. Extensive consultation was carried out on the ‘Skills for
All: Productivity and Participation through Skills’ consultation paper (Green Paper) A series of nine
metropolitan and regional consultation sessions attended by over 300 people were conducted from
July 2010 to August 2010.
The engagement process was focused on canvasing the proposed reforms, raising awareness
about what those changes would mean and gaining feedback about the perceptions and potential
implications for key stakeholder groups in order to address and mitigate against any unforeseen
consequences of change.
The establishment of a submission process, the information phone line and email service allowed
ongoing engagement with policy issues. Over 60 submissions were received through this period. A
consultation outcomes paper was released in addition to regular updates and fact sheets during the
development of the policy.
The consultation was successful in both raising awareness among key stakeholders statewide and in
identifying potential issues which were taken into account to modify the Skills for All policy direction.
The feedback from stakeholders significantly shaped the final White Paper.
DFEEST continued consultation with key stakeholder groups to progress the development and
implementation of system reform. In 2011, over 2000 people were involved in sessions which allowed
ongoing negotiation with key peak bodies to shape the final implementation.
Following this extensive consultation, Skills for All commenced on 1 July 2012. The reform changes
the way South Australians can access funded training with more opportunity linked to industry skills
needs and access to learning and training pathways state wide. The reform has resulted in major
structural change in DFEEST to one that is externally focused with the Skills for All website and
Infoline as a single streamlined interface for clients of the training system.
The reform also includes governance changes to TAFE SA with a new TAFE SA Act 2012 which will
see TAFE SA operate as a statutory corporation, separate from DFEEST, from 1 November 2012. This
is an important aspect of the reform which will support TAFE SA to grow and build on its strengths.
In terms of impact, as of October 2012, there are over 200 Skills for All training providers approved
to deliver over 1000 funded training courses and a surge of interest from the public since the
marketing campaign which commenced earlier in the year.
Under Skills for All, an additional 100,000 training places are being funded, which equates to about
17,000 per year. There has been a significant increase in training as a result of Skills for All. The areas
of most growth include aged care, disability and electrotechnology.
The Skills for All reform has undoubtedly benefited from input from the various parties and
consultation has brought stakeholders along on the journey which has been a very important aspect
of the change management. Consultation with stakeholders has not stopped. It is ongoing and
an integral part of the development of Skills for All and DFEEST’s continuous improvement activity,
particularly with the opportunities presented through social media on the various platforms that
DFEEST is now using.
What we did well…
In a reform of this magnitude it is difficult to ensure consultation occurs with all cohorts particularly
those who are systemically marginalised. However the use of a range of sampling techniques and
targeted focus groups assisted in gaining critical information about impacts on marginalised groups.
What we could have done better…
We could have simplified the material provided to the community. Green and White Papers
meet specific requirements, but they do not necessarily lend themselves to easy consumption by
members of the public who are without deep experience in their subject matter. People want simple
easy to understand information that can be digested quickly not a government policy paper.
Case study 2: National Anti-Racism Strategy
Attorney-General’s Department (Equal Opportunity Commission)
IAP2 element: Consult
Principles of engagement showcased: We know who to engage; We know the history and
Throughout April and May 2012 the Equal Opportunity Commission held six public consultations
around the state discussing racism in our communities and how we can work together to tackle it.
The consultations were the first step of a national initiative coordinated by the Australian Human
Rights Commission aimed at developing a National Anti-Racism Strategy.
The success of the consultations depended on securing a high enough attendance so that we
received a range of views. Therefore, prior to the consultations we embarked on a process of
promoting the events. We used a number of methods to advertise the event, using the government
SAGEMS, engaging with stakeholders to promote the event via their contacts and contacting local
As a result of engaging a broad spectrum of South Australians we achieved an attendance of more
than 200 people across the six consultations.
Out of the six consultations held, three were aimed solely at the South Australian Aboriginal
population. History has taught us to ensure that the Aboriginal community is properly consulted. It
is more effective to hold specific Aboriginal consultations that exclusively discuss racism and how it
affects the Aboriginal community, as the cause and effects are significantly different for Aboriginal
The consultations were interactive and participative. This resulted in lively, engaging and enlightening
discussions, producing many interesting ideas regarding the development of the National AntiRacism Strategy.
The interactive nature of the consultations allowed all attendees the opportunity to join the national
conversation and have their say. The result was a broad spectrum of experiences and strategies that
will help to shape the development of the National Anti-Racism Strategy.
