Category Archives: Tips & tricks to help you

Stuff that will save you time, money or sanity. Tips and tricks about our apps, and about useful digital democracy tools from other people.

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 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.

How can we plug the digital skills gap in Government?

It’s no secret that the UK is facing a huge digital skills shortage. As the economy begins to transform itself over the next couple of decades, the skills required for a global workforce will also evolve. But how can government departments ensure they are skilled or shall we say ‘up-skilled’ enough to deal with this change? As an account manager at Delib, I work with a huge number of government employees who have varying degrees of digital skills.  If I’m a little frank, I’m often a little taken back by the stark gap in basic digital skills across government.

Computers/word processors at NIHE (1)
Photo from Glucksman Library on Flickr

There are certainly movements in the right direction; GDS launched its digital and technology skills site in March 2015 in an attempt to both identify the skills needed to work in a digital roles. The Civil Service also runs a dedicated technology fast stream and the role of ‘Chief Digital Officer’ has recently been created. BIS, for example, now has a CDO.

Screen Shot 2015-07-29 at 12.00.16

But what can government departments look to do now? Are there any ideas or skills I would share with them to begin plugging the digital skills gap? ‘Yes’ is the answer, and don’t worry you don’t need to be paying your employees to sit and learn to code.

The starting point for any organisation looking to change should be its people. I’m a great advocate of hiring the right people and training for skills. If a new employee is keen enough they will learn digital skills. I’d argue that ‘soft’ digital skills such as becoming familiar with using a CMS (Content Management System) can be easy to teach. Most of the people I’ve hired at Delib had never worked with or in a digital industry before and have learnt the digital skills needed on the job. That said, it’s important to be careful about going to the other extreme and hiring ‘digital gurus’ who think they know about all things digital which turns out to be all chat.

Screen Shot 2015-07-29 at 15.31.56Encouraging employees to become digitally native in their everyday lives can also improve their general confidence in using digital tools.  Often employees will learn by doing, and learning by doing something relevant to them will often help that knowledge to ‘stick’. Enabling employees to tweet or attend relevant conferences can help. Having a little bit of free time to explore digital opportunities also doesn’t hurt. At Delib, we used to give developers some ‘play time’ enabling them to spend a day looking into a new technology or use of our products.

“Do it until you’re told not to”  Tiffany St James

For those who are keen, give them the opportunity to become a digital specialist in their team. With three main products and three account managers it made sense for us to make each account manager a product specialist. We now take on product management duties and are the go-to person for that application. Promoting employees to digital leads within their team enables smaller teams to be self-sufficient and ensures that the departments’ overarching digital team don’t become the main support desk.

You may not be aware of it, but your new starters might have previously used a tool which you too are interested in using. By creating a skills bank, which could simply be a log of skills and tools in which employees are competent, you’ll be able to track who’s good at what and identify any skill gaps. In our case, we’ve hired people who have used MailChimp (a mailing tool) regularly in a previous role who were then able to allay the frustrations for the rest of us reviewing the tool for the first time.

Developing an internal knowledge base or reference point for digital terms, policies and skills can also be hugely beneficial. Be careful about not re-writing existing websites though – e.g. w3skills is a fantastic resource for learning basic HTML skills and much better than us trying to document this all ourselves.

Screen Shot 2015-07-29 at 15.45.39Already run a digital project? Found things that went well and not so well? Run a retrospective of the project. This could be a short discussion with everyone involved in the project or it could be a short report that reviews the project as a whole. If the project went well, consider creating internal case studies. After running their first challenge using our Dialogue application, the Scottish Government blogged about their experiences – a great example of being open and transparent about lessons learnt.

A final thought – with the ‘digital by default’ agenda steaming ahead, it has to be ok for people to be able to say if they don’t understand something or if they have never been shown how to do it. And if someone does pluck up the courage to say they’re finding it a bit hard, then it’d be great if they can then get some support to pick up the skills they feel they need.

For those who learn via explanation, an option is to offer digital drop-in sessions, which is something BIS have chosen to do. It’s also handy to make a list of the digital tools available in your team. GDS created a great guide to tools available to civil servants which can act as a useful starting point.

If digital skills and experience in running digital projects is all tied up with specific people rather than across the board – and we hear this frequently, “oh I’ll just ask Sarah, she knows how to do this stuff” – then it remains tacit knowledge only. Tacit knowledge can be difficult to pass on, and the real risk is if those holding it move roles or leave government. So now is the time to provide more people with the skills to lead in this area. More than this, there is a really positive opportunity here for government; by improving the digital skills across its own workforce, could government then begin to lead in advancing the digital skills of its citizens?

