Category: Tips & tricks to help you (Page 1 of 2)

Three useful resources for creating successful consultations

Over the last couple of weeks we’ve been digging around and updating some of our resources. We thought you might be interested in these three.

The Digital Consultation Playbook

What it’s all about: A booklet offering strategies, advice and principles for creating excellent online consultations – even if you’ve never done one before.

How it can help you: The playbook provides guidance on pinpointing a target audience, creating an engaging question, promoting consultations – and more.


What it’s all about: A comprehensive online knowledge base, crammed full of practical advice, support materials and FAQs.

How it can help you: Zen Desk addresses some of the most common questions our customers ask. These include: how do I set out a challenge? What’s the difference between a radio button and a check box? And how can I get consultation questions approved internally?

Customer stories

What they’re all about: Practical examples from other organisations who have run successful public consultation exercises.

How they can help you: Our case studies can offer useful insights and provide ideas for future consultations.

There are lots of customer stories online. The Scottish Government,  The City of Melbourne and Forestry Commission are just three of them.


We hope these tools and support materials are helpful. Should you ever find yourself stuck, or in need of some guidance on delivering a great consultation, do take a look. You can always get in touch with us for a chat too.

Introducing our 2016 Citizen Space and Dialogue Scottish User Group

In 2015, we ran no fewer than 5 user groups around the world: kicking off in Scotland and finishing in Australia. Our first 2016 user group will be held once again in collaboration with the Scottish Government in Edinburgh on Tuesday 26th April. This time, we’ll be running things a little differently and including a session on Dialogue in the afternoon. This will be our first Dialogue user group so we’re really excited to see what our customers have been up to.


Image courtesy of @bisgovuk Department of Business Innovation and Skills

Who is the user group for?

Digital leads, analysts, policy leads, communication managers – anyone using Citizen Space or Dialogue.

1-2 people will be initially invited from each organisation currently using Citizen Space or Dialogue in Scotland and Cumbria. Tickets will be allocated on a first-come-first-served basis but if you’re reading this and interested in attending, please email

What should I expect?
The morning session (10am-12.30pm) will focus on Citizen Space. Lunch (12.30pm-1.30pm) will be provided. The afternoon session (1.30pm-3pm) will focus on Dialogue. Participants are welcome to attend all sessions.

Talks will focus on all things digital engagement, including the following:

  • An opportunity to meet other Citizen Space and Dialogue users from across local and central government
  • Show-and-tell of recent or upcoming engagement exercises by current users. Review of the process and challenges of how you do consultation
  • Citizen Space and Dialogue roadmaps – we’ll talk through our plans for development and get your input
  • Digital surgery on any questions/topics requested, such as governance and promotion

This is our second Citizen Space user group to be held in Scotland. If you’re not sure what to expect, check out these learnings from our user group in London last year.

These sessions work best with real examples from the coal-face. If you’re interested in sharing how you do great consultation or if you have a proven process please email

How NHS England run more than just consultations on Citizen Space

One of our favourite things about Citizen Space user group meetings is getting to hear honest and insightful stories from people ‘at the coalface’ of online consultations. Customers come along and give us a behind-the-scenes peek at what it’s really like to encourage better public involvement within their organisations.

For example, at our October 2015 user group meeting, Beth Johnson, Digital Communications Manager for NHS England, introduced us to how they’ve been using Citizen Space for more than just running traditional surveys or questionnaires online.

She began by explaining that ‘engagement is at the heart of everything we do’, and that NHS England has a range of audiences to engage: ‘it’s important to get the views of clinicians and other staff – it’s not just patients.’

As a result of this broad engagement remit, NHS England use Citizen Space in quite diverse ways. Beth told us how:

  • they use it for activity on both a local and national level (ensuring a standardised approach)
  • they expect some of their surveys to have several thousand responses (so Citizen Space’s scalability and unlimited participant licensing comes in handy), but they also use the platform for activity at much smaller scale
  • they also run things like the Child Health Information Systems questionnaire via Citizen Space. At around 110 questions (!), it’s a sizeable undertaking and not quite a typical ‘public consultation’ but nevertheless an excellent way to get good use out of their Citizen Space instance.

