A few months ago we started a trend (admittedly not as popular as the #nomakeupselfie, but a trend nonetheless) in which, each Friday we’d list all of the excellent consultations that had made us do a little dance in the office. Now, it’s fair to say that we then got a bit busy and forgot that we’d started this trend, but we just remembered about it so…it’s back!
Kicking us off for spring are these three barnstorming consultations.
1. With some rather lovely images and maps is Transport for London and its consultation on Improving Elephant and Castle. The images used are not just there for effect, but tell the respondents something about the consultation they are about to complete – they add to the overall understanding of the proposals.
Pro tip: Make sure your image is useful for your respondents – does adding an image of a wine glass in a consultation about alcohol really add to the understanding of the topic?
2. The Delib UK office is in Bristol – a beautiful city, made more so by the amount of water flowing in and around it. Sadly, in the past few months that water has not been flowing in such a controlled manner, and we’re sure you have seen the media images on the recent flooding and damage in the Somerset levels and on the south coast.
Bristol City Council is running a consultation on its flooding strategy, which will by no means be the only one of its kind, but it’s a good one. They’ve made excellent use of a video and embedded documents to provide more information on an important topic.
3. Many people want to have their say on healthcare provision in their area. Stockport CCG is giving residents in Greater Manchester their chance to do this by combining with Healthier Together to consult on community-based care. It’s a great example of real engagement on healthcare.
Pro tip: If you run a consultation in partnership with another organisation you can add a custom logo to it. We’ve written an article on how to do this.
We’ll have even more to share with you by the end of this week, but if you have any suggestions or you have created a consultation you would like to tell us about then please get in touch.
For this next installment in our Digital Heroes series we have called upon the joint powers of Anne Tansley Thomas, Chris Williams and Cressida McLauglin – otherwise known as Norfolk County Council’s consultation dream team. We’ve worked with Norfolk for 3 years and are constantly impressed by the enthusiasm and innovation they bring to engaging with citizens in the area. Their interesting consultations are an almost endless source of blog material, so we thought we’d give them their very own post. Let’s hear from the team on who they are and what they do…
1. What’s your name and where are you from?
Anne – My name is Anne Tansley Thomas and, although originally from Suffolk, I have found myself now living in the Norfolk Broads, working in Norwich.
Chris – My name is Chris Williams. I grew up in Bognor Regis – as the mural at the train station used to say – ‘where the sun always shines’.
Cressy – My name is Cressida McLaughlin and, while originally from London, I’ve lived in Norwich for the last 13 years after doing my degree at UEA and then failing to go home again.
2. What do you do for a living?
Anne – I’m a Senior Consultation and Involvement Officer for Norfolk County Council.
Chris – Senior Consultation and Involvement Officer at Norfolk County Council.
Cressy –My day job is Information and Business Support Officer for the Consultation and Community Relations team (not a mouthful at all!).
3. Favourite band and/or artist?
Anne – This changes on an almost daily basis so I hate to commit, but this week I am mostly listening to Caravan, Cecile McLorin, Salvant, Max Raabe & the Palast Orchester and The End.
Chris –That is too hard! I’m instead going to tell you what I’ve been listening to this week – which would be the latest offerings from John Mayer (some great blues guitar and a cool cover of ‘Call Me The Breeze’), Jake Bugg (very enjoyable, but not as good as his debut) and the Arctic Monkeys (best album of 2013).
Cressy – I love all kinds of music and am always finding new favourites, but at the moment I love Daughter, Paper Aeroplanes and Lissie
4. Android or iPhone?
Anne – White iPhone with Siri switched to the Australian accent
Chris – The iPhone is definitely better – isn’t that a fact rather than an opinion?
Cressy – iPhone without a doubt! I’ve never even tried an android phone, but why would I want to when the iPhone is so amazing?
5. PC or Mac?
Anne – Either/neither – I’m more interested in people and building communities and I’m happy to use all the resources available to do that.
Chris – iPad – hardly use my PC at home and never used a Mac.
Cressy – Mac. I’ve bought into the whole Apple thing and, certainly at home, would never go back to a PC. I love all things Apple, and their products are slowly taking over our house. I do lots of writing on my Mac at home and love it for its ease and simplicity and how quick it is (and the lit keyboard, which is so pretty – though I’m sure is actually supposed to be useful!)
