Category Archives: Citizen Space

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!

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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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5. Quote your respondents to make the report more personal

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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.

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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!

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.

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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.

A Few Questions with Matthew Scott

Citizen Space is used to run an awful lot of consultations (as you may have noticed) and Matthew Scott 2occasionally our customers need to outsource their analysis and reporting, for one reason or another. One of the companies who provide such a service are TONIC, a research consultancy based in Kent, headed up by Matthew Scott. And, sure enough, he is the subject of this latest instalment of my fine interview series. Who is Matthew? What does he do for a living? More to the point, does he dunk his biscuits? Let’s find out…

1. What’s your name and where are you from?
My name is Matthew Scott and I live in Kent.

2. What do you do for a living?
I started TONIC 10 years ago because it was frustrating working as an employee in public sector bodies that struggled to be innovative and truly democratic. I wanted to improve the way public services were designed and run – generating insights from their customers and looking at service users as assets who can deliver services as well as use them.

TONIC has been great fun as we have had the chance to be involved in lots of exciting projects, making real change happen and ensuring that the public get their views heard and get to make a real difference.

We take an inclusive research and evidence-based approach to all our work, priding ourselves on our transparency and commitment to doing an excellent job every time.  All our team are experienced practitioners and commissioners as well as researchers, and really bring these qualities to their work. For our independent public consultation analysis, this means we can get to a deeper understanding of the responses and help organisations to interpret and implement what the public and stakeholders are asking for.

3. Favourite band/artist?
Difficult to answer this as I like many styles of music, but for band I would go for Led Zeppelin.

4. Android or iPhone?
iPhone – although I have a nagging doubt that it may not be any better than Android, just sleeker!

5. PC or Mac?
Definitely Mac – more intuitive, quicker for the jobs I need it to do and absolutely reliable when under pressure.

6. Creature of habit or maverick thinker?
A bit of both. For analysis work, it is good to habitually follow trusted processes which lead to reliable and robust findings. However, I also need to be flexible and creative when running co-design workshops with service users and providers, or running deliberative events to find out new things and help create original ideas. Albert Einstein said “imagination is more important than knowledge”, so I find it is best to try to forget what you know when working creatively and have an open mind to new ways of doing things.

7. Your house is on fire, what do you save?
My wife and 3 children.

8. Biscuits – dunk or leave unsullied?
Unsullied, but then chased down with tea.

9. Best project you’ve worked on and why?
I really enjoy all our projects, but a series of independent public consultation analysis projects we have run for the Department of Health have been particularly memorable due to the large number of responses received – over 1 million in total!  I remember my surprise when I arrived at our offices one morning to find an entire room full from floor to ceiling with boxes of responses for us to analyse.  That image will stay with me for a long time. Once we had got to grips with all the data, it was gratifying to see our analysis take shape, with key themes emerging that we could explore in detail – we made some great mind maps from this.

We pride ourselves on treating each individual response fairly, giving each one equal value regardless of who it is from, or how detailed it is.  The work was to a challenging turn around time, and we managed to meet the deadline, getting excellent feedback from the Department.  The output of our work fed directly into policy changes, and it is always gratifying to see democracy in action, where people’s views directly shape a policy.

10. Where do you hope the UK will be in 10 years in terms of online consultation/ digital democracy?
There are some very exciting innovations about with the use of apps and user-led pressure groups (such as 38 degrees) where you can see people power in action, causing politicians to reconsider and even getting big corporations to behave more responsibly. This kind of action that holds business and Government to account is a good thing for encouraging democratic engagement in a time when people are becoming disenfranchised with the mainstream political offer – reconnecting individuals with the issues that directly affect them and the planet.

We work a lot with organisations that use Citizen Space, and I particularly like how intuitive it is for us to use in analysis, being able to code qualitative data in real time and get accurate snapshots of current quant data.  From a user’s perspective, consultations on Citizen Space are always easy to access and respond to – not too pedantic or demanding to put people off or stop them engaging. We always see good completion rates when people use this platform – much better than with Survey Monkey!

I feel sure that as technology continues to develop, and everyone has improved access to it and the ability to use it effectively, that we will see greater democracy across the world.  People will begin to demand the right to be consulted on important decisions.

