Author: delib (Page 1 of 24)

Local Government’s Favourite Biscuit

Hello, Delib world! My name is Nicole Otero, and I’m a postgraduate student earning my MA in Marketing Communications at Richmond, the American International University in London. I’m a newbie to the world of tech and UK government (I’m originally from the United States). Photography and cooking (badly) are my try-hard hobbies and I’m almost constantly in search of a bottle of water or a snack.

But back to the topic at hand…

You may ask yourself: what does this tech and government newbie/student have to say on here that’s of any interest to me? Well, I’m here to talk about the big issue. The divider of a nation. An equalizer amongst the masses. The pièce de résistance.

Of course, I’m here to talk about biscuits.

More specifically, biscuits in local government. (Stay with me.)

Nicole Otero with a plate of biscuits

To complete my MA, I was required to undertake a topic of my own choosing for a professional research project. The task was to research a topic to the ends of the earth, create a media plan and try to get real world media coverage. Easy right? (Just to clarify, definitely hasn’t been easy).

I know it’s hard to believe, but the topic of biscuits in government was not my number one choice for my last impression I would ever leave upon the academic world (one hopes).

My first choice was open data: a more conventional choice (and sounds much better than biscuits when people ask you what your final dissertation is about).

My primary topic choice was a natural one. Leading up to the start of my professional project, I was working as a marketing communications intern at a SaaS company called Socrata. Their specialty is all things open data, and they’re great at what they do. So of course, I wanted to make the most of my access to expert opinion and knowledge on the topic!

But that’s not what the world of local government had in mind for me…

My open data approach started off well enough. Great, in fact! My colleagues were all incredibly supportive and helpful, and allowed me to craft and circulate a survey that would be informative for both Socrata AND my dissertation.

After a few drafts of hit or miss questions (and a lot of help from one of your former Digital Heroes, Ben Unsworth), the survey was ready to send out. But to me, it just seemed a little flat. So I decided to add a cheeky little addition to the survey and ask local government employees to name their favourite biscuit.

Of course, inspired by the one and only Delib blog and its penchant for throwing in a biscuit question here and there (and also again, Ben Unsworth! Who had introduced me to the blog…)

The results from the survey came pouring in. And although we were able to draw some great insights from the responses to the open data questions, I can’t say that people were wildly enthusiastic or excited about the topic. But MY GOODNESS do people get hyped about their favourite biscuits. The idea snowballed from there, and before I knew it I couldn’t deny my biscuit destiny any longer.

The result is the illustration below (well, not just that – a fifty page media plan as well. Still in disbelief myself.)

North East: Gingernuts; Yorkshire: HobNobs; East Midlands: HobNobs; East of England: Digestives; London: Gingernuts; South East: Bourbons; South West: Digestives; West Midlands: Jammie Dodgers; North West: Jaffa Cakes

The favourite biscuits of local government staff, by region

I had so many respondents to the survey, that I was able to pinpoint UK local government’s favourite biscuit by region. And also learn that nearly 40% of local government biscuit eaters dunk their biscuits… And apparently two biscuits is the ideal number to have with your tea… And that dunking your Jaffa Cake is definitely NOT okay (again, I’m American so this is all news to me).

Not only have I been able to learn and share some of these fun facts, I’ve had some great conversations with the Metro, The London Evening Standard and City AM about publishing a story based on my research (nothing confirmed yet, but fingers crossed).

So I guess what I’m trying to say is, thanks Delib! It’s been a bizarre few months writing this dissertation, but its been made all the more sweeter by being able to write about biscuits.

Real-world example: consulting a ‘hard-to-reach’ group; crossing the digital divide

The Office of the Public Advocate (OPA) in South Australia works to promote and protect the human rights of adults with decision-making disabilities. They provide information and education to the public, individual and systemic advocacy, investigatory services and act as guardian of last resort.

The OPA used Dialogue App to ask their community about how they think the OPA should promote their rights.

David Cripps is an Advocate at the OPA and oversaw the Dialogue App project. We caught up with him to find out more about it:

Before using Dialogue App, how did you know what the people of South Australia wanted in regards to guardianship?
We used old-fashioned education like community presentations and stakeholder meetings. Attendances varied and people are very concerned about basic human rights like self-determination, illness and disability in their stakeholder groups.

Was this why you wanted to use the tool?
Yeah, to add value and expand on our existing consultation and engagement.

One of the questions put to the public was ‘how can we promote rights better?’ Did you have any idea what people wanted to discuss before embarking on Dialogue App?
We were very moved with the responses – the stories people were prepared to share with us were incredibly moving.

One of the highest rated ones was self-advocacy; about how it’s not a practical idea for people who are disempowered.

One example was someone living with an intellectual disability and they had difficulty speaking up. It was an incredibly sad story that came from the heart of someone.