6. Creature of habit or maverick thinker?
Anne – Habitual thinker
Chris – I love the sound of being a maverick thinker, but whilst I have a creative side, I definitely also have my habits. You would have to ask my wife which are the bad ones though.
Cressy – In some respects I’m a creature of habit, and like to have certain things exactly the way I’ve planned. I’m quite organised and tidy, and so have to have my working space just right, but I’m also creative and use my imagination a lot, so hopefully I’m not too set in my ways.
7. Your house is on fire, what do you save?
Anne – As I live in a thatched cottage this is a very sensitive question. In fact it has made me feel extremely anxious and I can’t answer it without first double-checking my insurance policy…
Chris – I’m going to assume that my wife saves Huey, our border terrier pup, whilst I go and get my Martin guitar.
Cressy – My husband first, although it’s more likely that he would save me! After that it would be my laptop – not because I’m that wedded to my Mac – but because it has my books (and years of photos) on it. In my spare time I write novels and earlier this year was offered representation by an agent, taking me one step closer to my dream of being published. It would be a disaster to lose those and, while I’m always emailing the latest version to myself and have them on memory sticks, I’d want to save my computer too just to be sure!
8. Biscuits – dunk or leave unsullied?
Anne – I like my food items dry, so please never offer me soup. I could possibly be tempted to dunk a biscotti in an Americano. I have also once dunked a ginger nut in a cup of rosehip tea.
Chris –I’m a biscuit purist – definitely unsullied.
Cressy – Leave unsullied. I always think that dunking will be nice, but then hate the soggy crumbs in the bottom of the tea or coffee. And I’d never think of dunking a bourbon or jammy dodger – anything with cream in should stay well away from hot drinks!
9. Best project you’ve worked on at Norfolk?
Anne – The next one! Anything new or bright or shiny.
Chris – An interesting project to work on was engaging with the local gypsy Roma community to establish their views on education. We had a number of face-to-face meetings and then followed this up with a consultation on Citizen Space for school staff.
I’ve also been involved in a project to get children and young people engaged in decision making.
Cressy – My role includes training and supporting people in other departments to write surveys and promote best practice. We’ve just finished creating an online learning course to help people across Norfolk CC to write better questionnaires and consultations. We commissioned an e-learning provider to help and should be able to start sending this out before Christmas.
10. You’re in the middle of your budget consultations – tell us what you’ve been doing differently?
Anne – Our starting point has been that people need to understand the budget. People need to be fully engaged, and the more we can do to educate people, the better.
We have essentially broken the budget consultation into two phases:
Phase 1 has been Informative – sharing the challenges the council faces.
Phase 2 has been Deliberative – the public making decisions and voicing their thoughts on that information.
We used Budget Simulator during this first phase to share the challenges and decisions we have to make, so that people have then been prepared to answer the full proposals in our Citizen Space consultation.
Chris – We’ve done some face-to-face Participatory Budgeting to increase budget literacy with residents. We set up a stand at the Norfolk Show and had people make pie charts with their thoughts on how much each council department spends.
Only 2 people got it almost right, but it started people talking about and understanding the figures involved.
Cressy – The budget consultation this year has been an opportunity to really test the system and put some cross-departmental processes in place.
Our team is putting the responses from all sources through Citizen Space – then these are analysed by a specialist team in our Policy department.
Chris – This is also the first year that we have set up a hashtag and let people respond via Twitter. Our report at the end of this will be on all responses gathered from Budget Simulator, Citizen Space, phone calls, letters, emails and tweets.
The other changes have been in our processes; we have adopted a Scrum Master (Anne) to manage our budget consultation through as a project
11. Where do you think Norfolk will be in 10 years in terms of public consultation/digital democracy?
Anne – The County Council will be smaller due to the changing nature of our relationship with communities. We are shortly to become the ‘Enabling Communities’ team and this reflects that shift. I think the future involves empowering communities by giving the tools to them and supporting them to further democracy. I think we’ll also see democracy on a bigger scale such as through Participatory Budgeting and the use of mobile technology.
Chris –We’ll see an expansion in digital democracy via different formats and means. For this budget consultation we have videos of our councillors delivering messages, and this kind of mix of media will only increase. I also expect to see more mobile use and gamification, with engagement exercises perhaps becoming shorter and more interactive.
Cressy – I’d agree with both Anne and Chris. The future looks community-based with the County Council providing the support and guidance to empower local people to run their own engagement. I think we’ll see more digital platforms being created and developed in the next 10 years that will play a big part in how we consult.
