Public health bodies in New Zealand recognise the importance of public and patient involvement in their ongoing decision making. As a result, we’ve seen them use Delib’s products in lots of different ways on a range of key issues, ultimately leading to more effective and inclusive decision-making at a greater scale. Whether they’re consulting on policy, looking to review a national health and disability strategy, or seeking public and stakeholder engagement for a disability action plan, they are committed to consulting with citizens more effectively, inclusively and accessibly.

Opening up the conversation

The Office for Disability Issues has a Disability Action Plan (or DAP), which is due for renewal and will be implemented from 2019-2022. Rather than taking a traditional consultation approach, where input is only sought at the end of the process with limited scope for public participation, they instead chose to engage early and openly. The Minister for Disability Issues, Hon Carmel Sepuloni, wanted to open up the conversation at the more formative stage of the Plan development process. As a result, the ODI decided to use Dialogue in the initial stages of configuring the renewal.

Dialogue is a tool for crowdsourcing ideas and input on a defined topic, or ‘challenge’. Contributors’ ideas are posted publicly, allowing other users to rate and comment on them, expressing their agreement or otherwise.

The DAP Dialogue received nearly 900 ideas, from a range of health and disability professionals as well as the general public, many of whom shared emotive personal experiences with the disability provision system, how it benefitted them, and how it should be improved. These translated into meaningful and valuable qualitative data.

Beyond asking for ideas online, Sepuloni went out to meet people with disabilities and listen to their ideas in person to consider them for the new Action Plan. She visited areas including Whangarei, Tauranga, Invercargill and Rotorua. The ideas and feedback that the exercise has received will all be considered and will inform the direction of the renewed DAP 2019-2022, helping them to develop an informed and inclusive strategy. The holistic approach meant that those unable to get online were able to share their views; and equally that those who were unable to travel to or access public meetings were heard as well.

Accessibility and reach

Accessibility was a huge priority for the Health and Disability System Review. Set up by the Minster of Health, Dr David Clark, the Review was created with the aim of reducing barriers to health and disability services access and increasing health equity for all citizens. Māori and Pacific Islanders were discovered to be far less likely to seek out health services before they became severely unwell than other citizens, and experienced far more barriers to accessing health and disability services when they did seek them out. The Review hopes to gain public input that will help to eliminate these inequities and disparities.

One of the ways it hopes to do this is by using untapped public input from those with lived experience but who may be less likely to engage in a consultation or have barriers to doing so. They needed a tool to help them hear those voices that may be harder to reach.

The key component of the Review process was a public consultation, which they ran on Citizen Space, which they chose because it is a fully accessible platform. This is a basic necessity of this kind of work, and helped them get the input they needed from those most affected by the aims set out in the Review. Citizen Space conforms with international accessibility standards, meaning it’s optimised for use with screen readers, speech recognition software, and other accessibility tools.

The consultation ran for two months. They wanted to reach as broad a demographic of New Zealanders as they possibly could. To help them do this, they ran the consultation in four different formats: English, plain English, Te Reo, and New Zealand Sign Language. The latter used Citizen Space’s video embedding feature to add videos of a NZSL interpreter signing all the consultation’s questions. This was consistent with their goals of health equity and accessibility.

Consulting at scale

The Ministry of Health have a second Citizen Space site, which is used for more specific policy decisions. These range from product labelling changes to decisions surrounding the ethics of using sperm and embryos/eggs from people who have deceased or whose deaths are imminent. They consult regularly – averaging about one consultation every two weeks – which increases their presence and legitimacy as an organisation with the best interests of citizens at its heart.

Citizen Space is ideal for consulting at scale: there’s no limit to how many exercises can be published by an organisation, and its different survey features, components and formats mean it can be used for simple quantitative questions to long, complex chapter-based consultations that require plenty of accompanying and embedded information.

In all these different formats, the thread of accessibility continues throughout. Its fully responsive design means that consultations can be completed on mobile, tablet or desktop, meaning that respondents unable to use keyboards can instead share their opinions via touchscreen.

We’d love to see local health bodies in New Zealand apply the principles and replicate the successes of the projects that national bodies have achieved. Delib’s products can be used at any level of government or public body – so whether you’re expecting thousands of responses or consulting a small rural community, we’ll help you get the most out of your public engagement.

If you’re based in AU/NZ and want to talk about what Delib can do for your organisation, you can chat to Hamish in New Zealand or book a demo through the website.