All posts by RowenaF

10 things we wish you had been there to hear at our 2016 Scottish user group

We kicked off our 2016 user groups in fine style up in Edinburgh this week. This one was hosted in collaboration with the Scottish Government, and the day was particularly exciting as it included our very first Dialogue user group in the afternoon.  The user groups are a regular opportunity for customers to catch up, to see how others in similar roles are using their platforms to manage their online consultation and engagement activity, and hopefully to pick up some interesting tips and insights.

SGusergroup
So, for the benefit of those who weren’t at the event, we’ve a quick round-up of 10 things we wish you could’ve been there to hear. Without further ado:

1. Timing is key

This is particularly pertinent as many of our UK customers are currently in purdah (pre-election period), so are not able to begin new consultations and would have needed to time their engagement activity carefully before this period began.

The key is ensuring consultation or challenge launch, promotion and feedback are timed correctly as this can impact on the success of the exercise. This might include timing promotion throughout the consultation period and not just at the start and end. Or when it comes to Dialogue, giving a challenge a specific window of time to run, as this can encourage participation:

“Dialogue has to be alive, the shorter a challenge is open the better”

Christine Connolly , Digital Engagement Manager, The Scottish Government

Our Dialogue Success Guide has a few tips on structuring when you run your challenges.

2. Using Dialogue for Participatory Budgeting (PB) can help generate ideas which may otherwise have not been heard

At the beginning of 2016, Glasgow City Council used their Dialogue instance  to consult on how they should save £130m in their budget consultation. In order to consult with as many stakeholders as possible, Glasgow ran their budget challenge at the same time as three associated events. What was immediately clear, was that the ideas generated at the events were different to those which had been received online. This helped ensure that views were heard from stakeholders who might not have otherwise provided their thoughts on the topic.

3. Processes are made for sharing

One of the most useful outputs of our user groups is hearing how our users create processes around their tools which can then be shared with other organisations. In our first UK user group in 2014, we heard how Leicester City Council had implemented a consultation tracker to manage their consultation activity – an idea for an effective process which came up again during our Scottish user group. If a consultation wasn’t listed on the tracker by a certain date it, then it wouldn’t be published on Citizen Space: this helped Leicester CC to ensure consistency in approach by giving them enough time to create quality consultations.

Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 11.12.56
Image source: Leicester City Council

4. Review and improve little and often

Both Edinburgh City Council and the Scottish Government are not only reviewing their processes internally, but are also asking their respondents to feedback to them on how they have found the consultation. They do this by asking a standard question at the end of all surveys, meaning it’s possible for them to track satisfaction levels and to review their approach to online consultation.

5. Making the most of the Citizen Space support page can really help internal processes

One of our digital heroes, Emma McEwan presented how Edinburgh City Council have adopted their Citizen Space in the last couple of years. Following the launch of Citizen Space version 2 last year, Edinburgh were able to add in a support page to their instance detailing how to get support with online consultation from inside the council, and also sharing an issues log of what questions or queries had been raised and the associated answers.

Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 11.38.39

 

6. Make the most of the digital toolbox already availableScreen Shot 2016-04-28 at 10.31.29Making the most of existing digital tools can help compliment an engagement exercise. Glasgow City Council have one of the largest Twitter followings of any local authority in the UK. With this expertise, they decided to take a similar approach to running their budget challenge on Dialogue as they do on Twitter.

“We didn’t want to be too heavy-handed in our approach when it came to moderation. We really wanted to let the conversation flow as much as possible on Dialogue like we do on Twitter”

Gary Hurr, Strategic Web and Customer Care Manager, Glasgow City Council

In order to ensure that Glasgow City Council ran a well-promoted budgeting exercise, its chief executive hosted a Twitter Q&A and they published the outputs on their budget page. In order to feedback on the whole process, the council used Storify to display the Tweets received.

7. Don’t let anything slip through the net: supporting your users

Digital engagement includes a broad spectrum of responsibilities and knowledge learnt. Tools like Zendesk can help ensure this knowledge is recorded and shared in the right way and that your colleagues’ requests for your expert help don’t get lost in your overflowing inbox. At Delib, we use Zendesk to manage our online support and knowledge base of help articles. It’s a pretty big job to keep this updated, but an important one to support the thousands of people that use our software. The Government Digital Service (GDS, UK) has also been using Zendesk since 2012 and the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS, UK) also uses Zendesk to manage its digital ticketing work flow.

