Tag Archives: Engagement

‘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.

10 things we wish you had been there to hear at our 2016 Scottish user group

We kicked off our 2016 user groups in fine style up in Edinburgh this week. This one was hosted in collaboration with the Scottish Government, and the day was particularly exciting as it included our very first Dialogue user group in the afternoon.  The user groups are a regular opportunity for customers to catch up, to see how others in similar roles are using their platforms to manage their online consultation and engagement activity, and hopefully to pick up some interesting tips and insights.

SGusergroup
So, for the benefit of those who weren’t at the event, we’ve a quick round-up of 10 things we wish you could’ve been there to hear. Without further ado:

1. Timing is key

This is particularly pertinent as many of our UK customers are currently in purdah (pre-election period), so are not able to begin new consultations and would have needed to time their engagement activity carefully before this period began.

The key is ensuring consultation or challenge launch, promotion and feedback are timed correctly as this can impact on the success of the exercise. This might include timing promotion throughout the consultation period and not just at the start and end. Or when it comes to Dialogue, giving a challenge a specific window of time to run, as this can encourage participation:

“Dialogue has to be alive, the shorter a challenge is open the better”

Christine Connolly , Digital Engagement Manager, The Scottish Government

Our Dialogue Success Guide has a few tips on structuring when you run your challenges.

2. Using Dialogue for Participatory Budgeting (PB) can help generate ideas which may otherwise have not been heard

At the beginning of 2016, Glasgow City Council used their Dialogue instance  to consult on how they should save £130m in their budget consultation. In order to consult with as many stakeholders as possible, Glasgow ran their budget challenge at the same time as three associated events. What was immediately clear, was that the ideas generated at the events were different to those which had been received online. This helped ensure that views were heard from stakeholders who might not have otherwise provided their thoughts on the topic.

3. Processes are made for sharing

One of the most useful outputs of our user groups is hearing how our users create processes around their tools which can then be shared with other organisations. In our first UK user group in 2014, we heard how Leicester City Council had implemented a consultation tracker to manage their consultation activity – an idea for an effective process which came up again during our Scottish user group. If a consultation wasn’t listed on the tracker by a certain date it, then it wouldn’t be published on Citizen Space: this helped Leicester CC to ensure consistency in approach by giving them enough time to create quality consultations.

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Image source: Leicester City Council

4. Review and improve little and often

Both Edinburgh City Council and the Scottish Government are not only reviewing their processes internally, but are also asking their respondents to feedback to them on how they have found the consultation. They do this by asking a standard question at the end of all surveys, meaning it’s possible for them to track satisfaction levels and to review their approach to online consultation.

5. Making the most of the Citizen Space support page can really help internal processes

One of our digital heroes, Emma McEwan presented how Edinburgh City Council have adopted their Citizen Space in the last couple of years. Following the launch of Citizen Space version 2 last year, Edinburgh were able to add in a support page to their instance detailing how to get support with online consultation from inside the council, and also sharing an issues log of what questions or queries had been raised and the associated answers.

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6. Make the most of the digital toolbox already availableScreen Shot 2016-04-28 at 10.31.29Making the most of existing digital tools can help compliment an engagement exercise. Glasgow City Council have one of the largest Twitter followings of any local authority in the UK. With this expertise, they decided to take a similar approach to running their budget challenge on Dialogue as they do on Twitter.

“We didn’t want to be too heavy-handed in our approach when it came to moderation. We really wanted to let the conversation flow as much as possible on Dialogue like we do on Twitter”

Gary Hurr, Strategic Web and Customer Care Manager, Glasgow City Council

In order to ensure that Glasgow City Council ran a well-promoted budgeting exercise, its chief executive hosted a Twitter Q&A and they published the outputs on their budget page. In order to feedback on the whole process, the council used Storify to display the Tweets received.

