Tag Archives: Consultation

‘Digital democracy in practice’ – seminar/Q&A with Exeter University students

One of the best parts of my role as an account manager is to get out of the office and spread the word about digital democracy. Last week, I was fortunate enough to return to my old stomping ground – Exeter University, in south west England – and give a talk to third year politics students. (The third year module on ‘civic engagement’ makes reference to online tools generally and Delib specifically.)  It was a real delight to be there for the afternoon. I just wish the module had existed when I was at uni!

Whilst writing my presentation on ‘digital democracy in practice’, I was also able to reflect back on the changes in online consultation and digital in government from 2011 to now. I chose the end of 2010/start of 2011 as a starting point, as this is when Martha Lane Fox’s influential report on the revolution not evolution of directgov came out – a report which marked a bit of a sea change and the beginnings of gov.uk. This was also a useful reflection point for me as I started working at Delib a few months later!

One of the key changes I have seen since 2011 is a shift from one-off ‘singular (project-based) democracy’ which costs government thousands of pounds in websites/one-off builds towards more ‘continuous democracy’ in 2017.  Government departments can now consult more regularly using low cost online tools. The result: more cost-effective solutions for citizens and improved transparency.

The second key shift I have witnessed is a more deep-rooted cultural change in working practices. Government departments are increasingly adopting more agile, lean and collaborative ways of working. Scenes that you see posted on gov.uk’s blog simply wouldn’t have existed in 2010.

Source: gds.blog.gov.uk

During the session, we reviewed some of the key grounding principles, focusing on the Gunning and consultation principles before applying these to real customer examples and teasing out some of the key challenges government departments face. I then opened up the session to questions. Here’s a flavour of the topics which came up from the students and an idea of how I answered them:

+ How does digital democracy help open up the conversation beyond ‘the usual suspects?’

Digital democracy can help open up the conversation to a broader range of participants by providing a different medium through which to conduct those conversations. Customers have indicated that using digital tools has enabled them to reach a broader audience group, which is fantastic. That said, if you are consulting a niche group on a specific topic, you may find that some of the ‘usual suspects’ still turn up, but who’s to say that they will be the only ones there contributing to the discussion?

+ How can social media help these conversations and government departments in 2017?

Social media can both promote and dilute the conversation you are hoping to have in my experience. If you start a conversation on one social media platform or digital engagement tool and it spreads across other platforms, sometimes the conversation can become disparate. It may also become difficult to analyse if there is no obvious flow or output from the discussions taking place.  When used well, however, social media can be a great opportunity to get into spaces where these conversations are already happening or to open up participation to individuals interested people/groups.

In order to use social media effectively, civil servants need to be equipped with the right community management skills. Luckily, there are an increasing number of short, free courses opening up such as this one from Future Learn on using data from social media platforms to understand public conversations. I’m hoping to check the course out to help with the guidance we give our customers.

+ Are these methods inclusive or do they often exclude certain generations?

This topic also came up at a conference I recently attended called NotWestminster as we were working with a case study which featured retired users. It was interesting how quickly some of the group jumped to assumptions. I wouldn’t say that digital democracy excludes certain generations and the idea that the older generation not necessarily having strong digital skills isn’t always true. Often the blocker is confidence in digital which isn’t necessarily age-based. Where there are gaps (sometimes referred to as ‘the digital divide’), the UK government often looks to address them – for example, via setting up departments within GDS, such as the assisted digital team.

+ Do you find that government departments look at the cost-benefit analysis of running online consultation?

Some government departments that we work with are starting to drill into more of the details and nuances in this area, which is great to see. For example, we heard from BEIS at our 2016 London user group about working with statistics and conversion rates from gov.uk (they got from a 3% conversion rate to an impressive 25% by studying what worked well). BEIS are really hot on their analytics at the moment and I’m excited to see what they are going to do next.

+ Do you have plans to expand outside of English speaking territories?

Our current goal is to continue our expansion within English speaking territories. But it would be great to work in more countries around the world one day! Our main blocker to this is being able to translate all 3 applications (though it is something we’re looking at). Government structures are fairly similar in the countries where we work at the moment, but expanding to new countries always means learning more about the particularities of their context.

+ Where’s next for deliberative discussion?

So what will the next 5+ years hold? Well, the biggest challenges I see are around standardisation and sharing of best practice. This is perhaps not new or unique to online consultation but does hold one of the biggest opportunities in my opinion. Jodie Lamb, a Communication and Stakeholder Engagement professional recently posted about what she had learnt whilst working in New Zealand. Sharing best practice or having ‘hands across the ocean’ is key. If something has already been trialled in the UK and failed, then let’s ensure that digital teams in Australia and NZ learn from this. There are also some really exciting projects and learning opportunities coming out from countries like Iceland, Brazil and Estonia. Sharing best practice is key.