Similarly, in an impressive bit of innovation, NHS England get added value from Citizen Space by using it in ways we didn’t even necessarily have in mind when we built it! For example, they handle applications for things like Clinical Reference Groups via the system (rather than using, say, a basic online form). Beth explained that one reason for taking this approach was the superior analysis information they can access, thanks to the back-end data tools in Citizen Space.

Oh, and she also briefly mentioned how work experience students had come in and, within hours, been able to build surveys using Citizen Space. We like that.

Digital Heroes – Kevin Davies & Helia Phoenix

A couple of months ago I jumped on the train to Cardiff to meet the National Assembly for Wales Digital Engagement team, as is my want to do. It struck me that, despite working with organisations all over the world, I had little to no idea what the Welsh were up to, and after accepting that this glaring anomaly needed rectifying, I had a good old chat with Helia and Kevin.  It turns out they’ve been quietly doing all manner of interesting citizen involvement work, which I thought the rest of you might want to know about. Without further preamble then, let’s jump right in to another fascinating interview filled with the big questions, (Biscuit dunking and so on).

1. What’s your name and where are you from?
KD: Kevin Davies originally from Carmarthen, living in Cardiff.
HP: I’m Helia Phoenix, born in Cardiff, lived in loads of other places (London, Exeter, Southampton, Sheffield, Bristol, Berkeley out in California!), now living back in Cardiff again.


Helia Phoenix

2. What do you do for a living?
KD: I work for the National Assembly for Wales (not the Welsh Government!). The Assembly scrutinises the decisions made, the money spent and laws proposed by the Welsh Government, and my job is to get more and different voices to help the Assembly scrutinise the Welsh Government, particularly for committee scrutiny. I arrange consultation engagement activity like events, focus groups, surveys, web-chats, video interviews, online discussions and so on to facilitate a service user/citizen voice in the process.
HP: I’m a digital media specialist working for the National Assembly. It does everything that Kev says! I head up all things that relate to web content, which covers a vast range of things like digital accessibility, trying to improve our online content as best we can, and working on new innovations for how we communicate with people online. In my spare time, I run a (hyper)local blog about Cardiff, called ‘We Are Cardiff’. It’s been going for six years and is mostly based around pen portraits of people who live in the city, alongside information about alternative culture and events. It’s won Blog of the Year at the Welsh Blog Awards, and been named as one of the world’s best city blogs by the Guardian.

3. Favourite band and / or artist?
KD: LCD Soundsystem
HP: ARGH that’s too hard, I have too many! Queens of the Stone Age, Jon Hopkins, Leftfield, Four Tet. I also really loved the most recent Belle and Sebastian album but was never a fan of theirs before. Sub Focus. Fleetwood Mac. Pinch. Everything!

4. Creature of habit or maverick thinker?
KD: Creature of habit
HP: Maverick …

5. You house is on fire, what do you save?
KD: My housemates?
HP: I put the fire out and save everything!

6. Biscuits – dunk or leave unsullied?
KD: Dunk. Everytime.
HP: Dunk!

7. What does digital democracy mean to you (or maybe, what should digital democracy mean)?
KD: Digital democracy to me means breaking down walls and accessibility, it’s about us talking to people in the way and in the places they want to, it’s about recognising that different people consume information and have their say in different ways in different places and we need to embrace that. It isn’t the way that everyone wants to engage so it’s horses for courses and from my experience almost always needs to be combined with offline promotion/face to face interaction. It’s a way for people to help us figure out if the Welsh Government is doing a good job, and helps us make recommendations to the Welsh Government on what actions  they should take to make Wales a better place to live and work. It should be a way for the public to shape political debate.

HP: Digital democracy to me means showing people how ‘government’ is relevant to them, in places that they’re already using to carry out communications – online, email, social media sites, and so on.