Digital Heroes – Kevin Davies & Helia Phoenix

A couple of months ago I jumped on the train to Cardiff to meet the National Assembly for Wales Digital Engagement team, as is my want to do. It struck me that, despite working with organisations all over the world, I had little to no idea what the Welsh were up to, and after accepting that this glaring anomaly needed rectifying, I had a good old chat with Helia and Kevin.  It turns out they’ve been quietly doing all manner of interesting citizen involvement work, which I thought the rest of you might want to know about. Without further preamble then, let’s jump right in to another fascinating interview filled with the big questions, (Biscuit dunking and so on).

1. What’s your name and where are you from?
KD: Kevin Davies originally from Carmarthen, living in Cardiff.
HP: I’m Helia Phoenix, born in Cardiff, lived in loads of other places (London, Exeter, Southampton, Sheffield, Bristol, Berkeley out in California!), now living back in Cardiff again.

Helia_P
Helia Phoenix

2. What do you do for a living?
KD: I work for the National Assembly for Wales (not the Welsh Government!). The Assembly scrutinises the decisions made, the money spent and laws proposed by the Welsh Government, and my job is to get more and different voices to help the Assembly scrutinise the Welsh Government, particularly for committee scrutiny. I arrange consultation engagement activity like events, focus groups, surveys, web-chats, video interviews, online discussions and so on to facilitate a service user/citizen voice in the process.
HP: I’m a digital media specialist working for the National Assembly. It does everything that Kev says! I head up all things that relate to web content, which covers a vast range of things like digital accessibility, trying to improve our online content as best we can, and working on new innovations for how we communicate with people online. In my spare time, I run a (hyper)local blog about Cardiff, called ‘We Are Cardiff’. It’s been going for six years and is mostly based around pen portraits of people who live in the city, alongside information about alternative culture and events. It’s won Blog of the Year at the Welsh Blog Awards, and been named as one of the world’s best city blogs by the Guardian.

3. Favourite band and / or artist?
KD: LCD Soundsystem
HP: ARGH that’s too hard, I have too many! Queens of the Stone Age, Jon Hopkins, Leftfield, Four Tet. I also really loved the most recent Belle and Sebastian album but was never a fan of theirs before. Sub Focus. Fleetwood Mac. Pinch. Everything!

4. Creature of habit or maverick thinker?
KD: Creature of habit
HP: Maverick …

5. You house is on fire, what do you save?
KD: My housemates?
HP: I put the fire out and save everything!

6. Biscuits – dunk or leave unsullied?
KD: Dunk. Everytime.
HP: Dunk!

7. What does digital democracy mean to you (or maybe, what should digital democracy mean)?
KD: Digital democracy to me means breaking down walls and accessibility, it’s about us talking to people in the way and in the places they want to, it’s about recognising that different people consume information and have their say in different ways in different places and we need to embrace that. It isn’t the way that everyone wants to engage so it’s horses for courses and from my experience almost always needs to be combined with offline promotion/face to face interaction. It’s a way for people to help us figure out if the Welsh Government is doing a good job, and helps us make recommendations to the Welsh Government on what actions  they should take to make Wales a better place to live and work. It should be a way for the public to shape political debate.

HP: Digital democracy to me means showing people how ‘government’ is relevant to them, in places that they’re already using to carry out communications – online, email, social media sites, and so on.

I use the word ‘government’ really to talk about any kind of state apparatus that organises or affects the lives of the people. Particularly in Wales, devolution has been such a complicated process – the National Assembly for Wales and the Welsh Government started off being one organisation, then they split, then full powers have been devolved, and then the Wales Bill will see even more powers devolved. UK Parliament has been basically the same for hundreds of years, while we’ve got all these changes, which makes it so hard to educate people.

Also people have a negative perception of politics and politicians … it’s about making it relevant to them. Do you care about hospital provision in your area? Do you care about your local schools? About the park on your street? Politics is all of that. If you don’t participate, you have no right to complain. It’s making people understand and think about those links, and then make it as easy as possible for them to get involved when they are moved to do so. It’s about everything as simple as answering every tweet or Facebook comment we get (the sensible ones, that is!).

