University Business January 2018 - 58

SPONSORED WEB SEMINAR DIGEST

The Next Generation of
Community Engagement
Using a structured online platform to build trust with stakeholders

A University Business Web Seminar Digest * Originally presented on November 1, 2017
Community, faculty and student engagement are important components of college and university strategic
and facility planning. But many traditional methods of gauging opinion or gathering input-such as surveys
or town hall meetings-are flawed and can be misleading, often being disproportionately influenced by the
loudest or most negative voices.
In this web seminar, presenters discussed the next generation of far more effective and accurate community engagement methods in higher ed. The president of Camosun College in Victoria, British Columbia,
outlined how her institution employed a structured, online platform for two recent community engagement
efforts, and saw thousands of stakeholders share their thoughts and learn from one another about what
matters most regarding the future of the college. Through these efforts, Camosun's leadership built trust
with the community and gained rich insights that informed their planning.

Kevin Skelcher: Thoughtexchange is about bringing
people together. And in order to bring people together,
there are a few things that we need to overcome. One
of them is the idea that loud voices can dominate faceto-face conversations. We want our work to be about
hearing from as many people as possible, and then
allowing a safe, thorough process to take place where
people get to feel that they're part of a conversation.
The other thing we're addressing is the question of
how to move beyond a shallower, polarizing survey.
How do you get to the underlying interests of the
group, and how do you allow people to share what's
important for them? Finally, we're addressing the idea
of building consensus in extremely time-sensitive
matters. We want to make sure that we can bring a
group of people together around a change, and build
consensus in a way that expedites the process.
We bring people together to participate in a threestep process:
1. Share: People get a chance to share their thoughts
independently and confidentially.

2. Star: They get a chance to review some of the
ideas of other people and rate those thoughts.
3. Discover: We get to learn together about what's
most important.
Part of the service we provide is real-time
moderation. In a public process, it's important that
nothing rude or hurtful or inappropriate is shared out,
because that undermines the exchange that you're
running. So our team will read through every single
thought that's submitted by the participants to make
sure that nothing goes forward that shouldn't.
The visualization tools we have constitute quite a
robust suite, and a lot of the tools we provide can help
you look at the information, make decisions and make
sense of it in a timely manner. Other kinds of analysis
we focus on are things like shift analysis, and looking
at how people change their mind after they're exposed
to different ideas.
We know that all of our partners are using surveys
and polling, and doing face-to-face meetings. So
why use Thoughtexchange? We've been finding that

View, comment, share this story online at UBmag.me/thoughtexchange


http://www.universitybusiness.com/ws110117 http://www.UBmag.me/thoughtexchange

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