I use the word ‘government’ really to talk about any kind of state apparatus that organises or affects the lives of the people. Particularly in Wales, devolution has been such a complicated process – the National Assembly for Wales and the Welsh Government started off being one organisation, then they split, then full powers have been devolved, and then the Wales Bill will see even more powers devolved. UK Parliament has been basically the same for hundreds of years, while we’ve got all these changes, which makes it so hard to educate people.

Also people have a negative perception of politics and politicians … it’s about making it relevant to them. Do you care about hospital provision in your area? Do you care about your local schools? About the park on your street? Politics is all of that. If you don’t participate, you have no right to complain. It’s making people understand and think about those links, and then make it as easy as possible for them to get involved when they are moved to do so. It’s about everything as simple as answering every tweet or Facebook comment we get (the sensible ones, that is!).


Kevin Davies

8. Where do you see the field of digital democracy/ digital engagement in ten years? Opportunities and pitfalls?
KD: Smarter and more effective ways of getting information out to citizens. better transparency. Better informed electorate.  Direct democracy – people raising issues with politicians, political establishments quickly and easily. Electronic voting. Possible pitfalls: online security, information overload, internet access, older population, managing people’s expectations – public conditioned to expect instant results from their interaction (twitter/xfactor etc).

HP: I can’t even imagine where we’ll be in ten years time. Electronic voting, definitely. Possibly direct input into legislation via online means? Or voting directly on budget allocation? Hopefully there will be ways that people can get more directly involved in the democratic process.

9. Best project you’ve worked on at the Welsh Assembly and why?
KD: One of the Assembly’s committees was looking at STEM (science, technology, engineering & maths) Skills, and they wanted to speak with young people to find out what inspired them to choose their course, how easy/difficult it was to find an apprenticeship in their field, and the main obstacles that they faced in pursuing their interest in the subject. It’s important that the Assembly seeks the views of people from all parts of Wales, so we ran a web-chat using Google Hangouts where Assembly Members gathered in a room to have an online conversation with students. When it came to the end of the project, the Committee wrote a report to the Welsh Government, which included 14 recommendations.

What I liked about this was seeing how rewarding students found the experience, and how much the Assembly Members enjoyed themselves too. Here is a blog one of the students wrote after taking part, and here’s a video of Rhun ap Iorwerth AM and Julie James AM talking about taking part in their first web-chat:

What I loved about this project was how much impact it had on the report. Web-chat participants were quoted or referenced 17 times throughout the report, which demonstrates how much effect their contribution had on the project and on the suggestions we made to the Welsh Government. For me that’s what it’s ultimately all about, I think we can get lost in doing things for the sake of it, particularly when it comes to digital, the real success comes when you apply new techniques and technologies to the objectives of your project as we did here.

HP: One of my favourite projects was a week we spent in Wrexham earlier this year, where we worked with the local authority to train staff about what the Assembly does, had events at local schools and colleges, had our outreach bus in the centre of town, and also had a session with hyperlocal journalists. I worked on two events there. One was a ‘digital takeover’ of our youth engagement channels by students from Coleg Cambria, where media students set up a camera and filmed other students talking about lowering the voting age, and about other political issues in general. We let the students take photos and create content throughout the day, which we put out over our Your Assembly channel. A couple of the students went off and wrote blog posts for us – they were such high quality, I was so impressed. Who says the youth aren’t engaged and don’t care? This is student Ieuan Walker’s blog post from that day and this is another student, Callum Murray. The day after, I took part in a little interactive training workshop session with some hyperlocal blogs from Wrexham, like, and some university students from Glyndwr University. It was a brilliant couple of days – exhausting, but really rewarding.

10. Any shout-outs?
KD: Dyfrig Williams and Ena Lloyd at the Good Practice Exchange, Will Barker – digital man @1000LivesPlus in NHS Wales, Dave McKenna – Local government scrutiny and policy person at Swansea Council

HP: Jo and Esko at The Satori Lab, who are putting on GovCampCymru in one of the Assembly’s building in September this year. Gareth Morlais who is an endlessly valuable resource on Welsh language in technology. Carl and Tom at Native HQ, who’ve been amazing advising us and are working endlessly on exciting projects!

