Author: Keri O'Donoghue (Page 1 of 2)

Introducing our newest consultant: Joel Allen

As Delib continues to grow, we’re delighted to welcome new people to the team. Our newest recruit is Joel, joining our UK office after a stint of travelling the world. We caught up with him in his first week about all those important topics: music, biscuits and his desert island picks.

1. What’s your name and where are you from?

My name is Joel Allen and I am from the world famous (for mainly all the wrong reasons) city of Salisbury! Having moved to Bristol for university and subsequently discovering it to be the greatest city on the planet, I have since resided here for the best part of 10 years.

2. Favourite band and/or artist?

Sorry but there is no way of keeping this short and sweet. When it comes to music I have an incredibly varied palate and enjoy, or at least appreciate, music from all corners of the globe. My personal favourites range from childhood classics including; Michael Jackson and Bob Marley (inspired by my Dad) and Lighthouse Family (inspired by my Mum), right through to punk rock superstars such as Blink 182, Less than Jake and King Prawn! Since my late teens I have always had a love for drum and bass, but in recent years I’ve discovered a fondness for bands  (albeit sometimes of the one-man kind) and like to listen to Bastille, Coldplay and James Bay. My latest and greatest discovery though was picked up on my travels and I love listening to Latin American chart music; namely Reggaeton with artists including: Daddy Yankee, MC Kevinho and MC Fioti! Basically music makes me very happy and if you put some on I will be sure to lend an eager ear.

3. Creature of habit or maverick thinker?

I am a man who likes routine. Planning, mapping out tasks and events, and keeping things neat and tidy both mentally and in the physical world provide me with an unusual amount of satisfaction. That said, I do get a total buzz from doing the odd spontaneous activity and this is certainly true whenever I’m abroad as I find this is the best way to discover the hidden gems and ‘off the beaten path’ wonders of the world.

4. You (and, for the sake of keeping it interesting, any spouses/partners/kids/significant others) get mysteriously transported to a desert island, with only time to grab a couple of precious things to take with you. What makes the ‘keep’ list?

Firstly this sounds incredible. It is so frustratingly difficult to find an undiscovered slice of paradise in this day and age so if the opportunity arises, count me in. However in the interest of answering this relatively important and fairly serious question, and without wanting to rattle on, I will keep this to three items. Firstly pop me in a bag of fine ground organic Peruvian coffee with all the necessary paraphernalia to make the perfect brew. Also maybe some UHT milk so I can really enjoy this to the max. Second I would choose to take ‘Spotify’ in some usable capacity so I could listen to my favourite tunes and nostalgically reminisce about the home I used to have. Finally I would take with me a bottle of fine Caribbean rum; probably Wray & Nephews, as after all you can’t have Desert Island life without rum!

5. Biscuits – dunk or leave unsullied?

Dunk. All day long. I like my biscuits like I like my cereal – soft & soggy. Most satisfyingly a chocolate hobnob or a Fox’s golden crunch cream.

6. Before joining Delib, how did you put bread on the table?

My ‘adult’ life started part way through third year of university where I realised it was about time I took things at least a little seriously. Graduating with a 2:1 and after a year working in customer retention for a home insurance provider, I landed myself on a grad scheme for a leading vehicle rental company. This is where I spent the best part of the last six years bouncing from promotion to promotion, finally ending up as a regional real estate & facilities manager. After a successful and fortunate career I took a break to see the world and have spent the past five months travelling SE Asia & South America before returning to the UK and jumping back in to the thick of it.

7. Why did you want to join Delib?

Delib offers me the chance to work in an extraordinarily interesting, relevant and challenging sector, working on topics that genuinely matter. Taking time out of the workplace allowed me to evaluate what I wanted from my career and where my values lie, and I feel working for a company such as Delib provides me with the platform to really make a difference. The company, its ethos and its people drew me in, and I am excited to see what awaits me down the road.

8. Any shout outs, comments or other musings?

Big shout out to Jayne, Lorna and Kim for managing such a pleasant and seamless recruitment process. Also, a massive thanks to the office gang for welcoming me into the fold. Thanks also to Ben F for feeding me small insights into the company over the years we have been acquainted as this led me to the fantastically well worded and inspiring job ad that ultimately convinced me to apply. 

Thanks for the comprehensive answers Joel! As ever, we’ll be bringing Joel up to speed with lots of training and hopefully some events over the next few weeks. If you’d like to hear more about Joel’s travels or how he’s settling in, give him a shout on Twitter.

Dialogue: now available in v3!

We’re happy to introduce Dialogue v3! We’ve made this major update to help governments continue interacting with the public with openness and transparency.

We built Dialogue because we want government to have an easy way of getting input from citizens on policy challenges. With v3, the tool that is used so well already by various organisations in idea generation and public participation gets a whole lot better. All of the changes we’ve made have been done to make it easier for communities to get involved with issues that matter to them. The aim is to open up conversations and keep discussion flowing, while making them more interactive and constructive.