8. Make something you are proud to share and use plain English

This was a key message from most customers at the user group and one of Edinburgh City Council’s key learnings since adopting their Citizen Space instance in 2014. Making something you are proud to share goes hand in hand with giving yourself the time to pilot surveys. Often you will know when a big consultation is about to spring up, but the smaller ones can slip through the net without any quality assurance run against them to check whether they have been translated from policy speak to plain English.

9. Running internal meetings with colleagues can help share important messages about how you do online consultation

Another of the key questions which came out of the user group was around how to encourage different teams to begin doing online consultation (adopting a de-centralised approach) and to ensure the quality of consultations they are running is high. To help solve this, Edinburgh City Council run regular internal meetings with their Citizen Space ‘power users’ alongside their own internal user group twice a year to share information and best practice.

10. Decide early how you are going to analyse and feedback to respondents, but be open to adapting your planned approach

Before launching the budget challenge on their Dialogue instance, Edinburgh City Council decided that they would get back to the top five highest rated ideas as part of their feedback process. As it turned out, the top five which had the highest rated average vote didn’t fully capture other ideas which generated equally important discussions, so they responded to the top fifteen ideas: adapting their feedback criteria appropriately.

We hope you enjoyed the user group as much as we did and if you didn’t have time to attend don’t fret we’ll most certainly be holding more user groups in 2016 with London up next. In 2015, we ran no fewer than 5 user groups around the world: kicking off in Scotland and finishing in Australia.  Here’s a summary of the other user groups we ran around the world last year:

London: October 2015
Perth (Western Australia): October 2015
Canberra (ACT, Australia): October 2015

Digital Heroes – Glenn Cowling and Lettie Pope

Glenn Cowling and Lettie PopeBack in November, I had the pleasure of traveling to Canberra to meet the Australian Government Department of Industry, Innovation and Science – including the excellent Glenn and Lettie. Determined to establish, amongst other things, important facts such as their biscuit-dunking preferences, I gave them the full digital heroes treatment. This is, quite literally, what they said…

1. What’s your name and where are you from?
GC: Glenn, I was born in Canberra and have always lived here. I’ve been in the public service for 13 years now and working at the Department of Industry for the past 10 years.
LP: Lettie, I was born in Zimbabwe and have been in the public service living in Canberra for the past 9 years. I’ve been at the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science for that period but in several different divisions within the department.

2. What do you do for a living?
We’re both Digital Online Communications Officers and Statistical Liaison Officers for the department. This means we get to represent the department on different issues related to this every six months.

3. Favourite band and / or artist?
GC: My favourite band of all time has to be Queen 🙂
LP: I’d have to say Adam Lambert. He’s my favourite at the moment.

4. Creature of habit or maverick thinker?
GC: Maverick Thinker
LP: Creature of Habit
(“Well, that’s why we make a good team then”, chuckles Glenn)

5. Your house is on fire, what do you save?
GC: Urm, myself!
LP: My children
(Very noble answers – you sure you don’t want to chuck in, say, a letter from Arsene Wenger? :p)

6. Biscuits – dunk or leave unsullied?
GC: I don’t normally dunk biscuits.
LP: It depends on the biscuit really. Are we talking about Tim Tams?! I don’t like soggy in the bottom of my tea.

7. What does digital democracy mean to you (or maybe, what should digital democracy mean)?
GC: In my opinion, digital democracy means that everyone has their say. In this day and age with web accessibility and digital-first being so key, it’s a great thing to think about how we can make the most of the opportunities available to us now.
LP: Digital engagement is so important. It means that everyone has equal opportunity to get involved.

8. Where do you see the field of digital democracy/ digital engagement in ten years? Opportunities and pitfalls?
GC: Online voting would be great. I think initiatives like this will be on the rise anyway. It’s also about having a greater availability of information on all devices. The younger, digitally native population will hopefully help with this. They are the ones driving the digital train!
LP: For me it’s about a greater availability of information for everyone. Or Terminator?!

