Author: Catherine Millett

An Australian Secondment Draws to a Close

As her secondment to Australia draws to a close, our UK colleague Rowena Farr recently took some time out to reflect on the innovative consultations our customers are running, professional events in Canberra and just how good Christmas in Aus really is!

Rowena, it has been so fantastic to have you in Australia for the last two months. What brought you over from the UK? 

I’m currently on secondment to Australia for just under 3 months to train our new Account Manager in Canberra, Mick Leahey. I’ve been here for 2 months so far, and was lucky enough to spend Christmas over here too. I was in Sydney for Christmas and then Tasmania early in the new year; both of which I really enjoyed. I’ve been on secondment to the Australian arm of the business before, and always enjoy the opportunity to come and help out where I can.

Have you and Mick had the opportunity to meet any clients while in Australia?

We have indeed had an opportunity to meet customers which has been great! During my first week in Canberra, I ran a training session at ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) which I really enjoyed as the group asked heaps of questions. They were all really engaged, and some of them even wanted to stay on at the end to ask further questions about a couple of their upcoming consultations.

Mick and I have also been out and about to meet customers in Canberra including meeting the Department of Industry about their challenge run using Dialogue on the Digital Economy Strategy. Just before the Christmas break, we met up with the Treasury, Department of the Environment and Energy and the Department of Health. We’ve got another couple of customer meetings in the diary for the next couple of weeks. I really enjoy going out and meeting customers face to face, so I hope we can squeeze in as many meetings as possible whilst I’m here!

I was also fortunate enough to attend a couple of events in my first couple of weeks, including the Design as a Democratic Force event and Open Opportunity Canberra. I also attended the first Canberra Product Tank meet-up one evening which I enjoy attending back in Bristol where I’m usually based. The event was hosted by the Digital Transformation Agency so it was great to see their offices and chat to a couple of the team there.

Are there any Australian consultations you have been able to look at and compare to UK consultations while you have been here?

The Department of Industry were nearing the end of their first couple of challenges using Dialogue which are based on the digital economy. It was great to meet the team and hear about how they had promoted the challenges: they seemed really engaged with ensuring that respondents knew about the challenges and how to access them. I also like the way that they’ve been active at keeping in touch with respondents by popping a message to update respondents on where they are at with analysis: e.g

It’s also been great to see what a couple of our newer customers have been up to since adopting Citizen Space. We’ve got quite a few UK-Australian parallels in terms of departments now so it’s great to see where they are consulting on a similar topic but perhaps taking a totally different approach. Whilst at ABS (the Australian Bureau of Statistics) I was able to chat about my experiences of working with the Office of National Statistics in the UK.

While chatting with our Australian clients, has there been any feedback about the challenges and opportunities they are facing with online consultation?

I really enjoy chatting with Australian clients to hear about their approaches to online engagement and associated challenges. It’s been really nice to catch up with a couple of the customers I have met previously including our contact at the Department of Environment to see where they’re at with online engagement. I’ve noticed more of an appetite to use response publishing and Dialogue than a couple of years ago, which is fantastic to see as it’s indicative of departments being more open and transparent with respondents.

As you head back to the UK at the end of January, what are you most looking forward to with your clients and colleagues over there?

One of my favourite parts of my role is getting out and about to work events and meeting clients face to face. I’m sad to be missing out on the UK Gov Camp and Not Westminster which are both while I’m still in Australia, but am hoping to attend more Delib-related events in the new year.

I’m looking forward to getting back to the UK and chatting with my customers who are currently being looked after by my lovely colleagues Natalie, Katherine and Louise whilst I’m in Australia. I always enjoy our user groups and have been involved in planning them over the past couple of years so always want to make sure they’re a success and leave customers feeling like they want to attend again the next year. We’re looking at adding another location or two to the agenda in 2018 so watch this space for more information on that 😊

Thanks Rowena, it’s been an absolute pleasure to have you in Australia and we know the entire team, and especially Mick, have benefited from your knowledge and contagious positivity!

Digital hero: Carol Hayward

Across the globe, community engagement practitioner Carol Hayward is renowned for her ability to connect with communities and build relationships of trust.

Earlier this year, Carol was asked to join the working group for the Birkenhead Residents Association (BRA), and here at Delib we were delighted to provide Dialogue for their use in a planned consultation. While the consultation with Birkenhead residents is continuing, Carol has generously given her time to talk about the project and its continuing legacy.

Carol, what has been your role with the Birkenhead Residents Association?

I was asked to join the working group about a year ago because of my past links with the council and my community engagement experience.

Do you live in the community?

Yes – we have lived here for 8 years and the area is where my partner grew up. It’s a fabulous community to live in – close to the city centre, surrounded by bush and with a vibrant village feel.

