Tag Archives: democracy

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

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.

Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council choose Citizen Space!

To add to the success of Citizen Space, a new member of our family is Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council going live with their consultation hub on 25th January 2012.

They have decided to use Citizen Space to aid their consultation process. You can view their Citizen Space now to see all of their consultations online.

Getting the most from ‘Featured Consultations’

Citizen Space is a cloud-based web application, which means when we introduce upgraded features they’re available to you automatically, with no need to install or upgrade anything yourself.

The latest upgrade to Citizen Space included the very simple (but very effective) new feature of being able to feature a consultation on the consultation hub. Although it might seem like a small-step in terms of the benefits, featured consultations are of more use than it may first appear:

1. Drive traffic to increase response

Its the obvious benefit, but worth stating. By giving a consultation a more prominent place on the hub you can influence the number of people who will come across it.

If you’re part-way through running a consultation and the response rate is less than you were hoping for, you can quickly get it up on the featured consultation section to increase its traffic. Alternatively, if one of your featured consultations has hit the number of responses you were hoping for, you can swap it with another without needing to take the consultation down.

2. Show what’s important to you

Different organisations have different interests in different things at different times. If your current focus is on making your area green, then featuring consultations to do with recycling makes complete sense.

The featured consultation area enables you to convey to your stakeholders what’s important to you and show how they can influence that issue.

London Borough of Barnet use Featured Consultations to show how they listen

3. Demonstrate how you listen

In the past, we’ve experienced that some people don’t get involved in consultation because they don’t think their submissions feed into decision-making.

Citizen Space is designed to demonstrate the whole process of not just people submitting their ideas, but displaying how those ideas influence high-level decisions once a consultation is closed. You can then feature a closed consultation to drive people’s attention to a record of what you consulted upon, what the public said and what happened as a result of it.

With the ability to embed an image and specific introduction for the featured consultation, Citizen Space gives you flexibility in making your consultation tool work best for your organisation.

If you have any other ideas on how to make best use of the featured consultation in Citizen Space, we’d love to hear your thoughts.

Who Can Talk Online?

This is a straightforward story on the face of it, but raises some questions the more you think about it. A civil servant has been sacked from DCSF for posting a negative comment about Hazel Blears on www.theyworkforyou.com, on a seemingly unknown site, using her work email address – see update below.

Straightforward case in a way, posting on the web on work time, bringing your employer into disrepute, there’s reason enough there for something to be done, be it written warning or, as in this case, dismissal.Still though, two one troubling element to the case.

First of all, given the posting in question was meant to be anonymous, how was it tracked down? That it was is no big deal in a way, very little on the web is truly anonymous and you don’t need to be particularly sophisticated to find things out. The real issue within it is why it was tracked and who did so? Are we spending money on tracking government critics online, even when the criticism has broken no laws? I’m never a fan of the phrase ‘it sends out a message’, but it is apt in this case. What impact will publicly tracking down a government critic online have on every one else’s confidence in participating? UPDATE 2: Seems this isn’t what happened at all then, see below.

Second, I still get the feeling there’s a missed opportunity here. The internet both allows and has evolved to become a place for people from different backgrounds, locations, perspectives, etc to come together and discuss things with one another. One of the greatest opportunities government at all levels has in this regard is to allow genuine staff to talk to genuine service users online. It’s absurd to think that this doesn’t happen offline anyway, people who work in government happily talk to people who use government services about the service and any problems it may have. But when it comes to the internet, government is still trying to restrict the number of people who can talk publically to a select handful of approved communications officials.Freeing up civil servants to talk to people online might be one of the best ways to build genuine understanding on both sides.

Certainly I see it working regularly on the rest of the web, and it works well here in Bristol where councillors get involved with discussion on political blogs. So why not go a step further and encourage staff themselves to discuss their work and their thoughts for improvement with the public online? It’s the public that pay for these staff at the end of the day anyway.

UPDATE: Seems www.theyworkforyou.com and My Society had nothing to do with this, and weren’t even contacted by the journo who wrote the story. How odd. Did check the site for the comment before blogging, but assumed it must have been deleted.

UPDATE 2: Well, that’s a more straightforward story then, she emailed Hazel Blears the comments using her DCSF email account. Pretty simple trace to run then.