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Creating better connections: The heart and soul of community and stakeholder engagement.

At C7EVEN we are passionate about living and working in regional Australia and we are committed to enhancing each and every project with our expertise, whilst drawing on our team members lived experience within regional communities.

In this blog, we share some important considerations and our insights when it comes to navigating community and stakeholder engagement in regional and rural communities.  We will address the nuances of geographical distribution and the local bush telegraph, as well as the changing landscapes and how organisations can build social licence in these unique and vastly different settings.

When we see brands, organisations and government agencies without genuine connection to rural and regional Australia attempt engagement with regional and rural communities, it has often felt tokenistic, disingenuous and more like a box ticking exercise than authentic engagement.  At C7EVEN, we are dedicated to being the agency that sets the standard for genuine community and stakeholder engagement in the bush.

Today, our regions are facing unprecedented levels of large-scale investment. Renewable energy projects, telecommunications, rail, freight and transport, and mining. With this activity, comes disruption to rural communities as these organisations seek to build social licence for their operations.

We have often been asked why? 

Why does C7EVEN work for organisations who are disrupting local rural, regional and remote communities like this. 

And the answer is simple. 

We want the communities that we grew up in, live and work in to have their say on what matters most to them, and to ensure that their voices are heard.

Our intimate understanding of regional, rural and remote communities means we are in the best position to support these companies to engage more effectively with local communities. We know what to do, and what not to do, and how to effectively communicate through the right channels at the right times. Most importantly, we advocate for better community outcomes, through quality communication and engagement between clients and communities.  If an organisation is undertaking best practice communication and stakeholder engagement, then local communities have a greater chance of having their concerns and fears addressed, as well as a better understanding of the facts of the project without the risk of misinformation infiltration that can spread like wildfire along the bush telegraph.

We’ve all heard the saying, you can’t stop progress. But, if we can create better connections organisations and rural communities through effective community and stakeholder engagement, there’s a greater chance this ‘progress’ will provide mutual benefits for the long term.


Our team has community and stakeholder engagement expertise across a wide range of industries, including regional corporates, energy and renewables, mining, major infrastructure, telecommunications and Government (Local, State and Federal). We are committed to cultural inclusion and diversity,  and have strong experience working alongside Indigenous and First Nations groups and Torres Strait Islander communities in remote and regional Australia.

Our approach to effective engagement has been designed using International Association of Public Participation (IAP2) best practice guidelines and our own insights and experiences and starts with the simple who, what, when, why questions:

    1. Who are you trying to engage?
    2. Why are you trying to engage?
    3. What do you want the audience to know, do, say, feel?
    4. When is the best time to reach the audience and when is the best time to engage for the project? When will the latest information be available, and when are spokespeople available.
    5. Where will the audience be in their journey of knowledge, understanding and acceptance. And where is best to engage with them?
    6. How are you going to engage and report on engagement outcomes? And how will you know if the engagement was effective?

Flinders Shire Council engagement session in Cameron Downs

The answer to these questions starts with the art of preparation and understanding your audience. 

Having a deep understanding of your audience is key to effective stakeholder engagement. At C7EVEN, we invest time and effort in decoding the intricacies of stakeholder needs, motivations, and perspectives so we can truly know the audience. Through comprehensive stakeholder mapping, we identify key influencers, ensuring our engagement strategies not only hit the mark, but also resonate with your target audience.  

Some considerations in understanding your audience include: 

  • Individuals & Groups: Every stakeholder is unique, and C7EVEN recognises the importance of understanding both individual stakeholders and broader stakeholder groups. 
  • Key Opinion Leaders & Influencers: Identifying and engaging with key opinion leaders and influencers is an important element of C7EVEN’s approach. 
  • History and Connections: Delving into the historical context of stakeholder relationships, C7EVEN navigates current engagements with a sensitivity that fosters trust. 
  • Their Position, Views, Concerns, and What is Important: Comprehensive stakeholder mapping is a key practice at C7EVEN. 
  • Engagement Preferences: Recognising that everyone engages differently, C7EVEN takes the time to understand the preferred modes of engagement for each stakeholder. 

Once the audience has been mapped out, each project needs a clearly defined scope and purpose

Success in community and stakeholder engagement hinges on a clear sense of direction. Through close collaboration with our clients, we define the scope and purpose of each engagement initiative. This clarity not only shapes our approach, but also aligns all participants with the overarching vision, fostering a shared understanding to the project’s goals. 

An important factor in any engagement scope is know what the negotiables and non-negotiables of the project are.  What can the audience actually influence and what is non-negotiable.  Knowing this from the outset sets clear parameters for the engagement and ensures all community stakeholders are aware where they can contribute and where they can influence the outcome. 

Because engagement must be purposeful, and intentional which means that every engagement, big or small, should be designed to serve a strategic purpose, contributing to the broader goals of the project, and the sustainable development of the involved community or organisation. The purpose of each engagement must be clearly defined and understood at the outset. 

While information sharing and communication updates are the first level of any engagement program true engagement is two-way and involves actively seeking input, feedback, and collaboration from community and stakeholders. By fostering an open and inclusive environment, we create a two-way flow of communication, cultivating a sense of ownership and partnership, and enabling any concerns, fears and issues to be resolved.  

We also recommend to never avoid the difficult conversations.  In the world of community and stakeholder engagement, avoiding difficult conversations is akin to sidestepping the elephant in the room. Trust is built through honesty and transparency in every interaction, even if the news is something that you know the audience does not want to hear. It can often be through these difficult conversations where we achieve progress in strengthening relationships, finding common ground and working towards solutions. 

Communication is key in any stakeholder engagement activity, being upfront in communication, communicating regularly and transparently, addressing misinformation in a timely manner and taking a proactive approach to engagement, will ensure you are prepared for even the toughest of engagements.

Community engagement C7EVEN Cootamundra

Our team on the ground, listening and connections with residents as part of the Community and Stakeholder Engagement Program in the Cootamundra-Gundagai region.

To assist the communication efforts, we always recommend a multi-channel approach that includes a range of communication channels to ensure you are reaching your audience effectively, in a way that best suits them.  Communication channels and styles are very different in regional Australia. Communities place high value on face-to-face engagement and require regular touch-points.

Beyond managing misinformation and disinformation, identify and work with supporters (or project ambassadors) to share information with community stakeholders. These ambassadors are closely connected to the project and the community involved – their support and input is invaluable.  

At C7EVEN, our team has expertise working on high-profile, and transformational capital projects in energy, mining, telecommunications, and our International Association of Public Participation trained team set the standard when it comes to community and stakeholder engagement.    

Our love and passion for regional, rural and remote Australia, means we fight hard to hold companies to the highest standard of community and stakeholder engagement and we COLLABORATE closely with our clients and local communities to ensure a strong and fair engagement process and outcome on these important projects. 

Want to know more? We’d love to CONNECT with you.