How did you get involved with the association?

The Secretary of the Birkenhead Residents Association asked me if I would be interested in helping out and I thought it sounded really interesting. I think the main reason he invited me to get involved was through my past role at Auckland Council when I engaged with him and other village planning groups as part of a strategic planning process and then ongoing engagement to try to improve the democratic process. I’ve also been involved over the last few years within the local bush reserve on pest management and it was good to be able to bring my experience and connections to help with this work.

Why is there an engagement program happening at this time and what are you hoping to achieve?

The BRA had been thinking of developing this plan for a while but I guess there were a couple of key drivers for it to be progressed now. The first was that the mall owners have been talking about redevelopment. They are in the middle of redeveloping one of the other malls they own in another established community location and had some significant disagreements with the local community. The BRA were keen to pre-empt any discussion about the mall development and come up with a community-led plan first. The second driver is that Auckland is struggling with significant amounts of growth and the plan is a way of trying to ensure that any intensification that happens in the area happens sympathetically where possible.

Highbury Mall concept picture

Highbury Mall concept picture


Are you using a blend of online and more traditional engagement methods? Why? How have your stakeholders been responding to the engagement tools you have selected?

We launched the consultation with a community forum back in March. We then used that early feedback to inform the second phase of engagement which was a combination of online, face to face, door knocking etc. Dialogue was a great way of sharing ideas and getting people to have a conversation about them. In the online space, people tend to be more honest – when you’re in a face to face situation and there is someone with really strong views, it can be difficult to feel confident challenging them. Online it’s different. Dialogue is great as it allows people to come up with their own user name (so they can be easily identifiable or not) and then participate without fear that their neighbour is going to get upset with a comment they’ve made. I liked that I was able to share ideas from Dialogue on social media so I used that to promote the Dialogue and to get further feedback on comments. When we talked to people face to face, we also tried to add in their comments to the Dialogue – it’s good to have everything in one place that everyone can see.

How are you communicating with your stakeholders in terms of promoting project involvement and project findings/results? And how will you “close the loop” with them at the end of the project?

From the community ideas and discussions, a draft plan was developed. We were really lucky to have two local architects volunteer to be part of the working group and they turned the ideas into an amazing vision with concepts of how those ideas could be turned into actions. We then shared the draft plan with the community through a drop-in at the local primary school and online through our mailing list and social media. We have also started to get some wider publicity out through one of the local community magazines and are planning more over the next few months. We have been engaging with key stakeholders such as the local board and council staff, the town centre association and the mall owners on a regular basis throughout the project to keep them informed and involved. We have a few ideas about how we promote the final plan but it’s still a work in progress – however, I imagine we will use a mixture of direct email, physical promotion eg within the library, traditional and digital media.

Stakeholder viewing material birkenhead planning

Stakeholder viewing material on the future of Birkenhead

What do you think the legacy of this project will be?

We want the community vision to be relevant for the next 30 years (with regular reviews and adaptations as required). We want it to guide and provide inspiration for property developers, the council, business owners and local residents for us all to work together to enhance the great things about Birkenhead while supporting the inevitable growth that enable us to live, work and play in the area.

You can view the community-led working document here:

Carol is the Community Engagement Manager at Waitemata District Health board in Auckland, involved as a volunteer within her local community and is also studying for a Master of Business Administration.

Prior to moving into the health sector 3 years ago, Carol worked in community engagement roles within local government for around 10 years in both Auckland and at Bristol City Council in the UK.

Carol also has experience in governance positions with strengths in leadership and coaching, and is a strategic thinker who has led the development of key strategies and policies. She is a relationship builder and networker who has a collaborative leadership style, providing mentoring and support to implement innovation and change.

Coordinating consultation with super users

We recently learned from our client Metro North Hospital and Health Service about their initiative to streamline Citizen Space through the creation of super users (department admin users). We love watching our clients’ innovation, and Shelley from Metro North, was able to shed some light on how they actioned this initiative and the outcomes it has  achieved:

Shelley, why did you create super users at Metro North?

‘The creation of super users has allowed Metro North staff to have greater coordination and functionality at a local level when conducting consultations and has increased staff capability. As the uptake of staff using Citizen Space continued to increase, we needed to change our organisation’s approach to how we used the tool, and the decentralised model has been the perfect response.’

How do the super users work?

‘To commence the decentralisation model, frequent Citizen Space users were identified and approached to be trained as super users. This enabled them to take control at a local level within their department by doing things such as setting up news users, publishing their own and their peers’ surveys, monitoring surveys that were published within their department to minimise duplication and advocating for staff to use Citizen Space, both within their department and across the organisation. We have found that super users have also recruited second and third super users within their own department.

