A mini Scottish adventure of sorts

One of the best parts of my role as an Account Manager is to get out of the office and visit customers. When people first start using Citizen Space, they often want a day or two of training to help them make the most of it. When we train customers, we go to them – so when Falkirk Council requested an in-house training day, I got to jump on a flight to Scotland.

We’ve got lots of customers in that part of the world so I also thought this would be a great opportunity to stay on for a couple of days and meet other customers nearby. The last time I was in Scotland was for our annual Scottish user group back in Edinburgh back in April, so it was nice to pop in and see how people having been getting on since then.

View from Falkirk's offices
View from Falkirk’s offices

First up were Falkirk Council. Falkirk originally chose to adopt Citizen Space to improve their online consultation processes and centralise their consultations in one location. My role here was twofold: 1) to help users get to grips technically with the tool and 2) to help the organisation establish processes for consulting online effectively.

Training sessions are aimed for up to 10 attendees and people are often at really different starting points: some might be consultation experts but with limited digital experience; others might be really web-savvy but just not familiar with Citizen Space in particular – there’s usually a real range.

Happily, a training day on Citizen Space is not just about how to use the tool: it also helps teach attendees about consultation best practices and hone their digital skills. For example, one of the attendees on this session had come along specifically because he considered himself ‘not very tech-savvy’ and therefore if he could use Citizen Space, anyone could! So we were both pleased when he found it, in fact, pretty straightforward to successfully create an example consultation – complete with images, maps and videos embedded.

After training Falkirk, next on my list of customers to visit was Clackmannanshire (who’ve been using Citizen Space since 2013). Clackmannanshire – or Clacks as they’re often known – use Citizen Space for consultations on everything from customer satisfaction to local schools surveys. One of the things we chatted about a fair bit was reporting – not least because I said they’d done a great job with their report on the creation of a Tullibody South Campus (good transparency of data, nice mix of qual and quant content etc). It was great to pop in and meet the team.

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Stirling Castle

After visiting Clacks, it was time for a quick lunchtime walk up to the famous Stirling castle before heading to meet SEPA who have recently moved into some new offices. I trained SEPA back in 2012 when their Flood Risk Management Team originally adopted Citizen Space. Since then, their corporate comms team have adopted Citizen Space and a new director is putting digital high on the agenda.

As SEPA’s team are geographically dispersed, Citizen Space is a great way of providing a standardised consultation workflow which is shared across head office staff, colleagues working in smaller offices and people working remotely. It was great to stop by, meet the new contacts and chat them through some of the changes in the latest release of Citizen Space v3:

“v3 is great. It looks really inviting and helps make respondents feel like they are still on one of our sites” (Lorna Bryce, Campaigns and Marketing Manager, SEPA)

Chatting to SEPA, it was clear that it’s not all about the newest features we’ve released;  sometimes, it’s about reminding people what they already have available in Citizen Space and using these tools to their best advantage. For example, the PDF document viewer – which can be used to consult on plans or documents. Consultees can review the documents and then comment directly beneath, mitigating the need to download the information first. This feature was originally co-developed with SEPA when they were running their Flood Risk Management plan but the communications team hadn’t yet started using it to full advantage so it was great to chat them through how to include it.

Last stop was East Renfrewshire, who are based just south of Glasgow. East Renfrewshire are a small council who have primarily been using Citizen Space in their education team – but are now looking to roll it out more broadly across the council. Our main contact at East Renfrewshire actually works in two different roles so it’s really important that he can let colleagues ‘self-serve’ from Citizen Space.

In order to get people geared up to manage their own consultations, East Renfrewshire find it helpful to first sit-down with members of staff and give them a face-to-face run through before setting them up as a user. Recent consultations run on Citizen Space have attracted as many as 1 in 9 residents in the local area responding which is exciting.

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Having worked with a number of different Scottish customers in the past 5 years, I can say there’s a great ‘energy’ towards all things digital democracy in Scotland. There’s a real determination to actually get people involved in decision-making.

And on a journey to the station, I was reminded that when it comes to engaging with locals and getting an opinion on a recent or upcoming change, taxi drivers are often more than happy to give you the lowdown 😉