Tag Archives: consultation software australia

5 things I learnt from AU/NZ about online consultation & digital services in government

Australia, New Zealand and the UK are often considered among the world leaders when it comes to digital government/online public involvement. Having recently returned from a secondment to Australia and New Zealand, I wanted to reflect back on what we in the UK can learn from these markets and our customers there.

To set the scene quickly: let’s remind ourselves how far digital in government has progressed in all three countries. With digital increasingly recognised as a ‘given’ (even declared a basic human right in a recent UN report), all three countries have been taking online developments seriously in government – perhaps especially over the past 5 or 6 years:

Each of these countries are striving to make rapid advances in online government in their own different contexts. So what can the UK/what did I learn from Australia and New Zealand about digital government and online consultation? Here are 5 things that stuck with me from my trip:

  1. Make consultations even more informative
    One thing that struck me, even during my first week in Australia, was how genuinely informative our customers there make some of their formal consultations. The WA Health cancer care consultation, for example, which was showcased during our first Australian user group in Perth, uses infographics and a user-friendly layout throughout the consultation – so taking part is a real opportunity for respondents to learn about the issues as well as to give their feedback.
  2. Become more familiar with APIs and what they can do
    Our New Zealand customers have been some of the first to embrace full use of our Citizen Space API: an incredibly useful and flexible tool but one that’s not always well-known or well-understood. However, I found it possible to walk into meetings in Australia and New Zealand and for there to be an assumed understanding about APIs and their potential – demonstrating a level of technical awareness that’s great to see.
  3. Develop more of a culture of ‘doing first’
    In New Zealand in particular, I was struck by government employees’ appetite to ‘get stuck in’ and make things happen. That’s not to say there was no planning or strategy, which obviously are hugely valuable too. But I think sometimes in the UK we can err on the side of cautious preparation a little too much, and could do with ‘just launching in’ sometimes. The civil servants I met in Wellington were also incredibly pragmatic in their approach, often working on an iterative basis: ‘doing’ first and then quickly working out how to make improvements.
  4. Keep taking privacy and data security seriously
    I found lots of organisations in Australia are pretty stringent on protocol – which certainly has its benefits when it comes to security. In my training sessions there, people were already very aware of things like good practice for strong passwords – and instinctively tended towards general ‘safety-first’ behaviour, even if it was less convenient or not strictly necessary. This is no bad thing.
  5. Sometimes, being a bit more direct is a good thing
    One of the things I noticed whilst walking around Wellington were posters focusing on the conversation about improving the New Zealand family violence law: a campaign closely linked to a consultation which was recently run on their Citizen Space instance. The Australian government also led the way with the implementation of plain tobacco packaging, again taking a very direct tone and outreach strategy on the issue. Whilst the UK tendency might be towards more circumspect communications (perhaps to avoid being accused of taking a particular position), I certainly think there are times when a pretty bold, direct approach is a helpful way to drive public participation.

One of the key benefits of working for an international company like Delib with offices and customers around the world is that we can each learn new techniques or insights into how different countries operate their online involvement work. Often, we’ll look at our Citizen Space aggregator and find that two departments on opposite sides of the worlds are consulting on a similar issue. Things like this can provide fantastic opportunities to link up and share best practice, ideas and lessons learnt. Hopefully, that will only accelerate improvements to online interactions between citizens and government right around the world.

A people’s plan to fight cancer

We’re always excited to see the public bodies we work with here at Delib taking steps to engage people in more and more interesting ways, and to share examples of when they do it really well.

This week will see the end of a consultation by the Western Australia Department of Health on the future of cancer control in the state. It’s really well-designed, interesting and informative – exactly the kind of thing we like to see our customers doing!

The consultation opens with a video introduction from the state’s Chief Health Officer, Tarun Weeramanthri, presenting the project’s key goals – to get some genuine public input into the Department’s report on cancer, and for that input to be based on people’s own interpretation of the data and assessment of the choices that need to be made.

Screenshot 2015-03-23 16.50.57

This is a great way to start. Having a senior official take ownership of the consultation immediately gives it a personal feel, and helps respondents connect with the organisation. It also clearly spells out to people why they should respond and what their responses will be used for.

That data is presented in an easily accessible and engaging way, using infographics, embedded videos of interviews with cancer experts, and other media.

Screenshot 2015-02-13 17.25.00

It’s great how WA Health have taken the opportunity not just to ask the public’s opinion, but to provide some really interesting content within the consultation – meaning most people will come out of the consultation knowing more than when they went in (at least I did).

The interviews with experts, infographics and external links are all interesting, easy to understand and helpful. The comparison of cancer survival rates between Australia and other OECD countries was particularly interesting (spoiler alert: The UK doesn’t come off well…)

Screenshot 2015-03-23 16.24.35

The survey also focuses the respondents on the choices that the state and everyone in it have to make when confronting an issue like cancer. Questions like whether alcohol or unhealthy food should be made more expensive can trigger immediate responses, often connected to emotions and political alignment. That’s why the consultation does a great job of demonstrating, based on that reducing cancer rates means having to make difficult choices on these issues.