Thanks to Kevin and Helia for taking the time to share their work. If you’d like to carry on the conversation, Helia does Twitter here and Kevin does it over here.

Until next time.

Turning a detailed document into a beautiful online survey

We know how it is. Someone has lovingly created a multi-page document, stuffed to the brim with tasty images, maps, tables, graphs and paragraphs of well-researched contextual information. The document looks great, it probably even smells great, and now you need to somehow translate that opus into an online consultation so you can ask your respondents questions about it – where to start?

It can be done, let’s scenario it out:

The easy way that’s not so ideal for respondents

I need people to answer questions on my document, so I’ve attached it as a PDF to the overview page of my consultation and the questions about it are in the online survey

OK, this is fine I guess as you’re consulting online (presumably as well as offering people the option to respond in other ways too *nudge nudge*) and you’re giving people all the information they need. However this method means that they have to keep toggling back and forth between your survey questions and the document itself, as well as having to dig around for the page of the document that’s relevant to the questions.

It may be worth asking: Is this the most accessible the survey could be? Do your respondents really need to read the whole document upfront to respond?

The next level up

I’ve attached the whole document as a PDF to the overview page of my consultation, but I’ve also broken the document down into chapters and embedded these as PDFs throughout my survey, with the corresponding questions beneath.”

Nice work! Not only is the document provided in full for those who wish to download it to have a good read, but it’s also been broken down into manageable sections right above the relevant questions. Nobody has their time wasted, barriers to entry are reduced and proper contextual information is given throughout the survey to gather quality answers to your questions. The final win is that your document looks exactly as it did when it lived in your ‘Documents’ folder.

How do I achieve this?

Use the PDF document embedder to add the sections of your document to the intro of each page in the survey, you can then build in corresponding questions below the information as you would normally.

Going the extra mile

“I’ve taken the information and content from my document and embedded it directly within the online survey instead of having standalone documents for respondents to scroll through.”

You’re on a roll! Maximising the publishing tools available can really turn your document into an easy-to-read online survey without the need for standalone documents to scroll through. This is very clear and makes it as easy as possible for your respondents to give you their views.

How to do it:

A picture highlighting the "Additional Information" answer component options in the online survey settings

Additional text and fact banks

These can be chosen as answer components and allow you to add contextual information, guidance, images, videos, tables, and PDFs within question sections and it helps you to layer answer components. If you ever think to yourself “it’d be great if I could add an image in to this question” or “I could really do with adding in more of an explanation here (within the question area)” then this is the component for you. If you’re planning to copy and paste from an existing Word document, then make sure to use the paste from Word button.

Fact banks are collapsible, which is what differentiates them from the additional text option. This offers your respondent a choice on viewing this extra information, e.g. if they are an expert in the policy area they may not need any more context, whereas others might.

Animated Graphics Interchange Format (GIF) demonstrating how a fact bank is collapsible

A whole world of rich content is now available so you can make your questions and pages as engaging and immersive as possible.

Image depicting the different forms of rich media and answer component that can be incorporated into a question to aid the respondent

Image taken from


By using the tools above you’ll be well on your way to a beautiful online survey which does justice to all the hard work put in crafting the contextual information and the questions. Importantly, you’ve put time and effort into creating something interesting and easy to complete for your audience, which we hope will result in quality responses. For more detailed instructions on any of the above elements, have a gander at this useful support article on the topic.

That’s all for now folks, until next time!



Eric – secondee from the Civil Service Fast Stream

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.



Introducing our first Citizen Space user group meetings hosted by the Department of Health and Birmingham City Council

After a few months in the making, we finally have two user group meetings planned this year – let’s all meet up and get to know one another!

BIS Digtial Engagement

Image courtesy of @bisgovuk Department of Business Innovation and Skills

Who are the user groups for?

Digital leads, analysts, policy leads, communication managers – anyone using Citizen Space or interested in digital engagement. We’re hoping the groups will be a mix of people with different skills.

What should I expect?

