With social media and web-based platforms now widely available, we need to look at hybrid models of engagement - face-to-face interactions alongside web-based platforms.

Here are a couple of reasons in brief:

  1. Scale: face-to-face is difficult unless you have a “cell” structure through which messages can cascade up-and down. Very few of these are comprehensive. Schools cater for a certain (limited though large) demography. Political parties with “cell” or territorial structures knock on every door a few times in the run-up to elections, but this requires a very significant infrastructure and clear shared motivation. Very few other structures are as comprehensive - and interest in what political parties can do seems to be waning at the moment (at least in the UK) if local election turnout is anything to go by.

  2. Reach - lots of people can’t come to public meetings - they are too busy working, socialising or looking after dependents. Or they feel that the public meeting will be dominated by the same voices in their locality who often are out to defend the status-quo. This is a self-perpetuating cycle. Using digital tools and especially our own Commonplace, it is possible to create mood maps of areas, pinpoint what people are concerned about using spatial tools. The information collected this way augments, challenges and helps validate the outcome of face-to-face interactions. It has the potential to reach a large volume of local people, or people working in an area. So while face-to-face is great, we can now look at addressing some of the limitations of this ideal.