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Digital Indigenous Engagement Guide

Updated: May 1

Digital engagement has become increasingly important over the past 5 years. This is a “new” way forward that will help improve your Indigenous engagement results while vastly improving your clients bottom line goals.

Perhaps the biggest advantage that digital (online) engagement has is the ability to offer continuous and accessible communication.

Continuous and accessible communication is one of the pillars to a successful Indigenous engagement strategy.

In addition, the internet is available anytime and anywhere overcoming time limitations, distance (and budget to an extent) that may otherwise deter engagement participation. For example, a community survey can be delivered digitally with next to no travel with very little expense to anyone with an internet connection.

Compare that to hand delivering surveys to each community household which will take a lot of time and resources.

Digital engagement also provides Indigenous Communities and stakeholders with a level platform from which to partake in dialogue. This is particularly useful in allowing for anonymity which may encourage greater stakeholder involvement and perhaps more passionate and honest input.

Digital (online) tools can save time, money and resources if done correctly. Here's an example. Let's say you are responsible for gathering data for an Indigenous educational web portal.

To ensure it's success, you need to travel to 10 remote communities and engage those communities to get their input on the types of tools, resources and content should be in the portal.

The budget for this activity is $35,000 which includes airfare (for you and some participants), food, accommodations and venue rentals.

This is a large undertaking that will take up a substantial amount of resources. The time allotted for this activity is 8 months.

What if, instead of traveling to 10 different remote communities, you build a mini web portal with less than 10 web pages including one video presentation (detailing the project) and a survey for participants to fill out? Perhaps include a voting solution for participants?

The cost for setting this up is less than a $5000 and the time to build such a mini portal is less than 10 days (which is a fraction of the time for offline activities). Related: Community Indigenous Engagement Methods

Using certain incentives, participation can actually potentially increase all the while receiving more honest participation. Using a practical, digital strategy it is possible to get each participants contact information, including their email addresses to set up an email communication protocol.

Once a participant opts in to receive more information you will keep in constant

communication with each participant outlining the details about the project and status updates. All of this is automated.

The total cost for a digital Indigenous engagement project is less than $5,000 including time, set up and technology. Perhaps the biggest advantage is that real time changes can be made (on the fly) to the mini portal including the content (video presentation and survey) which will help improve targeted participation.

The estimated total time to completion is 3 months for this type of digital strategy. A traditional, offline approach will take close to a year.

Let's take a look at some of the pro's and con's of a digital approach to Indigenous Engagement.


• Larger group can be surveyed

• Reduction of Travel costs

• Which can be huge on some projects

• More effort spent on engaging and building relationships

• A lot of “data” can be collected through polling and surveying the groups

• Has the ability to allow more to have their opinion heard

• Not the dominant voice in the room

• Ability to stay in constant contact (via email contact strategy)

• Reduce potential project time to completion


• Hard to get the emotional connection to the community/group

• Everyday life challenges

• Children or pets walking into the frame

• Shyness

• People may not want to be on camera

• Technological challenges

• Internet speeds, enough computers

The Benefit to Remote Indigenous Communities

Provides a platform not only to reach the on reserve community/population but the broader off reserve community (that tends to be overlooked).

• Saves on costs to the community.

• Can still involve community interaction and follow protocol

• Giveaways

• May allow individuals to comment who would not normally do so.

• However, not all membership may have the internet or access to a computer.

The thing you have to remember is that the fundamental process and goals of Indigenous engagement remain the same for both, offline and online. Indigenous engagement and stakeholder management are arguably the most important ingredients for successful project delivery. Related: 5 Steps to Successful Indigenous Engagement

For example, project Managers depend on people to respond to the outputs and benefits that they deliver (for both offline and online methods).

People will only respond if they are engaged. The same in person methods can be used to engage but adapting them to digital methodology might be a "new normal" in certain circumstances. Related: Indian vs. Aboriginal vs. Indigenous...which term is correct?


Before aiming to engage and influence stakeholders, it’s crucial to seek to understand the people you will be working with and relying on throughout the phases of the project lifecycle. Sharing information with stakeholders is important, but it is equally important to first gather information about your stakeholders.

Consult, early and often!

A project, particularly in the early stages, may be unclear to its Indigenous communities and stakeholders for example, in terms of purpose, scope, risks and approach.

Early, and regular consultation is essential to ensure that requirements are agreed and a delivery solution is negotiated that is acceptable to the majority of stakeholders.

Remember, we are only human...

• Accept that humans do not always behave in a rational, reasonable, consistent or predictable way and operate with an awareness of human feelings and potential personal agendas.

• By understanding the root cause of stakeholder behaviour, you can assess if there is a better way to work together to maintain a productive relationship

Plan it!

A more conscientious and measured approach to stakeholder engagement is essential and therefore encouraged. Investment in careful planning before engaging stakeholders can bring significant benefits.

Relationships are Key

Developing relationships with Indigenous Communities results in increased trust. And where there is trust, people work together more easily and effectively. Investing effort in identifying and building stakeholder relationships can increase confidence across the project environment, minimize uncertainty, and speed problem solving and decision-making.

