We’ve had the pleasure of being a part of some of this community’s most important advancements: Holland Energy Park, Civic Center Place, and Waterfront Holland to name a few.

Each of these projects had the ability to shape our community and make Holland an even more desirable place to live and work. Each of these projects has another commonality. They engaged and continue to engage the community.

For each, it’s been no walk in the park though, and it begs the question why bother investing so much frustration, money and time into including the opinions of such a diverse and often insatiable stakeholder group? The answer is that the ROI is a community like no other.

It matters more to have your voice heard, than your opinion win.

When you engage the community, you will undoubtedly get some bad feedback, and the “there are no supid questions” philosophy may get tested. But more important than running with every idea is listening to the ideas – and the people sharing them. People matter, and if you give them the opportunity to engage you may be surprised by the outcome. Even the most far-out idea may help move you in the right direction or think differently about a problem. What’s more you’ll receive far more grace in disagreement from a person you’ve really listened to.

When you engage the community, you will undoubtedly get some bad feedback, and the “there are no supid questions” philosophy may get tested. But more important than running with every idea is listening to the ideas – and the people sharing them. People matter, and if you give them the opportunity to engage you may be surprised by the outcome. Even the most far-out idea may help move you in the right direction or think differently about a problem. What’s more you’ll receive far more grace in disagreement from a person you’ve really listened to.

In the absence of information people will make up their own.

Much like a three year old, we want to know why, and when we can’t understand – we speculate. Whether it’s our desire to be helpful and provide an answer, or simply our need for understanding, we will guess to create understanding. If you want your stakeholders to know something, tell them. Make learning simple and easy. Give them the information they need to make an informed decision and contribution.

The best results come from engagement.

Although certainly not every decision needs to include the masses, we believe that giving a voice to those affected by the outcome will almost always yield a better result. Progress comes from conflict, discourse, and engagement. We can’t expect to move forward if we stay only with those who think like us and share our experiences. We need to travel outside of our comfort zone and engage those who think differently.

One of my favorite things about Holland is how we never stop getting better. We’re committed to upgrading, changing and improving upon what we already have. Those in leadership across our government entities, community organizations and businesses have shown community engagement as a priority and the project results speak for themselves. It’s clear that consistent, transparent communications can cultivate the environment for community advancement.

So how are you going to engage your stakeholders on your next project?

About the Author

Leanne Schaeffer

Leanne joined Boileau after directing marketing for a hospitality management company. Through her experience, Leanne developed a rounded knowledge across industries and thoughtful insight into stakeholder perceptions. Identifying creative solutions to tough communications issues, Leanne serves as a valuable partner to our clients and asset to our company. A Grand Valley alumna, Leanne earned her bachelor’s in Advertising and Public Relations. Outside the office, she can be found spending quality time with family, rocking first base in slow pitch softball, or sitting down with a good book in one hand and a glass of wine in the other.

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