The best community outreach methods to boost citizen engagement


While community outreach is a vital, integral part of your role within the public services sector, getting those all-important citizen insights can sometimes be a painful process. 

From sending out surveys and organising town hall meetings to holding expert panels, there are many ways to engage community groups to help inform meaningful community decisions. 

But what methods are the most effective for the community engagement process to collect insights from your local community? Do we need a more effective way of engaging with community groups on important issues? We think so, but more on that later.

In this guide to community engagement, we're diving into several community engagement strategies and discussing how one, in particular, can help you save time, money, and resources to make better decisions for your citizens. 

Traditional community outreach methods for gathering insights

Community engagement is essential for helping community organisations to co-produce policies with local authorities and end users, increasing community buy-in and reducing the risk of making poor decisions. 

Plus, there's been quite a push in several governments and community organisations to include community outreach and citizen feedback (especially with young people) to support participatory budgeting and other decision-making activities.

However, simply asking your local community for their opinion isn't enough to make well-informed decisions that will impact your citizens. 

And though classic community engagement methods are still in place with public sector organisations, that doesn't necessarily mean they're the most effective way to extract community insights. 

Let's look at the drawbacks of each community engagement method below.


Though community leaders often rely on surveys, how effective are they? Surveys often don't result in strong qualitative data, nor do they make it possible to understand the context and nuances present in people's answers. And that's if you get high levels of engagement, which is rare.

Town hall meetings

Town hall meetings certainly have their place, but they're expensive to run and can result in slower decision-making. In big groups, a few loud voices often take hold and influence the entire group, or two opposing sides don't listen to each other, resulting in polarisation. 

Expert panels

Expert panels are another common form of community engagement, but this feedback method has drawbacks. A group of experts doesn't represent the opinions of the wider community and can be exclusionary. Plus, even experts can be wrong, which weakens decision-making. 

Why we need wide-scale deliberative decision making

In an ideal world, public sector leaders would create an environment where people can have their say on issues that matter to them, but in a deliberative sense. 

To resolve the issues posed by the traditional feedback methods we have outlined above, community engagement and community outreach methods must:

Be easy to participate in

Surveys and town hall meetings are notoriously low on the community engagement scale. To develop genuinely qualitative data from community members, it's vital that giving feedback is easy and can be completed by citizens in multiple locations and at any time.

Allow for complex responses

While surveys can be anonymous, they don't allow for the context or nuance in people's answers. The best community outreach methods would make it possible for citizens to discuss sensitive topics in detail while remaining anonymous.

Educate the community

The best community outreach method will encourage engagement by helping people understand their participation's impact on the decision-making process and the sustainable outcomes delivered by your organisation. 

Encourage deliberation

Proper deliberation of important community matters reduces bias, polarisation, and virtue signalling, allowing for the nuances of differing opinions and healthy debate. 

Unlike other forms of online discourse, intensive deliberation also minimises the impact of online " information bubbles ". 

Is it time to improve our community engagement methods and shake up how we do things to extract better insights? Can we achieve this community outreach ideal? Absolutely.

In fact, there's an app for that - it’s called PSi. 

Introducing PSi: The only voice-based collective intelligence platform

PSi is the first and only collective intelligence platform that allows public services organisations to harvest collective intelligence insights from voice conversations citizens have about a particular issue. 

PSi's revolutionary collective intelligence platform enables public organisations to:

Improve deliberation opportunities

With PSi, community members are split randomly into small groups facilitated by PSi, where they can deep-dive into the pros/cons of a community's crowdsourced ideas, like "how do we solve food poverty?" 

Then, PSi creates a visualisation of that consultation data so you can extract meaningful insights. 

Make community-backed decisions

PSi reduces the impact of typical polarisation, biases, and virtue signalling by delivering collective intelligence research from a broad range of voice conversations. 

Our insights dashboard displays engagement, ideation, and consensus metrics to provide data-based support for your decisions.

Increase community engagement

With PSi, thousands of community members can engage in a real-time discussion of a shared issue anytime, anywhere - increasing levels of engagement and allowing for the discussion of nuanced concepts. 

Discover the benefits of using PSi for community engagement today!

Instead of wasting time, energy, and money on surveys, town hall meetings, and expert panels that don't deliver the collective intelligence insights you need, why not extract meaningful insights with PSi?

PSi's natural language processing and unique algorithm interprets community feedback data for you, so you can spend less time reading community feedback reports and more time making impactful decisions. 

This is your GDPR-compliant answer to authentic, scalable, and accurate community insights. Our easy-to-use platform allows you to ask thousands of citizens a question and receive a consensus in just one hour! 

Want to learn more? Play our choose-your-own adventure-style collective intelligence game to see PSi in action!

Ready for your adventure? Play our game now!

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