At the 2015 LGNZ EXCELLENCE Awards.
Waipa District Council’s bold Let’s Get Engaged campaign has helped community and council together face up to some big challenges in the district over the next 10 years. The council needs to make considerable investment in basic infrastructure, largely on water and wastewater. The programme used new media in innovative, inviting and entertaining ways to inform communities and gain feedback for the council’s 10-year plan.
The awards judges praised the project as: “Incredibly innovative, inclusive, energetic and very focused – it has the wow factor and will provide a fabulous base for all councils going forward.” They also noted how well the council had engaged with the business community.
Challenges faced by the Waipa District over the next few years had been identified through early work on the council’s 2015-2025 plan. Aware that consultation campaigns often don’t succeed, the council designed the project to really make people sit up and take notice.
The aim was to change the way people think about engagement and about directly influencing how decisions are made around the council table.
Social media, video animation, ‘real people’s’ stories, a new Future Waipa website, competitions, online and outdoor advertising, and new online tools were all part of the strategy – all provided in plain language.
This included the council team using an innovative but cheap online animation programme ‘Go Animate’ which enabled them to make 10 videos in-house to outline key issues.
Organisers also worked closely with groups such as Waipa’s business community, its youth council and the disability community creating new and enduring partnerships. The team visited people with a disability and recorded their feedback through submissions via video.
Local media were closely involved and both newspapers in the district ran a ‘community engagement’ column regularly inviting new voices to enter the conversation.
The council also took its Let’s Get Engaged roadshow to many events around the region. Staff and councillors joined these and took part in hundreds of conversations around the issues facing the district. Providing an ice-cream cart proved a very good way to start conversations with young families.
The community response was exceptional – the number of followers on the council’s website page increased by 355 percent during the campaign and there were high levels of participation and feedback.
This article was first published in the August 2015 issue of NZ Local Government Magazine.