People found the consultation to be a safe place to discuss their concerns and they felt like they could participate equally.

There was an issue of digital divide – it wasn’t just about people living with an illness or disability. It might have been easier for professionals who had internet access. It is hard to assert yourself and make choices if you are disadvantaged in the first place.

What about the types of people who took part? What were their backgrounds?
Looking at the comments people made, there were a lot of differences in stakeholder groups.

There were more people engaged through Dialogue App who identified themselves as someone with a mental illness compared to someone with a disability.

There was a degree of unfamiliarity with this method. Crowd sourcing has been around for awhile but it is particularly new in this sector.

Were there any obstacles for people wanting to submit ideas? For example, a disability or language difficultly which may have prevented them from taking part?
The digital divide would be the biggest thing. Not everyone having access to the internet or a computer. We went to advocacy agencies to let them know what we were doing.

We found people who had a mental health issue were more engaged through our website.

What were you hoping to find in regards to the mental health guardianship laws?
The outcome was to garner ideas to inform the advocacy agenda in South Australia.

We have met our outcome goal – we have been told some powerful stories and we’d like to promote them further.

One of the ideas mentioned was there being a gap in higher education for welfare professionals. We liked this idea and told them the OPA would take it further.

We wouldn’t have heard these conversations had we not used this method for community engagement.

The beauty and neatness of this method is the issues stay as a live topic and people can comment during the duration of the consultation.

Why is it so important to have the people’s input?
It is important from a relevance perspective. The promotion of rights and self-determination is particularly important.

The relevance and credibility in our stakeholder groups and finding out the types of issues people face is also important.

I believe you spent time in the field, face-to-face with people? How was that experience?
I did a lot of networking and recognised there might be a reluctance to engage with the internet.

I targeted the not-for-profit sector and made a lot of calls to let people know what we were doing.

What is the process now? How do you use the information you obtained through the Dialogue App discussions?
Some of the information is informing our advocacy agency now and some will shape advocacy positions in the future. We will promote them further and publish them further.

Did the consultation give you any new ideas not previously thought of by the OPA?
The strength of the method. There were bullying and inequality contributions from people who were very critical of human services – but they felt they could contribute and felt their contribution was valued. In turn, we got relevant comments from professionals.

There are issues with inequality on the internet but it didn’t feel like it happened here. It was a space people felt they could be honest in.

The issues most people had were close to their heart but they felt like they could share them.

David’s responses illustrate one of the things we love about Dialogue App: not only is it capable of generating a large quantity of ideas and comments, but its structured format also means you can get really high quality interactions with people. And running a user-friendly online consultation alongside other channels of engagement allows you to maximise the opportunities for people to participate in the way that suits them.

That can all sound rather technical but one of the practical consequences is just this: Dialogue App gives people a space to tell stories that you might not otherwise hear. And that’s hugely valuable.

Engaging with the budget cuts….

Back in November, nearly 8,000 people tried out Liverpool’s budget simulation exercise. We worked with Mayor Joe Anderson and Liverpool City Council; a city facing a £45 million savings target this year, with further cuts to come. It was Mayor Joe’s idea to run a mobile budget consultation, to not only gather valuable feedback from Liverpool’s residents, but also to communicate, and help create some understanding of the challenges they were facing:



‘This budget tool simulates the difficult decisions that councillors will have to make…/…There is no option other than to deal with the situation head on and make the decisions in the fairest way possible…/…their (residents’) comments give us valuable feedback on what people see as the priorities for spending over the next year.’

Mayor Joe Anderson, Liverpool Express

The Budget Simulator uses a combination of consequences and service descriptions; by presenting background information the tool enables participants to make informed spending allocations, whilst gaining a real insight into the reality of the task:


The understanding gained through the project is a two way street of course; the meaningful, insightful responses collected from Budget Simulator ensure decisions can be made to better reflect the priorities of those they affect.

‘It’s not a formal consultation, and it’s not legally binding. But it is a hugely important part of finding out what the public wants regarding how the city copes with cuts. It builds solidarity with the public, because everyone can see just how difficult it will be to balance the books.’

Cllr. Patrick Hurley

There are many reasons why Liverpool’s Budget Simulator was such a successful project, not least the tool’s ability to work on mobile devices, which helped to garner more ‘armchair involvement’.  Liverpool’s active approach to promotion and transparency, coupled with their clear commitment to ensure that the insight gained from the exercise informed the outcome, has helped to better prepare their residents for the tough options that lie ahead.

To find out how Budget Simulator could help your organisation meet its challenges, please request a consultation.



Cardboard consultation… anything but stiff!

Working at Delib, it’s no secret I’m a sucker for consultation and all things digital democracy, but something people may not know is that I’m also an illustrator and passionate about art. So when the two come together, let’s just say it ticks all my boxes!

