All posts by ChrisQ

Ottawa Gov20: snow, wikis and elk burgers

You know a city’s going to be cold when it turns its river into the world’s biggest ice-rink (7 km long) and encourages its citizens to skate to work. Welcome to Ottawa! The coldest capital city I’ve ever experienced, but one that does cold well.

I sadly had less than 24 hours in Ottawa, getting to know the Gov2.0 scene a little bit better, and meeting lots of super interesting people on the way.
Canadian Parliament

From a Federal perspective, Canada seems to be in a funny position when it comes to Gov2.0, where in some cases it’s hugely progressive and in others it’s seriously lagging behind. Chatting to @RyanAndrosoff and his colleagues they high-lighted the challenging environment Canadian government works in having to address rigorous language guidelines (everything needs to be accessible in both French and English), data management legislation (linked to the US Patriot Act) and rigorous accessibility rules.

From our experiences, accessibility and data management (i.e. the need to store citizen data on local servers) are standard for most governments, however the bi-lingual thing is fairly unique (especially in its legislative rigour). What @NickCharney pointed out (over an Elk Burger and beer) was that the bi-lingual and data legislation has had a real impact on adoption of more innovative services and apps from the US – where a lot of Gov2.0 innovation is born – as these apps are largely hosted on US / cloud servers and don’t broadly deal with multi-lingual very well.

That said, in developing Delib’s suite of apps, we’ve been pretty forward-thinking in how we deliver and build our apps. At present none of our apps are fully bi-lingual (this is something we’re working on) we do have local server centres around the world (our Canadian servers are based in BC).

Welcome to Ottawa
Even with these constraints, Canadian government does seem to be having some success with their Gov2.0 work. The biggest wins so far seem to be:

  • GCpedia: the Canadian government’s wiki, which has been used by over 30,000 civil servants so far.
  • GC’s Open government initiative: which is pushing for open data, open information and open dialogue.
  • Social media guidelines: these are a newly released set of guidelines for all civil servants to give them a sense of how to use social media best. Though maybe they should take a leaf out of the Australian Victorian State Government’s book and create a *gov social how to video*.

Beyond my digging around the Canadian Gov2.0 scene, and escaping the freezing weather, I have to say I had a really great time in Ottawa thanks to a mixture of awesome people, awesome coffee shops (Grounded’s highly-recommended) and awesome Elk burgers.

I thought this photo was a nicely summary of the best and worst bits of Ottawa (-3 = worst, elk burger = best) 😉

Ottawa paper

Digital democracy Toronto – day #1 tour round-up

From all my travelling around the world spreading the good Delib word, you always notice country trends. One of the biggest areas of interest in this space I’d noticed on Twitter in Canada is #Urbanplanning, with a huge amount of buzz and chat in this space.

Toronto city scape (in cardboard)

So it was really nice to start my tour of Canada by stopping off for a coffee with @ChrisJamesDrew, who’s a passionate urban planner and Tweeter. Chris flagged up the fact that Toronto has the highest number of cranes of any city around the world – it has 142 at present compared its closest rival Mexico City which has 84 – a number which shows why perhaps there’s some much buzz around urban planning. Other than this natty stat, Chris pointed out a number of interesting things going on in the urban planning and Gov2.0 space in Toronto and wider Ontario Province, including:

  • 4th Wall of City Hall: a project by neighbourhood planning activist Dave Meslin to encourage citizen engagement across Toronto City Council.
  • Adam Vaughan: the councillor for the Trinity and Spadina areas (where as it happens I’ve been staying), who’s highly active in the neighbourhood planning space, and a big advocate of community engagement.
  • an awesome magazine (and blog) sharing the latest and greatest innovations in the urban planning space.

Following coffee, I stopped off for lunch with @JohnCarson who also shared some interesting Canadian tidbits in this space, including, and then hot footed it to Toronto’s City Hall to chat to their citizen engagement team.

Toronto’s City Hall rates as one of the most awesome city hall’s I’ve ever visited from an architectural perspective – up there with Warringah Civic centre in New South Wales (Australia) which was my previous number one!

Toronto City Hall

I always find it fascinating talking to governments around the world, as invariably they all face the same challenges, so I was pleased I could share some tasty insights and thoughts on how they could progress their multi-channel engagement strategy, looking at adopting a *government as a participative platform* type-model.

To finish the day, I had the great pleasure of hanging out with the extremely inspiring team from MASS, who I serendipitously bumped into on Twitter. Over a Canadian (extra strong) beer or two, we chatted at their (very cool) offices about re-imagining citizen engagement, and then headed down to their local Irish restaurant (and my first experience of Irish-themed food) where we were joined by the equally interesting @RyanMerkely who discussed his fascinating work with the Mozilla Foundation.