From a work perspective, we are developing some exciting new online ways for colleges and universities to engage their students in improving wellbeing. We are also trialing a digital democracy approach to engaging public service users in continuous evaluation and improvement of the services they receive, whilst rewarding them for their time and offering more chances to get involved in shaping and delivering new approaches.

11. Any shout-outs?
To my wife, Easterly. We started TONIC together and she always manages to look at our projects with a fresh set of eyes, providing much needed challenge to make sure we provide a high quality service every time and push ourselves to give our best. It wouldn’t be the same without her.

So there you have it, eleven questions both posed and answered. You can check out TONIC’S website here, should you be so inclined, or bother Matthew on Twitter over here.

Until next time.

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

5 examples of online public involvement from UK health organisations

Public and patient involvement/participation is a vital part of the work of health organisations (for example, Beth Johnson from NHS England told us that ‘engagement is at the heart of everything we do’). And, of course, that activity needs to include an online component.

Consequently, the ability to run good quality, effective online surveys and public consultations is increasingly important for health organisations. And lots of them have chosen to adopt Citizen Space – our all-in-one-place digital consultation platform– to better connect with people online.

Here are 5 examples of how different UK health organisations are using the same platform to run their online public involvement activity:

  1. NHS England: hugely varied range of surveys and public consultations, at both a local and national level – some with hundreds of questions, or thousands of respondents. Also make creative use of the Citizen Space platform to manage signup for in-person events and gather course feedback.
    Screenshot of NHS England Citizen Space 
  2. Camden Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG): lots of surveys on a wide range of topics – everything from feedback on the experience of making an enquiry to a patient survey on improving musculoskeletal services in the area.
    Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 13.14.36 
  3. Department of Health: regularly run consultations on high-level issues, seeking input from patients, staff, voluntary groups and the wider public.
    Screenshot of Department of Health Citizen Space 
  4. HSCIC (Health and Social Care Information Centre): detailed and often fairly technical surveys, including consulting CSUs, CCGs and local authorities, running framework reviews and managing data collection exercises.
    Screenshot of consultation run on HSCIC's Citizen Space 
  5. Stockport CCG: another local CCG making excellent use of Citizen Space’s flexibility to improve access and hear from more patients and service users. They regularly run online public surveys on issues like patient confidentiality, and have also experimented with things like taking iPads into GP surgeries to consult with patients directly.
    Screenshot from Stockport CCG's Citizen Space 

Organisations like these choose to use Citizen Space for their health policy consultations because it’s a robust system that’s also easy to use. When the Department of Health ran an independent investigation into ways to make its digital activity more effective, one of the report’s recommendations was to make more use of Citizen Space. And customers tell us things like: ‘with Citizen Space we can do more consultations with less staff, and reach out to more and more people’. We hope that can be the case for an increasing number of public healthcare bodies.

You can see the consultations mentioned above, and literally thousands more, on the Citizen Space aggregator.

If you’d like to see more of Citizen Space and understand how it could be used in your organisation, contact us to arrange a demo.

Citizen Space user group in ACT: 8 learnings from the day

As part of my Oct-Dec 2015 trip to Australia and New Zealand, we’re running a series of Citizen Space user groups. These are day-long sessions to hear from, learn from and share information with the people who use the system day-in, day-out. They’re always a great opportunity to pick up new insights, and it’s fantastic to see the different ways in which people are running excellent, important consultations using our software.

Our first Australian Capital Territory (ACT) user group was held in the Bunker Theatre at the Department of Environment in Canberra. (That’s the room’s actual name – it used to be an ASIO facility and this part of the building was once ‘top secret clearance’ only. I felt there was something quite apt about the space having been opened up into a lecture hall, and now serving as the venue for a conversation about increasing public participation in government!)

These were some of my key ‘take-home’ pointers from the day…

ACT user group

1. There is a ‘tipping point’ when organisations can benefit from taking stock of their online consultation process in practice

Both the Federal Departments of Health and of the Environment in Australia have been using Citizen Space for approximately two years. Following their initial adoption, their use of the platform is now starting to mature. In that time, both departments have also seen a large amount of personnel and departmental change, and they’re now looking to review their policies and processes around Citizen Space to make sure they’re appropriate for the current organisational context (rather than still reflecting an ‘early adoption’ situation of a couple of years ago).