We’d like to say a big thanks to the team at Norfolk who gave up a lunchbreak and more to speak with us whilst in the depths of a major budget consultation. It’s interesting to see a council using Agile project management processes to progress and manage a budget consultation, as we use the same techniques for our software development. The real life stories that inspire public engagement, such as Chris’ project with the local Roma community, are the things that make our office very happy indeed.
We’ve been putting some thought into how we can deliver the best possible training; training that meets the needs of all Delib’s users from the outset of setting up Citizen Space, through to the evolution of the way you may choose to use the app in the future.
We’ve made some changes and they are all down to your feedback.
When it comes to training in a group, there are a number of factors that can affect the session:
Differing levels of ability
Different learning styles
Time constraints on attendees
Equipment and space available
Current or planned use of the application…and many more
With this in mind we created a “Delib Training Feedback Consultation” on Citizen Space to get some idea of what we could do to create as many happy trainees as possible. Thanks to the 72 responses received so far (and some lovely positive and constructive feedback), we have developed 3 new training courses.
We’ll start by looking at the feedback we received using a tried and tested format…
We Asked, You Said, We Did
Content of Training
How did you find theamount of content covered and speed of the training?
83% said the contentcovered was just right, whereas 65% said the speed of the training was spot on.
We thought this wassomething we wanted to work on, as our aim is to utilise everyone’s time as effectively as we can. This is why we’ve developed a new pre-training survey and the three courses – to understand who we’ll be training and what to train on.
Did we provide adequatesupport materials?
73% said yes and about 25%said we could provide more.
A re-vamp of our supporting hand-outs.
We have now createddedicated supporting information for each of our courses with plenty of hands-on examples to work through.
Future training andrecommendations
Would you be interested infuture training and would you recommend us to other organisations?
98.5% of respondents said they would be likely to recommend us elsewhere and 77% would either definitely or potentially like further training.
We carefully analysed allthe additional comments that were made in response to the future training question and saw some common requests for additional analysis training, social media training, improving online participation – things that fall under the umbrella of ‘making theapplication work for you’ but are perhaps more advanced than is needed for users just starting out – that’s why we have added the Advanced Consultation Design course to our offering.
We have recently been asked by a couple of customers to help them become Centres of Excellence for consulting. It’s this kind of forward thinking that we love and we’re only too keen to build a training programme to help organisations meet that goal. And now…
The 3 New Courses
Managing Citizen Space
This is for you: If you are setting up and administering the use of Citizen Space across your organisation.
We train you on how to run consultations in Citizen Space, create a plan to roll out best-practice consulting across your organisation and get you fully ready to begin effective consulting.
Running Consultations in Citizen Space
This is for you: If you want to build brilliant consultations
We work with all the features of Citizen Space in a hands-on session to fully enable you to create, analyse and promote effective consultations.
Advanced Consultation Design
This is for you: If you want to become an expert in online consultation
A one day course focusing on creating more advanced and effective consultations, including more detail on planning, design, analysis and promotion. Designed for those already comfortable with Citizen Space.
Here at Delib, we use a little XenServer 6 cluster for continuous integration. We have programs that act like users of each of our online applications and put them through their paces, which we write using a framework called Selenium. We use these automated tests to demonstrate that the entire software stack under each of our applications all works together, before we roll out changes to any individual part of it. These are full end-to-end tests, demonstrating all of the layers from our application code through to the operating system that they are running on.
The XenServer cluster is a small group of physical computers that work together to host a larger group of virtual computers. This makes running our tests on different versions of operating systems much easier than if we had installed them directly onto physical computers, because we can do things like clone virtual machines or roll them back to a specific point in the past with just a few clicks (or commands).
Virtualisation is an enormous help for testing how our software interacts with its operating systems, but it has one very small downside: you end up needing a lot of RAM to run a large number of virtual machines. Each physical computer needs to have as much RAM in it as all of the virtual machines that it is hosting, added together. We’re not big fans of spending our lives manually shuffling things around to fit within limited resources when they’re cheap, so the first alteration that we are making to our QA cluster here is to double the amount of memory in it.
This was a stack of sticks of plastic and silicon to the immediate left of my desk, when it had just arrived this morning from Crucial. I’ve just installed them all into the physical computers, and we should be up and running and making use of this soon. This upgrade should, as soon as we’ve reconfigured everything to take advantage of the extra memory, make the time that it takes to complete one of our test runs at least a little shorter, which makes me happier.