What went well…
The promotion of the consultations and the high attendance resulted in excellent input from the
What we could have done better…
Although we managed to reach three main centres in the state, if time and resources allowed, we
would have sought input from a more diverse range of communities.
Case study 3: A partnership with industry
Environment Protection Authority (EPA)
IAP2 element: Inform and Involve
Principles of engagement showcased: We know the history and background and We are
The steelworks and mines have been an important part of the Whyalla economy since the early
1900s (as BHP, OneSteel and now Arrium Mining and Materials). In 1968, Whyalla’s Pellet Plant was
commissioned and the city soon began to take on its now infamous red colour as a result of the
processing of dry hematite occurring on east Whyalla’s doorstep.
Decades of cumulative red dust impacts eventually became unacceptable to many members of the
local community. It also became unacceptable to the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) which
licensed the operation, leading to growing tensions between the regulator, the company and the
Shortly after OneSteel was spun out from parent company BHP, it was evident that solutions to
reducing the red dust issue were not immediately available. The EPA and community wanted
OneSteel to improve its environmental performance. At the same time, OneSteel needed to secure a
long-term supply of iron ore which would lead to a solution for a reduction in red dust emissions, and
so Project Magnet was created (converting the Steelworks from hematite iron ore to magnetite iron
ore, and from a dry process to a wet process).
This enabled OneSteel to adopt a new approach to engaging with the community, which involved
listening to residents’ concerns and making commitments to improve its environmental performance.
Relations with the community were further enhanced when the EPA, as the regulator, started
contributing to this community engagement program by becoming part of the Environment
Consultation Group (ECG) – a group of community representatives who work with OneSteel to
address community concerns in relation to environmental performance.
The EPA’s role is to provide an objective analysis of the data presented by OneSteel at the group’s
meetings. By sharing this with the community and taking them on the journey, it increased the level
of trust between OneSteel and Whyalla residents.
These ECG meetings still occur on a regular basis,and
provide a forum to listen to and address community
concerns in relation to environmental performance.
The EPA also presents their analysis of monitoring data
at these meetings and comments on updates given
by OneSteel relating to their current works, projects
and environmental performance. ECG meetings have
become less frequent in recent years, primarily due
to a reduction in community concern surrounding
OneSteel / Arrium-related environmental issues.
Since Project Magnet’s completion, OneSteel has
introduced further initiatives to lessen the company’s
impact on the local community.
As a result of these initiatives, the EPA presented
OneSteel with a Sustainability Licence in 2010. The
Sustainability Licence commits OneSteel to continuing
to work with the EPA on improving its environmental
performance as well as actively working with the
What went well…
From the EPA’s point of view, contributing to the
community engagement program as the regulator
increased the trust between OneSteel and the local
community. The EPA was also able to provide an
objective analysis of the data presented. This in turn
assisted with the process of identifying and addressing
community concerns, as well as improving the
relationship between OneSteel and the EPA.
This journey is an excellent example of how the community can change how a business operates, as
well as how a business and the regulator can engage constructively with a community for the benefit
of everyone involved.
What we could have done differently…
Timing could have been improved. Engaging earlier by all parties involved could have prevented
some tension and created a more workable environment for change to occur.
Case study 4: Creatively engaging kids
Department for Education and Child Development
IAP2 element: Inform and Involve
Principles of engagement showcased: We begin early; We are genuine; We are creative,
relevant and engaging.
In 2010 the Department for Education and Child Development (DECD) in partnership with the
Department of the Premier and Cabinet (DPC) undertook to trial consultation strategies with children
under the age of 12 (with a specific focus on capturing the voices of the youngest children under the
ages of 5) to inform the review of South Australia’s Strategic Plan and government policy decisions.
The consultations linked research, policy and practice by being undertaken in partnership with children,
families, the community, education and care professionals, policy makers and the tertiary sector.
These trials emphasised the importance of recognising young children as valued South Australian
citizens and that the broader social, economic and environmental conditions in society impact on
children’s development and are as important as the traditionally recognised fields of education,
health and child safety.
The consultations with young children comprised a range of services and programs including
preschools, child care centres, Children’s Centres for Early Childhood Development and Parenting;
Family Day Care, Learning Together @ Home programs and strategies in the home environment.
