All posts by Catherine Millett

Digital Hero: Deb Thomas, Australian Treasury

We are really thrilled to introduce you to our newest Digital Hero, Deb Thomas. Deb is the
Web Manager for the Australian Treasury (on secondment from the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science).

Deb’s role involves managing priorities, to keep on top of publishing content to the sites under Treasury’s portfolio – while, at the same time, implementing digital transformation in the department. Deb is constantly striving to deliver the best digital content that she can!

Over to you Deb…

1. What’s your name and where are you from?
Deb Thomas. I’m originally from the warm and humid environment of Darwin in Australia.
Unfortunately, now I’m in Canberra. Freezing!

2. What do you do for a living?
I manage government websites. I’ve spent quite a few years at the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science running the web team, and I’m currently doing a secondment at the Australian Treasury, where at last count we have over 20 websites to manage.

3. Favourite band and/or artist?
Probably The Beatles – a classic band that will always be up there (I’ll be seeing Paul
McCartney live in concert at the end of the year which is quite exciting). Also really enjoy
listening to Angus and Julia Stone who produce some great music. Of the Disney movie
soundtracks I have to listen to at home, Moana is the least irritating.

4. Creature of habit or maverick thinker?
I’m quite a creature of habit socially – as in, I’ll habitually cancel any plans we make or hope that someone else cancels them. At work, I would say I’m much more maverick: “why do it the way you’ve always done it when you could do it better and easier?”

5. Biscuits – dunk or leave unsullied?
I don’t drink tea…. The shock of everyone dropping their cups of tea at this very moment. All of my biscuits are unsullied.

6. What does digital democracy mean to you (or maybe, what should digital democracy mean)?
Digital democracy is the next step in citizen engagement. It allows everyone to be given the same platform – it levels the ground for everyone to offer their voice, opinion and needs to government and corporations. The availability of the internet in Australia means that very few miss out and we can all impact policy development.

7. Where do you see the field of digital democracy/ digital engagement in ten years?
Opportunities and pitfalls?
I think that citizen engagement through digital tools will be a lot bigger than it is now; it will hopefully be the default step government takes with stakeholder engagement.

The reach provided will be increased in an easy and cost-effective manner which in turn will allow more to engagement opportunities, giving government a richer context to work with.

The downside to this will be if we can’t find a way to improve the level of conversation we (as a society), have online – the too-fast turnaround of information, the summary versions
rather than the full picture and people’s obsession with trolling leads to a less valuable
conversation.

If we can all mature to use the digital tools for a meaningful conversation, then we will see much more input and value given to those with the quietest voice. And hopefully some hashtags disappear (#fakenews).

8. Best project you’ve worked on at Treasury? Are there any projects coming up that you would like to highlight?
Working through the delivery of the Commonwealth Budget was very interesting – so much going on that I didn’t understand, but I was surrounded by lots of very smart and dedicated people working hard.

9. Any shout-outs?
The Department of Industry and Australian Treasury for allowing me to encourage new tools and be digital, and all the people who work here who come to me and let me take them into the world of web.

And James from Delib who lets me ask questions multiple times and understands that I have never completed the task I said I was going to do!

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There we go – finishing up with a compliment we didn’t even fish for! Thanks to Deb for the insight into her work, thoughts and views on the digital space and stakeholder engagement. We look forward to following the digital transformation at Treasury.

Metro North Takes Digital to the Community and Improves Oral Health

At Delib, we are continually inspired by the organisations we work with. And we want to introduce you to our clients who are transforming the digital engagement space and, most importantly, transforming the lives of their customers.

When their community and their health are at the heart of everything they do, and their ethos is ‘Connecting for Health’, you know Metro North Hospital and Health Service will strive for continual innovation in community engagement.

Metro North’s Oral Health Services team, led by Jan Anderson, has recently taken their consultation to community members who experience significant personal and social barriers, with the aim of enhancing and improving their health and wellbeing.