Just part of managing risk

• Stakeholders are important influential resources and should be treated as potential sources of risk and opportunity within the project.

• The initial step is to establish the most acceptable baseline across a set of stakeholders' diverging expectations and priorities.

• Assess the relative importance of all stakeholders to establish a weighted hierarchy against the project requirements and agreed by the project Sponsor.

Understand what success is

Project success means different things to different people and you need to establish what your stakeholder community perceives success to be for them in the context of project


Take responsibility

Stakeholder engagement is not the job of one member of the project team. It’s the responsibility of everyone to understand their role and to follow the right approach to

communication and engagement. Good project governance requires providing clarity about stakeholder engagement roles and responsibilities and what is expected of people involved in the project.

Digital Platforms

There are many different types of digital platforms that can be used to help achieve your engagement goals. Depending on what your engagement goals are will depend on the types of digital tools you will need.

Do you need to create a mini website or portal (to be used as your main focal point)? Do you need a video editor (to edit your information videos)?

Do you need a conferencing video solution (to hold real time meetings)? Do you need an auto responder (to keep in constant communications with participants)?

This will all depend on your engagement mission, vision and goals. There are many digital tools and platforms that you can choose from that are both paid and free. Of course, you get what you pay for and the paid solutions generally have limited solutions. Here are just some of the platforms you can use:

Conferencing solutions:

  • Zoom (our recommended solution)

  • GotoMeeting

  • TotoWebinar

  • Microsoft Teams

  • Google Meet

Website solutions:

  • Wix (Our recommended solution - probably the easiest to use to create a mini website)

  • Weebly

  • Go Daddy

  • Wordpress

Video editors

  • Wondershare (Our recommended solution - very easy to use and understand)

  • Adobe Premiere

  • Pinacle Studio

Image editors

  • Canva (Our recommended solution - super easy to use, edit and create web graphics)

  • Adobe Photoshop (powerful but a steep learning curve)

  • Adobe Illustrator (very intuitive and powerful but very complex)


  • Survey Monkey (Our recommended solution - powerful and easy to use)

  • Typeform

  • Qualaroo (great for website pop ups surveys)

Whiteboard presentations

  • Miro (Our recommended whiteboard solution - easy to use and very intuitive)

Email strategy solutions

  • Aweber (Our recommended solution - very powerful and can be integrated with most software solutions)

  • Mailchimp

  • GetResponse

Voting Solutions

  • One Feather (Our recommended digital voting solution)

Document sharing solutions

  • Google docs

  • Dropbox

These are just a sample of some of the digital solutions you may need for your Indigenous engagements.

When using a conferencing solutions, please remember to limit the number of participants (Questions and answer periods cut into presentation/audience attention time, as well as slows down the system and creates lag time.

Pro Tip** Make sure that your live conferencing is set to record. This way you can post it to your project website and use your email software (Aweber) to send out one email to direct people back to the video to watch.

Very important to provide a call in option for participants but not the presenters!

Trouble Shooting for Live Zoom Broadcasts

• First and foremost – strong reliable internet connection. Test, test and re-test your connection to make sure it is reliabe.

• Do test runs of your presentation and record it. Review your presentation with your team to make sure your visuals and audio are optimized.

• Kick those kids off their tablets!!! And make them go outside. You will need your bandwidth!

• Loose unnecessary webcam coverage. This bogs down the service and speed at which you are broadcasted out.

Essential Items

Here are some essential items when you are using a live zoom (conferencing) broadcast.

• Microphone or headsets,

• Webcam if you are doing a larger group rather then facing your laptop,

• 5 G internet or Rocket stick to increase signal strength

• Try and get as much light into your office or room as possible. If you are by a window, open up the shades and let the light in.

• Tech support for larger groups (over 100 people). You will need someone who knows the technology and can make adjustments on the fly.

Presentation Methodology

Please remember that this is a team effort and not down to an individual. Work with your copy writer, tech and office team to make sure your presentation is crisp and clear. In addition, keep in mind that attentions spans are short when it comes to digital communications.

Get to the point quickly and keep your presentation limited to 60 minutes and at the most, 90 minutes.

Presentation must try to consider the following experiences of the participant:

• Intellectual,

• Emotional, and

• The physical:

• See, Hear, Touch, Taste and Hear (Understanding the last three are difficult but achievable.)

Advertising Your Event Prior

Depending on the size of the project you may need to use a variety of tools and software plateforms. At CIPS, we recommend a project website which can be used as a focal point for your project.

This is where your targeted audience will go for up to date information, resources and tools. For example, you can upload a zoom call to the website (and create a special web page) so that your audience can view the video (for a replay or in case they missed the zoom session).

Set up a social presence, such as a Facebook page for the project. Here you will keep your targeted audience fresh and up to date with real time updates. Your Facebook page will direct your audience to take specific actions.

For example, a recorded zoom session can be converted to a video and stored on your project website. Using Facebook you can update all of your audience to go and view the replay in case they missed it.