9. Best project you’ve worked on at the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science and why?
GC: I’d actually have to say getting the consultation hub (Citizen Space) up and running and educating people in a more online space. Showing them the benefits of consulting digitally and educating our staff on the benefits of a digital first focus has been exciting.
LP: It’s nice to provide something to the department which holds the benefits of being both time-saving and cost-effective. It’s a great feeling to know that we’re providing a tool that has been endorsed by our secretary so we get the benefits from this too (Citizen Space has been endorsed at executive level in the Department of Industry)

10. Any shout-outs?
GC: I’d have to say thanks to Delib for the wonderful support. If we ever need to send a support email, it actually gets responded to! Thanks also to our manager, Cas, for allowing us to dedicate the time and educate our staff on digital engagement.
LP: I agree it’s great to tell our clients that the support email actually works and to have faith in that 🙂

(I promise I didn’t even give them so much as a mildly-threatening glower in these answers…)

So there you have it!

Friday consultation round up

It’s April – and for those of us in the UK that (hopefully) means Spring sunshine and lighter evenings! The Easter break has provided a momentary pause for some customers; whilst others have been as busy as ever creating and publishing a range of consultations. Thanks to our Citizen Space Aggregator, we are able to quickly see what our customers have been consulting on. Here are our top picks of consultations running this week:

1) East Sussex County Council (UK) is consulting on changes to library opening hours

Screen Shot 2016-04-01 at 12.08.34This consultation is well laid out – making use of bullet points to ensure the key changes are clearly communicated on the consultation overview page. In order to ensure the survey is provided in an alternative format, a printable option is included as an attachment which can be easily downloaded by respondents. The online survey itself is also structured in a ‘non-linear format‘ which enables respondents to comment on as many or as few libraries as they like. Nice custom logo added, too.

2) The Department of Health (UK) is consulting on how to improve support for carers

A lot of preparation went into this survey, and the design pays special attention to ensuring the views of all carers are collected, including those of young and unpaid carers. Skip logic has been used to direct respondents to appropriate questions for them – an important step to save their respondents time.

The consultation also makes use of rich media on the overview page with an embedded video introducing users to the subject:

3) The Scottish Government (UK) is consulting on landing controls for the Scottish crab and lobster fisheries

The Scottish Government has been especially busy the past couple of weeks, publishing a number of consultations. One of the consultations that caught my eye is on ‘landing controls for the Scottish crab and lobster fisheries’. This engagement exercise seeks the views of those with an interest in these industries in order to inform policy decisions. Scotland’s fishing industry is an important part of rural life in Scotland, and this consultation seeks to improve the overall health of this industry via improved landing controls.
Screen Shot 2016-04-01 at 12.53.39
The consultation uses relevant images and documentation, as well as a custom logo to clearly indicate that the consultation is being run by Marine Scotland. To ensure that respondents are clear on the whole approach being taken, the policy document is embedded on the consultation overview page using Citizen Space’s document embedder.

4) Winchester City Council (UK) is using its Citizen Space as a sign up form for its Citizen’s Panel

This simple, but clear example of using a survey as a sign up form, highlights the continued diversity of uses for Citizen Space beyond consultations and surveys. Winchester City Council has made effective use of the custom call to action to clearly indicate what the sign up form is being used for.

Screen Shot 2016-04-01 at 13.00.29
5) The London Borough of Southwark (UK) is consulting on Southwark Park

Screen Shot 2016-04-01 at 12.19.54The London Borough of Southwark is running a great example of a follow-up consultation which is being run exactly a year after the initial engagement exercise. In March 2015, Southwark Council consulted with local residents and park users on a number of options to improve Southwark Park. The council is in now developing the plans for the new building and nursery site based on the feedback received in March 2015.

To ensure that residents are both aware of the consultation and can have their views heard, Southwark has linked associated events: this includes having Council staff available throughout Easter half-term to discuss the proposals. The survey is short and makes effective use of fact-banks to present the plans in development.

That’s just a small selection of some stand-out consultations being run. Tell us if you have a consultation to shout about, it’s one of the things we love doing doing the most! Until next time…

Friday consultation round-up

We’ve been excitedly sharing great examples of consultations between our global offices today. Thanks to our recently improved Citizen Space Aggregator, we are able to quickly see what our whole customer base are consulting on. Without further ado, here’s our top picks of consultations running this week:

1) Bristol City Council (UK) are consulting on the Temple Quarter Spatial Framework
Screen Shot 2016-03-18 at 10.44.41The council have used visionary images within their consultation record to set out how this area of the city can become a thriving new city quarter over the next 25 years. The consultation is set-up using a non-linear format and makes great use of Citizen Space’s .pdf document embedder.