7. Don’t let anything slip through the net: supporting your users

Digital engagement includes a broad spectrum of responsibilities and knowledge learnt. Tools like Zendesk can help ensure this knowledge is recorded and shared in the right way and that your colleagues’ requests for your expert help don’t get lost in your overflowing inbox. At Delib, we use Zendesk to manage our online support and knowledge base of help articles. It’s a pretty big job to keep this updated, but an important one to support the thousands of people that use our software. The Government Digital Service (GDS, UK) has also been using Zendesk since 2012 and the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS, UK) also uses Zendesk to manage its digital ticketing work flow.

8. Make something you are proud to share and use plain English

This was a key message from most customers at the user group and one of Edinburgh City Council’s key learnings since adopting their Citizen Space instance in 2014. Making something you are proud to share goes hand in hand with giving yourself the time to pilot surveys. Often you will know when a big consultation is about to spring up, but the smaller ones can slip through the net without any quality assurance run against them to check whether they have been translated from policy speak to plain English.

9. Running internal meetings with colleagues can help share important messages about how you do online consultation

Another of the key questions which came out of the user group was around how to encourage different teams to begin doing online consultation (adopting a de-centralised approach) and to ensure the quality of consultations they are running is high. To help solve this, Edinburgh City Council run regular internal meetings with their Citizen Space ‘power users’ alongside their own internal user group twice a year to share information and best practice.

10. Decide early how you are going to analyse and feedback to respondents, but be open to adapting your planned approach

Before launching the budget challenge on their Dialogue instance, Edinburgh City Council decided that they would get back to the top five highest rated ideas as part of their feedback process. As it turned out, the top five which had the highest rated average vote didn’t fully capture other ideas which generated equally important discussions, so they responded to the top fifteen ideas: adapting their feedback criteria appropriately.

We hope you enjoyed the user group as much as we did and if you didn’t have time to attend don’t fret we’ll most certainly be holding more user groups in 2016 with London up next. In 2015, we ran no fewer than 5 user groups around the world: kicking off in Scotland and finishing in Australia.  Here’s a summary of the other user groups we ran around the world last year:

London: October 2015
Perth (Western Australia): October 2015
Canberra (ACT, Australia): October 2015

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.

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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.

Introducing ENTSO-E: Delib’s first mainland European customer

ENTSO-E is the European Network of Transmission System Operators. They’re based in Brussels and also happen to be our first mainland European customer to use Citizen Space.

I hadn’t really gained an appreciation of the scale the organisation works at and the varied geographical levels they need to consult on until I recently spent a couple of days in Brussels running my first European training session. Representing a total of 41 electricity transmission system operators (TSOs) from 34 countries across Europe, ENTSO-E is tasked with implementing the long-term transition from national oriented electricity markets and technical systems towards an integrated European view.

Due to the technical nature of ENTSO-E tasks, their consultations have been primarily oriented towards close stakeholders since they were created in 2009. However, as ENTSO-E is growing and gaining experience, they aim to use Citizen Space as a part of their strategy to open up their activities beyond this historical group. They want to provider an easier way for other groups such as environmental or citizen organisations, and for European citizens, to directly comment on their activities.

 

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The organisation had an existing consultation process but it was fragmented across different systems and there was plenty of room for improvement. They chose Citizen Space to bring all of their consultation activity into one easy-to-manage system.

Previously, ENTSO-E had been using a cumbersome approach of SharePoint coupled with an Excel spreadsheet. As well as being difficult to administer, this process also often resulted in stakeholders sending an email through with their consultation response – making the submissions difficult to analyse. By adopting Citizen Space, they can now create, promote and analyse consultations all in the same system. This massively reduces the administration overhead and simplifies the work involved in running these large scale consultations. It also means users get the benefit of a far more intuitive, attractive way to submit their response, and all submissions feed into a single, centralised data set.

ENTSO-E also have the challenge of needing to consult on large documents. Citizen Space helps meet this need, as large documents can be broken down per-chapter and added into Citizen Space via the tool’s document reader. The opportunity for consultees to leave a free-text response enables them to comment on existing proposals alongside suggesting alternatives, creating an informed response.

The organisation will primarily be looking to use their Citizen Space instance to consult on all stages of the drafting process of major work products, which have significant impact on pan-European energy transmission.