2. ‘Show, don’t tell’ is a great way to get organisational buy-in

One of the best ways to promote Citizen Space internally is to showcase or case study an example of a consultation – either a standard example which users can relate to, or possibly one that is a little further ahead in thinking to how the department has consulted previously.

One example of this was cited by the ACCC who are consulting on their Hearing Aid Survey. The approach taken here was new for the Department as it saw them proactively go out to consult following a suggestion from an information centre.

The Department of Environment are also considering using Citizen Space to collect testimonials from colleagues who have used it in order to promote the internal ‘sell’ of the system.

“I go to a lot of meetings where someone hasn’t thought about a solution to a problem, and I’m finding that more often than not the solution would be Citizen Space”
Liz, Department of Environment

3. Promote ‘success milestones’

The Department of Environment had their Secretary send a congratulatory message across the Department upon hitting certain key milestones – for example, when the Department received their first 1,000 responses to consultations.

4. Aim to get your users ‘self-serving’ with Citizen Space

The Department of the Environment have done lots of work getting their users to ‘self-serve’ (that is, to use Citizen Space without needing central support – it’s not that they’ve taught them to be selfish!)

For this to work smoothly, it’s also important to ensure that any internal information and advocacy of the platform is up to date (we heard, for example, how Liz from the Department of the Environment looks after regularly updating the Department’s internal content). This is especially important given that Citizen Space is a continually evolving and developing product. The ACCC tend to give new users a link to the Citizen Space knowledge base and then offer to be available by phone to answer additional questions.

5. Appointing and then working with Citizen Space champions, or ‘power users’, can be key for the tool’s organisation-wide adoption

The Federal Departments of both Health and the Environment have adopted a de-centralised approach to rolling out their Citizen Space instances. This includes having ‘power users’ – experts in using Citizen Space – around the organisation. The Department of Environment also offer policy officers quick one-on-one training sessions when they are about to run a consultation, with the aim of ensuring the training is timely and appropriate to the individual who needs it.

6. Having a final eye on sign-off can help improve the quality and consistency of consultations

The Department of Industry are about to move from a centralised to a de-centralised approach to managing their Citizen Space instance. They are however, going to keep publishing rights locked down to Site Administrators only so that trusted individuals can give consultations a final ‘once-over’ before they go live.

“Often, policy officers who are building an online consultation are just too close to the content at hand – which is when mistakes happen”
Lettie, Department of Industry

7. Keep a list of risks about previous processes up your sleeve in case there is resistance to new ways of working

The Department of Environment keep a few examples of previous consultations run on previous systems to help advocate the importance of adopting an online tool and process like Citizen Space. One person gave a specific ‘bad old days’ example of having to manually make lists of keywords, add them to a consultation and then manually collate consultation responses and data.

8. Citizen Space is versatile

One of the themes from our London user group was learning just how versatile Citizen Space was in terms of being used beyond a traditional consultation tool. We heard the same in ACT – for instance, ACCC have used Citizen Space for event registration (rather like NHS England).


This was the second of our user groups in Australia, following hot on the heels of our Western Australia user group day. We look forward to many more!

How NHS England run more than just consultations on Citizen Space

As we’ve said before, one of our favourite things about Citizen Space user group meetings is getting to hear honest and insightful stories from people ‘at the coalface’ of online consultations. Customers come along and give us a behind-the-scenes peek at what it’s really like to encourage better public involvement within their organisations.

For example, at our October 2015 user group meeting, Beth Johnson, Digital Communications Manager for NHS England, introduced us to how they’ve been using Citizen Space for more than just running traditional surveys or questionnaires online.

She began by explaining that ‘engagement is at the heart of everything we do’, and that NHS England has a range of audiences to engage: ‘it’s important to get the views of clinicians and other staff – it’s not just patients.’

As a result of this broad engagement remit, NHS England use Citizen Space in quite diverse ways. Beth told us how:

  • they use it for activity on both a local and national level (ensuring a standardised approach)
  • they expect some of their surveys to have several thousand responses (so Citizen Space’s scalability and unlimited participant licensing comes in handy), but they also use the platform for activity at much smaller scale
  • they also run things like the Child Health Information Systems questionnaire via Citizen Space. At around 110 questions (!), it’s a sizeable undertaking and not quite a typical ‘public consultation’ but nevertheless an excellent way to get good use out of their Citizen Space instance.

