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Why do we need a how-to guide?

We engaged with the public about this framework. We learned that there are areas where the public would like us to improve, including:

  • reporting back to the community on the feedback and outcomes
  • clarity of what the public could influence
  • understanding how feedback was used
  • clarity of purpose for the engagement.

The how-to guide provides steps to help engagement staff meet the needs of the public. There are eight key steps to design, deliver and complete public engagement.

This section details the eight steps. There are also recommended points for review during the process. At these points, managers are prompted to review and authorise progress to the next stage of engagement.

  1. Key activities and considerations

    • Document the project scope, timelines, budget, risks, decisions to be made and engagement objectives.
    • Where relevant, work with technical or content experts. Get clear about the value the engagement will bring to the decision-making process.
    • Identify the negotiables and non-negotiables and the level of community and stakeholder influence.
    • Consider if a representative view is helpful.
    • Consider the legal and/or policy context.
    • Consider if a joined-up government approach could support the engagement.
    • Determine an evaluation process to measure the effectiveness of the engagement.
    • If the aim is long-term community outcomes, consider a place-based engagement.
    • If the engagement is responding to a community crisis, emergency, recovery or disaster prevention, consider a community-led process.
    • Is there documented authorisation, budget, the right team and a clear purpose?
    • Is the team ready for the engagement? Consider cultural competency and engagement skills.
    • Is there an understanding of the engagement within the broader project management cycle?
    • Have the potential access and inclusion issues been discussed and overcome?
    • Is the engagement planned for a time when the public may not be available? This includes public holidays, religious days of significance, cultural events, school holidays, emergencies and caretaker periods.
    • Are there other engagements occurring, or recently occurred in the area? Or engagements with the same stakeholders? Could the approach to consider partnering or changing the timing of the engagement?

    What does this mean for Victorians?

    Victorians have a clear understanding of the purpose of public engagement.

  2. Key activities and considerations

    • Build an understanding of the community including demographics, history, trends and local issues.
    • Identify stakeholders. Those with an interest, those who may be affected, those who could influence the decision and those who may support the local implementation of a future change.
    • Engage across departments to understand engagements already completed. Learn what has been asked in the past and build on existing relationships.
    • Consult local government, community leaders, advocacy groups, not for profit representatives. Consider group memberships and representation to ensure a diversity of community perspectives.
    • Identify if there are other projects engaging with similar communities at similar times.
    • Consider opportunities to collaborate.
    • Gauge community preferences for engagement. Understand their willingness and capacity to participate. Consider what the public need to know for informed participation.
    • When appropriate, identify opportunities for partnerships or long-term relationships within the community. Where this exists, consider if you can align the engagement with community priorities. This may involve collaboration and coordination across government agencies.
    • Staff that are undertaking public engagement should be trained and/or experienced. Training should include: engagement practices, cultural safety, accessibility and inclusion, engaging with priority communities, and conflict and relationship management skills.
    • Consider historical context of the community. This may include racism and discrimination, conflict or divisions within the community. Also consider any current community issues.
    • Respond to the potential accessibility needs of participants for engagement. Create flexible and targeted approaches for inclusion. Identify any support people who may need to take part in the engagement. Consider the needs of our diverse and priority communities when you plan all elements of the engagement. For example, culturally and linguistically diverse communities and people with disability etc. This includes the location and venue, the facilitator, the written materials, the timing etc.
    • Place-based engagements – collaborate across government to identify local priorities, connections, opportunities and constraints.
    • Community-led engagements – collaborate across government. Consider the time, relationship-building, resilience and community strengthening techniques required.

    What does this mean for Victorians?

    Victorians have access to public engagement opportunities that are relevant, inclusive and accessible.

  3. Key activities and considerations

    • Identify the people, resources, systems and time required to deliver the engagement.
    • Consider working with local government, community members, priority communities or advocate groups on the engagement.
    • Design inclusive and accessible promotions to support the engagement. Allow reasonable lead-times. Consider using multiple tactics like media and social media advertising. Advertise through local government, community and advocacy group channels etc.
    • Develop the communications and information for the engagement process. What does the public need to know to help them have an informed view?
    • Where the project timeframes are likely to be long-term, design strategies to build trust. Support long-term relationships between the organisation and community members.
    • Identify opportunities to stage the engagement. Align the stages to fit in with project objectives, timeframes and milestones. Consider the different questions, stakeholders and methods for each stage.
    • Use the engagement objectives, negotiables and non-negotiables to inform engagement questions.
    • Select engagement methods and tools and collect relevant and measurable information.
    • Use more than one engagement method to provide people with options for participation.
    • Consider the collection of both quantitative and qualitative information. Agree on an approach to information management and data analysis. Ensure your systems and processes will support the approach. Consider the longevity of the data and any other projects that have an interest in the outcomes. Consider cultural safety and provide the opportunity for free, prior and informed consent. Ensure that personal information collected from participants complies with the Information Privacy Principles (IPP).
    • Personal information is any information or opinion that could reasonably identify an individual. Special restrictions apply to the collection of health and sensitive information.
    • Consider and document potential risks and mitigation plans for the engagement. Prepare an issues management process and ensure the team is aware of the processes.
    • Ensure compliance with relevant legislation and regulations.
    • Determine an approach to manage out of scope queries or issues. Consider referral pathways.
    • Ensure there is a safety plan in place. It should consider the specific engagement activities and the occupational health and safety of staff and the public. It should also include emotional and physical wellbeing. Safety plans should provide clear mechanisms for staff to seek support during or after an engagement process.
    • Do you have documented authorisation for the engagement approach? Does it include project negotiables and non-negotiables?
    • If you have project partners, have they endorsed the engagement approach?