In total approximately 350 children were involved in the consultation trials with approximately
26% being Aboriginal children, approximately 20% being children with additional needs and
approximately 20% from rural, remote or isolated communities.
The consultation strategies involved age
appropriate artistic and creative expression
to explore themes related to local
communities within curricula and learning
frameworks of education and care service
As a result of the consultations not only
have the majority of the themes identified
by children as being of importance to
them been reflected in South Australia’s
Strategic Plan, but just as importantly
the practices developed have generated
a commitment to greater inclusion of
children’s views in broader community
planning across many partnership
initiatives between state and local
government, non-government and private
sector partners.
One of the consultations included the production by Windmill Theatre of a documentary capturing
the consultation process at Ocean View College Children’s Centre and an animation reflecting
children’s views developed by the children at the Ocean View College Out of School Hours Care.
The level of engagement initially aimed for was ‘consult’ to ensure children were provided with an
equal opportunity to participate as valued South Australian citizens.
The resulting level of engagement exceeded expectations to the ‘involve’ level by incorporating
the consultation strategies into curricula and learning frameworks and exploring issues and themes
with children over a period of time.
All six principles of engagement are relevant to this case study, with principles 4-6 most strongly
linked as follows:
Principle 4: We begin early
Ensuring that our youngest South Australian citizens are valued and provided an equal opportunity
to participate in their communities
Principle 5: We are genuine
Committing to consultation with children being genuine and authentic and not tokenistic by
working closely with them to explore themes, develop their views, and documenting and linking
the themes identified by children to policy directions
Principle 6: We are creative, relevant and engaging
The consultation strategies undertaken by children all involved artistic and creative expression such
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The consultation theme explored was also relevant to each child by focusing on their local
communities and individual interests.
What went well…
The consultations undertaken with children were considered to be highly successful due to their
authentic and non-tokenistic approach of meaningfully engaging children in a creative, engaging
and relevant way. The voices of children have influenced policy and the project has resulted in the
development and sharing of more effective practices for engaging with children into the future.
The success of the project resulted from the diverse partnership that was formed in linking research,
policy and practice and by linking the consultations to the curricula and learning frameworks within
services, with those leading the consultations being practitioners from education and care services
that had an established relationship with the children. By incorporating community consultation into
existing mechanisms rather than as a separate undertaking each party was able to contribute existing
knowledge, expertise, time and resources to expand the outcomes they would otherwise be able to
achieve individually.
Practitioners working with children in education and care settings were able to build on established
relationships with the children and work within the curricula and learning frameworks. The
practitioners benefited through professional development provided by the lead researcher. The lead
researcher was able to draw from practices to document findings and develop resources to empower
others to also consult with children into the future. Policy makers benefited through a more extensive
community consultation process including younger citizens to enable more relevant policy decisions
based on cross-generational input.
The consultation strategies trialed achieved a greater understanding within government and
across communities of the importance of children being engaged in community issues that affect
their lives as equal and valued citizens. The observations and resources developed are providing
more effective and meaningful engagement of children into the future and ensuring that decisions
affecting the social, economic and environmental factors in society include greater consideration of
their impacts on children.
What we could have done
The time available for general
community consultation
(particularly with adults) was found
to be restrictive for meaningful
consultations with children. In
engaging children effectively,
creative and fun activities that
included the exploring of themes
over a period of time rather than
direct questioning was found to
result in the most authentic and
considered participation. Such an undertaking requires additional time for planning, undertaking the
consultation process and for synthesising and analysing the information.
Although early feedback was provided to practitioners to share with children with regards to how their
input is being used (in addition to a gallery display to celebrate their participation), ideally a second
stage of analysis and feedback would have also been provided. This second stage of feedback could
include a review of the changes in policies and an analysis of the changes that can be seen in South
Australia as a result of the children’s input.
Case study 5: Partnering with Consumers and the Community
SA Health
IAP2 element: Inform and Involve
Principles of engagement showcased: We begin early and We are genuine
SA Health is committed to ensuring consumer and community engagement in health care decisions
and values the positive contributions consumers and the community make in improving health service,
quality, equity and management.
The SA Health Safety and Quality Consumer and Community Advisory Committee (CACAC) is a subcommittee of the SA Council on Safety and Quality in Health Care that was established in 2007. The
CACAC is instrumental in continuously improving patient safety and quality and providing us with the
consumers’ perspective in service planning, designing care and service measurement and evaluation.