2) The Department of Industry, Innovation and Science (AU) are consulting on the Review of the Space Activities Act 1998

Space_activities_tile
Using relevant imagery and background information, this is a great example of a scientific consultation which is being opened out to the wider public for their views.

3) The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA, UK) are consulting on proposals for a revised airspace change process

Our newest Citizen Space customers have launched their first consultation this week. With a large amount of information to include, CAA have made excellent use of non-linear surveys in order to present the information in a digestible format to respondents.

4) London Borough of Sutton (UK) are consulting on their local plan

Screen Shot 2016-03-18 at 11.18.02This consultation deals with subject matters such as: major new regeneration areas, new housing developments and sets out a vision for this London Borough. The consultation makes great use of skip-logic in order to ‘route’ respondents between areas of interest to them.

5) Cycle Enfield (UK) are consulting on the A1010 South SchemeScreen Shot 2016-03-18 at 11.11.21
A number of our customers have been consulting with cyclists recently and one great example is the Cycle Enfield project. In order to educate and inform respondents about the overall scheme, Cycle Enfield include an animated video on the front page of their consultation record. The actual consultation is also supported by a series of events which are clearly linked from the consultation overview page.

That’s your lot for this week. Tell us if you have a consultation to shout about, it’s one of the things we enjoy doing the most! Until next time…

How our Citizen Space customers are consulting with cyclists

Thanks to our Citizen Space Aggregator, it’s possible to quickly identify who our Citizen Space customers are consulting with and on what topics. Among the many audiences our customers are increasingly seeking views from are cyclists.  Here’s a quick round-up of some of the ways they’re going about it:

Using illustrative visuals

Transport for London (TfL) are currently consulting on further improvements to lorry safety in London: a consultation which includes some excellent illustrative visuals. These images clearly depict the differences being proposed (namely, having lorries operating in London that are fitted with vision panels in passenger side doors for improved visibility of cyclists).

4 Lorry interior with panel_colour
Source: TfL ‘Further improving lorry safety in London’ consultation


Embedding videos explaining schemes

The London Borough of Enfield are using their Citizen Space instance to consult with residents on the fourth scheme of their ‘Cycle Enfield’ project, for which they recently secured £30m of funding from Transport for London. This funding is proposed to be used for new cycle routes, improving the use of existing routes, developing green ways, secure bike parking  and investing in local projects. All these proposals are clearly explained in the introductory video on the consultation overview page which respondents can watch before completing the consultation.

Consulting on strategic issues: new super routes

Camden Council are consulting on ‘Brunswick Square Walking and Cycling Improvements‘, a project which which aims to capitalise on proposals from nearby schemes which have identified Brunswick Square as an important intersection of east-west and north-south cycle movements. In order to clearly present the proposed changes, Camden Council have included side-by-side images of both current and future state for the square. This helps respondents re-imagine how cycling can become a key part of improvements.

Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 11.49.27

Running staged local consultations and associated events

Southwark Council are currently consulting on improvements to a number of quiet ways: a network of bike routes for less confident cyclists using mainly low-traffic back streets. The council are consulting 6 different areas of the borough in total; including running 4 different consultations concurrently. One of these examples is the ‘Elephant and Castle to Crystal Palace Quietway (QW7) Turney Road‘. In order to provide cyclists with the opportunity to comment, Southwark have also included a number of associated events which are running on a weekly basis in nearby schools and town halls. Both the events and associated consultations are linked from the consultation hub page:

Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 11.34.21

Transport for London are also holding a number of public events as part of their consultation on the new East-West cycle super highway from Paddington to Acton. Again these events are clearly displayed on the consultation home page.

Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 16.50.08

Use tables to detail proposed changes

Edinburgh City Council used tables on the consultation overview page of their ‘Roseburn to Leith walk cycle link and street improvements consultation‘ to present proposed changes in a clear format to respondents. By breaking down the changes by geographical area, cyclists can quickly see which changes apply to them.

Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 11.40.58

Consulting on ‘hyper-local’ issues: bike hangars

A small handful of our customers have also been consulting on ‘bike hangars’ recently: an example of ‘hyper-local’ consultation. For instance, both Camden Council and Southwark Council are consulting on where bike-hangars should be installed. Using images of how the bike hangars will look helps residents consider how they’d feel about them being installed in their own neighbourhood.