In February this year, eight Junior Digital Media Producers from Bristol arts charity Knowle West Media Centre (KWMC), were set a challenge to engage their community and encourage community activism. The project was called Data Patchwork and the team’s response to the brief was a fascinating exploration of innovative ways to collect and represent data. One of the outcomes was an exhibit called ‘The Cardboard Living Room.’ As you might glean from the name, the exhibit was a room filled with 3D cardboard furniture, but perhaps less expected is that every piece of furniture was connected to a computer which reacted to movement.

photograph of carboard furniture

Cardboard shoes

As residents walked around the room playing with objects, their interaction logged answers to survey questions, and in turn triggered reactions from the furniture. The exhibit was part of a survey with an online counterpart, enabling people to have fun engaging with local issues while reflecting on their lifestyle and community perceptions. I was lucky enough to chat with Sammy Payne, one of the eight technical leads on this project, when she recently came into Delib HQ to talk at our Bristol democracy event. She told me a bit about her goals for the project:

‘So much data exists, is held by councils and organisations and is open, but none of it is visualised. So all the data is there but no one sees it because it isn’t digestible. We wanted to use the exhibit to instil a sense of responsibility in residents to act on shared concerns and use the physical interaction of being in the room as a spring board for discussions.’

Sammy, a journalist and photographer by trade, admits to having a naturally political edge (and a bit of a reputation amongst friends as a feminism activist) but this particular project required a technical ability to code, which was far removed from her usual skill set:

‘The project was part of a wider initiative to equip creative people with the skills they need to find creative employment more easily. Nesta set a brief to create a data toolkit and wanted to see community engagement, activism and how an arts charity could use data to deliver these outcomes. Knowle West Media Centre (KWMC) won the bid to deliver this project, and myself and the other seven digital producers [Baylea Hart, David Biddle, Andy Squibbs, Thomas Kirby, Candice Pepperall, Joanna Mitchell and Max Dowding] were given the training we needed to code the survey and realise our vision for the project.’

Hundreds of residents took part in the survey designed to cover real areas of local concern, inspired by genuine insight from a paper survey generated by a local steering group. This is a true example of ground up community engagement – although there was outside funding from organsiations and the council – the concept, execution and participation came entirely from the team and the community the centre inhabits.

‘It was great to to watch people in the room actually interacting with local issues and the living room sparking conversations between neighbours about shared concerns that never would have been voiced or realised as a common interest otherwise. It’s still early days to know if anyone took those conversations forward, but the interaction was definitely valuable to the community and this was a completely ground up process.’

children playing with cardboard furniture

Child wearing a cardboard hat








The team are still waiting for the official results from the data analysis, but the conversion rate is expected to be high, specifically for this area. Delib’s own customers run high profile consultation exercises worldwide, and expect between 5% and 10% of visitors to an online consultation to submit a response. At Delib we are more than aware that the success of a consultation hinges not just on its existence, but its promotion. I was interested to chat with Sammy about their approach to promotion and what she credited the high community engagement to:

‘We followed a rule of 3 for this project; People had to see a piece of promotion at least 3 times before it would stick in their head and they would remember or be inspired to take part. Due to the nature of the Knowle West Centre’s strong and long-standing connections with the community, they had experience of this kind of work and could give us insights into what promotion worked best with residents. For example, residents significantly preferred being informed about local events in person as opposed to being emailed or sent a letter. So we knocked on doors, flyered in the streets, contacted youth networks all alongside additional channels such as videos and social media.’

This multi-faceted approach to promotion, the sheer creativity and uniqueness of the project, and the opportunity for residents to have fun while participating in more serious wider issues, are all reasons this survey caught the eyes and hearts of Bristol.

Working at Delib, I love seeing the inspiring ways our customers combine the technology we provide and their imaginations to run consultations that change lives in small, but significant ways. The Cardboard Living Room is a fantastical, Alice in Wonderland-esque experiment into the endless potential of people when they are engaged and inspired to take action. I believe this is the future of democracy and with more experimentation, fun, creativity, technology (and possibly cardboard furniture)…who knows what can people and communities can make happen.

10 April 2014: Heartbleed Security Announcement

Earlier on today we posted a statement for our customers regarding the Heartbleed security vulnerability, which is currently hitting the headlines. We thought we should post it here too, to cover all bases!

Please follow the link below to read the statement from our online product knowledge base:

If you’d like to read more about Heartbleed itself, we’d recommend this site:

If you have any queries or concerns, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Engagement Jobs this January

We like to keep an eye on the sorts of roles that are being filled in areas that relate to us and our customers, so this month we’ve put together a list of organisations that are hiring early this year. This month we’re focussing on roles within Local Government.

Community Engagement Officer, Surrey Heath Borough Council are looking for an excellent communicator and strong team player who will manage the delivery of a number of health, well-being, sport, and community development projects.

