When the decision to integrate digital engagement software was made, Thomson’s experience immediately led her to EngagementHQ. Having used this platform in a previous role in nearby Owen’s Sound, she knew that the platform offered features that would help bring success to the engagement goals in Georgian Bluffs.
“We did look to see if there was anything else comparable,” she said. “But we didn’t really find anything that was as purpose-built specifically for the kind of projects and the kind of engagement that we wanted to do, and how easy the software is to set up and to manage was a huge selling point. We got it up and running really quickly.”
Using EngagementHQ, Thomson’s team created Engage GB, a hub where residents could find information about ongoing and upcoming projects the township was undertaking. When Engage GB was ready to launch in 2022, Thomson made sure that the projects featured were ones that would draw audience attention.
“We really wanted to launch strong,” she said. “So, we picked topics that we knew were going to be of high interest to the community, that were a little bit controversial, and that were also important for us to get feedback on.”
With that in mind, the hot-button short-term rental topic was an early target for the new website.
“We had all these different user groups that we wanted to talk to,” said Thomson. “And the survey logic (in EngagementHQ) was really helpful. We had people identify how they fit into the big picture of short-term accommodations, and then the survey presents different questions based on how they identify themselves.”
Thomson added that by having the survey serve respondents questions based on their role in short-term rentals, it helped better identify operators, neighbours, visitors, and others who were interested in ordinances even if they were not actively involved with a rental property. That, in turn, she said, allowed Georgian Bluffs staff to better understand how to connect with their residents around management ordinances and other policies.
Another early survey target focused on a more personal agricultural issue: backyard chickens. Just as with short-term rentals, raising and housing chickens in neighborhoods also can create contentious issues for both the township and its population. Creating a space for engagement around the subject was another high-interest target for Thomson’s staff.
“We’re a large municipality with a lot of agricultural land with chickens,” she said. “But we do have a few densely populated neighborhoods where residents have expressed interest in having backyard chickens. How can we engage around that issue and connect with those interested?”