Contact us

Building deeper community engagement and trust

Better dialogue with the public in developing the built environment is not only good for everyone involved, it is now also a very clear requirement. The latest draft of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), the Mayor of London’s Estate Regeneration Best Practice Guide and the post-Grenfell reverberations all require better community dialogues from developers, local authorities and their partners, because deeper community engagement builds trust.

Public realm projects tend to be long-term: from initial plans to completion can take years, and the challenge is to maintain dialogue and ensure transparency throughout. Only a long-term approach can hope to build the trust that helps reduce planning risk between idea and implementation. In today’s world this means having a digital strategy  at the heart of engagement. A web based approach is the most efficient way of harnessing the power of information-sharing and social media. A website not only engages - it also creates a long-term record that can be revisited, and updated throughout a long development cycle.

Committing to a web-centered approach is sensible - but it also involves a commitment to uphold high standards of data protection and transparency about the use of data. Data privacy protection is a core component of corporate governance. It also helps build consumer confidence, a vital component in individual’s relationships with large organisations. Simply, there is no point building a great interactive website and then undermining trust through abuse of data.

The forthcoming new regulations that take force from May are very clear: citizens own their personal data and lend it to digital operators. These rules - the General Directive on Data Protection (GDPR) demand that data gathering and use are subject to specific consents, and these consents can be withdrawn. Contributors who supply personal data have extensive new rights to see what is held on them and what  it is used for. Individuals can opt in and out for varying degrees of anonymity and service.

These aspects of the interaction with the public are as critical as the content of the consultation and should be as clear and easy to use. This ease of use is a critical service component.

Going forward, it is not sufficient to surround your digital engagement service with disclaimers and vague consents anymore. The organisation asking for personal data - a Council, a Developer or a consultant acting on their behalf must clearly articulate why it is asking for information.

At Commonplace we have taken the view that GDPR is an opportunity to underpin trust further than we have ever done before. At the same time, modern digital community engagement solutions such as Commonplace are key partners as they guarantee compliance with data privacy rules while keeping the processes simple and effective at a reasonable economic cost.

To ensure data privacy and information security are baked-in, new registration processes must be devised that integrate the consent process as seamlessly and clearly as possible. The use and analysis of data must remain effective and useful while honouring the requirements of GDPR.

As ever balance and flexibility are necessary to achieve a valuable service that serves the needs of all stakeholders throughout the project life cycle. The technology engine at the heart of Commonplace is highly secure and scaleable.  Building service components around this core engine and modifying and extending them over time is all part of our strong value proposition, one that has seen widespread take-up during the past couple of years.

The addition of data privacy best practice as encouraged by the GDPR legislation is just another step to make digital community engagement services the core of good Built Environment provenance.


Want to explore how online community engagement can help your project?           Click here to receive your free demo from Commonplace.

Brian Sellers

Brian Sellers

Director of Partner Programme