You may have been reading about the Australian community engagement firm, Bang the Table, recently caught up in one of those sorts of political issues that characterise community high-profile engagement – at least in some Australian states.
I have been concerned that the “baby might be thrown out with the bathwater” in this case and that people considering community engagement processes for their organisation might turn away from on-line presences and the many potential benefits of social networking.
Last December, I attended a one-day training workshop about “Planning to Engage Your Community Online” conducted by the Australian firm, Bang the Table.
What a treat that was for me!
One of the weaknesses of my work has been a reluctance to engage with electronic democracy and online consultation with the sort of furious enthusiasm that characterised the work of my firm, Sarkissian Associates Planners, and many talented colleagues I have worked with over the years.
Bang the Table specializes in providing web-based community engagement platforms for local, state and national governments mostly in Australia, but also in New Zealand and Canada.
What I learned
What I learned was that the approaches used by Bang the Table can make my own engagement processes livelier and friendlier. They can make them more approachable to many, including younger generations without in any way trivializing the content. I learned the benefits and weaknesses of a whole range of options, including blogs, forums, social networking (Facebook), wikis, and microblogs (Twitter) and a wide range of suggestions for incorporating images and video into the engagement discussions.
My engagement universe expanded. Exploded.
And, after three co-authored books in two years with a total of thirteen authors, I discovered, somewhat sadly, the benefits of document-sharing systems. As authors, we managed quite well communicating from Sweden, Canada, Hong Kong, Melbourne, Honolulu and France, not to mention Brisbane and me here in the bush, but it could have been much easier, my new friends explained to me. Much easier.
Ah well, there are new books to write and new engagement processes to undertake”¦
Brilliance, care and sensitivity
So when I saw a cartoon recently in the Sydney Morning Herald vilifying Bang the Table, I remembered the brilliance, care and sensitivity their Directors showed in their well-designed and well-managed training session.
As I listened to the Directors, Matt Crozier and Crispin Butteriss, I realised that my attempts to bring creativity into community engagement were being parallelled by these innovative practitioners who live in a sort of parallel universe.
Our approaches are complementary, not competitive. Our unique insights, innovations and techniques can work together to enhance the work of the other.
Welcome to my kitchen table
They’d be welcome at my kitchen table any time.
And I am convinced that together we can help to achieve kitchen table sustainability in our different – and complementary – ways.