Dialogue allows you to tailor conversations to suitable audiences as required: it gives you the flexibility to run public, transparent discussion, open to anyone with an interest to engage in, as well as challenges aimed at specific groups. For example, when the Isle of Man wanted to engage islanders in their budget decisions, they chose Dialogue and received more than 1,300 responses, a brilliant response for public involvement. Or, when HM Courts & Tribunals Service wanted to give employees a voice in how the organisation is run, they set up a closed challenge for their staff to suggest ideas and improvements which proved to be a great success in shaping the culture and working environment.

Efficiency built in

We’ve focused on updating the admin side of Dialogue because that is where public servants need efficiency. By simplifying the process, and introducing easier workflows for challenge creation and moderation, we want to save government time to allow more capacity for running successful challenges and ultimately engaging more people in the decision-making process.

Notifying participants

The existing notifications feature helps to keep conversations going and expand participation while some great improvements to the admin area make it easier than ever for anyone to set up and run successful challenges.

A much-improved admin dashboard

A new user-friendly dashboard makes creating, moderating and reporting on challenges easier. It shows everything in one place and guides you through each process with step-by-step progress as you go. With more than 10,000 admin users already using a similar dashboard in Citizen Space, we know it’s a dashboard that works. 

Better reporting

Automatic summary reports are easy to generate and can be edited, helping you to close the feedback loop and provide outcomes on challenges. Reports are attractive and straightforward, in a format that anyone can understand, giving top-line stats at a glance, as well as more in-depth details for analysis if required. The importance of providing feedback on engagement exercises is well-known and with v3 it is quicker and easier than ever before. 

The need for constructive discussion is real; community-level conversation with people who are affected by decision-making is vital to make people feel involved in the democratic process. We’ve made this significant upgrade to Dialogue to provide a simple, moderated way of doing this that complies with GDPR and other privacy policies around the world. Dialogue v3 allows organisations to be public and transparent with early engagement exercises, all the while ensuring ease-of-access for all. 

If you’d like to learn more about Dialogue, get in touch and we’ll be happy to walk you through it.

OneTeamGov goes Global

Following the successes of their smaller, localised events (like the one we went to in Edinburgh last year), the good folks at OneTeamGov have been working away for months to produce their first global unconference. It all came together and on July 16th some of the Delib team headed to London to get stuck in.

Ludwig and Louise were volunteering, meaning they spent their day greeting attendees, helping with sessions and giving out many high-fives. With our Australian colleague Katharine in the country visiting the UK office and our newest recruit Chris having only just started with the company, it only made sense to send them along too, to get their first taste of an unconference. Between the four of them, Delib were representing Germany, the UK, Australia and America and were ready to meet other attendees from around the world.

Chris and Katharine enjoyed the day and reported back on it:

It was our first unconference experience and with over 700 people attending it was an amazing opportunity to meet with representatives from government departments from around the world including Canada, Estonia, USA, Sweden, New Zealand and the UK.

On first arrival, we were hesitant of the structure and organization of the day; how the heck were they going to manage 700 people all day without a fixed agenda? We quickly saw the magic of OneTeamGov and the unconference structure as the room filled with some of the brightest and most eager minds in government and civic tech. A session grid swiftly formed outlining nearly 75 topics structured over 4 sessions. Topics ranged from ‘What is the real potential for AI & Data science & data to change public services?’ to ‘Open All Data’. There were even some recharge sessions involving knitting and yoga.

One of the questions posed and discussed was ‘How to really integrate citizen voices into policy making’: this session was quite interactive, mapping out of the steps that required consideration. The discussion also explored the notion that the popular vote is not always the best choice for a community and we noted that public opinion should be taken as valuable insight but decisions still needed to be made by the publicly elected officials.

It was interesting to discuss the perception of feedback from citizens who felt that their comments could adversely affect their personal outcomes from a government agency – for example, applying for a visa and then asking about someone’s experience on the process meant that a lot false positives are received.

[session notes here]

Another memorable (and topical) session was ‘How can we radically raise trust in public institutions (in a completely new way)?’. Here, we laid out what we thought the indicators to measure trust in government are, including competency, communication and compassion (emotional or logical). The issue of feedback and conversation was a key indicator, as we discussed the need for governments to ‘close the loop’ with citizens and to not allow civic participation to fall on deaf ears. Citizen Space’s robust response publishing and ‘We Asked, You Said, We Did” tools made an appearance in the conversation at this point! Grass-root government at a local level was seen as a popular approach to raise trust, as well as personalised government service delivery and direct contact with people to build relationships. 

[session notes here]

Overall, it was an exciting and stimulating day. We look forward to attending more OneTeamGov events in the future. 

Thanks Chris and Katharine, sounds like a busy and informative day! As ever, we can’t wait for what OneTeamGov have got up their sleeves next. If you fancy chatting to us more about the day, or anything else, get in touch.

Introducing our newest Account Manager: Chris Neil

As our customer base continues to grow, so does the need for us to take on more awesome people. The newest member of the team is Chris, joining our UK office all the way from sunny California as an Account Manager. We caught up with him in his first week on all the important things: civic tech, bands and biscuits.