One of the major consultations which ENTSO-E will be conducting each year is the European Ten Year Development Plan (TYNDP). This document lists and prioritizes which new high voltage electricity lines (over head or submarine) are needed between European countries to allow renewable electricity to flow across Europe at a minimum cost for consumers. It is a key element of the European decarbonisation strategy. The 2015 consultation on the 2016 plan was recently opened for consultation, running an online survey as well as promoting associated consultation events.

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As part of the consultation process, ENTSO-E are also asking respondents for feedback on their new approach at the end of their first consultations. This helps to ensure that their whole consultation process is being continually improved upon.

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 12.40.30We welcome ENTSO-E to the Citizen Space family and look forward to seeing how they chose to use Citizen Space.

BIS give us a lesson in effective promotion with their sharing economy consultation

The Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) has recently finished conducting a call for evidence on an Independent review of the sharing economy. Feedback on the review is being collected in three ways:

BIS Independent Sharing Economy

What is the sharing economy and why is it important to conduct a call for evidence?

“The sharing economy is coming and it’s being driven by consumers” Debbie Wosskow

The sharing economy is a new set of business models, driven by technologies that are making it easier for people to share their property, time and skills. Examples include property sharing via services such as Airbnb and shared transport – for example Barclays Cycle Hire scheme. The call for evidence is being led via an independent review by Debbie Wosskow (CEO of Love home swap). Ms Wosskow’s tactics will be to ask for evidence both in the conventional government ways and digitally, aiming to produce an interactive report that will draw from the experience of workers and consumers too.

Effective survey design

In order to ensure the call for evidence was tailored to different respondents’ needs, the Citizen Space survey included the use of skip-logic to ‘route’ respondents to a set of questions relevant to them. Especially commendable was the use of survey routing by audience-type, with more open free-text questions for respondents from an organisation to enable extended commenting on the subject. The survey also included the use of fact banks, which enable respondents to view more information on the topic if needed.

Generate Twitter noise

The consultation picked up a large amount of traction on Twitter. The call for evidence opened on 29th September 2014 and on the same day attracted 806 tweets being posted within just 24 hours. Using the relevant hashtag #sharingeconomy in most tweets, it was easy to follow the conversation on Twitter.

BIS also tweeted the call for evidence at potential respondents who may be interested in the subject, which helped ensure a two-way conversation. A summary of some of the best Tweets which had been posted were also made available by BIS via a Storify post.

Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 16.13.12An extended period for comment with a sense of urgency created around the closing date

A sense of urgency was also created around the closing date of the call for evidence, with the consultation date being extended to enable more participants to take part.Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 16.08.53

Direct link and page through from GOV.UK

In order to ensure respondents could also find the call for evidence from GOV.UK a direct link through to Citizen Space was added under the call to action ‘Give your views on the sharing economy’.

Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 12.18.08A dedicated microsite and newsletter created as a hub for the review

The sharing economy review itself has its own dedicated micro-site, recently commended by Helpful Technology. The site links through to relevant posts about the review – namely a number of stories, sites and blogs . The site also provides an opportunity to sign-up to a dedicated newsletter for the review which links through to the call for evidence.

Inclusion of existing research and relevant infographics

BIS also included reference to previous research conducted by PwC on the sharing economy, which helped contextualise the consultation.

Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 16.12.09BIS aims to produce a report by the end of the year following the call for evidence and we’re looking forward to seeing the results.

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.

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

Matthew

We’ve some important work going on behind the scenes….

Over the past couple of months we’ve been focusing our development efforts on improving our hosting and associated product environment via an appropriately titled ‘production infrastructure sprint’.

Although this doesn’t sound as exciting as adding features to our products, it’s a vital part of Delib’s service to our customers, as it helps to ensure that we continue to meet our uptime and performance commitments.  Here’s a little overview of what we’ve been up to.