Senior Planning Officer, Kent County Council need a planner who will assess local plans and development proposals for their impact on Kent.

Planning Manager, East Sussex County Council are looking for a self-motivated team player who will be responsible for developing, monitoring and evaluating performance measures for the Children’s Services Planning and Performance team.

Communications Manager (maternity cover), Camden Council require an individual with excellent organisational and project management skills to manage internal and external communication and consultation strategies for the North London Waste Authority.

Senior Communications Officer, Camden Council need an individual who can provide strategic communications and consultation advice to senior managers and councillors, as well as managing the North London Waste Authority’s media relations strategy.

Policy and Research Manager, Kings Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council are seeking someone to manage a team of project officers and oversee a number of high-profile policy projects involving schools, health and other sectors.

Head of Policy – Housing and Planning, London Councils, which represents the 32 boroughs and the City of London, are looking for a dynamic leader who will work with senior politicians and officers to help develop and articulate housing and planning policy across London.

Head of Communications, Adur and Worthing Councils want to find an ambitious communications professional who will lead a small team to help the councils engage with local communities.

Head of Communications – Culture and Sport, Aberdeen City Council are looking for an ambitious, creative and passionate person to be responsible for community learning, delivery of cultural opportunities and strategic development of sporting provision.

Friday round up

It’s Friday round up time again and, following a very merry Delib Christmas party last night, we are feeling festive (and sleepy) as we have a look at the consultations our simply brilliant customers have been running this week:

1) SEPA’s current condition and challenges for the future: Solway Tweed river basin district consultation.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency’s consultation is an exercise in providing detailed information via Citizen Space. With a clear design, graphs and tabular data dotted throughout, it shows how scientific reports can be presented for viewing and responding to within the system. It’s such an interesting topic and way of displaying data that we had to share it.

Screen shot of a table of statistics within SEPA's consultation

2) Bristol City Council’s Help shape our draft West of England Strategic Economic Plan 2013-2030

Bristol City Council have been using the ability to edit the online survey text in Citizen Space to enable admins to edit the call to action link which leads participants through to the online survey. It previously read ‘Online Survey’ for all consultations, but now it can be changed to whatever text is suitable, in this case ‘Read and shape our plan.’


3) Transport for London’s Alderbrook Road consultation

The awesome thing about investing in a complete online consultation system like Citizen Space is that you then have freedom to run as many consultations as you want, no matter how big or small. Some of the consultations that catch our eye are the smaller ones which affect people’s lives on a local level in little, but significant, ways. This TfL consultation is a great example; a simple, well-structured consultation, which gives people the opportunity to submit comments about plans for their local area.

4) Stockport CCG’s BSL Consultation

Stockport CCG are running a consultation asking for feedback on all their services, and this one is specifically designed to reach the local deaf community. The consultation uses embedded videos within every question to sign the question, in addition to having it written below. It is a triumph on the side of accessibility.

Screen shot of Stockport's consultation dashboard

5) Clackmannanshire’s experience of using Citizen Space and Staffordshire County Council’s Minerals Local Plan Consultation

A lovely customer of ours recently described how flexible they have found Citizen Space:

‘Surprise, it’s not only an on-line 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, put out questions to the public.’

Maciej, Performance and Information Officer, Clackmannanshire Council.

It is great to see people really adopting Citizen Space into their culture to improve engagement and the Minerals Local Plan consultation from Staffordshire is another good example. The consultation is purely a contact detail gathering exercise, to generate a list of members of the general public, minerals industry, landowners and their agents as well as other stakeholders to be involved in helping to develop their new Minerals Local Plan.





Friday Consultation Round-Up

Another week and another host of interesting consultations being run by our awesome customers. Here are 5 nice examples and this week Liverpool and Bristol have been showcasing the capabilities of Budget Simulator and Dialogue App:

1) Liverpool City Council’s mobile Budget Simulator breaks response rate records!

Liverpool City Council have pioneered Delib’s brand new Budget Simulator this month, and the response has been record breaking. The tool is now accessible on mobile devices and has undergone a full face lift. Liverpool have done a great job at populating it with well written consequences and extending their effort through to effective PR. The Simulator has received over 1000 responses, a UK record for Budget Simulator, and the comments are still rolling in. Have a read of our blog to find out more about how Liverpool did it.

2) East Sussex County Council’s use of consultation cloning for ‘Safer School’s consultations.’

East Sussex are running a consultation to gather opinions and experiences of bullying behavior in schools and communities. They have made the most of the cloning feature to publish 23 identical consultations which allow residents of specific areas to submit responses directly relevant to their local school or community. One school in particular caught my eye, Priory in Lewes, the secondary school which I actually attended in my (much) younger days.

3) ‘George’s Ideas Lab,’ uses embedded video & the lab theme for a bit of fun.