1. What’s your name and where are you from?

My name is Chris Neil. I was born in Orange County, California and lived in Southern California on and off my entire life. I spent the last 4 years in Los Angeles but recently relocated to Bristol in March to live with my wife, a lifelong Bristolian.

2. Favourite band and/or artist?

My all-time favourite band is Bright Eyes. I think they are the only artist I have consistently listened to weekly for over a decade. Other favourites include The Smiths, Radiohead and Elliott Smith. If its slow and sad, I usually like it.

3. Creature of habit or maverick thinker?

A little of both I’d have to say. I am a creature of habit when it comes to structure and routine in day-to-day life; I love the process of hand writing lists and cathartically crossing out items. But I have been known to shake things up quite frequently and have always been hesitant to conform to societal norms and expectations.

4. You (and, for the sake of keeping it interesting, any spouses/partners/kids/significant others) get mysteriously transported to a desert island, with only time to grab a couple of precious things to take with you. What makes the ‘keep’ list?

I would definitely have to grab a surfboard in hope that there are waves on this hypothetical island. Also, lots of books to read while the waves are flat. Though if I had to only pick one book, I’d have to choose Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac; I think I could re-read that continuously for the rest of my life.

5. Biscuits – dunk or leave unsullied?

Usually leave unsullied but I have recently been introduced to the concept of biting off both ends of a Kit Kat Chunky and using it to suck up tea or coffee. It gets caught in the middle melting the chocolate making in warm and gooey.

6. Before joining Delib, how did you put bread on the table?

My last position was with a community engagement and relations agency called Consensus as an account manager, specializing in land use and transport projects and policy in the greater Los Angeles region. A few clients included WeWork, Westfield and the City of Los Angeles. Prior to this, I was introduced to the world of civic tech as an intern turned digital specialist at NationBuilder, one of the first community organizing software companies.

7. Why did you want to join Delib?

I have always been interested in the world of civic tech and have been following Delib’s work ever since I knew Bristol was a potential new home for me. I have worked in and with government for most of my professional life and have experienced first-hand the slowness and sometimes disconnecting nature between government and those who are governed. I believe it is crucial to give citizens the knowledge and power to shape the community they live in and believe Delib is doing a massive part to achieve this aim.

8. Any shout outs, comments or other musings?

 A big shout out to the team for being so welcoming and nice. Also, a huge shout out to Bristol as a whole for being an awesome place to land after my relocation across the pond.

It’s great to have Chris on board and we’ll be throwing him in at the deep end with various events, company away days and training opportunities in his first few weeks! If you’d like to chat more about Chris’s interesting use of a KitKat Chunky as a tea straw or perhaps about civic tech and democracy, you can always catch him on Twitter.

Participation with Impact: The Practical Democracy Project #5 in Bristol

On Friday 29th June, the Practical Democracy Project came home to Delib’s HQ city of Bristol, UK. With previous events having taken place in London, Edinburgh and Manchester, and a recent one in Wellington, New Zealand, it’s safe to say the Practical Democracy Project is going global, and this is just the beginning; the movement is growing and we plan to keep this momentum going.

With each event that happens, we’re aiming to get people together from the worlds of civic society, tech and government to discuss practical ways of improving democracy, opening up honest discussions and mapping out how to create a better democratic experience for everyone.

Keeping up with the locals

As the event was close to home this time, we got in touch with our friends at Bristol City Council and managed to secure some of Mayor Marvin Rees’ time to open up the day. The Mayor talked about his background and how he got into politics, stating that ‘the world is run by people who turn up’ and that activism can’t just be for the pursuit of social media likes and retweets but must work towards proactive and positive change.

We also heard from Jon Toy, the council’s Consultation and Engagement Manager, who talked about the challenges they have been facing in coming up with their new consultation and engagement strategy. Jon highlighted the issues around response rates, representation, accessibility and consultation fatigue and the team is working to address these. They are asking people to give views on how improvements can be made to these areas.

‘Bristol’s next big boyband’: a panel discussion

After Jon and the Mayor, we opened the dialogue up to the floor with a panel discussion, including Tim Borrett, the council’s Acting Director of Policy, Strategy and ICT. People were able to ask questions and Tim, Jon and the Mayor gave open and honest answers, giving an opportunity for real conversation that both parties may not usually have. Breaking down barriers between citizens and local government in this way can help to foster genuine discussion and can lead to real change and is ultimately what we designed the Practical Democracy Project to be.

A question from the floor about making consultation and its data accessible to people allowed the Mayor to speak about Bristol City Council’s budget consultation. They asked people to tell them what they were prepared to deprioritise, a task that the Mayor believes is a ‘test of a genuine activist’: when people are able to think not just about what they want from a budget, but about what they’re willing to give up in order to focus on their priorities. If children’s mental health is important to you, are you willing to take away from adult’s mental health, green space or buses to give more money to it? It’s a balancing act, and getting the public involved in these decisions informs the process and gives citizens an understanding of just how difficult budget setting can be.