Kev_Davies
Kevin Davies

8. Where do you see the field of digital democracy/ digital engagement in ten years? Opportunities and pitfalls?
KD: Smarter and more effective ways of getting information out to citizens. better transparency. Better informed electorate.  Direct democracy – people raising issues with politicians, political establishments quickly and easily. Electronic voting. Possible pitfalls: online security, information overload, internet access, older population, managing people’s expectations – public conditioned to expect instant results from their interaction (twitter/xfactor etc).

HP: I can’t even imagine where we’ll be in ten years time. Electronic voting, definitely. Possibly direct input into legislation via online means? Or voting directly on budget allocation? Hopefully there will be ways that people can get more directly involved in the democratic process.

9. Best project you’ve worked on at the Welsh Assembly and why?
KD: One of the Assembly’s committees was looking at STEM (science, technology, engineering & maths) Skills, and they wanted to speak with young people to find out what inspired them to choose their course, how easy/difficult it was to find an apprenticeship in their field, and the main obstacles that they faced in pursuing their interest in the subject. It’s important that the Assembly seeks the views of people from all parts of Wales, so we ran a web-chat using Google Hangouts where Assembly Members gathered in a room to have an online conversation with students. When it came to the end of the project, the Committee wrote a report to the Welsh Government, which included 14 recommendations.

What I liked about this was seeing how rewarding students found the experience, and how much the Assembly Members enjoyed themselves too. Here is a blog one of the students wrote after taking part, and here’s a video of Rhun ap Iorwerth AM and Julie James AM talking about taking part in their first web-chat:

What I loved about this project was how much impact it had on the report. Web-chat participants were quoted or referenced 17 times throughout the report, which demonstrates how much effect their contribution had on the project and on the suggestions we made to the Welsh Government. For me that’s what it’s ultimately all about, I think we can get lost in doing things for the sake of it, particularly when it comes to digital, the real success comes when you apply new techniques and technologies to the objectives of your project as we did here.

HP: One of my favourite projects was a week we spent in Wrexham earlier this year, where we worked with the local authority to train staff about what the Assembly does, had events at local schools and colleges, had our outreach bus in the centre of town, and also had a session with hyperlocal journalists. I worked on two events there. One was a ‘digital takeover’ of our youth engagement channels by students from Coleg Cambria, where media students set up a camera and filmed other students talking about lowering the voting age, and about other political issues in general. We let the students take photos and create content throughout the day, which we put out over our Your Assembly channel. A couple of the students went off and wrote blog posts for us – they were such high quality, I was so impressed. Who says the youth aren’t engaged and don’t care? This is student Ieuan Walker’s blog post from that day and this is another student, Callum Murray. The day after, I took part in a little interactive training workshop session with some hyperlocal blogs from Wrexham, like Wrexham.com, and some university students from Glyndwr University. It was a brilliant couple of days – exhausting, but really rewarding.

10. Any shout-outs?
KD: Dyfrig Williams and Ena Lloyd at the Good Practice Exchange, Will Barker – digital man @1000LivesPlus in NHS Wales, Dave McKenna – Local government scrutiny and policy person at Swansea Council

HP: Jo and Esko at The Satori Lab, who are putting on GovCampCymru in one of the Assembly’s building in September this year. Gareth Morlais who is an endlessly valuable resource on Welsh language in technology. Carl and Tom at Native HQ, who’ve been amazing advising us and are working endlessly on exciting projects!

Thanks to Kevin and Helia for taking the time to share their work. If you’d like to carry on the conversation, Helia does Twitter here and Kevin does it over here.

Until next time.

Turning a detailed document into a beautiful online survey

We know how it is. Someone has lovingly created a multi-page document, stuffed to the brim with tasty images, maps, tables, graphs and paragraphs of well-researched contextual information. The document looks great, it probably even smells great, and now you need to somehow translate that opus into an online consultation so you can ask your respondents questions about it – where to start?

It can be done, let’s scenario it out:

The easy way that’s not so ideal for respondents

I need people to answer questions on my document, so I’ve attached it as a PDF to the overview page of my consultation and the questions about it are in the online survey

OK, this is fine I guess as you’re consulting online (presumably as well as offering people the option to respond in other ways too *nudge nudge*) and you’re giving people all the information they need. However this method means that they have to keep toggling back and forth between your survey questions and the document itself, as well as having to dig around for the page of the document that’s relevant to the questions.

It may be worth asking: Is this the most accessible the survey could be? Do your respondents really need to read the whole document upfront to respond?