Mayor of Bristol George Ferguson has launched a Dialogue app called Georges Ideas Lab, inviting the residents of Bristol to submit ideas for improving Bristol as a place to live and save the city money. Ahead of 2015 which will see Bristol awarded European Green Capital by the European Commission, the mayor and his team are looking in particular for green ideas to consider implementing. The site has been customised with lots of science-y, lab type images and an embedded video from the mayor himself making for a very entertaining welcome to the consultation.

4) ‘We are Camden’ uses RSS to integrate Citizen Space with their website.

Generating engagement with online consultations often starts before a participant even lands on the consultation overview. London Borough of Camden Council illustrates this really well by utilising RSS feeds to effectively integrate their Citizen Space instance with their website. Using RSS feeds, consultations from Citizen Space can be presented on your website which automatically updates as new consultations are added. The use of a custom RSS feed also adds further filtering power ensuring that consultations of interest are displayed.

5) Norfolk County Council tell us What happens Next with their ‘Putting People First Consultation.’

Norfolk have just closed their Putting People First budget consultation, and have really utilised the What Happens Next? feature to ensure their respondents are kept in the loop. This is a really important aspect of consultation, to ensure participants feel their contribution will make a difference and is appreciated. Norfolk have included dates and links to where results will be published and suggested alternative ways to get in touch with them now that the consultation is closed.




Engagement Jobs this December

We take a real interest in the sorts of roles that are being filled in areas that relate to us and our customers, so this month we’ve put together a list of organisations that are hiring this December. There are a number of interesting posts that need to be filled that are perfect for people looking for a role that is in the media, digital, or engagement sectors.

Senior Campaigns Officer (Media), Staffordshire County Council Staffordshire County Council are looking for an ambitious and creative operator with exceptional news sense to work on the planning, delivery and evaluation of communications campaigns.

Communications Officer, Avon and Somerset Police Avon and Somerset Police are looking for a dynamic, flexible and highly motivated professional who will work in a variety of different areas across print, broadcast and digital media.

Chief Executive, Policy Connect Policy Connect is a vibrant, fast moving policy-focused social enterprise looking for a smart leader to develop and manage its team of policy experts and researchers.

Web Communications Officer, Leicester City Council Leicester County Council are looking for three candidates to to help create, edit, and moderate content for the council’s corporate websites.

Operational Services Manager (Temporary), Renfrewshire Council Renfrewshire are seeking an individual to manage, lead and develop major customer facing service areas within their Department of Finance & Corporate Services.

Communications and Stakeholder Engagement Manager, Health and Social Care Information Centre HSCIC are looking for an individual who can provide support to programmes and services through the development of communication and stakeholder engagement strategies and the implementation of communications plans to support programme delivery.

Engagement Officer, Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust The RD&E NHS Foundation Trust is looking for an individual to support a range of programmes and projects including all aspects of stakeholder management and engagement.

Top 10 Posts of 2013

It’s December, and that means it’s time to look back over the last year of posts on the Delib blog (as well as a guest appearance on the DemSoc Open Policy website). So, here are the top ten posts of 2013:

1. Emerging good practices in budget consultation

A breakdown of the results of the 2012 Open Budget Survey, exploring examples of effective consultation across the globe.

2. Analyse This:

Ben’s blog on the DemSoc Open Policy Making website is all about analysis. It gives a great overview of ways to reduce the load when analysing consultation data.

3. Delib and Participatory Budgeting

Nina’s post explains participatory budgeting in a bit more detail, and examines the ways in which Delib’s products can assist in the process.

4. Social media record keeping for government (here and here)

This two part post does a great job of exploring the role social media plays in politics, as well as the importance of record keeping when it comes to social media interactions.

5. Online consultations engaging hard to reach groups

In the world of consultation it’s important to consider how you are going to involve the relevant people. Sometimes they aren’t that easy to engage, but this post does a great job of explaining how to get hard to reach groups to participate.

6. Digital tools for mayor-led projects

This blog examines the things mayors are doing to engage their citizens, and looks at two of our projects in particular: George’s Ideas Lab and the Liverpool Budget Simulator.

7. Budget Simulator v2 launch

Andy’s post has some great images and coverage of the v2 launch night back in September, just before the new-look Budget Simulator was released.

8. Digital Heroes – Christian Storstein

This interview with Christian, who is the Digital Engagement Manager for the Scottish Government, gives a lot of insight into the inner workings of the indy ref consultation and the inner workings of a very interesting man!

9. A look into the mind of John Miri

Craig’s post about John Miri is an interesting look at government practices in the US, looking at the ways in which all things digital are beginning to make their way into government work.

10. Get your consultation noticed by adding images

This post is both informative and fun, explaining the ins and outs of using images in consultations to engage respondents, as well as looking at where to find images without having to spend a penny.