2014 09 17 LB Southwark - Hayles St - Bikehangar Installation -1- -2- blurred
Source: London Borough of Southwark

Lots of the examples above provide ideas for how to make the most of the consultation overview page. Here’s a handful of top tips for optimising your own cycling surveys:

Have you seen any great examples of methods to consult with cyclists online which we haven’t included above? We’re always interested in seeing how our customers are making the most of the tools at their disposal!

 

10 tips for producing a great consultation report

We know from our customers that publishing a consultation report with the right level of digestible information for respondents can be a challenge. Consultation feedback reports can run from a single page through to hundreds. The length, flow and set-up will often vary on a per-consultation basis, making it difficult to completely standardise the approach. For anyone struggling with putting a good consultation report together, here are 10 examples from our customers demonstrating 10 things that it could be useful to include:

1. Clarity on where the consultation was publicised

Letting respondents know where and how the consultation was publicised can help reassure them that the whole exercise wasn’t a ‘non-consultation’.

For instance, Transport for London (TfL) ran a consultation on the designs for a new public square in Elephant & Castle. As part of this, they created handy, visually-appealing leaflets and consultation posters clearly stating when the consultation was due to close. TfL included images of these in the appendix of their final feedback report.TFL example leafletIncluding example consultation promotion material at the end of your consultation report like this can help readers understand how and where the consultation was publicised.

2. Provide a clear overview of who responded in which method

Who has responded to your consultation and in which format? Breaking down consultation responses by response mechanism or format can provide helpful context of where responses came from.

For example, in their Bakerloo line extension consultation, Transport for London provided an overview of the response types and associated percentage make-up of the full data set. Presenting this information in a tabular format helps ensure that the key headline statistics are clear to the reader.

Tfl response type table

3. Report back on any associated consultation events in your report

As part of their Tewkesbury Borough Plan summary report, Tewkesbury Borough Council used billboards to provide a visual display of priorities being consulted on. They then included reference to these consultation boards in their final report.

Tewkesbury offline exampleAssociated events can act as part of your evidence base for your consultation report. By including photos from these events within the report, respondents who didn’t attend in person can still see that they happened and what role they played.

NB: if the information is used towards the case, do remember to write a transcript of the key points, as people’s handwriting and photos alone can be hard to read.

4. Include infographics and maps which are easy to read

Including as much contextual information as possible is important to ensure that your respondents engage with the topic at hand. Transport for London are really well-versed in including helpful infographics – both in their consultations but also in feedback reports. For example, they included a map showing where responses came from as part of their river crossings consultation feedback report.

TfL location of respondents

It’s also key to keep infographics and word clouds simple. For example, the Western Australia Department of Health (WA Health) included a useful word cloud on one of their questions in the ‘Your Say on Cancer in WA’ consultation. Using word clouds to feed back on key qualitative data can help bring the themes to life.

Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 16.01.58

5. Quote your respondents to make the report more personal

Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 16.00.26
Providing some of the stand-out suggestions in response to consultation questions can show that respondent feedback has been directly taken into account. WA Health successfully did this following their ‘Your Say on Cancer in WA’ consultation.

6. Be as transparent as possible about where this info has come from

It’s useful for respondents to know what and who fed into a consultation’s overall findings. You can provide helpful transparency about the consultation process itself by including things like:

a. Respondent list

Some organisations choose to include a list of respondents in an appendix of a report (providing the respondents have consented to this), making it clear who has responded to the consultation. Citizen Space also includes the option to publish responses online, again with respondents’ consent. The Scottish Government uses response publishing on a regular basis, for example, and have used this feature in order to publish responses on consultations of national interest such as the Scottish National Tree consultation.

b. Respondent by type

Sometimes it can be helpful to identify different groups of respondents – for example, organisations vs private individuals.  As part of their feedback report on standardising tobacco packaging, the Department of Health published a clear overview of campaign responses and how these participants felt about the issue at hand.

Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 16.43.56

c. The questions we asked

For transparency and context,  it’s also worth publishing the questions asked in the original consultation. This can be achieved using Citizen Space’s ‘print survey’ feature and including the resulting PDF as an attachment on the consultation overview page.