MASS office Toronto
All in all, I have to say my time in Toronto has been way too short, but very inspiring. From a city perspective, my general observations of Toronto is that’s a pretty laid-back city with some great quirky neighbourhoods, my favourite being Trinity (where I was staying). The only downsides from my short experience have been broadly poor coffee (although I did find an awesome coffee shop called Little Nicky’s which does a mean mini-donuts) and a not-so-great public transport system (including pretty unwelcoming and argumentative bus drivers).

Next time I come back I’m definitely going to have to spend more than 24 hours in the city, get a *good coffee guidebook* and hire a motorised scooter. Next stop Ottawa 😉



Delib’s Digital Democracy Canada Tour – #DDCan

We’re excited to announce that as part of our growing global presence and general *digital democracy love sharing* we’re doing a mini-tour of Canada at the end of the February.

Partly inspired by our recent awesome work with British Columbia government on their budget consultation – using our Budget Simulator app – and linked to an influx of Canadian Twitter love for Delib’s work (and awesome apps) we decided to set-up a mini tour, seeing how many places (and people) I could meet in a week across Canada.

Given that Canada is 40 times the size of the UK (and British Columbia alone 7 times bigger than England), we know we’ve got a fair monster of a challenge – but we thought we’d give it a go anyway!

Without a private jet at hand and with Concorde out of service, this means realistically we can only fit x3 cities into our adventures – which we’ve picked as Toronto (because our love of the Blue Jays), Ottawa (because of our love of government) and Vancouver (because of our love of awesome west coast cities).

The dates we’ve sorted are below + we’ve also designed a nice shiny poster (in fact we designed two – one with a Maple Leaf and one without!). We’d love to meet and chat to as many peeps as possible working in the Gov20 / citizen engagement space, so if you’ve got any suggestions of who we (I) should meet – then drop me mail Chris AT or tweet us @DelibThinks

N.B. things we’re interested in chatting to people about is:

  • Awesome stuff happening in Canada
  • People / Gov agencies interested in using our apps to make their work more awesome
  • Partnerships with like-minded awesome people / consultancies who want to do more awesome digital democracy stuff together

Exciting times!

Delib Canada 2012 poster v2

+ we’d hugely appreciate it if you could share / Tweet our wee poster liberally 😉

An interview with Alison Michalk – Delib’s Australian moderation guru

As a company we’re very focused on developing the best online engagement technology possible. And our internal skill-sets reflect that, in that we’re mostly a team of geeks 😉 Because of this we’ve developed a whole host of awesome partners to help deliver specific services that go beyond our core skill-set.

One of our key Australian partners is Alison Michalk, the founder of Australia’s leading independent moderation / facilitation company Quiip – and a lover of all things *online community related*.

Alison provides all our Dialogue App clients with a 24/7 moderation service, helping keep an eye on online dialogues outside of work hours.

As a quick intro to Alison, we did an online interview with her a couple of weeks ago . . .

When did you first use the internet, and did you use it for?
In the mid-90s, before most Australian households. I was lucky enough to have a Dad who worked in IT and had a penchant for technology. I joined a local bulletin board and mailed off my cheque each month. Afternoons after school consisted of me insisting no-one in the house use the telephone and ruin my connection. I have fond memories of that blinking green cursor on a black screen. So that was my first experience with an online community, so it’s probably no surprise that some 17 years later I’m still excited about the opportunities online.

What’s the most challenging community management project you’ve ever worked on?
For two years I worked on Australia’s largest parenting community. We had 150,000 members, over 10K posts a day and a team of 25 moderators. All manner of real life issues surfaced daily from post-natal depression, and complications in pregnancy, miscarriage & late-term loss, cancer, but amongst it all was some of the most heart warming stories. You can’t begin to describe the quality of relationships forged in this community. It’s one of the reasons I often question social networking because I don’t see that depth yet – I think we’re only just scratching the surface of the potential for meaningful public participation. And I think the majority of learnings can be taken from forums (or fora if you’re inclined).

What’s your top community management tip?
Breathe! It’s a good technique on a few fronts. It helps when dealing with contentious situations, but it’s also a reminder that as a Community Manager you need to allow your community space to facilitate peer to peer interactions. Don’t make every online interaction a Q&A between yourself and a member. A good Community Manager does a lot of work behind the scenes!

Who’s your hero [and why]?
Someone I find incredibly inspiring and talented in the community management space is Venessa Paech. Together we host Australia’s CM conference (swarm) – she’s incredibly smart and one of the rare breeds that bridges academic discourse with practical hands-on experience.