The next level up

I’ve attached the whole document as a PDF to the overview page of my consultation, but I’ve also broken the document down into chapters and embedded these as PDFs throughout my survey, with the corresponding questions beneath.”

Nice work! Not only is the document provided in full for those who wish to download it to have a good read, but it’s also been broken down into manageable sections right above the relevant questions. Nobody has their time wasted, barriers to entry are reduced and proper contextual information is given throughout the survey to gather quality answers to your questions. The final win is that your document looks exactly as it did when it lived in your ‘Documents’ folder.

How do I achieve this?

Use the PDF document embedder to add the sections of your document to the intro of each page in the survey, you can then build in corresponding questions below the information as you would normally.

Going the extra mile

“I’ve taken the information and content from my document and embedded it directly within the online survey instead of having standalone documents for respondents to scroll through.”

You’re on a roll! Maximising the publishing tools available can really turn your document into an easy-to-read online survey without the need for standalone documents to scroll through. This is very clear and makes it as easy as possible for your respondents to give you their views.

How to do it:

A picture highlighting the "Additional Information" answer component options in the online survey settings

Additional text and fact banks

These can be chosen as answer components and allow you to add contextual information, guidance, images, videos, tables, and PDFs within question sections and it helps you to layer answer components. If you ever think to yourself “it’d be great if I could add an image in to this question” or “I could really do with adding in more of an explanation here (within the question area)” then this is the component for you. If you’re planning to copy and paste from an existing Word document, then make sure to use the paste from Word button.

Fact banks are collapsible, which is what differentiates them from the additional text option. This offers your respondent a choice on viewing this extra information, e.g. if they are an expert in the policy area they may not need any more context, whereas others might.

Animated Graphics Interchange Format (GIF) demonstrating how a fact bank is collapsible

A whole world of rich content is now available so you can make your questions and pages as engaging and immersive as possible.

Image depicting the different forms of rich media and answer component that can be incorporated into a question to aid the respondent
Image taken from http://www.businessinteriors.co.uk

 

By using the tools above you’ll be well on your way to a beautiful online survey which does justice to all the hard work put in crafting the contextual information and the questions. Importantly, you’ve put time and effort into creating something interesting and easy to complete for your audience, which we hope will result in quality responses. For more detailed instructions on any of the above elements, have a gander at this useful support article on the topic.

That’s all for now folks, until next time!

 


 

Eric – secondee from the Civil Service Fast Stream

The NHS Friends and Family Test – can we help?

6 years ago, public confidence in the NHS was rocked by the scandal emerging from the conditions of care at Stafford Hospital – administered by Mid Staffordshire NHS foundation trust, and making ‘Mid-Staffs’ a near-daily invocation in the corridors of the Department of Health , NHS England, and GPs and hospitals across the country.

The investigations and inquiries into the scandal revealed some of the conditions at the hospital, and the resulting media attention prompted a period of national introspection regarding the NHS.

When the current government came to power in 2010, it launched the inquiry to end all inquiries (following four under the previous administration) into failings at the hospital. The ‘Francis Report’ (named after its chair, Robert Francis QC) took three years to publish, and apparently considered a million pages of evidence.

Central to the report’s findings was the question of openness and dialogue: The culture of the NHS needs to be one of constant improvement rather than complacency;  Staff must have a duty to report failings; and – most importantly for our purposes here, patients must be listened to.

This – and a government that has put ‘patient choice’ at the centre of its health narrative – laid the backdrop for the introduction of the ‘Friends and Family test’ in 2013: a standardised survey, carried out by all NHS trusts, and centred around one simple question: ‘Would you recommend this service to friends and family?’

Alongside this, we are also seeing a growing range of digital applications aimed at improving dialogue around patient experience – such as Patient Opinion and iWantGreatCare – creating more and more of an expectation that health services are subjected to the same online scrutiny we are used to for other products and services.

Fast-forward to the present day, and the NHS is rolling out the Friends and Family test in GP clinics from December 2014, and next year will expand to more services, such as mental health, ambulances and dentists. Administering these tests will be a challenge for England’s 200 Clinical Commissioning Groups – and one that we hope Citizen Space might be up to the task of meeting!