The future of government and effective online consultation lies in the hands of the next generation of digital leaders. Learning that modules like this one on civic engagement exist is really exciting. I’m hoping that this talk will pave the way to other opportunities to talk to young digital leaders in the future.

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.

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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.

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!

 

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.

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

From the Valleys to Hackney, and sharing all the way

Hello again from Delib – we’re fresh from enjoying a slightly unseasonal Halloween – here in Bristol we celebrated All Hallows’ Eve at a positively tropical 20 degrees – leaving us unsure whether to gather round the bonfire, or put on our swimsuits and launch ourselves headlong into the Avon. However, a reassuringly brisk bonfire night got us back in an autumnal mood – and ready to knuckle down in the run up to Christmas!

In any case, here’s a round up of some interesting things happening in the digital democracy world:

1) The Swedish power company Vattenfall are using newsletters effectively to keep in touch with those who left their emails when responding to their Dialogue App on the Pen y Cymoedd wind farm in South Wales, which is now closed.

Newsletter from Vattenfall

Spending a bit of time and effort following up with respondents in this way can help keep the community going after the dialogue has officially closed. Getting information about how many people have been involved in the discussion shows people that what they have been involved in was something significant, and that their contribution had an impact. They’re also probably more likely to get involved if you ask them to respond to another consultation that affects them!

Read more about the ‘Power in the Valleys’ Dialogue here.

2) The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, or BIS for short (pronounced ‘bizz’ among government insiders…) are closing their consultation on the ‘sharing economy’ shortly.

The staunch capitalists among us might be offended at just the idea of ‘sharing’ and ‘economy’ appearing on the same sentence – but the fact is, services like Zipcar and Airbnb are becoming more and more popular, to the extent that they almost threaten their counterparts with more traditional business models. We all have stuff lying around, from spare rooms and cars to tools and dogs (see www.borrowmydoggy.com), so why not let someone else use it while we’re not?

The power of web technology to create new connections between people is what makes this possible – and incidentally, is also what makes the engagement facilitated by our apps possible. So BIS using Citizen Space to consult people on a new social benefit of technology is just what we like!

PS. for the opposite (or perhaps the dark side) of tech that enables the sharing economy, see “jerktech”…

3) Hackney Council in London has launched an online consultation on its draft transport strategy for the 2014-2024. The plan itself is a considerable document, with a set of six ‘daughter plans’ that focus on specific areas of transport – understandable perhaps, given that it’s a ten-year plan for a fast-growing area of London with a lot of specific challenges.

There are a few things we particularly like about Hackney’s consultation. The team have made good use of the events feature to publicise the public meetings they are holding on the plan. Users can see a calendar of events, and with a couple of clicks can download the event straight from the website into their own calendars.

We’re also impressed by Hackney’s rather nifty interactive transport map, which lets users raise local transport issues by directly pinpointing them on the map – a great way to help  citizens engage with local issues and make it easy for them to give feedback.

Screenshot 2014-10-31 16.53.47

 

That’s all for this week! Have a great weekend!

Matthew

Your money your views? 3 British councils open up the public ledgers…

We like to take the time every now and again to talk about some exciting ways the people we work with are doing consultation. Citizen Space is our app that fits a standard consultation approach most closely – but our other platforms, Budget Simulator and Dialogue App, use technology to enable citizens’ involvement in policy in different ways. Read on to hear about what’s going on at the moment…

Budget Simulator

Budget Simulator is an app that lets organisations share the spending decisions they have to make with everyone.

At the moment Enfield council are facing a budget gap of £30 million in 2015/16. There are no easy ways of making the necessary cuts – every reduction in spending will impact citizens in some way. Using Budget Simulator, residents of Enfield can see where money is currently being spent, explore the impact that a reduction or increase in each area will have, and submit their own budget

Enfeilf Council Budget Simulator front-page

 

Derby City Council have a similar job to do, and have also been using Budget Simulator to let people have their say. They’ve been working hard to get everyone involved in the discussion, especially those who might not be the first to add their voices in a consultation exercise. The Council have run a busy schedule of events, visiting schools, community groups, residents associations and others. Those attending events can go on the budget simulator while they are there and give their responses in real time.