What’s your favourite internet meme / phenomenon?
Tough question! It’s hard not to laugh at Zoidberg at any given moment. (v) (;,,;) (v).


How to run your whole consultation process using Citizen Space

You may or may not know that Citizen Space is used to run some of the most high-profile consultations in the UK in the last few years. I won’t bore you with reasons why Citizen Space is so good for these kinds of consultation – it’s just good at its job. What I did want to share are some tips on how Citizen Space and related Delib services can be used to make running large scale / important consultations better.

Importantly, key things I wanted to pick up on was how Citizen Space can be used as a hub where consultation teams can manage their whole consultation process through – including bringing together both offline and online feedback together, so you’ve got all your consultation data in one place – enabling you to be more organised, and allowing you to more easily and quickly analyse and report your consultation findings.

Here’s a quick overview of how Citizen Space could help you do this:


As noted above, the key parts of the consultation process Citizen Space can help improve are:

  • Collaborative drafting: draft your consultation questions together with colleagues, and allow others to edit and update – showing how the consultation questionnaire would look and work but in a closed secure online space (rather than endlessly sharing word documents between your team!)
  • Publish your online consultation and supporting documents in an interactive format: Citizen Space allows you to upload all your consultation documents in one place, alongside your consultation survey – allowing stakeholders to read background information and feedback easily at the same time.
  • Ongoing management and tracking: once your consultation’s underway and people are feeding back, you can keep an eye on the results as they come in, and do quick analysis any time during the process.
  • Collating online and offline feedback together: one of the big challenges in managing a consultation process is that you’ll often get feedback from stakeholders in different formats: e.g. paper surveys, emails, .pdfs, comments from events. What Citizen Space allows you to do is collate all feedback from whatever format (once transcribed) into one central database, so that you can then analyse all the feedback quickly and easily. The system also provides each feedback record with a Unique ID, so that all records are easily tracked. Delib also provide *transcription services*, to help you transcribe feedback from different formats into a digital format.
  • Analysis and reporting: finally, at the end of the process you can easily analyse all the data you’ve collated using Citizen Space. Additionally, we can provide a 3rd Party analysis and reporting service from YouGov if you’d prefer 3rd party validation.

So, there you go! Hopefully that gives a good overview of how Citizen Space can be used to help ensure you run robust and pain-free consultation processes. If you’ve got any questions, just drop us a note:

Tips on how to develop up your online engagement capacity

When you’ve been used to running all your engagement processes in a more traditional way – for example, town hall meetings and postal surveys – the idea of *going virtual*, and starting to run online engagement exercises can be quite a scary prospect.

Although the Delib team are 100% geeky digital natives, we do understand the engagement landscape and the need to integrate online and offline to create the most effective multi-channel mix. After all, not everyone in the world are Angry Birds champions!

So, to help government organisations make that transition from offline to online (multi-channel), we’ve developed up some quick tips as to how to develop up your online engagement capacity (see below).

I suppose one of the key points to make is that online and offline aren’t mutually exclusive. In particular there are two great ways online and offline can merge and help each other:

  1. Management / organisation / data storage: using a consultation management system like Citizen Space allows you to organise and manage all your consultations (across your organisation) in one place. Databases / calendars, enable citizens and staff to understand when consultations are taking place, and also provide a useful data record / archive of past consultations and their outcomes.
  2. Using Apps in live events: possibly more exciting, is the use of online apps in live events. Both the Dialogue App and Budget Simulator are both used regularly by our clients in town hall meetings, to help facilitate open community dialogue.

More tips and tricks below!

Consultation Infrastructure Tips

An interview with Delib’s new Australian consultant: Verne

It’s always nice to welcome new people into the Delib family. The most recent addition to our Australian team is Verne Krastins – an extremely experienced engagement consultant based in Victoria, and a keen guitarist (which is obviously of equal importance!).

As a quick introduction to Verne, we thought it would be a good idea to do a quick interview with him – so here you go:

Delib: When did you first use the internet, and what did you use it for?

VK: My first job in local government communications coincided with me and the internet. Councils in Victoria were amalgamated in 1994, bringing about major investment in communications infrastructure in the new bigger organisations. Then there was the Cluetrain Manifesto a few years later.

Delib: What’s the most awesome difference you’ve made to the community through your engagement work?

VK: I can’t imagine one person can make a lasting difference without others taking over the reigns at some stage. Unfortunately, sustainable engagement is not well done by governments. I’m proud of my part in the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games – I directed a many layered year long community engagement campaign to connect the sectors, and broker them doing things together.

Delib: What’s your top community engagement tip?

