Using Technology for Community Engagement

Submitted by Lisa Attygalle on July 28, 2014 - 2:04pm
Ideas for deepening your engagement

There are so many cool technologies out there that enable us to do more…way more…in terms of how we engage the community. There are social media integrations, dynamic polling, geo-mapping, data visualization, crowdsourcing, online decision-making, and all of these technologies enable us to go both broader and deeper than we could before.

Technology can enable the community to:

  • Participate more easily
  • Contribute on their own time
  • Have a voice when they were previously unable (due to geography, social barriers, etc.)
  • Share their opinions, advocate and champion ideas with their networks

Technology can also make it easier for the facilitator by:

  • Widening the exposure
  • Making it easier to administer
  • Reducing manual input
  • Doing the analysis

Some advice though: Never lead a conversation about Community Engagement with technology. Technology enables you to do more but you always need a solid strategy around who you want to engage and why before bringing up the ‘t’ word.

So how do you start? Use the Community Engagement Spectrum as a simple tool to ask yourself – what is our public participation goal and how can we fulfill the promise to the community?

Then get creative! Put yourself in the community member’s shoes – how would they want to contribute? How can this community engagement experience be rewarding to them? Remember that just because it can be done online, it doesn’t mean it should. There is so much value in connecting with people face-to-face, so consider technology that invites and enables people to meet, or allows for them to share the engagement outputs with their networks.

As inspiration for your next community engagement strategy, I’ve layered various technology ideas on top of the Community Engagement Spectrum below.

See a list of specific platforms available within each engagement area

This by no means covers all types of technology and there is a lot of overlap in functionality and stage. For example, a website can and should be used at all stages and I strongly recommend integrating all engagement technology you’re using into your website. You’ll also want to use these technologies in tandem. For example, use your email newsletter to inform your community of an opportunity to collaborate in a mapping exercise. Deeper engagement is the goal but there is always a time and place for informing and consulting your community.

How has your organization used technology for community engagement? Let me know by posting below!

GO DEEPER: Lisa is leading a workshop on Community Engagement: Technologies for Change on November 12th, 2014. Learn more here.

technology_for_community_engagement.pdf257.66 KB

This is a great posting. We use technology all the time. I wanted to add to your Wiki comment. Yes they can be used for shared creation of docs but also as a clearing house of information. I have used Google Sites frequently and have integrated Google Groups right into the wiki as well as forms. For example, you can have a sign up form and that very same form can be displayed in real time to show who has signed up or who is a member, with contact info etc. One can also integrate a google calendar on the wiki. It is a wonderful collaborative tool, good for consulting with folks as well. Just wanted to add that to your great mix. :)


Thanks, Mark! I'll be sure to add Google Sites to the list too. And the integration of Google Calendar, Groups and Forms into a site makes for a rich combination of functionality. I'd love to see firsthand how you're using it, and maybe we can even make a case study out of it. I know other organizations are keen to see examples of how other groups are using technology for collaborating.

Hi there, it was really great

Hi there, it was really great reading your post.  Data visualisation helps the audience quickly absorb and interpret the presented data. Though it is quite easy to understand and are more attractive but all you need to achieve achieve a perfect balance between visual appeal and functionality.