Membership on the CACAC is diverse with representation from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders,
multicultural representatives from the new and emerging communities, established culturally and
linguistically diverse (CALD) communities, refugee and migrant youth, mental health consumers and
general consumer representatives nominated from existing health care organisations, such as primary,
community, acute, chronic care and aged care. Independent experts from peak consumer advisory
organisations include the Health Consumers Alliance, Carers’ Association and Council on the Ageing.
The CACAC has worked with SA Health to develop A Framework for Partnering with Consumers
and the Community, and Guide for engaging with Consumers and the Community. The framework
ensures there are mechanisms in place to actively engage with consumers and the community in
order to identify their needs, and also develop appropriate services. The Framework also ensures the
methods and practice of consumer engagement are guided by current best practice and standards.
The Framework and Guide is due to be released in November 2012.
The CACAC has also been involved in the first Patient Safety Report for Consumers and the
Community. The ‘consumer focused’ report provides an overview of the systematic improvement
across SA Health in a number of safety and quality programs. The report is due to be released in
November 2012.
What went well…
A small working group of CACAC members was convened to review the feedback received of the
initial consultation phase of A Framework for Active Partnership with Consumers and Community.
The work group’s input and advice has ensured that A Framework for Active Partnership with
Consumers and the Community and Guide for engaging with Consumers and the Community are
guided by current best practice and standards, and ensures that mechanisms are in place to actively
engage with consumers and the community.
What we could have done differently…
The CACAC membership was reviewed in 2011/2012 and the membership broadened to encompass
the broader community accessing health services across SA Health.
Case study 6: Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure
Northern Expressway (NEXY)
Principle 5: We are genuine ; We begin early
The Northern Expressway (NEXY) project was announced in November 2006 and construction
commenced in September 2008.
The $564 million project saw a 23 km motorway constructed across four local government
boundaries and impacted on an area where 120,000 people live and work.
Construction was generally ‘greenfields’, however this project required property acquisition on an
unprecedented scale with 160 individual properties required along the route. This included the
Gawler Harness Racing Club, the Gawler Airfield, large horticultural holdings, market gardens and
DPTI undertook a rigorous route selection process prior to announcing a preferred route, and
subsequently undertook a comprehensive community engagement process, including the provision
of a thorough economic, social and environmental assessment of the project.
As a consequence of community feedback and issue identification, the project scope was increased
to include additional community benefits including full interchanges at Curtis Road and Angle Vale
Road, demonstrating DPTI’s commitment to real community engagement.
Best practice, rigorous and comprehensive community engagement principles were established
during the earliest phases of planning the project and during delivery. They included:
during the route selection process
and comment on the project
shopping centers, libraries, councils and open days
and construction phases
project and the construction industry generally
curriculum units related to the project
communicated, understood and addressed.
Property acquisition
DPTI managed the property acquisition process using a case management approach supported by
valuers, community engagement practitioners, engineers, interpreters, counsellors and psychologists
to expedite the process and minimise potential distress of property owners.
This was an innovative approach to the task and during construction this was supported by the
construction and design joint ventures.
DPTI was able to ensure information and support was provided effectively and efficiently to owners
and information to the contractors ensured their cooperation to alter the program when required.
This cooperation also enabled effective prioritisation and reallocation of resources before Right of
Entry to some properties could be achieved.
The entire project team was involved in this process and an important element of this strategy was
to include decision makers and engineers in the consultation process. This humanised the issue for
planners are designers and ensured they were cognizant of an owner’s needs and concerns.
What went well…
Acknowledging the impact of acquisition and setting up processes for counsellors, psychologists etc
Ensuring everyone on the team considered the impact – almost every member of the project team
attended one of the first meetings with individual property owners to discuss acquisition
Collaborative D&C contract – working with the contractor to prioritise Right of Entry conditions as
and when required
Working around properties when required
Going above and beyond when required – assisting with alternative properties, assisting with
removal, providing alternative accommodation when required (we even purchased and set up
temporary accommodation for one owner in the vicinity of their property on land we owned,
rental assistance with properties we owned, rental assistance with properties we didn’t own, tree
relocations, investigated options for moving houses, finding homes and accommodation for pets ...)
What we learnt…
Don’t underestimate the time required (legislative timeframes are only one aspect of the process)
Everyone working with or near the properties needs to be kept in the loop re status, conversations,
agreements and special conditions.
Department of the Premier and Cabinet, South Australia