Photo of our sprint calendar

What we’ve been doing

Up until recently we hosted all our customer instances on large multi-tenancy servers. ‘Multi-tenancy’ means that several Delib customer sites run side-by-side on the same machines, although all their data is stored in separate databases.  These servers live in secure data centres, physically located in the same territory as the customers they serve.  The data centres are responsible for providing Internet connectivity for the production servers.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been moving customers slowly and carefully in batches from our current hosting providers to new providers who can better meet our service and uptime requirements.

Why we’re changing our hosting infrastructure

The reasons for migrating to new hosting providers are threefold:

1. Improvements in availability

In the UK, we are moving all our hosting to Rackspace, the market leader in cloud hosting, which offers a 100% uptime guarantee.  Since our uptime is necessarily bounded by that of our upstream providers, it’s important to use the best that we can get.  We are researching the best providers in other territories, to ensure that we continue to meet and exceed our commitments for all our customers.

We use a server monitoring service that notifies our account managers and developers by text message whenever a customer’s instance is unavailable for any reason (even if it’s in the middle of the night) so we’re all keen to ensure that these improvements pay off as soon as possible!

2. More hosting options for customers

After migration, every Citizen Space and Budget Simulator instance will live on its own virtual machine.  This allows us to offer different hosting packages for different usage patterns: we can now tailor the system specification (RAM, disk space, number of processors) to the requirements of the customer.  Furthermore, large spikes in one customer’s traffic can no longer adversely affect the response times of other customers’ sites.

Dialogue App instances will continue to run on a multi-tenancy setup by default.  However, customers with heavy usage requirements (eg large, heavily-publicised national dialogues), will have the option to host their Dialogue App instance on its own machine.

3. Consistent configurations and automation

As our number of customers grows, our developers have been spending more and more time engaged in administrative tasks such as rolling out new instances and upgrading existing customers.  While this is vital to the business and to our customers, developers would much prefer to spend their time developing new features and fixing bugs in the products.

At the same time as moving customers to the new hosting infrastructure, we’ve been improving our suite of developer tools so that more of the day-to-day tasks can be done without developer intervention.

For our customers, this means that planned maintenance should soon be able to take place, as far as possible, outside working hours.  It also means that developers will have more time to spend on improving our products, resulting in a better user experience for our customers and end users.

Find out more

If you are interested in finding out more about the improvements we are making please feel free to get in touch with either Louise or Rowena.

10 key learnings from our first local government Citizen Space user group

Our fledgling Citizen Space user groups have offered an opportunity for some of our customers to get together and learn what each other have been up to, how different organisations use the software, as well as being able to discover and discuss our future plans for Citizen Space.

Citizen Space user group

Following the success of our first ever central government meet-up, hosted by the Department of Health back in the summer, we were excited to take the opportunity to chat to more of our customer base from all over the country at our first local government group, kindly hosted by Birmingham City Council. If you missed the sessions this time we thought we’d put some of the main nuggets of consultation gold in a lovely blog, and here they are:

1) Aim to promote Citizen Space effectively internally

“As Birmingham is such a large council, it is great to be able to link everything up via Citizen Space”

Steve Rose – Head of Strategic Research

Citizen Space is essentially unlimited. This means that as many users, departments and consultations as an organisation requires can be created – but to get the most out of this the tool is promoted internally. Both Birmingham City Council and Staffordshire County Council discussed the benefits of their approaches to promoting Citizen Space internally.

Kristian Walker from Staffordshire often takes the time to pop round and talk to colleagues about Citizen Space when they are about to use the tool, which has been a proven approach used in other government departments in the past. With effective internal communications, and a network of Citizen Space champions, Birmingham City Council have been able to successfully roll Citizen Space out across their organisation and reinforce their standardised approach via a councillor mandate.

2) Decide on an adoption approach that suits your organisation

Most Citizen Space customers choose to adopt either a de-centralised or centralised model of working when it comes to using the tool. Which model to choose often depends on an organisation’s set-up or team structure. The user group presented an opportunity to discuss the pros and cons of both approaches, with some councils such as Bristol City Council choosing to switch between the two modes over the past few years, adapting to the needs of staff availability and the council’s structure.