We also thought about the role of elected officials in the democratic process, with Jon, Tim and the Mayor all agreeing on the importance of getting out there, engaging with citizens and being involved, not just being held accountable. They made the case that there are a wealth of democratic organisations in Bristol as well as the council; it is ‘easy activism’ to talk about the council and what they’re doing or not doing, but there needs to be conversation around the NHS, universities and police service too, to ensure everyone is working from the same page. They argued that mature democratic conversation is what Bristol needs, not just disdain for politicians and activism for activism’s sake.

A few people from the audience commented on what could be perceived as an ‘us and them’ approach where politics are concerned and there was general consensus that councillors are also citizens and that frontline engagement with the public and working together to inform consultation is the best way of avoiding silos.

Panel discussion captured by @LemonGazelle (thanks!)

The panel discussion ended with a question from a member of UK Youth Parliament in Bristol, who asked about the council’s plans to engage more young people to get involved with politics and consultation. The Mayor spoke again of the budget consultation where they went into Bristol College with their Budget Simulator on a tablet and got students to complete it, getting them talking and thinking about the decisions that go into a council’s budget, an enlightening experience for teenagers who might never have previously thought about local politics. Tim agreed on the importance of this, stating that while the panel may have looked like ‘Bristol’s oldest boyband’, they also needed to think of ways other than simply ‘putting things on social media’ to really reach the young people who aren’t currently ‘turning up’ to let their voice be heard in political matters. They spoke of how vital it is that youth parliament and youth mayors come along to events to be the voice of the next generation and to represent those who perhaps can’t get involved for one reason or another. Tim suggested that the discussion with young people should always be framed as ‘here is a problem, here are some solutions we think might work, but tell us what you think and lets work together on it’.

Finding Legitimacy with Nadine Smith

Next up was Nadine Smith from the Centre for Public Impact (CPI) who was speaking about their Finding Legitimacy project. Having started her career in Bristol, Nadine was happy to be back and believed it to be a city of great potential with a promising approach to consultation and engagement.

The CPI firmly believe that legitimacy in politics matters and that the relationship between citizens and governments is fundamental to achieving success. People can feel that government is just something that is being done to them, not with them and finding empathy and authenticity in government can be difficult.

Through the Finding Legitimacy project, Nadine and the CPI have been going to different cities and countries to speak with people about how they are feeling about their relationship with politics and government. People seem to agree that with the buzz around politics, and improved digital capabilities, feeling involved and closer to government should be easier, but wonder if it really is, or if there is perhaps a missing connection somewhere.

CPI came to Bristol to interview Bristolians at 8pm on a sunny Monday evening in a ‘stuffy room full of unstuffy people’ with no air-con and people turned up to make sure their views were heard and to share their stories. People want to be engaged but sometimes struggle to know how they can get there. Nadine believes that consultation and government should be brought to the people, and that citizens shouldn’t always be expected to seek it out. Perhaps, she suggested, there needs to be more middle ground and more grassroots action to make sure that the public and government can work effectively together, to ensure citizens feel like more than just a number.

Thanks to Nic Price (@nicprice) for this photo

After some tea, coffee and cake, it was time for our very own Commercial Director, Ben Fowkes to give a brief history of what Delib does and how it came about with a chance for the audience to both learn more about us and also ask questions about our work: 

Then it was time for the final speaker of the day.

Nicky Saunter on the power of the story

Nicky heads up Transform, an organisation working internationally to bring about the legal regulation of drugs. Based in Bristol, Nicky is positive that a lot can happen in the city which has great diversity and engagement and is ‘far away enough from London’ to be autonomous and its ‘own city’.

Transform argue that billions of pounds are wasted annually fighting the ‘war on drugs’, with drugs deaths at record numbers and drugs gangs more violent – so they’re campaigning for ways that drugs policies could and should change. Nicky compared drugs deaths with car accidents, arguing that cars are regulated and have certain standards they must meet, so car accidents are fewer. If drugs were legalised and regulated and had to meet certain standards, would that not mean the resulting number of deaths could decrease?

This sort of policy isn’t always popular with politicians, and even when you have facts on your side, it doesn’t necessarily get heard. So the direct participation of people is hugely important. Telling those stories that bring it home with emotional impact can bring about genuine participation from people and lead to change. Transform are running a campaign called Anyone’s Child, to try and highlight the people who are most affected by issues with drugs. By using emotional impact and real-life stories, they are educating people on why legal regulation of drugs could be a positive step in improving the current situation. Using the love of families who have lost sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, grandchildren and so on to show that there are people at the heart of these issues, not just criminals and gangs, they are highlighting that were drugs regulated, their relatives might have survived. The people of the Anyone’s Child campaign have taken to Westminster to be the voice for their lost relatives and loved ones and are hoping through the power of their stories change could happen.