Sessions on all things digital engagement. Including the following:

  • Show and tell of recent or upcoming engagement exercise. Review of the process and challenges of how you do consultation
  • Example from an analysis team and/or input from Delib on tools for analysis in Citizen Space
  • Citizen Space roadmap – we’ll talk through our plans for development of Citizen Space and garner your input
  • Top tips and best practice examples

Tell me when it is and I’m there with bells on!

The first is a central government user group meeting on the afternoon of Friday 29th August, hosted by Department of Health in Whitehall. Focusing on specific examples from central government.

The next is a full-day user group meeting hosted by Birmingham City Council in late September/October. This will include some useful workshops as well as discussions around benchmarking and collaborative working, amongst many other things.

Interested in attending? Contact one of our Account Managers – Louise ( or Rowena ( or give us a call on 0845 638 1848.

Sitting in on Defra consultation training – part two: things I learnt about running a training session

Policy officers are regularly on the move in central government. This presents a challenge for effective consultation, as their knowledge and skills travel with them. In order to begin sharing the skills for great consultations, Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) piloted their first workshop on ‘consultation procedures and principles’ with colleagues.  What can other central government departments learn from running a session like this?

Defra consultation event pic

1) Establish your processes before the session and stick to them

Often, consultation processes can be improved ‘on the fly’, which is great for group input, but it can be confusing to have frameworks and guidelines ‘designed by committee’. A good idea is to have the current procedures used by your department fully documented and readily available. It’s useful to have a consultation lead, who can advise on queries and help clarify any uncertainties. As an example, during the Defra session, the current processes were included as handouts.

2) Don’t be afraid to use examples

Looking back at examples of what has gone well and badly can help colleagues learn how to consult effectively. During the session, one attendee cited an example of running a consultation for four weeks over the summer period – this was pulled before the House of Lords as it was felt four weeks wasn’t a long enough consultation period for the particular issue. Sharing this kind of information about potential hurdles could save colleagues from spending time and effort repeating mistakes.

3) Lay all of your tools on the table

Many departments have lots of ‘tools in their toolbox’, ranging from software applications to the personal skills of the team. Look at what you have at your disposal and combine these to produce the most effective consultation. A mixture of both on and offline tools can help you to reach a wider audience. During the session, it was decided that events such as ministerial road shows are part of your consultation toolkit and with the right planning can lead to great results.

4) Get a facilitator to help run the workshop and continually improve it

When you are close to an issue, it can sometimes be hard to run the session from an objective point of view. Getting an external company in can help you to present the bigger picture. Having run a variety of consultation training sessions, one of the most useful things is getting objective feedback and coming back with ideas for additions or tweaks to improve the day.

5) Ensure the next steps are clear

Once the session has finished, it’s important to ensure colleagues know where they can access help from then on. Get all your guidance, tips and tricks in one place – your organisation’s intranet is a good one. Then you need to let everyone know where it is and how to use it.

As policies increasingly span multiple departments, it would be great to see an increased sharing of best practice and acknowledgement of learnings and failures in consultation across government. In an ideal world, amassing a small army of consultation champions (perhaps as one part of a related role – social researcher, analyst, policy or digital lead?) who represent the key teams in their department and could then be linked up pan-governmentally to share ideas and best practice would be fantastic.

With that in mind, we’re putting together Citizen Space user group meetings so that our users can share best practice and stories amongst one another – if you’d like to know more about any coming up, please ask your friendly Delib account manager!

Sitting in on Defra consultation training – part one: 5 things I learnt about consultation

Working with Defra for the past 18 months, I was pleased to be invited to one of their department training sessions on running effective consultations (including using Citizen Space). Here are some tips I picked up:

Defra online consultation event

1) Don’t ignore your users; bring someone in to represent them

Consultation should be considered from a user’s point of view – which sounds obvious right? But this is all too often forgotten amidst the document creation, planning and bureaucracy. To help solve this, Defra invited Ruth Chambers, Vice Chair of Defra’s civil society advisory board, along to the consultation session. Ruth highlighted the importance of setting out expectations early on and sustaining engagement. She also advised that departments should be honest with stakeholders about changes or challenges to help ensure they are engaged in both the topic at hand and the process.

