Bringing social psychology to community engagement

The different way introverts and extroverts engage with the world is a much discussed subject and MPC uses our understanding of those differences to ensure everyone’s voice gets heard. We have a wide range of techniques in our engagement toolkit including pop-up exhibitions, door-knocking, interactive websites, and structured invitation-only workshops. It is the latter of these which is particularly effective in drawing out the views of introverts - adding a useful balance to a debate often dominated by the extrovert voice (whether pro or anti the proposed development). 

Small group workshops with specially invited participants (ideally from a self-selecting group who have already expressed an interest in the issue) are a useful way of engaging with people who are highly emotive about a proposal. By inviting them to a dedicated session, they can air their views, have their questions answered, and misperceptions or incorrect facts can be countered. By fostering an environment for discussion, the MPC facilitator can ensure opponents and supporters hear both sides, thus preventing the ‘echo-chamber’ effect and ensuring the quieter participants are able to contribute. The invite-only nature means that themes and points to be discussed at the workshop can be shared with participants beforehand, critically allowing the introverts the reflective time they need in advance.

While not specifically linked to the introvert-extrovert continuum, workshops are also helpful where the project team need technical input from a specialist group of stakeholders. These groups are a valuable source of insight and committing to a series of workshops at key decision points in a project ensures the stakeholders feel included and, more importantly, that technical challenges can be ironed out as early as possible recognising and using their extensive knowledge base. 

MPC are running a series of workshops for a County Council in the East of England on three different infrastructure and capital projects. The workshops have different objectives: three were designed to hear and assuage the views of a concerned group of residents and to capture the views of the whole community, not just those shouting the loudest; three were designed to bring an opposition group together with supportive stakeholders for a more balanced discussion; and the final two were part of an ongoing series with the maritime community to seek technical input into the design and operation of two major new bridges. All were designed in such a way as to recognise and capture the value of what every participant had to say – no matter how loud or quiet their voice.

If you’d like to discuss using workshops on your scheme please speak to MPC on 01245 256180.

The YIMBYJess Pickett