In this post we’ll look at a couple of important facets to take into consideration when looking at your project from an outreach and engagement perspective. I’ve tried out several different terms but the ones I feel mirror these facets the best are Intensity and Polarisation.
Polarisation is quite self-evident – is your project one that will invite people to take clear sides in the debate, will it polarise the discussion and along what lines. Regarding intensity it’s a little more nuanced – i.e., is your project one that many people care deeply about? When people engage with the project, will they pour their hearts and minds into the interaction?
This analysis of your project will, again, help you when it comes to devising a suitable strategy for reach and engaging with audiences. Some questions you should consider attempting to answer, from the point of view of your project:
- Does this project invite debate? Are there venues – online, IRL or otherwise – for people who have knowledge of or opinions about the topic to discuss about it? If such venues exist, what is your natural role there and can you assert any sort of control – conversely, if such venues do not exist, can you in any way facilitate them?
- Does the project allow for civil discourse? I think we’ve all been witness to or part of toxic debates, which will drive many sensible people from your project long before they’ve had the chance to immerse themselves deeper. Much of this hangs on how you communicate around your project, what your tone is and how you, for instance, address narrative reversals (i.e. when audiences “turn” on you and “attack” you). It’s been a common tactic of many corporations to flood negative discussions around them with toxic comments and people, thereby averting many from taking part of arguments – you should strive to do the exact opposite and flood any discussions with sensible, respectful dialogue.
- Does the project give rise to increased polarisation? This might be something that you want for your project, especially if you have an agenda with the project. Do be aware that you’re feeding into the polarisation of society as a whole, however small your role and your project is. But polarisation can also be fruitful if you want to follow up on some of the more extreme viewpoints and perhaps even widening the scope of your project.
- What level of moderation will be required? Now, if you are not in control of the venue(s) where discourse is taking place, you will have less possibilities to moderate anything. You can still, however, set examples for other participants to follow, you can call out unreasonable or toxic behaviour etc. But do be aware that much of this will take resources away from other things you might want to or should be doing, so budget and allocate resources accordingly.
In our next post we’ll talk about another crucial aspect – longevity!