The day ended with an excellent lunch from a local family-run business, Nico’s Kitchen and some networking. It was great to see a varied crowd there; a bunch of people willing to ‘turn up’, to get stuck in and to work towards making a difference in the way government and citizens interact. With various opportunities for questions and a panel discussion with the Mayor himself, this wasn’t an event to come to and be talked at, but an opportunity for genuine dialogue between the public and those working at the frontline of local government. A few people mentioned on the day (between mouthfuls of cake and sandwiches) that they really enjoyed the audience participation element of the day because it felt so inclusive. Well, participation (with impact) was the name and participation was the game!

Massive thanks to all of our speakers for making it a brilliant day and also to The Foundation at Triodos Bank for providing the perfect venue. One speaker, Anthony Zacharzewski of the Democratic Society, wasn’t able to make it due to a cancelled flight, however we are sure to be working with him again in the near-future.

If you’d like to see more from the event, check out the hashtag #PracticalDemocracyProject on Twitter or get in touch @DelibThinks. The Practical Democracy Project is back on the move and could be appearing in a city near you soon. Watch this space.

7 takeaways from our Edinburgh user group, April 2018

Last week, several members of the Delib gang headed out from our Bristol, England HQ and descended on Edinburgh, Scotland for the first Citizen Space & Dialogue user group of 2018. A great opportunity to meet some of our Scottish customers, hear how people are using our products and try haggis, naturally I jumped at the chance to go along.

For this user group, we were kindly hosted by the City of Edinburgh Council at their City Chambers headquarters. (Fans of the Avengers franchise may be as excited as I was to discover that the building makes a brief appearance in the latest film, Avengers: Infinity War. Not that I’m comparing the Delib team to the Avengers – but I bet you’ve never seen all of them/us in one room at the same time…)

Once we were over the grandeur of the building and had fuelled up on coffee, we got down to business. Here come some learnings I took away from the day:

1. GDPR compliance is the talk of the town
We heard from The City of Edinburgh Council about their extensive efforts to get ahead of the curve on GDPR compliance. Whilst they still have some things to tackle, it was clear from Emma Candy, the council’s Senior Policy and Insight Officer, that they have done some great prep.

She told us about how they’ve been collaborating closely with their Information Governance Unit to work out exactly how to archive and/or delete data from consultations in line with the new laws. And I can’t really not mention her appreciation for Citizen Space being GDPR-compliant, giving us some props for the work we’ve done to make sure that’s the case. (Thanks, Emma!)

2. Good practice needs cultural embedding
Sophie Marshall from Police Scotland’s Consultation and Engagement team told us about the ways they’re working to embed best practice within their organisation. For example, she talked about their commitment to ‘closing the response loop’ – making sure participants know what’s happened with their input at the end of an exercise.

She detailed the process they used in their 2026 strategy engagement exercise, which was spread over 10 weeks and split into a range of themes. She talked about how the flexibility of Citizen Space as a platform allowed them to both monitor outreach and manage internal needs in the same place. And she explained how the team are building a communications and engagement toolkit to educate staff on good consultation practice – so that it’s embedded in their culture and not a case of reinventing the wheel with each project.

This good practice includes encouraging proactive outreach and promotion of consultations – a habit which has already generated increased levels of responses.

3. The GDPR devil is in the details
Chris Connolly from the Scottish Government was determined not to let being ill stop her from helping people with GDPR! Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to join us on the day – but, in her absence, she still managed to send along a summary of her talk on everyone’s 4 favourite letters.

We kicked off a discussion around Chris’s suggestion that much of the purpose of GDPR isn’t new – a lot of it is simply about communicating how we store data. It became clear that people still aren’t quite sure on certain aspects of GDPR – which consent to seek when, for example, and whether or not it’s valuable to collect IP addresses – but it is generally understood that organisations must make sure they are collecting relevant information and handling it properly. Again, a consistent theme emerged from these conversations about the importance of forming organisational habits to handle data correctly once it is collected.

We were also pleased to hear from Chris’ colleague Lauren Tuckerman who kindly offered to tell us a bit about her work interning with the Scottish Government’s consultation team, which will form part of her PhD.

4. Centralising response data can have big benefits: from ease of use to response rates
We heard from Amber Souter at Food Standards Scotland about transitioning to running their consultations on a centralised digital platform. Compared with their previous methods of seeking consultation submissions via email or post, she said that switching to Citizen Space has led to increased response rates and a more professional feel to their engagement efforts.

When they needed to gather stakeholder views about a draft Regulatory Strategy, they had a wide audience to consult and Citizen Space’s ease of use and response publishing feature made it simple to engage people and feed back to them after.

5. Dialogue garners good ideas
Dialogue continues to be used in differing ways for some pretty cool ideas generating exercises. Delib colleague Natalie reported back on how the Isle of Man Government opened up an online conversation about their SAVE programme and HMCTS gave staff a voice on internal decisions. (My ears may have pricked up at this point as I’ve recently spoken with both organisations about their experiences using Dialogue!)

