Stories from the online consultation coalface – part one: buy-in

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:

How The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and The Scottish Government got organisational buy-in

Everyone knows that you can have The Greatest Digital Transformation Plan In The World Ever on paper and yet it’ll all be for naught without buy-in from the necessary organisational ‘gatekeepers’ (typically, high-level leadership and front-line staff).

So it was great to hear honest, encouraging accounts from BIS and ScotGov about getting their respective organisations to recognise the potential of online consultation and then successfully starting to adopt it.

We heard from BIS how, for them:

‘our big ask was to insist that all consultations had to be digital-by-default… The big win was when the executive board said “yes, digital-by-default needs to apply to consultation, too”‘.

Over the past year and a half, they’ve moved from an initial pilot phase to a full-scale roll-out of using Citizen Space for all their online consultation activity – and are now seeing ‘a massive influx in requests for the number of online consultations’.

Christian Storstein from ScotGov told us a similar tale of initial hesitancy which then turned into enthusiastic optimism about the possibilities of digital engagement – in part prompted by the referendum on Scottish independence.

ScotGov now have a dedicated digital engagement team, running intentional experiments into how online approaches can enhance ScotGov’s public involvement activity.

In both cases, a degree of big-picture political shift helped expedite the process of buy-in: the ever-growing mantra of ‘digital-by-default’ for BIS, and both the climate and required activity of increased interaction with government around the referendum for ScotGov.

But, at the same time, had there not already been some people inside the organisations lobbying for change (and with practical suggestions about digital implementation already up their sleeves) those political ‘moments’ could easily have simply passed by.

Instead, both organisations had people who could see the potential for doing more and better public engagement online, and were able to quickly start making that a reality and showing results. In ScotGov’s case, they went from choosing to use Citizen Space to having the system up and running on a major consultation within 4 days…

If you want to hear more, the presenters who talked us through these stories are all on Twitter: @princessgwenny@marilyneb and @crunchity