You can check out the consultation here – and we’d thoroughly recommend doing so, even if you’re a long way from Western Australia!



How to run an effective Dialogue App with some help from the Forestry Commission

Forestry Commission England has successfully used its Dialogue App to consult with stakeholders on a diverse range of topics. Here we look at the discussion held about Friston Forest to gather ideas and comments about the way bike trails are accommodated within the forest. Here are some top tips from the Friston team’s experience;

Keep the information online and in one place

Before using Dialogue App, Forestry Commission England would promote consultations via a poster and email address, with drop-in sessions being held for any significant consultations. Being able to move this process online has enabled Forestry Commission England to create a single information source which can be boxed off and heralded as a primarily web-based activity. Furthermore, the discussion – including most importantly the key outcomes- can be accessed and referenced by any stakeholder, as and when needed.

Screen Shot 2014-04-08 at 15.45.33Establish a process and promote it

In terms of promotion, stakeholders were directed to a single overview page on Forestry Commission England’s main site, with all key content for the discussion and the consultation process held on this page; http://www.forestry.gov.uk/fristonforest. Additional promotional materials, including posters and press service, were provided for key stakeholders to review prior to being published, ensuring they were consulted on the key text before going to print. Once up and running, the Friston Forest discussion team continually reviewed how the Dialogue App was being promoted, often considering what more they could be doing to further involvement.

To ensure the full consultation process was clear from the outset for key internal staff, the project team created a timeline for the discussions in the form of a Gantt chart. By running a discussion for a set 5 week period, key promotional activity and staff involvement could be planned for in advance.

Take moderation seriously

Moderation is a key part of any successful Dialogue App discussion. With clear content and expectations given to users from the beginning, the Friston Forest team only needed to act 3-4 times on inappropriate comments. In total, 43 ideas and 213 comments were contributed from 71 individual user accounts. In order to anticipate a higher volume of ideas flowing through, 5 of the team took it in turns to be the key moderator on the Dialogue App for a week each – all moderating under a consistent name on behalf of Forestry Commission England. Update meetings on a weekly basis gave moderators the chance to hand over to each other, ensuring they were moderating consistently.

Think about your outcomes and then shout about what you’ve achieved

As an organisation responsible for multiple sites and infrastructure across the country, Forestry Commission England are hoping to continue using their Dialogue App as a key consultation tool to help decide how to sustainably manage other sites. Key outcomes from these discussions can then be added to the discussion overview page to ensure stakeholders have a hub for discussion outcomes and feedback.

Share what you’ve learnt with colleagues running the next discussion

One of the key project managers involved in the Friston Forest discussion also took an advisory role for another successful discussion, which sourced ideas on how dogs could be better managed in Jeskyns Community Woodland to ensure everyone can continue to enjoy the space.

Working across two discussions enabled this lead to share key learnings for both teams. Both discussions had, for example, two key milestones – one in the middle and one at the end, with natural highs and lows in activity. Another key learning was to involve the policy officer (who would be in charge of implementing the decision) in the community moderation; this gives them the chance to comment and feed back directly on users’ ideas and comments in a manner which acknowledges them, and also identifies how they will be acted upon.

Testing Delib’s new Perth office(s)

Technically Delib Australia’s head office is in Canberra – as this is where Craig, our new Delib Australia MD is based. However, as a software company with clients across the country our *HQ* is pretty much wherever does a great coffee and has good internet access.

Here’s a selection of potential new office locations we trialled whilst meeting lots of great government people across Perth and WA . . .

Burford Lunch Bar. Strengths: great sausage sandwich. Weaknesses: poor internet.

VANS cafe, Cottesloe. Strengths: great coffee. Weaknesses: (too) good chocolate brownies.

St Georges Terrace (the street). Strengths: mobility. Weaknesses: high chance of collision.

Beach front at Cottesloe. Strengths: great view. Weaknesses: no coffee.

Beach on Rottness Island. Strengths: sun. Weaknesses: none.

We’re still deciding which one we prefer best – though I know which I’ll be voting for . . .

G-Cloud take home thoughts from the second Tea Camp

This weekend will see the announcement of the names of more than 300 suppliers who have been successfully added to the G-Cloud Framework. In light of this exciting news, the second Tea Camp held yesterday at the National Audit Office focused on progress within the framework, next steps and challenges.

“There is nothing more constant than change”

How will G-Cloud be different from previous ICT overhauls? The answer is, the whole G-Cloud Framework process will be iterative. Instead of procuring something and then closing the heavy procurement doors, the process is looking to be more open to change.