Jan and her team recognised that to connect with these patients they would need to move out of the office and clinics and connect at a location where they felt most comfortable.

To reach those customers in the Queensland community who experience high social disadvantage, homelessness, mental health, alcohol and drug addiction issues, Oral Health North partnered with leading community groups such as The Big Issue, Moonyah Recovery Services and Queensland Injector’s Health Network.

This partnership allowed the team to gather feedback about why this group might not access oral health services and how they could be encouraged to attend. But instead of delivering oral health promotion, as the team originally assumed, this open consultation gave them better insights and information on what the community wanted and needed.

As a result, Oral Health changed their plan and supported people in understanding how to make appointments and access public dental services, provided outreach, much-needed dental treatment and distributed essential items such as toothbrushes and toothpaste. This initial activity became the platform for continued outreach and engagement with the community.

One community member the team met was Mooynah client Ronnie. Ronnie (and his transformation) had a big impact on the team. After Oral Health provided him with new dentures, Ronnie’s confidence grew and he was selected to play for Australia in the Homeless Games in Glasgow. He engaged actively in community, education and ultimately employment. Ronnie is now also firmly giving back through promoting the advantages of oral health care with his peers.

While the team was focused on gaining valuable input via Citizen Space, it then also became the ‘vehicle’ through which conversations could be started and strong connections and relationships could be developed. And for those readers involved in engagement, you’ll appreciate this as a very real achievement of this program.

Metro North Consumer and Community Engagement Manager Shelley Kulperger identified that through the use of Citizen Space, data was also able to be inputted daily and ongoing evaluation carried out. This ongoing evaluation shaped the consultation and communication and team members could identify issues and react to information as it came in.

Shelley spoke to us about community engagement and what it means to Metro North, and it has really stuck with us at Delib.

Shelley reflected, “This is not just about collecting data, it’s about connecting with people.”

A Digital Engagement Company That Has People at its Core… Meet Delib

In our birthplace of the UK, Delib is a company name that many people know well. Our commitment to developing, enhancing and championing community engagement practices is evident. And through our digital engagement tools – Dialogue, Budget Simulator and Citizen Space we provide accessibility for communities to provide feedback, voice decisions and ask questions of Government, departments and organisations.

Delib’s commitment to championing their clients and their innovation is well known, and this ethos has most definitely spread to Australia and New Zealand.

For our readers who may not know the name Delib – it was founded in 2001 in the UK by three Bristol University friends who were asked by the government of the day for their thoughts on how young people could become more engaged with democracy. From this, presentations to the Hansard Society, a series of highly successful digital democracy games for school-aged children and a series of serious and not-so-serious online videos were made.

Then a man called Barack Obama phoned.

Well, one of his “people” really!

As he commenced his presidency, Obama was interested in how he could use a digital tool like Dialogue to engage with the American public, and for the first time in that government’s history- open up a digital space for people to participate in democracy.

The biggest “buzz” we get at Delib is when our clients utilise our digital tools and then spark their own innovations to enhance their interactions and engagement with their communities.

In Australia and New Zealand, our clients may not include the President of The United States but they are digitally breaking ground and transforming the online engagement space, and boy do we love it.

Clients like Metro North Health in Queensland are re-shaping their internal communication practices to create their own Super-User Groups to collectively get the most out of Citizen Space.

They are also taking digital engagement to their stakeholders, having face-to-face conversations, and then utilising the collected data to shape the way oral health is delivered to those who face significant health and wellness challenges.

And across the Tasman, Hamilton City Council is using Citizen Space to transform the way they interact with their residents. The accessibility of Citizen Space has ensured a record number of stakeholders have participated for the first time in an engagement program.

When our clients are shaping our own work through their feedback, ideas and influence- we can’t help but celebrate them.  We look forward to introducing more of our clients to you with the aim of creating even more ideas, discussion and conversations with us, with your communities and within your own workplaces.

We can’t wait to share.

But more importantly- we look forward to listening.