Only ask questions whose answers you want to hear. Only then will the participation have an added value for you and for all participants. Remember to ask questions on a topic that you or other project managers have an influence on. Participants want to make a difference, participation without results creates mistrust and raises the hurdles for further participation processes.
What is the project about? Why was it initiated and by whom? For the participants to be able and want to participate qualitatively, they must have all the necessary information. This information must be short and easy to understand - no jargon and no long nested sentences in even longer essays. Graphics and pictures help to convey information and make life more colorful!
For the participants it is essential to know the chances and limits of their influence. What should be decided in the end and by whom? What role do the participants play in the decision-making process? Transparency is more important than decision-making authority. Our democratic and organizational structures often dictate who is to make the decision. These powers may be questioned, but they must be clearly formulated in the process.
Good participation is a process and not a flash in the pan. Ask something quickly and never hear anything again? How frustrating! The more the participants identify with the project, the more and higher quality contributions can be expected. Therefore it is important to involve the participants in the project at an early stage and to take them along until the end. A good combination of online participation and offline events is ideal. Good participation runs from A to Z.
A great participation concept is of no use if nobody knows about the project. Even if the Internet is freely accessible, people don't come by themselves. Fire up the PR machine: Social media, flyers, press releases, videos, presentations at relevant events, etc. Choose the channels and the way you address your target group. And when you have mobilized the people, go ahead and keep them involved. A well-made newsletter or a “hello again” mail can keep the online discussion going.
Can online discussions ever be civilized? We know numerous negative examples. But we also know from scientific studies that online discussions are of higher quality if they are moderated. If you can expect a reaction, you contribute in a different way. A neutral moderator should observe the discussion and intervene if netiquette is violated. Good moderation also helps with questions and catches discussions that stray from the topic.