Big Conversation logo  Proud of Derby logo

Respondents could also add comments to their budgets, giving them the flexibility to express other opinions related to the budgeting process. Throughout the consultation, they have consistently used the taglines ‘Your Money, Your Views’, and ‘The Big Conversation’, to create a recognisable brand. This has helped to take the exercise away from a traditional model of consultation, and make it a more exciting, innovative and involving process.

Edinburgh council’s budget simulator has gone live today. Edinburgh have taken an interesting approach to grouping the different services they provide. Rather than breaking it down according to the organisational structure of the council, they’ve tried to badge them according to how they affect citizens’ lives

  • An attractive city to live and work in
  • A strong economy for the city
  • Better services for customers
  • Opportunities for all to achieve their potential
  • A good quality of life for everyone

Edinburgh Budget Simulator allocation page

 

Dialogue App – North Futures

On the 7th of November, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg will be chairing the Northern Futures summit in Leeds. Leading up to the summit, the Cabinet Office are leading a multi-pronged program of engagement, centred around their dialogue app site. The site gives everyone the chance to submit their ideas, as well as to comment and give ratings to proposals others have put forward.

Accompanying the website, The Northern Futures team are also using twitter (follow them at @North_Futures!) and are convening ‘Open Ideas Days’ around the North on October 16th.

This kind of approach – creating a high-quality debate across society, using different media platforms, is exactly the kind of ‘Open Policy-making’ that we hope government will be doing more and more of!

Matthew is at Delib for 6 months, as a secondee from the Civil Service Fast Stream.

He’s featured here on our blog. You can also follow him on twitter at @Matth0rnsby 

How the Scottish #IndyRef showed us all how to do democracy

Here at Delib, we’re not political, but we are passionate about democracy. With the vote announced this morning, we look at how Scotland won at democracy during this momentous referendum.

We’ve been following this with interest, from the initial discussions and consultations, to the fiery passions and clamour of the final few weeks. Arguably, it is the fervour with which this campaign has been fought, particularly in its latter stages, that has led to a record number of citizens registering to vote and standing up to make their voices heard on the future of their country. The result: a voter turnout of over 84.5% – the highest in the UK since the general election of 1950.

Some basic rules of engagement were followed as part of the referendum:

A simple question was asked > in a defined timescale > with full inclusion of the Scottish public in the journey to polling day.

The seeds of change were sown in 2012 at the beginning of this referendum process, when the Scottish Government ran the Scottish Referendum Consultation (using Citizen Space).

The consultation asked the Scottish people to become part of the machinery of democracy and to shape the structure of their referendum. It asked nine questions, ranging from whether 16 and 17 year olds would get the vote, to how voting could be made easier for them to take part.

An image of the nine questions in the Scottish Referendum Consultation
The nine questions in the Scottish Referendum Consultation

To keep things completely transparent, the responses of all consenting participants were published in full on the site.

What we really loved about this consultation was that the public response to the questions asked, was directly actioned by the Scottish Government. When it asked whether 16 and 17 year olds should get the vote, the public said yes – so it happened. The nature of the referendum question and the ballot paper were decided by the respondents to the consultation. This was true of all nine questions – no response was left unread, no voice left unheard.

By asking Scottish citizens to be involved from the outset, the result has been that they have responded in their millions to vote and to own the process.

There will be many people in Scotland today understandably feeling defeated, but their participation in the vote means their assembled voices cannot be ignored. Their actions may also be the catalyst for significant, democratic and constitutional change across the UK.

We have a number of Scottish customers using our apps; Scottish Government, Clackmannanshire Council, East Renfrewshire Council, East Lothian Council, East Dunbartonshire Council, Aberdeenshire Council, Scottish Borders, Edinburgh City Council, Forestry Commission Scotland and the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, and we’ve worked with more in the past.

One thing we have known for a while is that Scotland does democracy well, and now the rest of the world has been able to see it too.

BBC Trust launches review of its six radio stations using Citizen Space

The BBC Trust has recently launched one of the biggest reviews of its six radio stations. The consultation will run for three months, and invites BBC radio listeners to express their views on the different stations. The review is being run via an online consultation, using their Citizen Space instance. In addition, the Trust will conduct audience research and consult with BBC Radio and industry stakeholders.

Screen Shot 2014-08-12 at 16.37.06The review will assess whether the six stations are fulfilling the commitments defined in its service license. Listeners can also give their views on the consultation via Twitter, using the hashtag #trustreview.

Screen Shot 2014-08-12 at 16.47.01

The final conclusions of the review will be published in early 2015.