6. Experimenting & refining the approach to engagement is valuable
Kirsty Christie, Web and Digital Media Officer for Scottish Borders Council, told us how they’re using a trial and error approach to their use of Dialogue. Before, it was difficult to reach a broad spectrum of people due to a wide geographic spread in the area, but Dialogue allowed them to seek opinions online in a convenient and quick way. The communications team recognise the importance of getting the public involved in decision-making and found Dialogue to be an effective way to run quick experiments and test hypotheses. They found that contrary to their expectations, splitting their budget consultation out into discussions on specific topics and areas of interest did not boost response rates, so they’ve gone back to a more holistic approach of consulting on the budget as a whole piece.

7. Promote!
OK, this isn’t a new lesson but it’s a drum that always merits a bit more banging! In consultation, promotion is vital in engaging people. They can’t participate if they’ve never heard about the opportunity to get involved!

The folks at the Scottish Parliament – Ailsa Burn-Murdoch, Hayley Forrester and Steven Blyth – emphasised the importance of making consultation activity accessible and available to the public. The issues they’re dealing with can be complex and it’s vital to convey them to people in ways that they will be able to understand.

The Scottish Parliament chose to use Dialogue for their online engagement because it had been recommended by their peers (including the Welsh Assembly), and because it could gather views and opinions that wouldn’t be captured through other consultation activities. Similarly to Scottish Borders Council, they were also keen on the potential for a digital approach to more easily engage geographically disparate groups of people. They’ve been using Dialogue alongside offline outreach events, where they’ve found it’s added value and opened up more ways for people to get involved. They were also pleased to report that they’ve seen genuine discussion in the comments section of ideas!

So there we have it! User group number one of the year is complete and, as always, we learnt a lot from it. There’s just no substitute for hearing these at-the-coalface accounts of people’s experiences, so thanks very much to all the attendees and especially the speakers.

If you’re interested to see what people in your field are doing and are a user of Citizen Space or Dialogue, why not come along to our next one? It’s set to take place in Northern Ireland in September and we’ll release details closer to the time. If that’s too far away, we also have a training session at our Bristol HQ in July; there’s a handful of spaces still available but they’ll go quickly!

Casting the net wide: how the Environment Agency increased participation through online consultation

With declining salmon stocks in many English rivers, the Environment Agency needed to develop options to reduce the take of salmon by anglers and net fisheries.

As part of a wider project aiming to increase marine survival and tackle water quality and quantity, barriers to migration and poor in-river habitat, they wanted to seek views from those who would be affected by proposed new measures, to understand what impacts and benefits the changes would have.

These groups were varied and dispersed, from angling clubs to non-governmental angling organisations to netsmen with licences all around the country. EA’s aim was to reach a broad spectrum of people and so they chose to use Citizen Space.

Photo: Jason Dale

Previously, in order to consult people, the Environment Agency would have put a paper to regional fishery committees – who represented different groups – for feedback, as well as using local angling forums as a way of people giving their views. This was limiting as the reach was not as wide as it could have been and it meant that people weren’t able to get involved at an individual level.

With the increase in technology, social media and online activity in the past 10 years, digital platforms like Citizen Space have proven really useful in opening up participation to geographically diverse groups.

For EA, this meant that those who would be affected by changes in byelaws could help to develop measures that would form them, creating more of a bottom-up approach to consultation.

People from all over the country will travel far and wide to fish salmon; Citizen Space gave them all the opportunity to participate and created an atmosphere of transparency around the exercise. The feedback was representative of large groups of people, with over 1,100 responses given.

The proposed changes were, at times, incredibly detailed; the ability to include documents throughout the consultation, at the point of question, was invaluable in allowing people to make informed comments and suggestions. Participants were able to fully understand the situation and the potential consequences of the issues being consulted on.

Enabling people to give views on their phones and tablets as well as laptops made responding easy and accessible which led to increased numbers of participants. It also meant that people were more likely to give a quick answer showing their support, which gave a balanced view of how people felt about the proposed measures.

People are often more likely to engage with something if they are opposed to it, but the ease of giving feedback meant that people who wouldn’t necessarily log on to a computer could quickly express their support using their mobile phone. Even a two word response is more valuable than someone just not getting involved at all and Citizen Space provided the platform for light-touch as well as more in-depth feedback.

The surveys were intentionally lengthy to include all of the information in one place. Though they covered a vast range of fisheries in many different parts of the country, the Environment Agency chose to have all of the options covered in one consultation. Being able to split topics down into different sections of the survey meant that people were able to dip into the ones that were relevant without having to trawl through sections that didn’t apply to them. This kept response rates high and there was not much of a drop-off rate throughout the consultation. The last few questions saw response rates of around 80%, showing that most people remained engaged throughout.

The consultation was put together by The National Salmon Programme team. This was the first time they had set up an online consultation, and the first time they had used Citizen Space. They told us they found the system intuitive and easy to use, making the whole process straightforward. They could work collaboratively on different parts and were able to update documents in real-time once the consultation was already live, meaning it was completely up to date at all times.

The results of the consultation have fed into new proposed byelaws which have now been formally advertised, again using Citizen Space.