2) Don’t get stuck in a silo, bring in skills from across the organisation

Defra are fortunate enough to have a dedicated consultation co-ordinator and better regulation unit. However, there are many other skills within the organisation which can be drawn upon to aid with the challenges of effective consultation. During the session, one of the policy officers on my table cited an example of a consultation which was run using solely paper-based methods with no forethought to analysis. The consultation attracted a large number of responses, which they are now struggling to collate and analyse. Sound familiar? It often is in many departments – but how many times can such mistakes be made, and could more case studies of how not to run consultations help with this?

3) Don’t get too comfortable, bring in a ‘devil’s advocate’ to keep you on your toes

Consultation has the potential to be a lengthy and involved process, and it’s easy to get bogged down in the nuts and bolts of it. During the session I sat with two policy offers – one of whom had been working on a consultation document for over a year. Bringing the document to such a session meant the attendees could offer some fresh-eyes on how to progress, especially when it came to the actual consultation questions. When asked for my advice about document creation with the view of consulting online, I recommended that the document structure could be clearly presented in chapters – a framework which can be easily mirrored in an online survey. In terms of setting the right questions, piloting with colleagues and any relevant stakeholder groups can help on this (see points one and two!).

4) Do run training sessions, but don’t stop there

Workshops or formal training sessions are just one part of the picture. BIS (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) for example, run weekly digital surgeries where a member of their digital team will sit and allow colleagues to drop-in on sessions. BIS are also running their digital fortnight in October – a great opportunity to weave in online consultation. Related to this, one of the policy officers attending the session also suggested the idea of having consultation leads (or champions) within each team, so that consultation is managed and the issues being consulted on are kept at the policy level.

5) Don’t make it impossibly broad – be clear about the purpose of the consultation before you start

Where possible, thinking about the output early on and planning ahead for the different eventualities will ensure a smooth consultation analysis and reporting period. Summarising the outcomes of something which doesn’t quite fit into your original research question will prove much more challenging and could potentially invalidate your outcomes.

If you are reading this from a central government department, feel free to get in touch and share your experiences of similar challenges or your organisation’s approach to consultation.


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.

Introducing survey cloning in Citizen Space – 5 example uses

We’ve recently released the ability to clone existing online consultations in Citizen Space and already we’re seeing an increased number of uses for the feature, as well as positive feedback from current Citizen Space customers:

“The ability to clone an entire survey is something many of our users here in Sutton have been wanting to see, so the fact that this is now a simple to use feature within Citizen Space is great news. This will save us significant time when running repeated surveys, as well as making sure everything is as consistent as it needs to be. Another very, very welcome development from Delib.”

Glen Ocskó, Community Involvement and Innovation Manager, London Borough of Sutton

In order to celebrate the release of this awesome time-saving feature, we’d like to highlight 5 initial example uses:

1) Set up templates for online consultation which can be used to help standardise consultation processes.

In the past, customers such as Environment Protection Agency in WA have used their Citizen Space instance to enable information gathering through the online survey feature (as opposed to more formal consultation). Now with the ability to clone consultations, such exercises can be easily repeated. What is more, creating a survey based on a pre-existing template is quicker and simpler than creating one from scratch, meaning that subsequent consultations could be run by more junior staff members, saving EPA both time and money.

Citizen Space customer Stockport CCG who run a number of patient panels, can now also use the survey cloning feature to clone existing panel consultations. Newly cloned consultations can be easily tweaked and quickly re-published as a forthcoming consultation.

As well as cloning existing consultations, skeleton consultation templates could be created by Citizen Space users or consultation leads to ensure best practice. If template consultations are marked clearly, for example with the word [template] at the beginning of the title, other users can quickly identify and copy them as the basis of their own consultations.

2) Run quarterly surveys or annual consultations with the same question and answer structure, enabling longitudinal analysis.