Having attended my first ‘unconference‘ back in January, in the form of UK GovCamp, the prospect of attending a smaller, emergency services focused event seemed exciting and timely. The day proved interesting and varied, with 5 different sessions and a lengthy lunch to discuss ideas further.
There has certainly been some interesting reflections following the event. Here are 4 take home pointers from us:
1) There needs to be an appropriate time to use social media. Conditions need to be created in order to allow the conversation to flow rather than simply the content. As one camper rightly pointed out:
“There is a balance between people having a voice and letting them use that voice”
2) Using social networking makes the face to face time more valuable. A case can be created for using social media both at the beginning of a consultation and at the end – to reach out and to pull feedback. However, let’s not forget the value of face to face time within this process.
3) There is more transparency online than often given credit for. Understanding who the community leaders are online and what they are talking about could be an invaluable channel of communication.
4) Adopting appropriate platforms for communication. Joining up various channels of communication and identifying crossovers, helps ensure consultations are relevant, focused and above all engaging for the end user.
Also Social Simulator is awesome. A personal highlight of mine was getting a mini taster of The Social Simulator, an innovative tool used to simulate how social media can help in a crisis. Taking on the role of a Local Authority in a crisis, I certainly learnt a few lessons about taking the lead, communicating, fact finding and above all ensuring a clear and informed response to the general public.
Thanks to the event organisers for making this possible and I look forward to the next unconference soon 🙂
GovCamp 2012 was awesome. With two days of packed and uber interesting un-conference style talks, coupled with an opportunity to talk to and debate with a whole host of varied people, the event was truly worth working on a Saturday for ;).
In a true round-up style I thought I would go for a nice take-home-pointers blog post.
5 things we learnt from meeting people:
Best practice needs to be shared more. We need to build a greater network of conversation and trust.
Consultation needs to be fluid. Statutory rules on consultation may be too rigid?
Digital maturity is varied within organisations. Recognising this both internally and externally is key.
We need to find and target key nodes within a network. Once we have recognised this we can start to connect people. Connecting people leads to better governance.
Is digital by default over-rated? One camper mentioned heralding The WI as a key player. Grounding consultation in a digital age is still important.
5 things we learnt from the awesome un-conference sessions:
‘Radical’ websites should become the norm and designed from the bottom up. We need to start looking at websites in terms of what people actually want. We like Utah and Calgary who both use clean and user friendly search portals as their home page sites.
Agile working methods are awesome. We should move away from ‘black-boxing development’. Agile methods should be heralded as the norm.
Don’t forget the end user. We need to advocate a culture of starting with the end user when designing websites and consultation questions.
Manage expectations within consultations. People need to have context and a reasonable set of boundaries.
Sites need to be streamlined and simplified. As one camper mentioned “portals can end up being a hungry mouth which needs feeding information”.
5 things we would like to see next time:
More real life examples on how to apply things in practice. Examples help people go away from Govcamp and start putting their thoughts into practice.
Further examination of bottom up thinking – where does the user journey start and how can we get back to this point?
More focus on futurology – what will our digital environment look like in 5-10 years? What counts as digital literacy and how can we aid this?
How can we connect the feedback loops? How does the nature of decisions change as a result of consultation.
How can we promote buy-in and the awesomeness of digital. Practical tips for spreading the word need to be advocated.
The two day event certainly prompted some take home thoughts – if I am honest this blog post started off as a small essay; I have trimmed it for snappy readers. Thanks to Dave Briggs and Steph Gray for making such event possible and happen 🙂
I speak to a lot of health care professionals about stakeholder engagement. The overwhelming problem faced by many in the NHS is the new engagement strategies needed by the GP Consortiums. I’ve gathered some helpful links to assist those re-thinking their Public and Patient Engagement strategies.
With all the uncertainty in the current state of health reforms, it is good to know that the NHS alliance is championing the cause of the GP Consortium.
A very real concern of many health care professionals is how to engage all stakeholders, something Journalista has blogged about very well.
The Guardian have published a rather interesting article about the NHS use of Twitter and Facebook, which is well worth a read.
Finally, a word to Stockport Clinical Commissioning Partnership who are using our very own Citizen Space to consult with the public. It’s great to see it working so well.
