Clackmannanshire Council wanted to do consultation better. We asked Maciej Alexander, Performance & Information Officer at the council to share their experience of switching to Citizen Space…
What was your public engagement like before you used Citizen Space?
“Local governments tend to have a poor history of engaging with stakeholders. Here in Clackmannanshire, we recognised that we could do things much better. I think communication always is an issue, both externally and internally. We wanted to address this problem and ensure we do our best to engage with as wide audiences as possible.
“Prior to the introduction of Citizen Space, we had several (at least!) licences of another online survey tool across the whole of the Council. Although we did have an internal consultation database, it wasn’t very user-friendly, and coordinating all the surveys, let’s be honest, was a pain. Needless to say, the costs of individual licences kept rising!
“There was an understanding of what needed to happen, but we couldn’t quite find the right way of communicating and engaging with our stakeholders.”
Why did you choose Citizen Space?
“We wanted a more coordinated approach to consulting and Citizen Space is just what we needed. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t like someone just said: ‘Go with Delib, they’re great.’ We did our homework and we did it pretty thoroughly. We approached other organisations that provided similar services. They seemed good, but what ‘sold’ Delib was their proactive approach, flexibility and the amazing ‘we asked, you said, we did’ section of Citizen Space, which we use to report back on the actions we have taken in response to consultations… Not to mention their staff’s wicked sense of humour and, naturally, a competitive price.
“In the blink of an eye, we got access to the demo site – no-one likes buying a pig in a poke. But it wasn’t until we had training delivered by one of the staff that we realised how much more there is to Citizen Space. Surprise, it’s not only an online survey tool! It is indeed a comprehensive engagement tool. Nine months on, we see Citizen Space as Clacks’ ‘notice board’, where we advertise consultations, public meetings, and put out questions to the public.”
What’s your experience of using Citizen Space as a council?
“I think we must be adding at least one new consultation to Citizen Space per week. Most recently, we have used Citizen Space to consult our residents on the very contentious topic of budget proposals. The online tool allowed us to present our proposals in a clear and concise way with a simple Likert-type scale the respondents seem to like.
“Unlike other online survey tools, Citizen Space is very visual and interactive. It is also very fluid, allowing us to customise our consultations to reflect the topics we’re exploring. We very often liaise with graphic designers to create something unique and appropriate to what we’re consulting on. We use images, Google maps, Facebook, Twitter and digital libraries to better communicate with our stakeholders – something other tools did not support to this extent. Without Citizen Space, our consulting would be a very dull exercise.
“It’s not like we completely rely on Citizen Space to do our work for us though. Since we introduced Citizen Space to the Council, we have developed a consultation toolkit, which explains the most appropriate methods of carrying out consultations; their strengths and weaknesses. We also now run consultation training. Citizen Space has been a breath of fresh air and ‘nudged’ us to re-think the way we engage.
“Like any system, Citizen Space is not perfect (it’s close though). But whenever we have had an issue with the system or couldn’t do something, we contacted Delib and they fixed it straight away or in the space of a couple of hours (I wish my mobile phone network was as efficient!).
“As much as Citizen Space makes our work easier, it also makes us think differently about the way we engage with our stakeholders and residents. It’s a great tool supported by a very proactive and knowledgeable team of developers and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to organisations wanting to improve the way they consult.”