We wanted to create something which allowed us to speak with our neighbours in a way that works for them, rather than by simply offering meetings and exhibitions to gather their views. So we developed a custom-designed digital platform which allows our neighbours to give us their feedback directly, and more importantly, at their convenience.
There is a general assumption that the development industry wants to play lip service to engagement, and that it is something to be tolerated and managed. In fact it's one of the most directly influential and useful aspects of the entire development process, and when properly used can bring a community's concerns to your attention at a point when hurdles can be managed much more easily by working together, rather than finding out about them much later on in the process - when people are far more likely to find themselves at odds with one another.
What about the communities who are affected positively by a development? The young parents who are desperate for a primary school for their children, or the elderly couple whose lives would be improved by a GP surgery being included within a development on the site next door? These are the reasons why we have to find new ways to talk with people about ensuring that changes in their area are good for them, their families and their friends.
This is why we spend time knocking on the doors of neighbours, and it's why displaying information on schemes and collecting feedback online should not be an optional extra - but a required component of the consultation process. It certainly shouldn't be considered to be an example of good practice on the developer's part. There is a significant number of people who are too busy to come to drop-in sessions, as well as those who work weekends or evenings – or are perhaps not able-bodied enough to get to a drop-in session.
This is why it can only be a good thing to see a gradual (if admittedly slow) uptake across the industry to include the rise of digital engagement in its many forms. Not every platform will suit every project, but the benefits of reaching the groups of society who would previously never have otherwise engaged with the process are tremendous.
To find out more about our digital engagement, visit our Blackwall Yard polls or get in touch with Matt at firstname.lastname@example.org