Citizen Space customers such as London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham often run customer satisfaction surveys. Consultation cloning enables customers such as LBHF to run the same online survey at regular time intervals, ensuring results exports use always exactly the same column headings. Exported responses can then be merged, allowing direct comparison of service standards over time. Such longitudinal studies help to ensure that improvements are met within an organisation over a specified period of time.

3) Run multiple geographically specific consultations.

Customers often ask how they can ensure questions and consultations are relevant to respondents at a level which is meaningful to them. Citizen Space customers such as East Sussex County Council, for example, have used their instance to allow residents to have their say on street-lighting in different geographical areas. Such online consultations can now easily be created just once and then copied – simply re-naming for each geographical area of interest. Local level trends can be identified and published for each consultation, and higher borough-wide trends can still be identified through amalgamating the results data.

4) Run a private and public consultation with the same survey questions included.

Consultations often need to be open to the public but also target specific stakeholder organisations or individuals. By setting up a public-facing online consultation initially before cloning the consultation and choosing to add further questions applicable to respondents who may be responding in a private manner, consultations can easily be tailored to the needs and interests of both a broad and targeted stakeholder group.

5) Run two consultations in parallel with slightly different stakeholders in mind

Previously customers such as Leicester City Council often ran slightly different targeted consultations with stakeholders on service use. The ability to clone consultations now enables one consultation to be created for one target audience before a second is made and tweaked for a slightly different target group.

Are you a current Citizen Space customer and have a use for Survey Cloning which we haven’t thought of? If so, we’re always interested in hearing about innovative uses of our apps – please get in touch by emailing Rowena, one of our Account Managers, at


10 things to consider when planning local community engagement – part 1

The old adage ‘if you fail to plan, you plan to fail’ certainly applies to community engagement activity. You’ll get the best results from your consultation process if you plan it well as good planning = good results! To this end, we’ve put together some top tips on how to get the most out of running a local community consultation.

Top 10 Key Considerations

  1. Set your objectives
  2. Understand your community
  3. Set your community challenge
  4. Set project parameters
  5. Create content
  6. Set up your engagement activity (dialogue, consultation, budget simulation, etc.)
  7. Create your moderation / facilitation strategy
  8. Plan your outreach and social media strategy
  9. Launch!
  10. Close, analyse and feedback

We’ll cover the first five today, and finish off tomorrow:

1. Set Your Objectives

Understanding what you want to achieve with your engagement activity is key to a successful and well-run project.

  • What do you want to achieve through your community dialogue process?
  • Who do want to involve? Will you consult general members of the public, key internal and external stakeholders, etc.
  • What kinds of targets (numeric) are you aiming for? How many responses / ideas / submissions do you hope to get?
  • What do you plan to do with the results?
  • How does this activity fit into your policy making process?

2. Understand Your Community

When planning a community dialogue it’s key you understand who your target community is, how they’re structured online and who the key influencers are.

  • How is your target community made up? What main demographic groups are in your area? What are the key stakeholder groups?
  • How does your target community use the internet? Do they use social media? Are there any local online community groups?
  • Who are the key online influencers in your target community?

3. Set your community challenge

The best way to set up the basis for your community consultation is to phrase it as a challenge. Challenges are much more positive, inclusive and participative for people to get involved with.

  • Phrase your overall question as a community challenge, e.g. ‘how would you balance the 2013/14 budget?’ or ‘we want to improve transport links in your area; please help us by suggesting your transportation improvement ideas’.
  • Set rewards for your challenge, such as, ‘the top 10 best ideas will be included in the Citizen Recommendations section of our strategic policy plan’.

4. Set project parameters

Setting parameters around your consultation is important to ensure the process is well defined and tightly run.

  • Set the timeframe for the consultation, including how long it will be ‘live’ and when you will feed back to the community on the results of the activity.
  • Be clear about how the consultation fits into related activities, like public events.
  • Decide who is running the activity. Who can citizens contact with questions? Who will be reviewing the results and providing feedback? Clearly allocate roles within your team. Who is responsible for the content? Who will analyse results and prepare the report? Your engagement timeline is important here as well, so that your team can plan their workload.

