#MONTHLYMYTH: LOW PARTICIPATION IS CAUSED BY LOW INTEREST

MosaicLab monthly myth - participation rates in community engagement


Our monthly myth for March is here!  Low participation rates is a problem many organisations face when it comes to community engagement activities.  The cause of this, however, is not always obvious. Today we're exploring some of the other (common) reasons that people don't get involved. 

MYTH:

Participation rates are low because people are uninterested in the topic or are apathetic/unengaged in general. 

IN REALITY

While it can't be denied that some topics are more attention grabbing than others, and that engagement activities around highly contentious or high impact issues do tend to pull in more participants, often the cause of a low participation rate is misdiagnosed. 

Putting it down to people's 'busyness' is also often a mistake.  Many of your stakeholders and community members are likely to be busy, but that's rarely the only factor.  We see busy people put their hand up and get involved in engagement processes on a regular basis.

There's a range of factors that could influence a low turn out, but one of the more common is that community members have simply become cynical.   This cynicism has often been developed over time in response to low-influence engagement processes where they have engaged and dedicated time and energy but failed to see a result or receive any communication about how their input was used, how it influenced the outcome, or the rationale behind the decision.

These communities aren't necessarily disinterested in the issue at hand.  Rather, they don't see the point in future participation, and are sick of being asked to engage only to get no return on their investment.   Even a very active citizen (who is in no way apathetic to issues, projects and decisions that affect their community) can develop a 'learned behaviour' - where disengaging is more appealing because past efforts have not been rewarded. 

So, next time your organisation is struggling to get your stakeholders or community to participate, consider looking beyond 'disinterest' and uncovering and addressing the real reasons behind the 'no shows'. 

Want to rebuild the trust between your organisation and its stakeholders and community?  A robust, high influence, genuine engagement approach based on clear communication and transparency is needed to ensure mistakes of the past are not repeated.