How to implement the Friends and Family Test using Citizen Space

Inspired by our friends at Stockport CCG, who asked us how they might be able to use Citizen Space to implement the Friends and Family Test in their area – here’s a guide to how we think CCGs could use Citizen Space to carry out their Friends and Family tests, with links to our Knowledge Base articles to help you:

1) Set up each GP surgery as a department on your Citizen Space hub
2) Set up the person responsible for FFT at each GP as department admin for their surgery.
3) Create a single FFT survey on your hub for one surgery, then clone this survey repeatedly and rename each one until you have one for each of your surgeries.
4) Move each survey into their relevant ‘department’ and make your the relevant department admin the owner of the survey – so they have access to the responses and can manage the survey.
5) They can then share the F&FT link with their patients, and patients’ friends and families for them to fill in on their smartphones, or better still, on a tablet at the surgery
6) You don’t need to be involved beyond this other than for technical support and have no need to look at responses.

This means:

  • All responses are held in one place
  • They can all be analysed from one place
  • The survey can be carried out either online or on a terminal or tablet at the surgery (as long as it is connected to the internet!)
  • Quick, accurate response gathering, with the ease of using Citizen Space online analysis and results tools for reporting
  • By putting each surgery in its own department, responses are only accessible to the admins in that surgery (and overall site admins for technical support)
  • Surgeries could be benchmarked against one another if you wish

The Friends and Family test has not been without criticism from within the healthcare community (this report from the Picker Institute sums up some of these, as well as positive points around the FFT), but we believe that if administered effectively – and captures the views of a large and diverse proportion of the patient body – it can be a really useful tool for boosting patient engagement with health services.

As always, we’re happy to help all our Citizen Space users with suggestions on using the tool – so if you’d like us to work with you to solve a consultation need, then drop a line to your account manager (Louise or Rowena), call us on 0845 638 1848 or email support@delib.net.

 

Using Citizen Space and Dialogue App together – suggestion 1: start an Ideas Lab

Ever found yourself in that situation where you’ve got a whole host of ‘tools’ and ‘channels’ and ‘systems’ for public interaction, but it’s a struggle to actually bring them together and put them to good use? We’ve just put together a quick document outlining some of the ways you can combine two of our apps to make your online engagement even more effective.

From the doc:

You could start an Ideas Lab – an ongoing way for stakeholders to share creative ideas for improvements.

The theory

Dialogue App uses a peer rating system – anyone can rate anyone else’s idea. This surfaces the best contributions. It’s a great way to find out what your citizens themselves think are good ideas. This makes it ideally suited for an ongoing, open Ideas Lab about ways to improve a city, service or activity.

The practice

Open your organisation to the creativity of the public! Use Dialogue App to run the Ideas Lab itself, with people submitting ideas, ratings and comments. Then use Citizen Space to promote the Ideas Lab: showcase it as a featured consultation, email consultees and invite participation.

Dialogue App rating system
Dialogue App rating system

Bristol City Council did it…

They had a lot of success with a pioneering, mayor-led City Ideas Lab. For more detail, see delib.net/customers/mayors-uk

Bristol City Council - George's Ideas Lab
Bristol City Council – George’s Ideas Lab

Download the full PDF for more suggestions (no ‘registration required’ or any of that, don’t worry) – or wait for more blog posts!

Engaging with the budget cuts….

Back in November, nearly 8,000 people tried out Liverpool’s budget simulation exercise. We worked with Mayor Joe Anderson and Liverpool City Council; a city facing a £45 million savings target this year, with further cuts to come. It was Mayor Joe’s idea to run a mobile budget consultation, to not only gather valuable feedback from Liverpool’s residents, but also to communicate, and help create some understanding of the challenges they were facing:

Twitter: liverpoolcc.budgetsimulator.com/

Twitter: liverpoolcc.budgetsimulator.com/

‘This budget tool simulates the difficult decisions that councillors will have to make…/…There is no option other than to deal with the situation head on and make the decisions in the fairest way possible…/…their (residents’) comments give us valuable feedback on what people see as the priorities for spending over the next year.’

Mayor Joe Anderson, Liverpool Express

The Budget Simulator uses a combination of consequences and service descriptions; by presenting background information the tool enables participants to make informed spending allocations, whilst gaining a real insight into the reality of the task:

consequnces

The understanding gained through the project is a two way street of course; the meaningful, insightful responses collected from Budget Simulator ensure decisions can be made to better reflect the priorities of those they affect.

‘It’s not a formal consultation, and it’s not legally binding. But it is a hugely important part of finding out what the public wants regarding how the city copes with cuts. It builds solidarity with the public, because everyone can see just how difficult it will be to balance the books.’