Manx views: refreshing public involvement on the Isle of Man

We recently got to chat with the Isle of Man Government about how they changed the way they communicated with citizens using Dialogue. Here’s what they told us:

The Isle of Man Government is continuing to modernise the way it interacts with citizens, as part of a commitment to openness and transparency.

Embracing digital media, enhancing web-based services and inviting public feedback via a new consultation hub are encouraging more people to have their say on important issues and to conduct their business with Government online.

Credit: Andy North

Many of the Island’s residents are active online, with an estimated 60% signed up to Facebook. A lot of discussion of political issues takes place on digital media channels and online forums and Government was keen to provide an official platform for people to air their views.

The Isle of Man Government first used Dialogue to help generate broad public engagement in its Securing Added Value and Efficiencies (SAVE) project. It was considered a good way to connect with the public in a space that could be monitored and regulated and where ideas could be formally recognized, reported and acted upon.

People were invited to submit ideas to help Government achieve multi-million pound budget savings and deliver public services more effectively.

The response was overwhelming. By the end of the first week the Dialogue site had 414 registered users who submitted 401 ideas and 770 comments. One individual contributed no fewer than 80 ideas during the course of the challenge – a level of engagement the SAVE team had not expected.

People also used the Dialogue site to communicate with one another and to collaborate on their ideas. Submissions could be refined and improved by combining suggestions. 

Screenshot of Isle of Man Dialogue

The SAVE team opted to moderate posts, but found that the site was largely self-policing and the conversation was mostly constructive.

A weekend working rota enabled responses to be checked outside of normal office hours. This proved particularly helpful as people were very engaged on Sunday evenings – possibly on account of being on their ‘downtime’, when they had an opportunity to really think about their ideas.

People could also feedback to the SAVE initiative on postcards and cut-out coupons from the local newspaper. Postcards were available at public locations around the Island and members of the SAVE team were on hand to encourage participation and answer specific questions.

Postcard and coupon responses were input to the Dialogue site, so that they could be viewed and commented upon by the majority of people who were contributing online.

The manual responses were not as detailed as those submitted online, suggesting that people found it easier to share ideas on the Dialogue site and were perhaps deliberating over matters more when they could provide their ideas in a considered way.

Users may have also been more engaged using the Dialogue tool where ideas and comments are shared, unlike conventional methods where suggestions are submitted in isolation.

By the deadline, there were more than 1,300 responses and over 2,300 comments – a fantastic result in terms of public engagement.

The Isle of Man team updated the site to confirm the exercise had closed and to inform people about the next steps in terms of assessing the ideas and selecting a number for further consideration.

Several suggestions submitted the SAVE challenge via the Dialogue site are currently being developed in partnership with the relevant Government Departments.

The Isle of Man Government is using Dialogue again to generate public feedback and ideas to improve road safety.

It has also been inspired by HM Courts and Tribunals’ use of Dialogue to generate internal staff suggestions and may consider a similar challenge to improve staff engagement in the future.

Overall, the Isle of Man Government’s experience of Dialogue has been an extremely positive one.

Twitter – @IOMDigitaleng

‘Growing Ideas That Matter’: giving employees a voice at HMCTS

HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) is committed to giving its employees different ways of expressing their views within their organisation. This is fundamentally about giving employees a voice and seeing them as central to coming up with ideas and solutions to improve the way that HMCTS works. Employee voice is one of the key pillars of HMCTS’ approach to employee engagement; through the many channels that employees have to give their views, HMCTS hopes to create an environment where people feel engaged and committed to their work. HMCTS wants people to be able to suggest ideas that matter and that will be put in to practice to help the organisation be more effective in delivering justice.

Previously, HMCTS had tried a ‘Bright Ideas’ scheme, where people could suggest ideas by filling out a form on an internal intranet page. However, there was a perception that ideas would often sit on the platform and not be actioned, falling into an organisational ‘black hole’ with no feedback given and little sense of transparency. HMCTS wanted to enhance the way people could put forward their ideas for improvements and change to show staff that their opinions really did matter. 

They ran a survey to see what sort of scheme people would like and to gain insight into what employees wanted out of it; how they would want it to work and what they thought it should be called. A colleague suggested a working group that could work on ideas for functionality, a name, a logo and who could represent the wider HMCTS team. They looked at a few different systems and consulted cross-government networks to see what other departments were using for this type of exercise. 

They were aware of the Ministry of Justice’s Dialogue site, which had proven to be a huge success when used for a pioneering public engagement exercise (asking how to best allocate a fund provided by the government to support victims of male rape and sexual abuse). This challenge received so many thoughtful and constructive responses via the Dialogue platform that funding was reviewed and increased as a result, helping victims across the country through new support networks. HMCTS saw this success and the level of participation the challenge received, and through the outcomes of their working group and survey found that Dialogue fitted all of their criteria for functionality.