7. Provide context from other countries’ research

Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 16.34.08To provide context and an evidence base for a consultation, it’s useful to link back to any previous consultations on the topic – and, where possible, to research from other countries. The UK Department of Health, for example, referenced research from Australia in their Tobacco Packaging consultation summary report. Including a consultation ‘evidence base’ helps ensure the outcomes and decision based on the report hold more weight.

8. Update your Citizen Space consultation record to complete the feedback loop

It’s always useful to keep the consultation overview page up to date, so that respondents can see your progress. Ideally, as soon as your feedback report is ready, upload it as an attachment via the Citizen Space ‘publish results’ feature so that participants can access it. A bit like Transport for London did with their design for a new public square for Elephant and Castle consultation.

If you know it’s going to be some time before a final report is available, at least provide an interim update saying as much on the consultation overview page.

9. Be prepared to outsource when needed

Some high profile consultations can generate a lot of qualitative (free text) responses, which can be time-consuming to analyse and to report on in a concise way. Both HS2 and BBC Trust spoke about the importance of creating a ‘data journey’ at the beginning of a consultation during the 2015 user group to deal with high volumes of responses. WA Health called on support from a local university to produce the infographics for their ‘your say in cancer in WA’ consultation.

10. Create a template for reports

In order to ensure that reports look consistent and in line with brand guidelines, it’s useful to establish at the very least a basic consultation report template with key headlines. You can also include some standard titles such as “Purpose of this consultation” and “Background to consultation”, helping give a clear structure. For a good example of strong visual identity applied consistently, see Defra’s feedback reports.

Further possibilities

Reporting is a really important part of the consultation process, and one at which we want our customers to excel. All of these ideas are simple things which can be incorporated to make reports as useful to respondents as possible. Of course, there’s still plenty of room for innovation here. For example, has anyone considered using audio feedback via SoundCloud? Or video/live streaming of feedback events via Periscope? We’re always eager to see new ways our customers will improve their practice and processes, so if you’re reading this and are keen to ‘disrupt’ reporting, get in touch!

Introducing our 2016 Citizen Space and Dialogue Scottish User Group

In 2015, we ran no fewer than 5 user groups around the world: kicking off in Scotland and finishing in Australia. Our first 2016 user group will be held once again in collaboration with the Scottish Government in Edinburgh on Tuesday 26th April. This time, we’ll be running things a little differently and including a session on Dialogue in the afternoon. This will be our first Dialogue user group so we’re really excited to see what our customers have been up to.

BIS-Digtial-Engagement-300x135
Image courtesy of @bisgovuk Department of Business Innovation and Skills


Who is the user group for?

Digital leads, analysts, policy leads, communication managers – anyone using Citizen Space or Dialogue.

1-2 people will be initially invited from each organisation currently using Citizen Space or Dialogue in Scotland and Cumbria. Tickets will be allocated on a first-come-first-served basis but if you’re reading this and interested in attending, please email rowena@delib.net.

What should I expect?
The morning session (10am-12.30pm) will focus on Citizen Space. Lunch (12.30pm-1.30pm) will be provided. The afternoon session (1.30pm-3pm) will focus on Dialogue. Participants are welcome to attend all sessions.

Talks will focus on all things digital engagement, including the following:

  • An opportunity to meet other Citizen Space and Dialogue users from across local and central government
  • Show-and-tell of recent or upcoming engagement exercises by current users. Review of the process and challenges of how you do consultation
  • Citizen Space and Dialogue roadmaps – we’ll talk through our plans for development and get your input
  • Digital surgery on any questions/topics requested, such as governance and promotion

This is our second Citizen Space user group to be held in Scotland. If you’re not sure what to expect, check out these learnings from our user group in London last year.

These sessions work best with real examples from the coal-face. If you’re interested in sharing how you do great consultation or if you have a proven process please email rowena@delib.net

How The Australian Federal Department of Industry, Innovation and Science used Citizen Space to consult on ways of working

The Australian Federal Department of Industry, Innovation and Science have been using their Citizen Space instance for the past two years to run a variety of external and internal consultations. Endorsed by their executive, the department’s use of the tool is only continuing to grow.

One consultation which particularly caught our eye, and which was presented by the consultation team during our ACT user group in Canberra, was their series of internal ‘ways of working’ surveys. The aim of these surveys is to determine how different members of staff like to work in order to inform how their new work space will look.