3) Using other digital tools alongside Citizen Space can help with process

Citizen Space plays nicely with other digital tools. This means that rather than using Citizen Space as a hub in isolation, it is possible to combine it with a variety of applications. In order to help ensure that consultation owners and the team are aware of consultations going live, Bristol City Council have created email reminder notifications using an Excel document. With lots of organisations slowly moving towards using Gmail, Google Docs is also an option available to many more organisations for creating custom work-flow processes. Both tools can be used in order to set-up reminder emails, supplementing the email notifications already available in Citizen Space.

Leicester City Council also use an email-based reminder system, referring to this as a  ‘consultation tracker’, which is sent out to all service leads on a regular basis. Jay Hardman from Leicester City Council explained to the group how their Citizen Space and work-flow processes combined had worked to ensure the organisation was consulting effectively. The tracker lists a ‘forthcoming’, ‘done’ and ‘close-down’ section which, if not completed within 12 weeks, will flag the consultation owner’s name. This helps encourage consultation owners to complete their full consultation cycle, providing a better result for respondents.

4) Create Citizen Space champions to lead the policy area 

In a de-centralised approach, some customers choose to assign Citizen Space or consultation champions within each team. This helps ensure that there is always someone knowledgeable on-hand to help out, who also has an in-depth knowledge of the area of policy being consulted on. Birmingham City Council have chosen to adopt this approach with a further consultation lead as the main point of contact for all of the department champions.

5) Provide users with any additional guidance they may need, at a point when they need it

In order to ensure colleagues have all of the information in one place at the time when they will be running a consultation, consultation leads will sometimes choose to link to guidance from their intranet pages.  Jay Hardman from Leicester cited two key documents/principles which he normally links users to for an overview of online consultation:

Cabinet Office guidelines
– The Gunning Principles (the idea that a consultation must take place at a formative stage with sufficient reasons to allow for a considered response. Adequate time must also be given to respond and the feedback should be conscientiously be taken into account)

We at Delib also run an online knowledge base and an active blog, both with useful information for a variety of user levels.

6) Create a culture of continuous improvement and learn from past consultations

Leicester City Council have recognised that each consultation can present different challenges and outcomes, and as a result are learning how to operate a culture of continuous improvement. If a consultation doesn’t go exactly as planned, and especially if there are follow-up consultations, it is useful to ensure that challenges and learnings are acknowledged before running the next engagement exercise.

7) Help build users’ general digital skills via Citizen Space

Creating consultations in Citizen Space can help improve upon general digital skills. Being able to successfully set-up and then digitally promote a consultation encompasses many skills – from copy-writing through to general online dexterity, such as being able to upload images. Having trained a variety of organisations on using Citizen Space and running online consultations, we’re learning that becoming confident with using Citizen Space is linked to confidence in web-skills generally.

8) Encourage colleagues to plan consultations in advance 

Leicester City Council have created what they call a ‘public consultation tracker’ – if colleagues fill if in the key information about the consultation well in advance (12 weeks beforehand) then the consultation team will help out. This helps ensure that support is at-hand, but only if teams are organised enough to call in assistance early on in the process. The completion of an ‘intention to consult’ form means that the consultation team can advise early-on in the process.

9) Use Citizen Space to monitor performance 

Citizen Space is often used by a number of departments across an organisation, so some customers choose to provide their research team with access to key statistics in Citizen Space, as this can help with performance monitoring. Taking forward best practice from these investigations and making sure all departments reach the same level of consultation expertise can only be good for respondents across the board.

“Citizen Space helps monitor best practice so that we can help maintain the council’s reputation”

Kristian Walker, Staffordshire County Council

10) Create your own expert panel of consultation advisers

Online consultation requires a variety of skills ,which one individual alone may not be expert in. One way of ensuring that all the skills are in one place is to create a consultation panel/steering board, who may be able to provide oversight of all consultation happening within an organisation. This might not necessarily be solely a consultation team – it may also include a member of the web or communications team.

We’re hoping to continue running two user-groups a year in collaboration with customers. Watch this space for the next event!

Rowena

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