New Budget Simulator Lands in Liverpool

It’s Here! Budget Simulator v2.0 made its debut this month having been adopted by Liverpool City Council. The Liverpool team have been an absolute pleasure to work with (like all of our customers!) In particular it’s been a joy to have Mayor Joe Anderson personally champion the project from the very start; in fact it was his idea to run a mobile budget consultation…

Screen shot of Liverpool's Budget Simulator welcome page

Screenshot of Liverpool's Budget Simulator interactive page

Mayor Joe at the Heart of Participation

All over the UK , councils are facing financial cuts from the Government, some more than others. Liverpool City Council has been particularly hit hard, having the difficult task of finding £156 million of savings of over the next 3 years with £45 million of this in 2014/15.

photograph of Mayor Joe

Amongst other appearances, Mayor Joe has been seen on BBC North West news and the BBC Daily Politics Show speaking out on the importance of this consultation;

‘This budget tool simulates the difficult decisions that councillors will have to make…/…There is no option other than to deal with the situation head on and make the decisions in the fairest way possible…/…their (residents’) comments give us valuable feedback on what people see as the priorities for spending over the next year.’

Mayor Joe Anderson, Liverpool Express

v2.0 Optimised for Mobile

According to a recent summary from the Office for National Statistics, access to the internet from mobile phones has more than doubled between 2010 and 2013, rising from 24% to 53%, so the importance of enabling participation through these platforms is more prevalent than ever before.

With this in mind, Mayor Joe specifically wanted to run a mobile budget consultation to ensure engagement with as many of Liverpool’s 470,000 residents as possible. Budget Simulator has recently been rebuilt from the ground up to work on smartphones and tablets as well as desktops, so was the perfect solution.

Graphic of desktop computer, mobile phone and tablet computer

We are approaching the fourth week since the Liverpool Simulator went live and it has received over 4000 visits, of which 28% have been from a mobile phone or tablet and 72% from a desktop. 920 of these participants have submitted responses; a real win on the side of engagement.

Understand Through Engagement

The Liverpool team had a second key goal for this consultation: to inspire an understanding from residents of the challenges they were collectively facing as a community. Budget Simulator uses consequences and service descriptions to do just that. By presenting background information, the tool enables participants to make informed spending allocations while gaining a real insight into the reality of the task.

Screen shot of Budget simulator, the word 'consequences' is circledThe understanding gained through this project is a two way street of course; the meaningful, insightful responses collected from Budget Simulator ensure decisions can be made to better reflect the priorities of those they affect.

Embracing the Principles of Consultation

The simulator sits within a wider scheme of events and promotion, all geared towards understanding what really matters to the people of Liverpool. The campaign is transparent and accessible, for example the Mayor’s Budget page is a simple and clear port of call for all important dates, how to take part in the consultation and easy access to supporting information and reports.

This is such an important facet to Liverpool’s approach; making it easy for people to participate and clear how their input will make a difference. The concept of government consultation sometimes comes under scrutiny where the public feel their contribution makes no difference to the outcome. The government consultation principles document highlights the importance of reforming this perception;

‘It [the consultation guidelines document] is not a ‘how to’ guide but aims to help policy makers make the right judgments about when, with whom and how to consult. The governing principle is proportionality of the type and scale of consultation to the potential impacts of the proposal or decision being taken, and thought should be given to achieving real engagement rather than merely following bureaucratic process. ‘

Consultation principals: guidance, 2013

Mayor Joe represents an increasing number of visionary leaders making steps towards consultation practices which connect them to citizens in meaningful ways. Delib’s online tools facilitate these connections by enabling policy-makers to:

1) Engage with residents directly in an open and transparent manner.
2) Provide a forum for residents to interact with each other and have meaningful dialogue.
3) Engage with residents anywhere – Budget Simulator can be used on mobile devices and is responsive, opening up a wider market for engagement.
4) Create lasting policy partnerships between residents and decision-makers.

Digital tools at the centre of Mayor-led engagement projects

Liverpool Showing Us How It’s Done

There are many reasons why Liverpool’s Budget Simulator has been such a successful project so far. The tool’s ability to work on mobile devices, Liverpool’s fantastic approach to promotion and transparency, along with their clear commitment to ensure insight gained from responses will inform the outcome.

It’s likely to be a combination of all these factors, but one thing is for sure, the Liverpool team have set the bar high for engagement and best practice, and we couldn’t be more proud of how they have showcased the capabilities of shiny new Budget Simulator.

» Find out more about Budget Simulator

Digital tools at the centre of mayor-led engagement projects

This week sees the first anniversary of George Ferguson coming into office as Bristol’s first independently elected mayor. He believes that local decision-making is better, and that success at the city level translates into a national economic benefit. As mayor he wants to open a dialogue with residents of Bristol in order to best approach the challenges that the city faces, and he is uniquely placed to do it.

