During this extremely difficult and unique time, health and safety of our clients, staff and the public is ISL’s top priority. We have taken measures to support public and staff health as we made the transition to a mostly remote workforce on March 15, 2020.
As we settle into the new reality of moving public infrastructure projects forward in the time of COVID-19, schedules and delays will be top of mind. With the expertise of our Community Engagement Team, we have the ability to ensure our clients have alternatives to in-person engagement events that still meet the needs and timing of their projects.
We recognize the risk to public health and the practical challenges to implementing the recommended social distancing protocols during this pandemic. ISL wants to reassure our clients that we have the experience and expertise to deliver virtual public engagement alternatives that ensure that we are doing our part to flatten the curve.
Public engagement is an extremely essential component to project success. In lieu of cancelling engagement events entirely, which could have negative impacts on project schedule, budget, outcomes and support, our Community Engagement Team has developed a list of virtual alternatives that will limit in–person contact, ensuring health and safety for everyone.
It is important to remember that if virtual engagement is to replace an in-person event, the tactics developed need to consider the human element. The connection of person-to-person needs to be considered and acknowledged, especially in times of prolonged isolation.
We know how to overcome the challenges in implementing virtual engagement by using thorough and comprehensive communication and story-telling. We can work with our clients to prepare project content and messaging that is not only informative but also sensitive of the concerns and issues that participants may be facing due to COVID-19.
ISL is prepared to help our clients develop and deliver the virtual alternatives listed below to adapt to the needs your project, and the needs of the community.
WE HAVE DEVELOPED A LIST OF VIRTUAL ALTERNATIVES TO IN-PERSON EVENTS THAT LIMIT IN-PERSON CONTACT
DEDICATED PROJECT WEBSITE
What it is: A digital hub hosting project information, input opportunities to provide input and contact to the project team
How ISL can help: We program and maintain a project website or create content for an existing website
VIRTUAL ONE-ON-ONE STAKEHOLDER MEETINGS
What it is: A telephone or video call using conferencing or online software tools
How ISL can help: We use a suite of existing collaboration tools to help connect with stakeholders
What it is: Short, narrated presentations to share key project information which can be paired with other feedback tools to be interactive
How ISL can help: Our in-house experts script and produce engaging and interactive videos to share plans, processes, engagement results, and pair with other virtual techniques to enhance communication
SELF-DIRECTED ONLINE WORKSHOP
What it is: A workshop package with information and prompting questions can be completed online or printed then submitted with an upload link or to a dedicated project email
How ISL can help: We create visually engaging workbooks and materials that can be accessed online and paired with online feedback tools
VIRTUAL KITCHEN TABLE CONVERSATIONS
What it is: Small groups of family members, friends or colleagues use a virtual meeting tool (e.g. Face Time, Microsoft Teams, or Google Hangouts) to participate in a self-facilitated workshop
How ISL can help: We develop a discussion guide for participants to download and virtually complete together then submit using an upload link or send to a dedicated project email
VIRTUAL OPEN HOUSE
What it is: Using a live-streaming or webinar tool, key project team members present information about the project and conduct a moderated question and answer session in real-time. This live stream can be recorded and shared on a project website for those not able to participate during the live presentation
How ISL can help: We develop presentations, moderate question submissions and coordinate the live-stream or webinar technology
TELEPHONE TOWN HALLS OR TELEPHONE SURVEYS
What it is: Similar to conference calls, residents participate by phone in a moderated question and answer session and/or respond to poll questions. Telephone surveys solicit feedback on predetermined questions via telephone
How ISL can help: We coordinate conferencing technology, moderate question submissions, develop survey questions and reach out to our industry partners for completing telephone survey research
ONLINE ENGAGEMENT TOOLS
What it is: Digital platforms that provide project information and engagement opportunities with structured feedback tools such as social mapping, surveys, discussion forums and more. Examples include Bang the Table, Survey Monkey, Ethelo, Social Pinpoint, Poll Everywhere, etc.
How ISL can help: We advise on tools that best match project and client needs, develop content, program and monitor third-party tools or create a custom tool
What it is: Using popular social sharing platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, etc. to engage citizens with posts, forums, polls and stories
How ISL can help: We provide content for existing client accounts, monitor emerging questions or issues, and develop campaigns to increase project engagement and awareness
OPTIONS CAN BE ADAPTED FOR PARTICIPANTS WITH LIMITED INTERNET OR ACCESS TO TECHNOLOGY
Effective and Meaningful Virtual Enagagement
Digital tools offer options to meaningfully engage with stakeholders and the public while maintaining social and physical distancing protocols. However, it is important to mitigate any barriers that participants may experience due to limited access to technology or internet connectivity, or limited comfort with digital tools. Virtual engagement also requires special attention to building trust and maintaining a sense of connection to the project team.
WE’RE HERE FOR YOU
ISL knows what it takes to deliver meaningful virtual engagement. We regularly use virtual alternatives as a complementary, or sometimes stand-alone, tool for many of our projects.
We can help you overcome challenges of implementing virtual engagement with interactive communication and storytelling to build trust and connection. And to provide no-contact options such as workbooks that can be mailed-out/in or provided at pick-up/drop-off stations.
We use digital tools to effectively solicit participant issues, ideas, and concerns. We transparently share what was heard and how feedback was used to inform decisions. We know how to best consider the participant experience and eliminate barriers to make participation easy.
Tips for Better Virtual Communication and Engagement
USE VISUALS INSTEAD OF TEXT. An image speaks 1000 words. User experience research groups estimate that visitors read an average of only 20-30% of the text on a webpage. Encourage engagement with your online content by using compelling images and graphics to convey your messages.
DEVELOP VIRTUAL TACTICS WITH CONNECTION IN MIND. Online tools can easily become one-way conversations, where participants provide input or project teams provide information, but person to person connection is missing. By utilizing tools that facilitate interactions between participants, and between participants and the project team, we can maintain two-way conversation.
ENCOURAGE CURIOSITY AND CRITICAL THINKING. Live virtual events depend more on guided presentations than do in-person events. It can be easy to forget to allow time for interaction with participants. As a rule of thumb, try to leave 1/3 of your scheduled time to answer questions and connect with those who have tuned in to your session. You can also ask them questions too; by asking critical questions and keeping participants actively involved, we can ensure participants feel heard and that they have contributed to the decisions being made.