Your Facebook page should help educate, inform and entertain your targerted audience. You can also use other social platforms such as Instagam, Twitter and Linkedin.

However, each platform takes a substantial amount of time to ensure its success so if your team is small, stick to one platform. If you have a big team, you can implement one or two additional platforms.

Each platform has its own social methodology so make sure your team understand and knows how to use each platform. For example, Facebook is not like Twitter and Twitter is not like Instagram. Understand what works best for your company on each social platform.

There are also more traditional advertising mediums such as radio, newspaper, community websites and email blasts.

So how do we go about this?

The first order of business is your first presentation

This can be per-recorded prior to activation and will provide a project overview, introduces the purpose and the project team.

It will also go over what the audiences are to expect within the realm of digital engagement. For example, digital surveys, Facebook groups, website, or other important digital tools

that are going to be used.

This may also be an opportunity to present follow up interactive surveys that can be later used in polling rules (similar to a purchased license of survey monkey).

Second: Gathering- Inform

This is to provide the public with balanced and objective information to assist them in understanding the problem, alternatives, opportunistic and/or solutions. Your promise to your client at this point is to make sure they are kept informed. Examples include fact sheets, websites and open houses.

• This presentation is still to inform the Indigenous community and other stakeholders about further details of the work

• All presentations will be recorded for access of participants

• Surveys will be completed by participants (team to design)

• The purpose is to share and be transparent of what has happened to date.

Also make digitally available:

-Fact Sheets


-Virtual Platform (email) to ask questions

Third: Gathering- Engagement

This is to obtain public feedback on analysis, alternatives and/or decisions. Your promise to the public at this stage is to keep everyone informed, listen to and acknowledge concerns and expectations. These are directly reflected in the alternatives that have been developed and provide feedback on how the public input influenced the decision. Examples include

focus groups, surveys and public meetings.

• This is where engagement starts to come into play, we survey participants on the level on engagement they need, record their concerns and develop more formal processes.

• This may take potentially multiple online meetings or presentations.

Examples may include community questions or comments forum, digital surveys, or live webinars.

Forth: Gathering- Involve

This is to work directly with the public throughout the process to ensure the public concerns and aspirations are consistently understood and considered. Your promise to the public is to work with them to ensure that their concerns and expectations are directly reflected in the alternatives developed. You will also provide feedback on how their (public) input influenced a certain decision.

Examples include workshops and deliberative polling. Here are some example:

• Ask the questions if there are specific topics they would like to be involved with, then possibly create working groups to help gather information.

• Work with participants to make sure their questions are fully answered and concerns or expectations met.

• Hold:

• Additional workshops or webinars

• Q & A polling

Fifth: Gathering- Collaborate

To partner with the public in each aspects of the decision including the development of alternatives and the identification of the preferred solutions. Your promise is to look to the

public for advice and innovation in formulating solutions.

You will incorporate those pieces of advice and recommendations into the decisions for maximum effect. Examples include citizen advisory committees, consensus building and participatory decision making.

This gathering allows participants to help formulate solutions, incorporating advice from all project team members which can lead to developing:

• Larger citizen advisory committees,

• Youth and elder circles,

• Consensus understanding and building;

• Participant decision making processes.

Sixth: Gathering- Empower

To place final decision making in the hands of the public. Your promise is to implement what the public decides. Examples include ballots, delegated decisions and citizen juries.

Your team will work with all parties to implement the best overall decision which is dependent on the outcomes and committees of the collaborative phase.

Do not forget

• Possibly provide training or online help for participants who have not used the digital platforms (YouTube is great for this).

• At each meeting or gathering be sure to acknowledge and include (as much as possible) the communities protocols

• Still be able to give out giveaways such as visa, MasterCard or other gifts

This is a great time to get messages out to people. At this stage, people are looking to do things, interact with each other and still have some connection to community. Related: Indigenous Engagement Questions and Answers


We are living in a digital age and there are no signs that this is going to change. In fact, according to Canadian statistics (Statistita), Canada counts among the biggest online markets in the Americas. If fact, digital audiences in Canada are projected to grow to nearly 35 million online users by 2023. In 2021 86 percent of online adults had accessed the internet via desktop or laptop computer.

This is not a trend and will only continue to grow with each passing year. The time to adapt to the digital age is upon us and by incorporating a digital strategy into your Indigenous

Engagements will only enhance and improve your bottom line results.

At CIPS we are experts in both offline and online Indigenous Engagements. We have been developing digital Indigenous Engagement strategies for years and have experts who know how to do it.

We know which software platforms work best, which types of strategies to use and best of all we have the methodology for a successful Indigenous digital engagement.

Give us a call today at (705) 657-1126 or by email at:

To set up a short 15 minute consultation with our CEO, Mike Jacobs, please see this page here.

Chi Miigwetch (thank you) and good luck!

The offline approach to capturing information using a traditional whiteboard
Digital approach to capturing audience input using the platform called "Miro"

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