This is one part in a larger series on equitable engagement. If you’ve not yet had the opportunity to read the other installments, please click the links below. We have been privileged to discover and refine these best practices in our work with a variety of partners, including WAVAW Rape Crisis Centre, the Ministry of Health, and the Vancouver School Board. These pillars provide a launching point for meaningful dialogue with diverse people and groups – however, they are only beginning. Overall, the series will outline equity considerations when it comes to:
- Event planning
- Reporting & analysis
- Respectful engagement with equity-deserving communities
This part of this series discusses how people can contribute to engagement processes equitably.
In our previous article, we focused on how to reach out to more diverse people and draw them into the conversation. This piece focuses on ensuring that different people and groups can participate meaningfully when engaging.
There are several ways that you can engage diverse participants meaningfully. Our team often considers four steps to building forums for equitable engagement.
- Execute programs in multiple languages. If you advertise in multiple languages, you must allow people to participate in the same languages. It is inappropriate to reach out to diverse communities and not provide a meaningful way for their members to participate.
- Build in time for diverse participation. People need to move through materials at their own pace. This is increasingly important for engagements that deal with complex information. Ensure there is time at in-person events and online engagement for people to digest information and provide feedback.
- Pick forums and approaches that allow participants to learn and provide feedback easily. Many people are uncomfortable speaking in large crowds – regardless of ability, gender or culture. It is vital to run engagement events where speaking in group settings isn’t the only mechanism for providing feedback. If you’re running an online event (via a platform like Zoom), consider opening up the comments for people to respond to questions. We also recommend avoiding forums like town hall meetings. The forum can be inherently challenging with people with diverse backgrounds. If you run a town hall, ensure that you have comment cards on every seat and allow people to submit written feedback that facilitators read aloud
- Consider providing funding (honoraria or stipends) if and where appropriate. Some communities are incredibly hard to engage and require meaningful incentives. Consider stipends for focus-group engagement or other forums when suitable and budgets allows.
An alternative approach is to consider establishing an advisory committee or task force. This approach helps foster safe space for equity-deserving groups and individuals to provide feedback when planned and facilitated well. These types of forums foster long-term relationships because you have the opportunity to meet with people throughout a project, hopefully earning trust throughout the process.
When speaking with underrepresented groups, we often hear similar feedback: people don’t participate because they don’t believe their input will make an impact. When hosting an engagement, take the time to understand previous engagement and evaluate whether feedback contributed to decisions. More importantly, take the time to acknowledge previously inequitable decision-making as a critical first step to creating safe space for diverse voices to contribute within the new forums you’re building now.
To keep digging into other aspects of equitable engagement, check out our related posts about access, reporting and analysis, and respectful engagement with equity-deserving communities.
To learn more about how we design and deliver equitable engagement programs, click here.