5. Create content for your consultation

To encourage participants to provide the best ideas and feedback, provide top quality consultation content. Multimedia content – videos, maps, pictures, etc., helps to engage participants.

  • Contextualising your community dialogue by integrating relevant content and information is important.
  • Multimedia content can be very effective. For example, you could embed a map that shows the area you are consulting about, or a video that demonstrates your challenge.
  • With text, always be concise, and use clear language. We love the GOV.UK style guide at as the information provided applies to all community-facing writing.

Watch out for our next five top tips tomorrow!

Usability recommendations for engaging with deaf citizens

At a time when many public services are undergoing significant changes, it remains vitally important that all community groups, including the disabled, are able to have their say in any consultations or engagement activities regarding issues that affect them.

Engaging with deaf citizens

There are around 10 million people in the UK with some form of hearing loss, which is about one in six of the population. Of these, 800,000 are severely or profoundly deaf. When communicating with those that are hard of hearing, Action on Hearing Loss recommends using both British Sign Language and subtitles and/or text to make the information as accessible as possible.

As both our Dialogue and Citizen Space engagement apps allow for the embedding of videos, British Sign Language translations can appear throughout consultations. We’re currently hosting two consultations aimed at engaging with those that are hard of hearing:

International Committee of Sports for the Deaf (ICSD)
Dialogue App

The ICSD are using Dialogue to consult with the public about changes in the governance of the organisation. The consultation spans twelve key themes and asks users to provide ideas and suggestions on any of the themes.

Screenshot of ICSD Governance Review Consultation PageTo make the consultation fully accessible to the hard of hearing, the overview and a description of each of the themes of the Dialogue are available in both text and British Sign Language.

Stockport CCG
Citizen Space

Stockport CCG are using Citizen Space to garner views from all community groups in the area about its services to help manage change within the NHS. They’re running a separate online consultation aimed specifically at engaging with the deaf community.

Screenshot of Stockport NHS BSL SurveyThis consultation was set up via the online survey tool in Citizen Space. Accompanying each question is a video of the British Sign Language translation of both the question and the answer options.

Citizen Space is the digital platform for democratic involvement.  More about Citizen Space here.

Awesome Citizen Space version 1.6.2 new features now out!

Citizen Space 1.6.2 has just been released with some really awesome new features. This is part of our commitment to keeping Citizen Space constantly improving and evolving with the ever-changing times.

Both current and future clients can now benefit from a range of new features, including these two great additions worth explaining in detail:

1) Generated graphical PDF reports

All consultations now include an extra link on the consultation dashboard to create a summary report in PDF format. Citizen Space administrators have the option to create a report which can be used to both track open consultations’ progress or provide a quick and easy to use summary report of closed consultations’ outcomes.

We are really excited about this new feature and have already been chatting to our current clients about some of the potential benefits and use cases. The analysis of results and subsequent consultation feedback loop back to the public can now be much quicker and easier. For example reports can be generated quickly for a meeting with stakeholders and policy makers to review/assess progress.

  • For questions where respondents can select at most one answer, such as radio buttons or a drop down, a pie chart is displayed:

  • For questions where respondents can select more than one answer, such as checkboxes, a bar chart is displayed:

2) Mailing list sign up for Quick Consult respondents

Respondents can now have the option to opt-in to a mailing list once they have completed a response. The email list can then be exported and used to keep respondents informed on consultation outcomes and results. The email address opt-in feature can be enabled on a per-consultation basis to ensure that it is only used on relevant consultations.

The text above the email opt-in option can be easily edited by the administrator to ensure that respondents will know how their email address will be used.

It is possible to view the number of email signups at any stage of the consultation on the dashboard without needing to download the list.

We also included continuous improvements across the app that many of our users will no doubt appreciate; such as a nice bright ‘Jump to a page’ bar on the ‘view response’ page:

For more information on Citizen Space or to request a demonstration please contact one of our Team on 0845 638 1848.

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