Cllr. Patrick Hurley

There are many reasons why Liverpool’s Budget Simulator was such a successful project, not least the tool’s ability to work on mobile devices, which helped to garner more ‘armchair involvement’.  Liverpool’s active approach to promotion and transparency, coupled with their clear commitment to ensure that the insight gained from the exercise informed the outcome, has helped to better prepare their residents for the tough options that lie ahead.

To find out how Budget Simulator could help your organisation meet its challenges, please request a consultation.

 

 

Introducing our first Citizen Space user group meetings hosted by the Department of Health and Birmingham City Council

After a few months in the making, we finally have two user group meetings planned this year – let’s all meet up and get to know one another!

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

Who are the user groups for?

Digital leads, analysts, policy leads, communication managers – anyone using Citizen Space or interested in digital engagement. We’re hoping the groups will be a mix of people with different skills.

What should I expect?

Sessions on all things digital engagement. Including the following:

  • Show and tell of recent or upcoming engagement exercise. Review of the process and challenges of how you do consultation
  • Example from an analysis team and/or input from Delib on tools for analysis in Citizen Space
  • Citizen Space roadmap – we’ll talk through our plans for development of Citizen Space and garner your input
  • Top tips and best practice examples

Tell me when it is and I’m there with bells on!

The first is a central government user group meeting on the afternoon of Friday 29th August, hosted by Department of Health in Whitehall. Focusing on specific examples from central government.

The next is a full-day user group meeting hosted by Birmingham City Council in late September/October. This will include some useful workshops as well as discussions around benchmarking and collaborative working, amongst many other things.

Interested in attending? Contact one of our Account Managers – Louise (louise@delib.net) or Rowena (rowena@delib.net) or give us a call on 0845 638 1848.

Sitting in on Defra consultation training – part two: things I learnt about running a training session

Policy officers are regularly on the move in central government. This presents a challenge for effective consultation, as their knowledge and skills travel with them. In order to begin sharing the skills for great consultations, Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) piloted their first workshop on ‘consultation procedures and principles’ with colleagues.  What can other central government departments learn from running a session like this?

Defra consultation event pic

1) Establish your processes before the session and stick to them

Often, consultation processes can be improved ‘on the fly’, which is great for group input, but it can be confusing to have frameworks and guidelines ‘designed by committee’. A good idea is to have the current procedures used by your department fully documented and readily available. It’s useful to have a consultation lead, who can advise on queries and help clarify any uncertainties. As an example, during the Defra session, the current processes were included as handouts.

2) Don’t be afraid to use examples

Looking back at examples of what has gone well and badly can help colleagues learn how to consult effectively. During the session, one attendee cited an example of running a consultation for four weeks over the summer period – this was pulled before the House of Lords as it was felt four weeks wasn’t a long enough consultation period for the particular issue. Sharing this kind of information about potential hurdles could save colleagues from spending time and effort repeating mistakes.

3) Lay all of your tools on the table

Many departments have lots of ‘tools in their toolbox’, ranging from software applications to the personal skills of the team. Look at what you have at your disposal and combine these to produce the most effective consultation. A mixture of both on and offline tools can help you to reach a wider audience. During the session, it was decided that events such as ministerial road shows are part of your consultation toolkit and with the right planning can lead to great results.

4) Get a facilitator to help run the workshop and continually improve it

When you are close to an issue, it can sometimes be hard to run the session from an objective point of view. Getting an external company in can help you to present the bigger picture. Having run a variety of consultation training sessions, one of the most useful things is getting objective feedback and coming back with ideas for additions or tweaks to improve the day.

5) Ensure the next steps are clear

Once the session has finished, it’s important to ensure colleagues know where they can access help from then on. Get all your guidance, tips and tricks in one place – your organisation’s intranet is a good one. Then you need to let everyone know where it is and how to use it.

As policies increasingly span multiple departments, it would be great to see an increased sharing of best practice and acknowledgement of learnings and failures in consultation across government. In an ideal world, amassing a small army of consultation champions (perhaps as one part of a related role – social researcher, analyst, policy or digital lead?) who represent the key teams in their department and could then be linked up pan-governmentally to share ideas and best practice would be fantastic.

With that in mind, we’re putting together Citizen Space user group meetings so that our users can share best practice and stories amongst one another – if you’d like to know more about any coming up, please ask your friendly Delib account manager!