The Research Committee’s 2020 State of Practice Survey results will be presented in bite-sized information and graphics over the next few months. This is the second info bite. (Lisez la version française ici.)
This summer we shared some key findings from IAP2’s semi-annual State of the Practice survey noting that P2 practice in Canada appears to be ‘pandemic proof’. Respondents identified virtual and digital engagement tools as key to pandemic-resilience.
When asked about the impact of COVID-19 on their P2 practice, not surprisingly, almost all respondents reported an increase in virtual engagement and a decrease in in-person engagement. Based on responses, it appears the virtual environment prevented some groups from participating as much as before the pandemic, while other groups found participation more feasible (e.g. young parents).
Less than 12% of respondents indicated they did not use web-based or mobile tools in their engagement practice. Online surveys, questionnaires or polls are most commonly used, however the predominance of these in proportion to other digital tools has dropped since the last survey. Social media tools such as Facebook and Instagram, and to a lesser extent, Blogs and Twitter, have risen in importance as a ‘go to’ for P2 practitioners. The survey results demonstrate that P2 practitioners have seized the challenge of pivoting to online tools and learning new skills and platforms.
However, the complexity of the virtual and digital realm is adding challenge to P2 practice. Respondents identified concern about barriers to virtual engagement for people who lacked access to the online environment or lacked skill or comfort with online tools. Greater effort by practitioners seems necessary to ensure underrepresented groups are included in engagement activities. Losing in-person engagement during the peaks of the pandemic had a noted negative impact, particularly for hard-to-reach groups such as the Indigenous community and rural farmers. Some practitioners identified that meaningful conversations were harder to have online and harder to facilitate. Some also identified that participants overall do not prefer these tools and/or have difficulty using them.
Of particular concern, survey respondents identified a lack of engagement tools and technologies as a significant barrier; in fact this gap had the highest weighted average among noted barriers, surpassing language, policies and meaningful metrics (i.e. those that make the case for future engagement effort). Technical information was also identified as harder to present electronically.
IAP2 Canada is here to help you reduce barriers to practice in the virtual and digital space. Of particular note, the following learning opportunities are available:
- Webinar: COVID-19 and its impact on the field and practice of public participation
- Release of IAP2 sponsored research by authors Stephanie Yates and Hugo Mimee into COVID-19 and Its Impact on the Field and Practice of Public Participation.
- Update to 2017 research paper by Susanna Haas Lyons on Digital Engagement, Social Media & Public Participation this fall.
To continue your innovation journey in the virtual and digital space, visit https://www.iap2canada.ca/IAP2-Training-Courses to register for the many opportunities available for strengthening your digital engagement skills.