4 types of questions for your community engagement questionnaire

Writing community engagement questionnaires including example questions.  

When writing community engagement questionnaires your most important consideration is the length of the survey. The foremost reason people drop out of answering and maybe don’t attempt to answer is survey fatigue. In fact, we’ve built a specific tool in our online engagement software to capture and display draft and incomplete surveys so our clients can still capture the information.

Before writing your community engagement questions, you also need to consider your reporting requirements (i.e. how are you going to present the collated feedback) and the delivery method of your survey – the design, ease of access and display of all the questions or progress along questions are all vitally important factors in a respondent’s decision to answer the survey. Make it as short, simple and easy as possible.

Don’t capture data you don’t need. Generally, surveys that ask lots of demographic questions particularly if set as required questions can be prohibitive to users completing a survey. Whilst these are important to check your respondents are representative of your community – you need to ask yourself if you’re going to compare female v male v other responses and if not, query if you need to ask this question. Don’t capture answers to questions you already know either. Keep your questions to the absolute minimum.

Before you write your community engagement questionnaire – start at the end and what outcomes you are looking for. Ask yourself:

  1. What information do I want?
  2. What level of influence can the community have and what does that look like?

Base your questions around the 4 types of questions generally asked in community engagement:

4 types of questions for your community engagement questionnaire

Doing – This is all about how they interact with your organisation and what their actions are overall e.g.

  • How often do you use/visit our services?
  • How do you use the current playground?
  • How do you spend your time online? Or What percentage of your time online is on social media?
  • How do you engage with Council? Website, Social Media, Phone Calls, In-person etc

You can use multiple choice or open questions here depending on the type of question. These should be relatively quick for people to answer. Remember to only ask the questions you need answers to and keep your questionnaire short.

Thinking – this is where you want to understand what people already know or to gather opinions which can inform decision making e.g.

  • Have you seen the plans for the new park?
  • What are the most important elements of the upgrade to you?
  • How do you think you will use the new shared pathway?
  • What environmental goals do you think the company should focus on in 2022?

Again, these questions can be a mix of quantitative and qualitative question types but make sure you have a good balance and not too many open questions as this can be too off-putting for people. Reserve your open questions for the information you really want to know.

Feeling – this is all about what drives people emotionally and where you can find out why they are thinking in a particular way e.g.

  • What do you like/dislike about the plans for the new recreation centre?
  • How do you feel about working from home rather than the office?
  • Why is sustainability important to you?
  • How do you feel about the local bank moving out?

This is where you are likely to get the most qualitative responses. When writing your engagement questions, you need to be clear on what you will do with this information and tailor your questions specifically to that. You also need to know how you are going to capture and report on this data.

Engagement Hub’s topic tagging (text analysis) system allows you to create tags and then tag feedback as it comes in. For example, you might tag feedback as positive, negative or neutral or you could tag the feedback into categories like parking, environmental concerns, construction noise etc. This greatly reduces the administrative burden of dealing with large volumes of qualitative feedback and creates instant quantitative data e.g. 76% of people were concerned about parking, 88% are positive about the project.

Fearing – it’s important to address and capture feedback on what people are fearing or concerned about so you can see if you can develop solutions to these issues. This can dig deeper than the ‘feeling’ questions and you can use logic built into your survey to assist e.g. If they dislike working from home (feeling) then go a step further and ask what they struggle with / what are their greatest challenges working from home?

  • What is your greatest concern during the construction phase?
  • Why are you opposed to a change in shift patterns? Please share with us how this will affect you
  • What is your biggest challenge in banking online?

You can assist people at this stage by directing them to further resources/links from your survey and using logic to help you do this. For example, you could offer a tutorial on how to bank online or a phone call with a team member so you are directly addressing their fears.

Finally, remove any jargon from your questions as this is off-putting and sometimes misunderstood by your audience. Write your community engagement questionnaire as if you were talking to a person with no knowledge of the project or company and use plain English throughout.

Online engagement software offers multiple tools including surveys for you to gather information and feedback from your community. For example, quick polls, ideas walls, participatory budgeting and mapping tools. View our website or demo site to understand more or book a free online chat with one of our team today.

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