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Engage your Community

Build and Retain Participant Interest

Participant interest in your project depends in part on their skills and motivations for contributing to your project. There are, however, steps you can take to build and sustain their interest.

Involve early and employ co-design techniques

As highlighted previously, it is important to involve your participants throughout the design, implementation and evaluation of your project to ensure that you are maximising the benefit for them as well as the impact of their contributions. Involving your participants early and integrating their feedback into the project’s design, communications or direction can build their connection to and investment in your project, which is likely to be maintained over time.

It is important to note here that if you ask for feedback you need to do something with it.

Highlight impact and reward contributions

It is important to communicate what impact your participants will have when contributing their time to your project.

For example, by identifying images online participants are helping gather evidence on why a particular threat control method should be changed to improve the way we are conserving a threatened species. Your participants want to know specifically what they are contributing to (i.e. a change in threat control method), but also what the broader picture is (i.e. they are helping to conserve a threatened species).

You should also be prepared to communicate anything that demonstrates how the scientific data they are creating is being used. This can include but is not limited to publications, media articles and any decision-making processes.

Participant contributions should be acknowledged through newsletters, certificates, presentations, in-kind skill building or experience opportunities, and many other forms. This recognises and rewards the effort they put into your project and makes it more likely that this effort will be sustained and repeated.

Utilise effective and timely communication

A well-structured communication plan is important in maintaining consistent and suitable communication, not only with your participants but also your project stakeholders. Please refer to the Design your communications section for advice on how to create a communications plan and a template you can download.

Prepare to be adaptable

You should evaluate your approach consistently throughout your project as you may find that some of the techniques mentioned above do not work for you or that their effectiveness changes over time. If you find that your approach has so far proven to have limited success, prepare to change it. You may also want to ask your participants what they think about your current approach and to provide suggestions for how they would like to receive communications or be involved.