We’re speaking to lots of NHS organisations who want to engage more effectively with their stakeholders. If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of using Citizen Space, please get in touch or request a demo
One area of particular interest from the IAP2 toolbox is the spectrum of participation (pdf) which can easily be applied to our apps:
The levels of engagement are of course appropriate to different circumstances and can be used to achieve different outcomes. One common level for all stages, is to inform communities at every stage of an engagement process. Through the use of different engagement goals, supplemented by our apps differing levels of community involvement can be achieved with empowerment being the key outcome.
How can our apps be used to meet IAP2 guidelines?
Dialogue between communities in the early stages of an engagement process will help to determine expectations. Dialogue App can be used within this to inform, consult and involve key stakeholders, and many of our clients such as NAPA use Dialogue App to engage communities.
NAPA developed a dialogue whereby participants were asked to identify challenges to, and innovate practices for, improving the health, safety and energy efficiency of low to moderate income homes:
In just two and a half weeks and 320 unique registered users the results could be used to inform recommendations – including a decision to further educate government departments and the public on the importance of developing Green and Healthy Homes. A key outcome which will eventually lead to community empowerment.
During the 2010 SASP update (a target of 10,000) South Australians will be invited to participate in extensive, state-wide consultations using a combination of face to face forums and interactive online forums.
Through using a combination of engagement techniques and our apps to inform different levels of engagement, our clients can work towards different levels of the spectrum of public participation, eventually collaborating with key stakeholders to empower communities.
If you are interested in learning more about our apps and how they inform public participation please contact either Ben or Gill on 0845 638 1848 (UK) or +44 117 031 609 508 (worldwide).
Here’s a nice video case study of the use of Dialogue App in public participation:
1) Guidance – best value consultation + communities
Just released: guidance from Communities and Local Government on Best Value Duty.
This document provides guidance on how authorities can work with voluntary and community groups and small businesses when facing funding decisions.
We found it interesting because we’ve been speaking to councils who are currently looking to work more closely with voluntary and community groups, including co-funding procurement of services (including consultation software).
2) Interesting tech story – internet of things
How the ‘internet of things’ could radically change local government: Guardian article.
The article is a simple introduction to a very ‘tech’ concept, where physical objects are connected to the internet and can send and receive data. There are multiple benefits to this – examples given include making transport run more smoothly, and the use of smart meters to cut electricity waste. BUT, I would really like to see this kind of thinking applied to community engagement and consultation. This could quite simply enable easier discovery of consultations and enable people to participate more easily.
For example, participating in a consultation on a public space such as a playground, or a planning issue like the opening hours of a licensed premises. This would involve participating via smartphones and could be done with a variety of methods, including QR codes on printed vinyl stickers, or via augmented reality overlays, or simple alerts based on GIS and mapping data. More on this in a blog post from us soon 🙂
3) Another interesting tech story – open source in local government
Bristol’s new website is open source. We like open source. Here’s some more about the new Bristol site.
4) Some thoughts on: Twitter; flexible working with holiday buybacks Twitter and local gov is it a mismatch? – an in-depth guide from Peter Barton (formerly at Lincolnshire County Council) on how councils can use Twitter effectively. If you’re already using Twitter (many councils are now using it effectively), this is interesting. If you’re not using Twitter, this is essential reading – whether you’re creating a case to management for using Twitter, wanting to do Twitter but not sure where to start.
With local authorities under pressure to cut costs without cutting service delivery, we thought this was an interesting scheme from Nottingham City Council: swapping pay for holidays. Savings of £153,000 are attributed to the scheme. Is this a controversial scheme, or common sense?
And finally, here’s a quick list of some UK local government Citizen Space users: Barnet, Bolsover, Bristol, Cumbria Partnership, London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, North East Derbyshire, Rotherham, Rochdale, Sutton…
Want to know more about Citizen Space or any of our other apps for consultation and engagement? Give us a call on 0845 638 1848 or contact Beccy or Gill for a demonstration
There are more and more digital democracy heroes: individuals and teams who want to get stuff done, will take responsibility, take (some) risks, and are literate about both digital tech and people. Because keeping stuff human matters. These people inspire us 🙂
After a turbulent 2010 (and a lot of turmoil for our public sector friends and clients), I’m seeing more and more great stuff in the UK, and abroad (hello Australia). I’m bullish about the potential of digital democracy to build a more inclusive, more responsive, more rewarding society. Times are interesting – and in a good way.
Some of these people work for Delib. They like apples. I am not in this picture.