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 12.27.33

In order to create the survey, the department enlisted an external company to create a series of images to depict the topics at hand. Spread across 10 key themes ranging from ‘chat’ through to ‘create’, the survey asks respondents to rate how important each of the different themes are to them.

“Using these kind of images are not so ‘government’ which I think helps” (Paulette Pope)

The consultation also helps to identify how different individuals like to work across different divisions and in different roles in the organisation. Using Citizen Space’s survey cloning feature, the department could create the survey and then clone it for each additional division. This helped ensure that the data was kept separate across the different divisions being consulted with. The data could also be broken down by staff role – meaning the department could look for similarities in how, say, project officers like to work.

The department was also able to take advantage of Citizen Space’s private consultation feature in order to run the consultations. An additional benefit of running these internal ‘ways of working’ surveys on the platform is that it has helped to promote the use of Citizen Space internally: the department saw a noticeable spike in the use of Citizen Space following the initial phase of the project. The message of ‘digital first’ is also being seen and reinforced by the whole department.

The consultation outcome has helped the team shape the way that their offices are fitted out. The project is able to move a whole floor or division out, consult and see what their preference is before taking into account the feedback and moving them back in. Depending on the staff preferences identified through the survey, each office will be fitted with different desks and layout.

“There has been a direct correlation between feedback from the survey and how the offices have been fitted out” (Glenn Cowling)

The program and changes which are happening here also help to improve the health of workers – to ensure they have sufficient breaks, the work setup they need and are supported in managing an appropriate work-life balance.

Thorough consultation informing substantive change, run via Citizen Space? That’s the kind of thing we’re always pleased to hear about.

5 things I learnt from AU/NZ about online consultation & digital services in government

Australia, New Zealand and the UK are often considered among the world leaders when it comes to digital government/online public involvement. Having recently returned from a secondment to Australia and New Zealand, I wanted to reflect back on what we in the UK can learn from these markets and our customers there.

To set the scene quickly: let’s remind ourselves how far digital in government has progressed in all three countries. With digital increasingly recognised as a ‘given’ (even declared a basic human right in a recent UN report), all three countries have been taking online developments seriously in government – perhaps especially over the past 5 or 6 years:

Each of these countries are striving to make rapid advances in online government in their own different contexts. So what can the UK/what did I learn from Australia and New Zealand about digital government and online consultation? Here are 5 things that stuck with me from my trip:

  1. Make consultations even more informative
    One thing that struck me, even during my first week in Australia, was how genuinely informative our customers there make some of their formal consultations. The WA Health cancer care consultation, for example, which was showcased during our first Australian user group in Perth, uses infographics and a user-friendly layout throughout the consultation – so taking part is a real opportunity for respondents to learn about the issues as well as to give their feedback.
  2. Become more familiar with APIs and what they can do
    Our New Zealand customers have been some of the first to embrace full use of our Citizen Space API: an incredibly useful and flexible tool but one that’s not always well-known or well-understood. However, I found it possible to walk into meetings in Australia and New Zealand and for there to be an assumed understanding about APIs and their potential – demonstrating a level of technical awareness that’s great to see.
  3. Develop more of a culture of ‘doing first’
    In New Zealand in particular, I was struck by government employees’ appetite to ‘get stuck in’ and make things happen. That’s not to say there was no planning or strategy, which obviously are hugely valuable too. But I think sometimes in the UK we can err on the side of cautious preparation a little too much, and could do with ‘just launching in’ sometimes. The civil servants I met in Wellington were also incredibly pragmatic in their approach, often working on an iterative basis: ‘doing’ first and then quickly working out how to make improvements.
  4. Keep taking privacy and data security seriously
    I found lots of organisations in Australia are pretty stringent on protocol – which certainly has its benefits when it comes to security. In my training sessions there, people were already very aware of things like good practice for strong passwords – and instinctively tended towards general ‘safety-first’ behaviour, even if it was less convenient or not strictly necessary. This is no bad thing.
  5. Sometimes, being a bit more direct is a good thing
    One of the things I noticed whilst walking around Wellington were posters focusing on the conversation about improving the New Zealand family violence law: a campaign closely linked to a consultation which was recently run on their Citizen Space instance. The Australian government also led the way with the implementation of plain tobacco packaging, again taking a very direct tone and outreach strategy on the issue. Whilst the UK tendency might be towards more circumspect communications (perhaps to avoid being accused of taking a particular position), I certainly think there are times when a pretty bold, direct approach is a helpful way to drive public participation.

