Here at Delib, we’re always glad to see people using technology to broaden the transparency of Government and to enable the public to participate in democracy as more informed citizens.
As the saying goes, ‘knowledge is power’: I’m a big believer in equipping citizens with the facts first so they can engage with what Government is doing (or not doing). With the right information in front of them, people can then begin to engage, comment and challenge.
But we should definitely celebrate steps in the right direction and give appropriate credit where change is happening – like at The Office for National Statistics (ONS), for example. The ONS is the UK’s national statistical institute and the largest producer of official statistics. One of its key responsibilities is to collect, analyse and disseminate a range of key economic, social and demographic statistics about the UK. Early in 2014, the ONS conducted some research into the audience of its website. They wanted to understand the characteristics of users in order to help them achieve theirstated aims of supporting democratic debate and finding ‘innovative ways of making data, statistics and analysis more accessible, engaging and easier to understand’.
The persona of an ‘Inquiring Citizen’
Three core ‘personas’ were identified in their research: ‘Expert Analysts’, ‘Information Foragers’ and ‘Inquiring Citizens’. (If you’re anything like me, you’re squarely in the third camp: ‘I’m not a power user looking to analyse complex patterns and knuckle down with regression curves. I’m just looking to find a trustworthy source of information about things in the news!’)
What the ONS found was that they needed to simplify their website, reduce the complexity of the language and make the whole site more responsive.
Visual.ONS was released earlier in January this year and represents a first step, sitting alongside a partner site to the ONS Beta website which is acting as a testing ground for a future ONS website for the ‘analysts’ and ‘foragers’.
Although still in its infancy, Visual.ONS has already drummed up some positive engagement in its first few months. Aparticular piece of analysis on ‘single people in the UK’ using Census data has captured the imagination. The current featured piece on maps illustrates different data sets on a map of the UK and is useful for comparisons. If you’re in the market to buy a new house, it might be worth checking this out to find out where your next move might be… (I’ve already settled on Burnley). This shows that there is real potential for data published by the ONS to spark wider discussion and debate when presented in an accessible format.
There is a lot to be encouraged about from the direction of travel that the ONS is taking and even better that it began from some good old fashioned survey research. With the UK perfectly placed as a leader in open data as well, I am holding cautious optimism for a brighter, more open policy making future with a greater dash of public engagement.
Eric – secondee from the the Civil Service Fast Stream
This week I was asked to write a blog on ‘Open Up’, the Digital Democracy Commission report – a great opportunity as the newbie here at Delib to learn about what is being proposed to improve digital technology in Parliament and how digital could help increase public engagement.
I found the report informative and relevant, not only for Parliament, but for citizens as well. It’s full of interesting video snippets and infographics on topics ranging from how Parliament works to what students are saying about political engagement with today’s youth.
Delib are big supporters of digital democracy – engaging both citizens and government. We were pretty excited to provide the Commission’s online survey, via Citizen Space, which helped them to engage with people on both sides of the government fence for the report. The Commission also held events and meetings, connecting with a wide range of people across the UK online and face to face.
What does it say?
There are 34 recommendations outlined in the Digital Democracy Commission report. The Summary condenses these in five key targets.
The first target is for the House of Commons to ensure that everyone can understand what it does by 2020. To me, that seems like a big ask but a good ask – something that needs to happen. Voting in the UK has decreased from 80% in the 1980s to 65% in 2010. The fact is, people won’t vote if they think their vote won’t matter. In order to believe that their vote does make a difference, citizens need to understand how things work, that government is relevant to them and that their voice will be heard. There is some stark demographic content within the report about who is likely to vote – this information identifies the citizens Parliament needs to focus on to drive engagement.
The second target is for Parliament to be fully interactive and digital by 2020, giving the public a way to get involved by asking ministers questions and also contribute to the law making process. This would be a great way for citizens to engage in relevant dialogue with MPs. A win all around that supports engagement by demonstrating to the public that their voice is wanted and heard.
Creating a new forum for public participation in the debating function in Westminster Hall is the recommendation of the third target. If the pilot is successful this could be rolled out to debates in the main House of Commons chamber. Giving people the opportunity to ask questions created some impact with the #AskPickles (the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government) twitter session, which resulted in a law being changed.
The fourth target to secure online voting as an option for all voters by 2020 presents valid technical challenges; so far Estonia is the only country in the world to have permanent national online voting. However, with the right specialists working within the UK government the Commission is confident this can be achieved.
The final target is based around open data; it is proposed that by 2016 all published information and broadcast footage produced by Parliament should be freely available online in formats suitable for re-use. This includes the (edited) verbatim report, Hansard. Great concept, but it’s not enough just to have the information available. There is still the barrier of Parliamentary language – if comms aren’t written in plain English, getting people reading the actual content will be a tough nut to crack.
Making tomorrow’s democracy work
A key thing to all of this is how do you communicate these changes to the public and gain their buy-in? As we say at Delib – it takes two to do the democracy tango. Interaction between government and citizens needs to be improved for everyone to benefit.
As someone who supports more transparency in government, I am all for Parliament using digital technology to be more efficient and changing some of the age old traditions to get with the times. Not easy but necessary. If Parliament lags behind the digital world, the youth of today (otherwise known as the leaders of tomorrow) are going to be less and less engaged. And for citizens to get involved they need relevant discussion and confidence that their voice will be heard.
For anyone who is yet to have a go, My2050 challenges you to get UK CO₂ emissions below 20% by 2050 by setting how much effort is applied to areas both in the Supply and Demand sectors – and it’s not a simple feat.
