Four strategies to engage hard-to-reach communities

Community and stakeholder engagement programs and processes are often developed to suit the general population, who find it easy to participate. 

There is therefore an element of bias involved, in that the people designing the process tend to develop engagement methodologies that would appeal to them.

At Phillips Group we make an active and deliberative effort to push outside the comfort zone and explore ways to engage hard-to-reach groups meaningfully.  Refined from years of experience on the ground and across the nation, our team know what works and we have found the following four strategies to be effective:

  • ‘Push not pull’ approach – go to where the groups congregate, do not expect them to come to you
  • User experience design – make it easy for them to participate in terms of non-threatening and accessible venues, suitable times, transport options, food and beverages
  • Influencer engagement – engage community opinion leaders to design the engagement so it meets the needs of the participants
  • Trusted intermediary engagement – partner with other people and organisations to reach out and encourage participation.

Phillips Group has more than 25 years’ experience in engaging hard-to-reach groups.  We have proven methodologies that ensure broad representation of a range of views and voices.  Our team of senior practitioners have worked with many communities across many jurisdictions.   We have worked extensively with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, Culturally and Linguistically Diverse groups, people with disabilities and people in regional areas.


By Helen Hutchings, Group Executive Director