Similarly, in an impressive bit of innovation, NHS England get added value from Citizen Space by using it in ways we didn’t even necessarily have in mind when we built it! For example, they handle applications for things like Clinical Reference Groups via the system (rather than using, say, a basic online form). Beth explained that one reason for taking this approach was the superior analysis information they can access, thanks to the back-end data tools in Citizen Space.

Oh, and she also briefly mentioned how work experience students had come in and, within hours, been able to build surveys using Citizen Space. We like that.

Citizen Space user group in Western Australia: 7 key learnings from the day

As part of my Oct-Dec 2015 trip to Australia and New Zealand, we’re running a series of Citizen Space user groups. These are day-long sessions to hear from, learn from and share information with the people who use the system day-in, day-out. We’ve just had the first user group with customers in Western Australia (WA), kindly hosted by one of said customers, the Department of Sport and Recreation, in Leederville, Perth.

WA user group
This was our second user group to be held this month, following hot on the heels of our UK Citizen Space user group held in London. (Interestingly for us, there was a fair bit of overlap between the topics raised in the two sessions, despite the obvious geographical and contextual differences.)

Here are some of my take-home pointers from the day:

  1. Consultations are more than just questions – there’s opportunity to engage and educate respondents as well
    WA Health ran a major ‘Have your say on cancer in WA’ consultation. They worked to ensure the consultation was as engaging and informative as possible, using a wealth of infographics, images and videos to help participants understand the choices under consideration. It’s a really good example of a well-designed consultation – not just in terms of looking pretty but in (the more important) terms of providing useful, apposite, structured content for respondents.
  2. Citizen Space is a core part of an organisation’s toolbox but it’s not a panacea
    There’s no such thing as a single piece of software that will magically solve all of one’s online challenges. Rather, organisations should make use of a range of systems, channels and approaches – commonly referred to as a “toolbox” – in order to most effectively consult and engage respondents.

    “There’s a misunderstanding in our organisation that Citizen Space is a silver bullet when actually it’s part of a suite of tools available” – Geraldine, WA Planning

  3. Different organisations are at different stages of the adoption path/journey
    The WA Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) were our first customer to adopt Citizen Space in the state, meaning they were in a position to feed back to, and help advise, more recent adopters on how to effectively embed Citizen Space in their organisations.
  4. Don’t underestimate the value of ‘retrospecting’ a single project or consultation
    During the London user group, customers like The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) advocated the importance of ‘retrospecting’ their overall use of Citizen Space to date (looking back over what has been successful, where there is room for improvement etc). In the Perth user group, there was discussion of how it’s also useful to hone in on individual projects or consultations and dig into the finer details of what went well, what not so well, what can be improved upon and so on. WA Planning, for instance, are just about to embark on a similar conversation for one of their recent consultations.
  5. Get new users to fill in a Citizen Space survey before building one of their own
    WA Planning had a great little piece of advice on helping make sure staff are ready to use Citizen Space: they ask any new administrator to fill in a specially-designed feedback form on Citizen Space. The feedback form includes questions relating to privacy, helping those who will be building surveys to appreciate both how the design of Citizen Space works in practice, and what it feels like to interact with the department via the platform.
  6. ‘We Asked, You Said, We Did’ is going to get more prominent
    Donna from WA EPA advocated the importance of using Citizen Space’s ‘We Asked, You Said, We Did’ function to feed back to citizens about consultations that have taken place. We’re also going to be releasing a neat little improvement to Citizen Space which will help our customers use this feature even more – watch this space 😉
  7. Don’t be afraid to try some creative promotion
    Whilst running their ‘Have your say on cancer in WA’ consultation earlier in 2015, Laura Miller and her team were given the freedom to try some new things when it came to promoting the consultation. The team advertised the consultation through social media channels, the local and national press and internally to colleagues. More than that, though, they also had some joy with novel innovations, like reaching out to local university students to help with the graphics for the survey, and getting health professionals involved in the videos embedded in the consultation.