Using Dialogue, they created a new site called ‘Growing Ideas That Matter’, using an acorn growing into a tree as the logo to represent the idea of conversations developing. Ideas can start small and be built upon by everyone involved until a workable and beneficial proposal is generated. The team is making it as easy as possible for staff to get involved, encouraging people to contribute at any time, even on the bus on the way home from work using shortcuts on their phone. With responsive design, Dialogue has allowed employees to access challenges from anywhere, on any device, meaning conversations can carry on continuously. 

Under the previous scheme staff became frustrated at the lack of organisational response to ideas that were being submitted. This led to people taking to other channels to raise issues that were often off topic and therefore lost. HMCTS set up their new Dialogue in a way that would encourage genuine and positive interaction.

To ensure there is clear ownership, employees registering on Dialogue are asked to enter their name in a certain format. This is monitored to ensure people are commenting on ideas as themselves, which improves the quality of conversations. The underlying rule for suggestions is to make them count, make them matter, and to own them. 

New challenges are posted every four weeks and members of the Senior Leadership Team have been allocated as sponsors for them, commenting on ideas and ensuring the conversation is heard, and acted on where possible. Teams also have ‘team information board’ meetings where they can talk about issues with one person in charge of posting it on Dialogue and monitoring the level of response it receives. With 450 locations across the country, this has proven to be a great virtual workshop for geographically dispersed colleagues to have meaningful discussions. 

HMCTS has found that the new notifications function in Dialogue has enhanced conversations by keeping people updated on the ideas they have submitted. The single notification per day means that people can keep up-to-date on how their ideas are moving forwards, without being overwhelmed by email updates.

The current challenge is to gather ideas around updating internal guidance and it’s working well. The success of using Dialogue has already led to some ideas being taken forward and organisational changes which may have gone otherwise unheard and is helping HMCTS employees to feel valued and able to have a genuine input in improving their place of work.

“Dialogue has given HMCTS a platform to build our engagement and help take a broad spectrum of ideas and experience into account when delivering change. We feel like we’ve only just scratched the surface of what we could achieve with Dialogue and are excited to see where this leads.”
Lauren Waters, Customer Innovation Manager, HMCTS

How we work: Natalie Williams, Account Manager

Delib has got some awesome people doing some great stuff for digital democracy. We recently chatted with one of our Account Managers, Natalie, about what her job entails and how she works, to give you a glimpse into how Delib ticks.

How would you summarise your job in one line? What’s the overall goal?

My job in its simplest, most nutshell form is to support our customers. This can take the form of delivering training to build users’ confidence in using our products; providing consultancy & advice to help spread best practices; responding to support queries & solving problems; and listening to feedback so we can better understand our customers’ evolving needs. The ultimate goal is happy customers whose jobs are made easier by using our products.

What’s the thing you most get enthused about hearing/seeing from a customer? When do you get to go home feeling like ‘that was a good day’?

It’s always a pleasure to work with customers who are investing genuine time & effort into making a consultation easy to understand & respond to, and trying to put themselves in the shoes of a respondent. What’s even more rewarding, however, is seeing or hearing about what the outcome of a consultation was – how the information that respondents provided was used, and the change that was made as a result. We tend to hear from customers early on in the process and often don’t have visibility of the outcome further down the line, but it’s brilliant when we do get to hear about real world change that has been effected by a consultation run using one of our products. I’d love to see even more customers opening up the process & regularly reporting back in a transparent way.

If you could entirely solve one (work-related, don’t say ‘world peace’) problem with a wave of a magic wand, what would it be and why?
Right at this moment (you may regret asking) it would be a problem we’re experiencing thanks to an email security provider used by several of our customers treating Delib emails as spam & blocking them, which is very frustrating as it’s stopping me from communicating with customers & sending them useful information they’ve asked for!

But putting aside the trials and tribulations of the day, I’d say that a more long term problem I’d like to make magically disappear is a widespread lack of understanding in the UK about how our political systems work, both centrally and locally. Why is this stuff not taught in schools when it would serve us all so well? With a flick of my magic wand I’d add it straight on the curriculum to & get us all educated from a young age & hopefully therefore more engaged throughout our adult lives.

You work closely with customers to practically implement this stuff in the real world. How do you think the connection between digital tools and better democracy plays out in practice? Is it just a question of efficiency; is it an increased accessibility thing; does adopting new products somehow change organisational culture or is it something else entirely?

The primary benefit is definitely being able to reach a wider audience than ever before, including communities that perhaps historically wouldn’t have been involved in the engagement process. Another layer to this of course, as I mentioned above, is transparency – increased accessibility means increased opportunities to share what you’re doing and be open about your processes and the opportunities people have to influence them.

Efficiency is certainly another advantage of using digital tools, in terms of streamlining the consultation process, making it easier to achieve a consistent level of quality, and having all of your response data accessible in one place. I’m slightly more cautious about the idea of adopting new products as a means of changing organisational culture; while they can help to act as a catalyst, my general experience is that change will be more effectively achieved if organisations choose to adopt new tools specifically to support existing goals, rather than expecting a digital tool alone to make all the difference.

Thanks Nat, it’s always good to have an insight into what people do! For democracy-related stuff, excellent gifs or to chat more, catch Natalie on Twitter.

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