[TIPS] Why Online Engagement Means Lower Project Costs

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[TIPS] Why Online Engagement Means Lower Project Costs

Increase engagement and save time and money with higher returns

Public engagement budgets seem to be shrinking while expectations are heading in the other direction. Now that some of the online engagement tools have reached maturity, they can be the most cost-effective way to meet your community engagement targets.

It’s no secret that traditional public meetings can be labor intensive and costly. A single public meeting can cost $10,000 or more when expenses for preparation, staffing, follow-up, facilities and everything is totaled. For major public projects such as a long-range transportation plans, how many public meetings are needed before reaching the right number of people? In most cases several public workshops are held, and still the numbers can be disappointing.

Case Study

Scott Gero of AECOM decided to conduct traditional public workshops and use our software in tandem to achieve the broadest public input possible for his work with the Georgia Department of Transportation on the State Route 20 Improvement Project. Between May and December of 2013 they held 4 public meetings and used MetroQuest online in a parallel process. Let’s compare the results:

For the traditional public meetings, there were costs related to display preparation, advertising, travel expenses, equipment and facility rentals, and the staff required for physical presence and the task of tallying up all the data. The result of all this cost and effort? A total of 893 attendees throughout the four events providing 416 formal comments.

For the MetroQuest survey, the costs were related to the prep work needed, the software itself, and the labour to monitor and tally the data, but the result? A much broader response with customizable reports from over 7555 site visitors providing 90,803 ratings, rankings, votes and comments.

“The cost of using MetroQuest was about 15-25% of the cost of our traditional public meetings and we had 10 times more people participate. We found MetroQuest to be a very cost-effective way to broaden our public involvement.”
Scott Gero, Associate Vice-President of Transportation (Georgia), AECOM

If cost-effectiveness is measured in terms of cost per participant, $500 – $1,000 per participant is not an uncommon amount for traditional public meetings. Online engagement can bring that number to under $5 per participant.


The lesson here is that by using online engagement tools, you can decrease the number of public meetings that you have to hold in order to meet your engagement objectives. You can then dedicate more of your budget to other high-impact initiatives. The public meetings that you do hold can be made more impactful by combining the best of traditional and online engagement.

Many agencies that we work with are not aware of the huge benefits of improved public involvement – engaging more broadly, gaining community support and thus being able to more easily and cost-effectively move forward with implementation. The kind of public involvement enabled by digital engagement tools saves far more money than it costs.

Dave Biggs

Dave is the Chief Engagement Officer of MetroQuest and an internationally-recognized author and public engagement strategist focusing on the use of software tools to enhance community participation for planning projects.

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