It depends on what we’re asking people to do. If it’s something easy, such as signing a petition, recruitment and engagement happen almost simultaneously: I ask someone to sign the petition (recruitment) and they do it (engagement), but for something more complicated, we need to ensure that both parts line up. This relates to a commonly reported problem: how do we attract people to come to workshops.
As is recognised by the local government officers I’ve interviewed, we often ask a lot of people to give up a few hours of their time on a Saturday afternoon or a winter’s night to come to a workshop. In doing so, this may be fine for those people who are favourably disposed to the topic and are willing to engage with us in this manner, but it may restrict our ability to reach a broader audience.
This is important because sometimes we may be tempted to try alternative forms of recruitment such as the use of social networks, which I’ll address in an upcoming post, but if we keep the same forms of engagement, we may still struggle to get people to turn up. Rather, we need to think about what are the elements that make a particular form of recruitment successful and how can we replicate those in the engagement. I’d suggest a key guiding principle is to think about what we want to achieve with a particular audience and then shape the recruitment and engagement elements to suit.
In some instances, this may require us to move away from traditional forms of engagement, such as workshops, or it may require us to think about the strengths of these forms of engagement (such as the value of face-to-face contact) and how we can use those to drive further recruitment.
In the next two posts, I’m going to look at two specific elements of recruitment: diffusion of innovation and the use of social networks.
I’m conscious that in this post I’ve raised more questions than answers, but (unfortunately) one of the key findings of my research is that there isn’t one perfect model with all the answers. Life and the behaviours that make it up are inherently messy; we shouldn’t expect behavioural interventions to be any easier.