The Guardian asks four journalists what they would do differently
It’s interesting to see how individuals approach the My2050 challenge and to hear the rationale behind their decisions. The common theme to emerge from the Guardian article is how difficult it is to balance supply and demand – working out where, and how deep, the cuts should be.
“The exercise was valuable in forcing confrontation with demand as well as supply. The latter is easier to navigate.”
David Walker, contributing editor for the Guardian
Tracking the journalists’ thoughts and opinions as they were actually using the tool also helped to expose the difficult decisions which are needed.
“Oooh, it’s fiddly, this balancing demand with supply while getting down to 20% of current carbon emissions.”
Louise Tickle, social affairs journalist from the Guardian
Cardiff University explore the challenges of creating a national citizen engagement process for energy policy
In a more academic context, the My2050 tool proved useful in presenting the higher level complexities of system change to a varied audience, as well as improving engagement in policy change.
What all of these examples show, is the huge diversity of uses for such a tool – not to mention the broad range of individuals who can be engaged as part of what is a very complex challenge to address.
In the three years since its launch, the landscape (environmentally, politically, economically) has, of course, changed. Were My2050 built today, might the emergence of fracking, the decreasing price of oil and the renewed focus on nuclear power change the structure and approach?
These developments provide a good example of what the My2050 tool plays a part in – highlighting the continuous flux that underpins the complexity of balancing environment, economy and energy demand. That My2050 still continues to encourage discussion and Deliberation on the difficult questions around UK energy provision is something we are pleased about; perhaps the important thing is just that the conversation continues.
It’s been a beautiful sunny week, but that hasn’t stopped our customers from working hard at creating some fantastic consultations. From SoundCloud embeds to using EventBrite for events, our customers have been using Citizen Space in collaboration with lots of other tools this week. Here are just five of the consultations which have caught our eye:
The Scottish Government has used a Sound Cloud embed to record the full consultation in audio format. This is the first time we’ve seen used Sound Cloud used in collaboration with a consultation and we think it’s a great way of consulting with people who may struggle with reading large documents.
If you’re running public events alongside your consultation, it can be helpful to ask respondents to register using a tool like Eventbrite. This helps in gauging how to staff an event by giving an idea of the number of attendees expected, plus it keeps people more committed to the event by providing them with a ticket.
The BBC Trust is consulting on its Music Radio Consultation. The consultation is running for three months, and invites BBC radio listeners to express their views on the different stations. The BBC Trust is using custom question headers to match the survey questions with its corporate branding colours.
Defra’s combination of fact-banks and images are helping to seek views on regulations as part of the scheme. By using fact-banks to present the scheme administration details, respondents can view or hide information as and when needed.
That’s your lot for this week. Tell us if you have a consultation to shout about, it’s our favourite thing to do!
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.
George’s Ideas Lab is an innovative Dialogue App launched in Bristol and showcases how mayor-led engagement can develop fresh ideas for a city. Witnessing it’s success over the past few months got me thinking; how has Dialogue App been used globally by our customers in 2013?
1) Consultation at street level – King County, WA, US
3) Consultation within the Welsh valleys- Wales, UK
After a successful first round of engagement, the Vattenfall’s Power in the Valleys team are now entering their second round of consultation. Their Dialogue App is being used to ask what local residents think should be done with the Pen y Cymoedd Wind Energy Project Community Fund, this time focusing on targeted issues starting with improving community health.
4) Consultation across England’s Forests – England, UK
From determining what topics should be covered at an upcoming event to brainstorming the next enhancement to a software release, the Global WebSphere Community Ideation is aimed at driving collective innovation across the web community.
Dialogue App can be used for a broad range of consultations, but there is a prominent theme throughout these examples: engaging topics which inspire participants to generate ideas and to work together to refine them.
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.
Latest government statistics show that 33% of the population of Wales can speak Welsh, equating to around 562,000 residents. Although it’s not currently a legal requirement to provide a Welsh translation for UK-wide consultations, it may encourage a higher response rate amongst Welsh speakers.
Based on previous UK-wide consultations, there is no uniform way that public bodies deal with Welsh language provision. The BBC for example, have published their Welsh Language Scheme which outlines their commitment to communicating bilingually with the Welsh public. The BBC Trust have also previously provided separate consultations in both English and Welsh on their Complaints Framework.
If you are interested in providing a bi-lingual consultations, there are a couple of ways to achieve this in Citizen Space:
Provide a Welsh version of the consultation as a downloadable PDF document under the ‘Related information’ on the consultation overview page. This can either include a translation of questions (similar to the DEFRA consultation) or a paper version of the survey. For the latter option, responses can be added as an offline response against the online version of consultation in order to centralise the responses.
Create two online consultations, creating the Welsh version as a ‘private consultation’ so that it is not visible on the public hub but can be linked through to from a second ‘main’ consultation from the overview page. The two consultations’ response data would need to be amalgamated for analysis purposes, however since those using the Welsh consultation are likely to respond in Welsh, separate online consultations would aid sorting out which responses required translation.
If you’ve found any more examples or tips for consulting with Welsh citizens, we’d love to hear from you.
It’s important in any consultation that the respondents are informed about the topic at hand, which is why there is relevant information embedded within the online consultation.
At the top of each page of the consultation is an embedded PDF of the consultation document; this is also included on the initial overview page of the consultation. This makes it easy for respondents to read the document in context without leaving the consultation page.
When information from the consultation document is relevant to a specific question it has been provided as ‘More information’ under the question.
There are also text boxes at the end of every question to encourage respondents to justify their responses. This encourages deliberation, and gives the opportunity to provide any supporting evidence which could then be considered by the Department of Health when reviewing the proposals at the end of the consultation period.