We had a really fantastic and inspiring day at our London 2017 user group last week. For the second year running we were grateful to be hosted by The Department of Health (DH) in Whitehall. The room was full, with over 40 Delib customers, and we were treated to a really good variety of presentations.
Read on for my top takeaways from the day.
We heard from DH about what they have learnt about who they consult with, using insight from their Citizen Space, and BEIS about how Citizen Space has helped them to improve their internal processes with regard to preparing and publishing consultations with policy colleagues.
Network Rail talked about the approach they take to communicating with 15 million people per year, and we heard from Camden Council about their upcoming consultation using Dialogue to start a two-way conversation with residents about the future of the borough.
West Sussex Council talked about how they use Citizen Space for more than just public consultations, and how this has saved them money, and time.
In amongst that:
- Michelle from The Democratic Society talked about some examples of consultation best practice from around the world.
- Andy from Delib gave an overview of product updates in 2017, including the fact that Citizen Space usage continues to grow and that growth is speeding up – there are now upwards of 11,400 consultations published to our Citizen Space Aggregator.
- Louise from Delib shared examples of some of the many really interesting and high profile consultations that have been published on Citizen Space in the last 12 months.
Here are eight things we heard from customers on the day that we think could be useful for others:
- Citizen Space can help organisations to understand who they are consulting with, (and therefore who they are not consulting with). This insight can help to demonstrate to others where targeted communication needs to happen, to maximise responses from those whose voices need to be heard.
- Target your communications, but then be sure to sustain those communications throughout the period of the consultation, rather than just at the outset. This will increase the likelihood of yielding higher response rates.
- Because Citizen Space enables analysis straight away and while the consultation is still open, it is possible to see where the gaps are and target communications dynamically.
- Making use of as much imagery as possible (maps, charts, pictures etc) will make consultations much more accessible and inviting. We all know this, but it can sometimes be easy to miss out, if there is a tight deadline, or if image copyright is difficult to get around.
- Be creative with the tools that you already have – we heard from West Sussex about how they are using Citizen Space for things other than consultation, such as application forms, library competitions etc. Our customer described this as ‘being naughty’ but we fully support it!
- It can sometimes feel like a risk to give people the opportunity and responsibility to have their say but, more often than not, participants will rise to that challenge and respond positively – wise words from Shane at Camden. We couldn’t agree more!
- Genuine buy-in at a high level can really help to enable more open engagement. For members of staff who might feel nervous about opening discussion up with the public, it can really help to have express senior permission.
- If you enable the public to ask questions openly, you can then provide the answers openly, which saves time for all involved – why answer the same question privately over and over again?
And finally, from my perspective, having that many customers in one room, sharing their own learning and experiences with each other was really wonderful, and like I said at the start, very inspiring.
So, all in all, a great day. We’re already making plans for next year’s user groups, and for those of you in that part of the world, our Canberra user group is coming up – on Thursday 26th October.
Have a look at the Delib twitter feed for our real-time take on the day.