“We need to be more responsible for keeping our own lights on”

Direct, local engagement

There are now 16 directly elected mayors in office throughout England, with powers that range from the ability to influence local development frameworks to the authority’s annual budget. With their focus firmly on local affairs, the opportunity to involve residents at all levels of decision-making has never been more apparent. The high-profile nature of the mayoral role translates into an increased ability to open up a dialogue with residents in a way that hasn’t before been possible. Delib’s online tools and wealth of experience in consultation can help to structure this dialogue, and can enable policy-makers to:

1) Engage with residents directly in an open and transparent manner.
2) Provide a forum for residents to interact with each other and have meaningful dialogue.
3) Engage with residents anywhere – Budget Simulator can be used on mobile devices and is responsive, opening up a wider market for engagement.
4) Create lasting policy partnerships between residents and decision-makers.

Delib’s tools at the centre of mayor-led engagement

Liverpool’s budget consultation

Like many cities in the UK, Liverpool’s budget has seen massive reductions due to government cuts. In order to best reflect the priorities of the residents of Liverpool, as well as giving them a chance to understand just how difficult the decisions involved will be, Mayor Joe Anderson launched a high-profile budget consultation using the new Budget Simulator. Liverpool’s mayor wants to tackle the budget with the help of its residents, and Budget Simulator’s accessibility, flexibility and mobile-friendly nature make it the perfect tool for the job.

George’s ideas lab

Launched by Bristol Mayor George Ferguson, the ideas lab is a project designed to bring together Bristol’s best ideas on how to make the city “a better place to live, work and play.” Using Delib’s Dialogue App, the ideas lab has already seen a wealth of ideas within its first day, and allows for an open discussion between residents. The best ideas will then be discussed by the mayor and his team, and the most achievable of those will be implemented, giving the residents of Bristol a real say in the policies of the city.

Going global

George Ferguson’s international vision for Bristol has taken him to 21 different countries in the last year, spreading the word on what Bristol does well, whilst also looking at how other global cities are solving problems to improve the day-to-day lives of their citizens. Ferguson recently extolled the virtues of ‘community and culture-led regeneration’ at the Remaking Cities Congress, and recent mayor-led projects reflect this trend towards bringing residents to the centre of the decision-making process.

Why share consultation results?

So, your Citizen Space consultation is closed and the results are in and analysed, but what can you do to share the results and outcomes?

Why Share Outcomes?

Most respondents who take part in a consultation want to know that their time is being valued. One of the best ways to ensure that these individuals both want to take part in your consultations and will keep coming back in the future is by publishing the outcomes of the consultation when it has finished. This way you can ensure that your constituents know that you are listening to them.

When respondents know that their participation is being taken seriously they are more likely to get involved in future consultations, as well as encouraging friends and family to take part. They will feel that their individual response has been valued, and, in turn, they will enter into the whole process with a more open and serious attitude.

We Asked, You Said, We Did

One of the features of Citizen Space is the WAYSWD section. This allows you to feed back once the consultation is complete, and lots of our Citizen Space customers use it to good effect. It allows you to quickly remind those who took part what the consultation was about, summarise the general feelings of respondents, and explain what has been done as a result of the consultation.

Many of our customers are already using this feature to keep respondents abreast of what has been done as a result of their feedback. For good examples of how organisations are already using the feature, see the following:

Avon and Somerset Constabulary
Barnet Council

More Detailed Reporting

We Asked, You Said, We Did is great for giving respondents a simple update, but sometimes a more detailed review of the results and outcomes may be required. If you have run a controversial consultation, or one that has involved large numbers of respondents, you might want to give a more detailed report of what was said, and what has and will be done as a result. A number of our customers offer detailed reports after their consultations, and these three are great examples of the different ways in which you can approach a report:

BBC Trust
We Are Camden
Bristol City Council

Reports can range from 5 pages to over 100, and vary in style and substance. Some are very data heavy, publishing large amounts of data that the reader can interpret as they wish. Others are very text heavy, having already extrapolated the data, summarising it and making it more accessible. They vary from very stylised to very functional, very complex to very simple. There are no hard and fast rules for what a report should look like.

One thing is certain: publishing a report doesn’t have to be as excessively arduous or time-consuming as it may, at first, seem. There are plenty of things you can do to make your life easier when you’re trying to break down responses. The “Request Summary Report” feature in Citizen Space allows you to quickly overview the questions you asked and turns qualitative responses into useful graphs and charts. You can also export all of the responses from a consultation in .CSV format, which can be opened in a number of different programs including Microsoft Excel and Google Drive.

Consultation reports do not just benefit stakeholders; they can also help you to reflect on what you are going to do as a result of their participation. The process of writing a report encourages you to consider how the consultation has (or, in some cases) has not changed a policy decision, and how best to tell your stakeholders and constituents what part they have played. Ultimately consultations are all about engagement, and publishing your outcomes can keep stakeholders, voters, and other members of the public involved in the decision-making process.

