- Think about and plan for community engagement at the start up of your program and at various phases of the project.
- Consider strategies such as “building-in” program governance structures that reflect the community’s diversity, developing a formal community engagement and communications plan, or committing to a schedule of regular activities to reach out to and involve your community and other key audiences.
- To attract people to program visioning, planning or information sharing events, use incentives such as door prizes, food, childcare, or bringing in an interesting speaker.
- When working with Elders and other key knowledge holders, develop clear honorarium policies to respect and compensate them meaningfully for their invaluable role, input and time.
- Make it convenient and safe for community members and others to ask questions, provide feedback, or report on what they have seen on the lands and waters. Set up a system to track this feedback (whether in person, email, phone, Facebook, etc.) and always follow up.
- Work with your guardians to understand and tell the story of the guardian program and connected initiatives. Creating key messages for your program will help members effectively communicate the work of the program on a day-to-day basis.
- Develop program brochures or topic-specific information sheets to help guardians share important information with community members, visitors and resource users. These documents can help guardians start up a conversation and provide back up to the verbal information they provide.
- Build the capacity and confidence of your guardian program to use a range of communication tools (i.e. face-to-face dialogue, videos, Facebook, Twitter, PowerPoint, Publisher, blogs, etc.) Use popular communications channels to ensure you reach your audience.
- Consider that some information should not be communicated broadly and kept strictly confidential (i.e. information about suspicious activity or non-compliance.) Develop clear policies and make sure that everyone understands them.
Resources in chapter Engage the Community
Program reporting - Annual reports, program briefings, presentations to Council, Management Boards, etc. Consider scheduling standing meetings (i.e. monthly, annually) to connect across departments, with Council, or with key decision-makers to keep them informed of your program activities. The Northeast Superior Regional Chiefs' Forum share their intro to their Guardian Program developed to let community members know what they plan for the season.
Program updates - Regular updates in newsletters, blogs, radio ads, social media (i.e. Facebook, Twitter), etc. These can be short and sweet. Often, the more regular the better. The Northeast Superior Regional Chiefs' Forum share their Guardian Program End of Season Update for ideas.
Printed resources - Program brochures, information sheets, maps, posters, etc. Having print information you can leave behind gives people time to absorb and think about what you’re sharing. Below you will find links to several examples of newsletters and brochures developed for guardian program outreach.
Workshops and small group sessions - Working sessions focused on specific issues, priority setting, program planning, etc. Small group or focused sessions can encourage higher participation as many people feel more comfortable speaking. See the article 'A Model for Aboriginal Facilitation' for tools on increasing participation at meetings.
Community meetings - Meetings, open houses, feasts, etc. Use events to share program updates, data and findings, solicit ideas and feedback, recognize guardians and community members, celebrate success, etc. To increase event attendance consider supporting people by providing transportation, child care, food, translation services, etc.
Open feedback channels - Provide people with a phone contact line, email address, online surveys or feedback forms, etc. Invite feedback in many ways so people can reach out in the way they feel most comfortable. Remember to always follow up!
Website - You may or may not want or need a dedicated website for your program, but an online “home base” may help people in the community and beyond find your program fast. At minimum, consider building a simple profile for your program through an established website or existing page. This will help ensure a quick and easy search leads people to your program and important contact information.
Social and other media - Using social media such as Facebook and Twitter can be a great way to keep people informed about your program. It can also act as a feedback channel. Be sure to set social media policies to ensure communication remains respectful. Call-in radio shows are another great way to have a public dialogue with community members. See how the Gitanyow use Facebook to manage wildlife populations in the story 'Using Facebook to Manage Moose Populations on Gitanyow Territory'.
Visual stories - Produce and share program video, slide shows, photos, maps, stories, field experiences, etc. People tend to engage more when the can see, hear, touch or point to what you are talking about. Maps often get people interested! The Northern Australia Indigenous Land and Sea Managers Alliance using a unique method for creating visual stories called 'Story Reporting'.
Community outreach - Have guardians participate in or attend other community gatherings, meetings, social groups, elders groups, youth camps, celebrations, etc. Sit, talk, share and listen.
Patrols and on-the-land experiences - Invite community members out with your guardians to share and learn (remembering to address any liability/safety/risk concerns). Share information about when and where your guardians’ are headed and what they are doing. Have guardians support or participate in community and children’s camps.
Contests - Engage community members through logo contests, photo contests, writing contests, trivia, etc.
Youth and children - Schedule your guardians to give class presentations, attend career days, provide mentoring, host internships, guide field-trips (remembering to address any liability/safety/risk concerns), etc. Look for opportunities to include and inspire young people. For more ideas go to the 'Involve Youth' chapter of the toolkit.
Elders - Meet with Elders’ groups, host tea & bannock sessions, support food harvesting for Elders, bring in Elder advisors, etc. Think through different kinds of compensation approaches to honour the contributions that Elders bring (i.e. recognition, gifts, honoraria, etc.).
Governance - Build strong community representation into your program governance structure (i.e. advisory board, committees, etc.) Work with other community committees, departments, entities etc. to ensure the guardian program is well-aligned with other community initiatives. The section 'How will your Indigenous Guardian program be governed?' from the chapter 'Set up a Governance Structure' provides some approaches that have been taken by communities in other parts of Canada.
Some Ways to Engage your Community
Virtual Community Engagement Guide: A Toolkit for Hosting Online Community Engagement and Meetings in Rural, Remote, and Indigenous Communities
Developing Communications and Outreach Materials
- Know your audience. Reflect on who you are most likely to be communicating with online. Tailor your content to the specific audiences you want to reach.
- Choose the online platform(s) that best meets your online community’s needs. Understand how the platform functions in terms of post frequency, and type of content being uploaded.
- Build a framework to establish basic guidelines on what is or isn’t appropriate to post in your social media space and consider having a moderator who approves community posts to uphold those guidelines.
- Make a schedule of what and when you will post online and stick to it. Prepare posts ahead of time to help you maintain your schedule.
- Post consistently on your social media platforms so people know what your program is doing and feel connected through your updates.
- Be clear, concise, and informative when posting. Include as much information as possible, but be clear on what information you can or can’t post (such as sensitive data or preliminary information).
- Take Lots of Photos. Having consistent documentation of your program allows your community the ability to see what has been going on in their territory.
- Use hashtags consistently in all your posts.
- Respect privacy by carefully reviewing your written posts, photos, and videos for personal information that you do not have consent to share (such as license plates or children’s faces).
- Maintain your tone, stay consistent, stay positive, and be genuine in your engagement. Sharing your personality when you are posting will resonate with your audience and communicate that you are a real person who is learning every day.
- Engage and build relationships with people in the community you serve. Engaging in positive communication can get your community excited about your work and make it easier for them to contact you directly for information.
Special thanks to Chelsie Parayko, Amberly Quakegesic, Nicole Morven, Jimmy Morgan, and Pamela Vernaus for contributing their expertise to the TST webinar, Communicating About What You Do.
Tips For Communicating About Your Indigenous Guardian Program Online
This article from the Centre for First Nations Governance describes how to use a facilitation approach called Open Space Technology to engage community members.
A Model for Aboriginal Facilitation: an Open, Empowering Way to Get Consensus and Action
Tools of Engagement is a planning guide about how to integrate people into conservation planning. Section C is focused specifically on how to identify and reach target audiences and create compelling messages.
Audubon Tools of Engagement: A Toolkit for Engaging People in Conservation
“Strong ties with the community are strengthened through the monitor’s daily patrols. People are proud to share information with them. There is a high level of respect for the work they do.”