    Do you have a privacy plan?

    Are you collecting personal, health or sensitive information? Have you checked with your privacy officer whether this complies with the IPPs? Do you require a privacy collection notice? Check this across all channels, IT systems and email used as part of the engagement.

    What does this mean for Victorians?

    Victorians have access to a range of fit-for-purpose engagement activities.

  4. Key activities and considerations

    • Consider the barriers to engagement and ensure all activities are inclusive and accessible, particularly for priority communities. Examples include:
      • ensuring there is adequate time to provide accessibility options for participants
      • ensuring venues and locations are accessible and welcoming
      • catering for all dietary requirements, allergies and personal/cultural preferences
      • providing information in alternative formats including languages other than English
      • ensuring the format and materials are culturally safe.
      • consider an experienced and culturally sensitive facilitator
      • providing interpreters, captioning, hearing loops, spaces for support animals and carers, a prayer room etc.
      • extra support for participation may be necessary. This could include travel expenses, child-care, accommodation or catering.
    • Do not make assumptions. Always ask what people need. They are the most reliable source of information about their own needs.
    • Provide communications and information in advance of engagement activities to support informed participation. Provide written information in a format that is easy to read, accessible and in plain English. Use graphics and imagery and make documents fewer than 10 pages or provide a summary.
    • Go to where the people are to undertake face-to-face engagement. Where possible coordinate with existing community groups and events. For example, local events, activity centres, existing reference or community groups.
    • For face to face events, prepare an Acknowledgement of Traditional Owners or organise a Welcome to Country.
    • Prepare to be flexible and adapt the process as necessary.
    • Deliver engagement activities at days, times and locations that are accessible to the public.
    • At the outset of the engagement, describe to the public how their involvement will influence decision-making.
    • Provide the public with enough time to take part in engagement processes and give feedback. Usually, engagement processes should run for at least 30 days. Also time for planning and promoting the engagement. Avoid holiday periods and cultural or religious celebrations.
    • Use structured agendas or plan for an open agenda approach.
    • Create opportunities for content experts and decision-makers to take part in the engagement.
    • Ensure staff attending face-to-face events understand:
      • the scope of their role
      • the service they can provide to the public
      • the intention of the engagement.
    • Provide opportunities for participants to give feedback about the engagement process.
    • Provide a timeframe of when participants can expect feedback. Describe how feedback from the engagement will be shared.
    • Communicate to the public how their data will be used for a specific outcome i.e. for a report, and in the future.
    • Were the objectives met for the delivery of the engagement?
    • Is more engagement required to meet the objectives?

    What does this mean for Victorians?

    Victorians can safely participate and provide informed contributions to the engagement.

  5. Key activities and considerations:

    • Where possible, review information and data with participants to ensure correct interpretation.
    • Identify any gaps in participation and whether priority communities’ views have been represented. Consider information needs that are still to be addressed.
    • Collate the information collected during each engagement activity in a standardised format. This applies even if the inputs come from multiple channels (face-to-face, online, social media etc.).
    • Identify data and information that is out of scope of the engagement.
    • Identify any engagement bias or limitations which may have affected the process. If any are found, consider rectifying actions.
    • Consider the appropriate balance of quantifiable and qualifiable reporting.
    • Analyse the data and information to identify themes, priorities and preferences.

    What does this mean for Victorians?

    Victorians’ contributions to the engagement are treated with respect.

  6. Key activities and considerations

    • Confirm how the engagement contributed to the decision. If possible, provide opportunities for the public, including priority communities, to work with decision-makers to make decisions together.
    • Provide data and information to project team and decision-makers for their consideration.
    • Prepare the internal report in a clear and succinct format for decision-makers.
    • Share the engagement outcomes with the other relevant projects identified in the design phase.
    • Do you have the authorisation to share the project outcomes publicly?
    • Have you considered the most appropriate format/s and communication method/s for sharing the outcomes?

    What does this mean for Victorians?

    Victorians understand how their contributions informed the decision-making process.

  7. Key activities and considerations

    • Provide feedback to participants before decisions are being made.
    • Report back to participants their feedback. Confirm they have been heard correctly.
    • Acknowledge participants’ contributions to the engagement process.
    • Communicate the next steps of the engagement process with participants and stakeholders. This includes findings, outcomes and timing for next steps.
    • Publish updates and final outcomes of engagement on key engagement forums and channels.
    • Where relevant, continue to work with local community members to support delivery of project outcomes.

    What does this mean for Victorians?

    Victorians are provided with timely reporting on the engagement process and outcomes.

  8. Key activities and considerations

    • Review engagement at the end of each stage to identify opportunities to improve practice.
    • Undertake a reflective ‘lessons learned’ discussion with colleagues and share outcomes. Consider if you can include the community in this discussion.
    • Understand the impact the engagement has had on community and the relationships with key stakeholders.
    • Evaluate the engagement process.

    What does this mean for Victorians?

    Victorians experience continuous improvement in engagement delivery.

Additional resources to support the eight steps will soon be made available.

Reviewed 26 January 2022

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