‘We have continued to grow our super user list through identifying high users, as well as users who are very confident in using the tool and confident in supporting others to do so. We have also approached users in smaller departments to be a super user, aiming to have at least one super user per department.

‘We provide face-to-face, individual and group training and networking opportunities for our super users to share and learn from each other, which we are already seeing in departments that have more than one super user.’

What were the benefits to creating super users?

‘We have found that staff have responded positively to the super user model and want local control, flexibility and coordination. We have seen an increase in collaboration within departments and have reduced survey duplication.

‘It has also reduced the demand on our small team – which was required, as the centralised model was neither efficient nor sustainable with our growing number of users.

‘The initiation of super users also provided opportunistic education with staff on consumer engagement.  We built new relationships with staff who we had not previously connected with and strengthened existing relationships. This has included increasing staff awareness of consumer engagement and providing education and support to staff to enable them to connect and engage with patients (including awareness of our team and what we do).’

Have you witnessed any positive outcomes?

‘Absolutely! The super user model has embedded a shared sense of responsibility across the organisation for consultations, be it with external stakeholders such as patients, the community and organisations or internally with staff. Teams have improved their internal communication and are working more collaboratively. 

‘We are also delighted with the unexpected outcome of increasing and strengthening internal relationships with staff across Metro North. We have increased staff awareness and education in consumer engagement, resulting in an increase in consumer involvement in activities across the organisation, building an even stronger patient-centred care culture.’

Digital Hero: Deb Thomas, Australian Treasury

We are really thrilled to introduce you to our newest Digital Hero, Deb Thomas. Deb is the
Web Manager for the Australian Treasury (on secondment from the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science).

Deb’s role involves managing priorities, to keep on top of publishing content to the sites under Treasury’s portfolio – while, at the same time, implementing digital transformation in the department. Deb is constantly striving to deliver the best digital content that she can!

Over to you Deb…

1. What’s your name and where are you from?
Deb Thomas. I’m originally from the warm and humid environment of Darwin in Australia.
Unfortunately, now I’m in Canberra. Freezing!

2. What do you do for a living?
I manage government websites. I’ve spent quite a few years at the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science running the web team, and I’m currently doing a secondment at the Australian Treasury, where at last count we have over 20 websites to manage.

3. Favourite band and/or artist?
Probably The Beatles – a classic band that will always be up there (I’ll be seeing Paul
McCartney live in concert at the end of the year which is quite exciting). Also really enjoy
listening to Angus and Julia Stone who produce some great music. Of the Disney movie
soundtracks I have to listen to at home, Moana is the least irritating.

4. Creature of habit or maverick thinker?
I’m quite a creature of habit socially – as in, I’ll habitually cancel any plans we make or hope that someone else cancels them. At work, I would say I’m much more maverick: “why do it the way you’ve always done it when you could do it better and easier?”

5. Biscuits – dunk or leave unsullied?
I don’t drink tea…. The shock of everyone dropping their cups of tea at this very moment. All of my biscuits are unsullied.

6. What does digital democracy mean to you (or maybe, what should digital democracy mean)?
Digital democracy is the next step in citizen engagement. It allows everyone to be given the same platform – it levels the ground for everyone to offer their voice, opinion and needs to government and corporations. The availability of the internet in Australia means that very few miss out and we can all impact policy development.

7. Where do you see the field of digital democracy/ digital engagement in ten years?
Opportunities and pitfalls?
I think that citizen engagement through digital tools will be a lot bigger than it is now; it will hopefully be the default step government takes with stakeholder engagement.

The reach provided will be increased in an easy and cost-effective manner which in turn will allow more to engagement opportunities, giving government a richer context to work with.

The downside to this will be if we can’t find a way to improve the level of conversation we (as a society), have online – the too-fast turnaround of information, the summary versions
rather than the full picture and people’s obsession with trolling leads to a less valuable

If we can all mature to use the digital tools for a meaningful conversation, then we will see much more input and value given to those with the quietest voice. And hopefully some hashtags disappear (#fakenews).

8. Best project you’ve worked on at Treasury? Are there any projects coming up that you would like to highlight?
Working through the delivery of the Commonwealth Budget was very interesting – so much going on that I didn’t understand, but I was surrounded by lots of very smart and dedicated people working hard.

9. Any shout-outs?
The Department of Industry and Australian Treasury for allowing me to encourage new tools and be digital, and all the people who work here who come to me and let me take them into the world of web.

And James from Delib who lets me ask questions multiple times and understands that I have never completed the task I said I was going to do!