For more on why consultation analysis is important and why prior planning is key to a good consultation, see Ben’s article on the Democratic Society’s Open Policy Making website.

Craig Thomler Q&A

Delib Australia Managing Director Craig Thomler is speaking at the Managing Social Media Complaints Workshop in Sydney, Australia, next week.

Craig answered a Q&A ahead of the workshop which is held on November 12, 2013.

Craig Thomler – Managing Director Delib Australia

Craig is one of Australia’s leading social media and Government 2.0 advocates and practitioners, having spent more than 15 years working in the online industry, including five in Australia’s Commonwealth Public Service.

He now leads Delib Australia, an online engagement company specialising in supporting public, not-for-profit and private sector clients to engage their citizens, stakeholders, customers and staff more effectively via digital channels.

Craig’s recent achievements:

In 2009 Craig was awarded the inaugural Government 2.0 Individual Innovator Award by the Australian Government’s Government 2.0 Taskforce and in 2010 was named one of The Top 10 Who are Changing the World of Internet and Politics’ by PoliticsOnline and the World eDemocracy Forum in France.

Recognised internationally as a social media and Government 2.0 leader, Craig presents regularly around the world on new media strategy and practice and blogs at eGovAU.

My unique area of expertise is…

I’ve been working in the social media field since 1996 – long before the invention of modern social media tools, or blogs and forums became known as social media, so my broad area of expertise is online engagement, as I’ve been involved in the area since before some of today’s practitioners were born.

However my unique area of expertise is in social media use in the public sector, where I’ve led national initiatives and supported a range of agencies in building their capabilities to inform, engage and collaborate with citizens.

Now that I’m back in the private sector managing Delib Australia, a great deal of our business still involves assisting government agencies with online engagement – although we work with corporate and not-for-profits as well.

My presentation is important because:

I’m going to be running a short workshop challenging teams in the room to respond to a series of social media scenarios, comparing and discussing responses at each step.

I’ll be using Crisis90 – a cut-down version of Social Simulator, a tool Delib distributes that is used to simulate social media channels in real-time for training and to test emergency responses online. The full version is used by organisations around the world to simulate disasters and train staff on handling difficult situations on social media, using what looks like real social media tools and confronting hundreds, or even thousands, of simulated responses.

The workshop is important as it will challenge participants to respond in a hands-on way to real-time social media situations, allowing them to learn from each other and put the learnings from other presentations on the day into practice.

I hope the experience will help participants both learn and practice using new approaches to defusing difficult social media situations.

The best complaint response I’ve seen lately on social media is:

I’d have to say Bodyform’s ‘The Truth’ video ( from the UK is the best complaint response I’ve seen on social media. It’s smart, nuanced and turned a partially tongue-in-cheek ranting complaint into a huge marketing win.

It even won a Cannes Gold Lion.

I should note that I am biased! ‘The Truth’ was created by one of Delib’s sister companies in the UK – Rubber Republic (

The most embarrassing social media blunder that I’ve been involved in was:

I’ve never been involved in a significant social media blunder, though I have tweeted from the wrong account a few times when using certain social media management tools. Fortunately I recognised these issues straight away and was able to recover.

My view is that organisations should expect social media blunders from time to time – the important thing is to not panic and over-react in response. Many times a blunder will pass unnoticed or can have the sting removed by acknowledging the error and correcting. Sometimes they can even be laughed off (though only minor ‘oops’ should be treated this way).

The reason I am passionate about social customer care is:

Online isn’t the future of customer service, it’s the present. I’m passionate about it as it has reduced the distance between companies and their customers – and governments and citizens. While this has brought a host of challenges for both, it also offers the opportunity to better understand and meet the needs of communities and audiences and to engage the public in the design and delivery of products and services.

For organisations and governments that navigate the challenges successful, online social engagement can provide increased profits, cost savings and improve communication and loyalty. For the public, social engagement can provide faster and more accurate fulfilment of their needs and wants and better outcomes for societies.

My predictions for the future in this area are:

I expect to see more organisations turning ‘inside-out’, becoming facilitators of external communities who identify their own needs, design their own solutions and collaboratively work with these organisations to bring products and services to market.

There have been some early experiments in this area, such as MyFootballClub, MyFarm, crowdsourced beers and even crowdsourced cars and train carriages.

Both commercial and civic crowd-funding platforms are also enabling individuals and organisations to directly test whether their product or civic service concept has the support, and can gather the funding, to become reality.

I also expect the public to become more demanding and outspoken towards organisations who do not provide good customer service or take positions which do not reflect social mores. We’ve seen this with actions against McDonalds in Tecoma and against 2GB, as well as the growth of sites like

As the public better learns how to organise and the tools improve, expect perceived poor service or conduct to be rapidly met with collective action.

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