VK: Be clear what the engagement is for, and what you’re going to do afterwards with (1) the information, and (2) the relationships, connections and databases created along the way. I’d also add that community engagement is marketing in disguise.

Delib: Who’s your hero [and why]?

VK: I have many. Frank Zappa (musical genius and satarist), Erwin Schrödinger (he described my favourite concepts, and a fellow theoretical biologist), Salvador Dali (turned me into a part time artist), and of course Jules Verne (who gave me SciFi, and my name).

Delib: What’s your favourite internet meme / phenomenon?

VK: Convergence. The day is coming when we’ll have a device in our pocket that does everything, foldable, expandable to whatever screen size you want, phone/computer. Social networks will have effectively collapsed into me-at-centre.


We’re in the process of fully setting Verne up on our various systems, so once he’s fully up and running we’ll share details more widely. Exciting times 😉

A very merry Melbourne Christmas

Travelling around Australia for the last few weeks has been pretty awesome fun. Obviously the sun has been a massive bonus, especially compared to the freezing cold of London I’d usually be facing at this time of year.

That said, I did find the idea of Christmas in the sun a wee bit of an odd one – this oddness was especially amplified by the festive decorations e.g. the sight of Father Christmas with his sleigh heading through Melbourne’s CBD in 30 degree heat. Though, when I stumbled across Jesus in his manger in Christmas Square it did make me think that given Jesus was born in a hot and sunny Bethlehem maybe a sunny Melbourne Christmas was more aligned to reality than a snowy London Christmas.

Anyway, amidst all these random thoughts I decided to create a photo tour of Melbourne’s Christmas decorations. So here you go . . . and have a great Christmas from everyone at Delib UK and Delib Australia 😉

Fed Square’s Christmas tree forest

Christmas carol concert in Fed Square School

Shooting star lights over Flinders Street

Jesus in his manger in Christmas square


Angry Government (how government can learn from Angry Birds)

Last night I was given the opportunity to present at a *digital democracy meet-up* in Melbourne. I very much subscribe to the belief in *giving* when it comes to speaking at events – the theory being, if X number of people (30 in last night’s case) have given up an hour of their valuable time to come and listen to me speak, then I am duty bound to share interesting insights that they (hopefully) didn’t know before.

So, in this instance, given Melbourne’s reputation as being a creative hub, I put together a talk called *Angry Government* – sharing thoughts on how government can learn from Angry Birds.

The basic tenet of my chat was pretty simple: if Angry Birds is the most engaging / addictive thing on the internet, then how can government learn from the game (and online gaming in general) to engage better with citizens.

For those that missed my chat, here’s my short slide deck / notes I presented.

The basis of my thinking is all games are based around the same core drivers. If you analyse these, you can then (fairly easily) apply these drivers to government engagement / consultation.

Importantly, implementing these drivers into government engagement work doesn’t have to be complicated and require high-levels of gaming technology. Most of the drivers are pretty *soft touch* – i.e. are based around things like how to phrase a question (e.g. turning it into a community challenge) or ways of setting the narrative of the process (e.g. by using video / rich media).

That said, if you do want to be more creative and invest in technology to take your engagement to the next level you can – and we have. An extreme example of this is our My2050 project for DECC around engaging UK citizens in CO2 emission targets, and on a less ambitious level is our Budget Simulator app that let’s local government consult on their budgets using a simulation process and our Dialogue App – for community crowd-sourcing.


(photo from last night’s event in Melbourne)



ACT’s Twitter Cabinet awesomeness

Travelling around Australia talking to people working in the engagement space has revealed some really interesting projects and initiatives underway – and importantly projects that are pretty substantive in their effect.

One of the most awesome projects I’ve come across is the ACT’s Twitter Cabinet – flagged up by Steve OzLoop over a coffee earlier today in Canberra.

What makes ACT’s Twitter Cabinet so awesome is the fact that it connects citizens directly to decision-makers in a super easy way – providing a direct channel through which citizens can easily feedback / share ideas with ACT’s decision-makers at the *point of decision making*. This for me is what real *digital democracy* is all about – connecting citizens with decision makers using the most appropriate technologies. (see the Twitter Cabinet in action below)

ACT Twitter Cabinet LIVE

Where the innovation in ACT’s Twitter Cabinet lies, isn’t in the technology or the process, but it’s the combining of new technology with old (existing processes) to make the democratic process more accessible. All in all, it’s very inspiring and I hope governments from around the world learn from the impact such simple application of technology into existing democracy processes.

Thanks for the tip Steve + hats off to Katy Gallagher and all the ACT team for their great work 😉
(live Twitter Cabinet conversation in action – screenshot below)
ACT twitter Cabinet page