Tag Archives: public consultation

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.

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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

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.

Stroud District Council use Citizen Space for Online Consultations

Stroud District Council have joined the Citizen Space family, a very big welcome to them! Their system went live on the 13th January 2012 and they are already running an interesting online survey to gain input for their future planning strategy.

To see their current online engagement, you can go to Stroud District Consultation Hub now or see their consultations as part of our Citizen Space aggregator.

5 Interesting Links about Police Authorities and Elected Commissioners

Police Authorities are going through an era of unprecedented change, and the challenges faced by those working within them are numerous. Ever since the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill was first announced people inside and outside authorities have been trying to ascertain what all of this will actually mean in real terms. I thought it wouldn’t hurt to look at some of the many articles and blogs which discuss the challenges and opportunities faced, whilst also casting an eye over some of the interesting work that is being undertaken currently.

The Guardian posted this article last week looking at some of the issues around transferring power, and the less than visible public nature of Police Authorities as they currently exist.

As the volume of noise around Police Commissioners builds, somewhat inevitably candidates have begun to poke their heads above the parapet. This piece from Channel 4 suggests a few, namely New Labour dinosaurs, who are out for another crack of the whip.

The BBC also stuck their oar in last week with a look at the balancing act between occupying a political position and maintaining a supposedly neutral stance. It also raises a lot of concerns as to the nature of manifesto promises against operational needs.

If you work in a Police Authority, or indeed any aspect of the emergency services, why not share your misgivings, challenges, and even dare I say it, positive experiences with others who work in similar roles? On Sunday the 15th of April BlueLightCamp will be happening in Manchester, an ‘unconference’ style event allowing attendees to pitch sessions of their own design. If it’s anything like UkGovCamp12 it’ll be well worth attending.

And what about Police Authorities who are already doing things well and preparing for a change of leadership? One of our recent blog posts covers just that, looking at the way Avon and Somerset Police Authority have utilised their instance of Citizen Space to tie together all of their consultation activity.

Finally, why not take a look at how Police Authorities have used our Budget Simulator to help engage stakeholders more effectively around their budget consultation? It’s had many happy users which you can read more about here.

Avon & Somerset Police Authority Fridge Magnets

Tips for setting up your organisation’s consultation infrastructure

If you’re planning to embed online consultation seriously within your organisation, and help build a more participative organisation for the future, then you need to think hard about how best to set up your online consultation infrastructure.

The core reason you need to think about your consultation infrastructure is largely to do with scale – as you need to consider how as an organisation you might scale your consultation work, running regular consultation processes across multiple departments, on multiple subjects to multiple stakeholder groups.

Core to addressing these issues around scale is ensuring you implement a system that allows you to easily manage and organise your consultation processes – whether they’re online or offline – and ensure it’s a system that can easily be used across multiple different departments, providing relevant user permissions giving multiple different access levels.

So our biggest tip in this space is *get the basics right* and then look to innovate once you’ve sorted out these basics. We’ve put together a fuller list of consultation infrastructure tips.

Getting the basics right is something we’ve been working with central government in the UK for over the last 18 months, helping implement Citizen Space – an open source consultation platform, that helps government departments better manage their consultation processes.

So far Citizen Space has been successfully implemented across 30+ government organisations, and excitingly as it’s open source means that it can be used by government’s across the world – helping us build our vision of *government as a platform*.