One of the key benefits of working for an international company like Delib with offices and customers around the world is that we can each learn new techniques or insights into how different countries operate their online involvement work. Often, we’ll look at our Citizen Space aggregator and find that two departments on opposite sides of the worlds are consulting on a similar issue. Things like this can provide fantastic opportunities to link up and share best practice, ideas and lessons learnt. Hopefully, that will only accelerate improvements to online interactions between citizens and government right around the world.

City of Edinburgh Council run their first internal Citizen Space user group

Since launching their Citizen Space hub in September 2014, The City of Edinburgh Council in Scotland have published over 70 consultations on a wide range of different subjects. Topics consulted on (so far!) have ranged from the council’s budget for 2016-20 to 20mph speed limits for Edinburgh. In order to continue the successful roll out of Citizen Space across the organisation, the council took the initiative to organise their own internal user group.

I know that those of us who attended the Scottish Citizen Space User Group last year found it really useful – so I wanted to do something similar for the rest of our users who couldn’t make it along or are new to the hub
Emma McEwan: Senior Business Intelligence Officer

Edinburgh City Council hubRunning their first internal user group has enabled Edinburgh to reflect back on their Citizen Space adoption so far, and also to look ahead at how they continue to implement best practice consultation. Edinburgh were pleased with the attendance, comprising some who had never used Citizen Space before and wanted to, as well as others who had used the tool frequently and were able to share ideas and tips.

Prior to the user group, Citizen Space lead Emma McEwan took some time to assess how Edinburgh City Council have been using Citizen Space. This review enabled her to identify opportunities such as using Citizen Space’s non-linear surveys more often. By showing the group how this feature had been used in an interesting/engaging way by other organisations, Emma was able to open the eyes of the administrators to additional possibilities available to them.

 “I know the guys in Transport, Planning and Licensing all loved non-linear surveys as they tend to consult on really detailed topics like the ones shown… so it gave them plenty food for thought!”
Emma McEwan: Senior Business Intelligence Officer

In terms of format, the day was broken into small manageable chunks ranging from updates on new features added to Citizen Space, to specific case studies of use across Edinburgh City Council. The user group saw a number of informal presentations from colleagues in Health and Social Care, Planning & Building Standards, and Communities & Families. The presentations focused on what the different departments had recently consulted on, the challenges they faced and also what’s in the pipeline.

Key challenges raised during the user group included the following:

  • making sure the organisation has enough time to plan consultations effectively
  • highlighting the importance of piloting surveys,
  • focusing on how important it is to promote consultations effectively
  • making consultations as engaging as possible

A handy list of practical tips also started emerging from the session, like when to use checkboxes vs radio buttons and the importance of using plain English. Following in the footsteps of the Scottish Government, the idea of asking for feedback on the actual consultation process was also suggested.

Following the initial success of this session, Edinburgh are thinking of holding user groups every six months. They hope to continue to improve upon the sessions and format, and have identified that the user groups could be a great opportunity to bring in guest speakers. For example, a dedicated training session on data security or privacy could help with up-skilling the team.

We’ll be continuing to run our annual Citizen Space user groups both in the UK and Australia, but if you’re interested in following Edinburgh’s lead and arranging your own user group for your organisation then here are some top tips:

  • Manage the attendee list via handy free tools such as Eventbrite – helps steer clear of Excel lists!
  • Invite guest speakers from outside the organisation to present to your group
  • Ask us for examples of great consultations which you can show your attendees on the day. You could also check our aggregator for consultations being run by other orgs
  • Ensure the room is set up in a format which reflects how you want the session to run. If the session needs to be more discursive, a round table may be best
  • Ask users to talk about a particular consultation they’ve run and to give their honest insight about the process
  • Keep the session as informal as you can and, if possible, provide coffee/food/snacks
  • Collate product development feedback from the day and feed this back to your Delib account manager
  • Use the session as an opportunity to launch any new procedures, your own guidance on good consultation, and top tips/learnings
  • Feedback to attendees following the event
  • Encourage attendees to get to know one another and to carry on the conversation/collaboration after the event