There we go – finishing up with a compliment we didn’t even fish for! Thanks to Deb for the insight into her work, thoughts and views on the digital space and stakeholder engagement. We look forward to following the digital transformation at Treasury.

Metro North Takes Digital to the Community and Improves Oral Health

At Delib, we are continually inspired by the organisations we work with. And we want to introduce you to our clients who are transforming the digital engagement space and, most importantly, transforming the lives of their customers.

When their community and their health are at the heart of everything they do, and their ethos is ‘Connecting for Health’, you know Metro North Hospital and Health Service will strive for continual innovation in community engagement.

Metro North’s Oral Health Services team, led by Jan Anderson, has recently taken their consultation to community members who experience significant personal and social barriers, with the aim of enhancing and improving their health and wellbeing.

Jan and her team recognised that to connect with these patients they would need to move out of the office and clinics and connect at a location where they felt most comfortable.

To reach those customers in the Queensland community who experience high social disadvantage, homelessness, mental health, alcohol and drug addiction issues, Oral Health North partnered with leading community groups such as The Big Issue, Moonyah Recovery Services and Queensland Injector’s Health Network.

This partnership allowed the team to gather feedback about why this group might not access oral health services and how they could be encouraged to attend. But instead of delivering oral health promotion, as the team originally assumed, this open consultation gave them better insights and information on what the community wanted and needed.

As a result, Oral Health changed their plan and supported people in understanding how to make appointments and access public dental services, provided outreach, much-needed dental treatment and distributed essential items such as toothbrushes and toothpaste. This initial activity became the platform for continued outreach and engagement with the community.

One community member the team met was Mooynah client Ronnie. Ronnie (and his transformation) had a big impact on the team. After Oral Health provided him with new dentures, Ronnie’s confidence grew and he was selected to play for Australia in the Homeless Games in Glasgow. He engaged actively in community, education and ultimately employment. Ronnie is now also firmly giving back through promoting the advantages of oral health care with his peers.

While the team was focused on gaining valuable input via Citizen Space, it then also became the ‘vehicle’ through which conversations could be started and strong connections and relationships could be developed. And for those readers involved in engagement, you’ll appreciate this as a very real achievement of this program.

Metro North Consumer and Community Engagement Manager Shelley Kulperger identified that through the use of Citizen Space, data was also able to be inputted daily and ongoing evaluation carried out. This ongoing evaluation shaped the consultation and communication and team members could identify issues and react to information as it came in.

Shelley spoke to us about community engagement and what it means to Metro North, and it has really stuck with us at Delib.

Shelley reflected, “This is not just about collecting data, it’s about connecting with people.”

A Digital Engagement Company That Has People at its Core… Meet Delib

In our birthplace of the UK, Delib is a company name that many people know well. Our commitment to developing, enhancing and championing community engagement practices is evident. And through our digital engagement tools – Dialogue, Budget Simulator and Citizen Space we provide accessibility for communities to provide feedback, voice decisions and ask questions of Government, departments and organisations.

Delib’s commitment to championing their clients and their innovation is well known, and this ethos has most definitely spread to Australia and New Zealand.

For our readers who may not know the name Delib – it was founded in 2001 in the UK by three Bristol University friends who were asked by the government of the day for their thoughts on how young people could become more engaged with democracy. From this, presentations to the Hansard Society, a series of highly successful digital democracy games for school-aged children and a series of serious and not-so-serious online videos were made.

Then a man called Barack Obama phoned.

Well, one of his “people” really!

As he commenced his presidency, Obama was interested in how he could use a digital tool like Dialogue to engage with the American public, and for the first time in that government’s history- open up a digital space for people to participate in democracy.

The biggest “buzz” we get at Delib is when our clients utilise our digital tools and then spark their own innovations to enhance their interactions and engagement with their communities.

In Australia and New Zealand, our clients may not include the President of The United States but they are digitally breaking ground and transforming the online engagement space, and boy do we love it.

Clients like Metro North Health in Queensland are re-shaping their internal communication practices to create their own Super-User Groups to collectively get the most out of Citizen Space.

They are also taking digital engagement to their stakeholders, having face-to-face conversations, and then utilising the collected data to shape the way oral health is delivered to those who face significant health and wellness challenges.

And across the Tasman, Hamilton City Council is using Citizen Space to transform the way they interact with their residents. The accessibility of Citizen Space has ensured a record number of stakeholders have participated for the first time in an engagement program.

When our clients are shaping our own work through their feedback, ideas and influence- we can’t help but celebrate them.  We look forward to introducing more of our clients to you with the aim of creating even more ideas, discussion and conversations with us, with your communities and within your own workplaces.

We can’t wait to share.

But more importantly- we look forward to listening.