Flexible maybe but alongside the excitement there will also be challenges and benefits:

3 things that excite us about G-Cloud:

1) G-Cloud themselves are enthused. It really feels like the team involved have a genuine interest in the range of services which are being offered as part of the Cloud.

2) Buyers are going to have a choice. Local service providers can hopefully move away from the idea and culture which has developed around it actually costing more to stop using a service than to carry on using a service which is inefficient.

3) The assurance process will hopefully be made more simpler. Accreditation will take into account the need for Pan-Government Accreditation. There is a real drive to accredit once and accredit well.

Challenges presented by the Cloud and the G-Cloud framework:

One of the most interesting affects of the G-Cloud will be whether or not the culture change which is clearly happening within central government filters down and through to local government. One of the speakers at Tea Camp yesterday was a G-Cloud foundation partner from Warwickshire County Council who discussed some interesting challenges they have encountered :

1) Service mapping and forward planning. Some Authorities are looking ahead at costs for 2-3 years and then making a conscious decision based on a range of factors including cost.

2) How to integrate new and existing systems. Challenges presented here include data migration and centralisation.

3) Co-existence and running multiple systems at once within this transition phase. Running calenders at the same time for example, often presents a particular challenge.

3 benefits of G-Cloud and adopting Cloud based services for the buyers:

1) People adapt to the interface very quickly which reduces the overhead and training on support. For those who don’t adapt so seamlessly, identifying skills gaps can help to ease this. Identifying change advocates who can push this forward is also key.

2) Cloud based working also introduces more flexible methods of working. Corporate mail can be increasingly sent from tablets and smart phones for example. A recent report found that Public sector departments are increasingly happy for their employees to access their work emails from their own devices.

3) There is a real potential for a business shift and velocity change within departments. The role of ICT teams will still be valid but their influence and direction will need to change.

G-Cloud is truly exciting and although some challenges will clearly be presented, the potential benefits and change which will hopefully come with a culture change away from complicated and costly ICT systems is something which is long overdue.

Chris Q’s Delib Australia mini-tour dates (November / December)

Excitingly, as part of the launch of Delib Australia I’m going to be doing a *mini tour of Australia* – saying hi to a few old friends and hopefully making some new friends too 😉

I’m in the process of organising my diary for my tour, so if you think it would be useful to meet and chat, pop me a note and I’ll get something in the diary. My rough dates are as follows:

  • Perth / WA: Thursday 17th to Friday 18th November
  • Sydney / NSW: Monday 21st November to Wednesday 23rd November
  • Brisbane / Queensland: Monday 28th to Tuesday 29th November
  • Sydney / NSW: Wednesday 30th November to Friday 2nd December
  • Canberra: Monday 5th December
  • Adelaide / SA: Tuesday 6th December
  • Melbourne / Victoria: Wednesday 7th to Friday 9th December

If you want to get in contact my contact info is: Chris@Delib.co.uk or @DelibThinks. My colleague Ben is also helping organise my diary, who’s Ben.Fowkes@delib.co.uk.

From my last tour in June, there seemed to be two things core facets of our work that people working in the engagement space were interested in

  • Running online community dialogues: with thoughts about how the Dialogue App could be used to run these – especially in the context of dialogues around strategic plans. We put together a top tips document here.
  • Setting up *online consultation infrastructure*: looking at how government organisations could run their everyday consultation exercises better using Citizen Space. There’s more information on building your in-house online consultation infrastructure in our guide here.

As well as these core engagement essentials, there was also a fair amount of interest in our more innovative work – especially our My2050 Climate simulator and aMap argument visualisation and debate software.

Anyway, if you’re interested in meeting up – do drop me a note, and I’ll get something in the diary. Also, do spread the word to colleagues too – especially about our *Global Dialogue Project* which I’m happy to discuss too.

#GlobalDialogueProject Poster


Hope to see you soon 😉

How our apps link into IAP2 Spectrum of public participation

Having worked with a number of global clients including NAPA in America and DFC in South Australia, we are particularly interested in learning how our current and future clients can use our apps to inform IAP2 (International Association of Public Participation) guidelines.

One area of particular interest from the IAP2 toolbox is the spectrum of participation (pdf) which can easily be applied to our apps:

Vertical ladder of participation

The levels of engagement are of course appropriate to different circumstances and can be used to achieve different outcomes. One common level for all stages, is to inform communities at every stage of an engagement process. Through the use of different engagement goals, supplemented by our apps differing levels of community involvement can be achieved with empowerment being the key outcome.

How can our apps be used to meet IAP2 guidelines?

Dialogue between communities in the early stages of an engagement process will help to determine expectations. Dialogue App can be used within this to inform, consult and involve key stakeholders, and many of our clients such as NAPA use Dialogue App to engage communities.

NAPA developed a dialogue whereby participants were asked to identify challenges to, and innovate practices for, improving the health, safety and energy efficiency of low to moderate income homes:

In just two and a half weeks and 320 unique registered users the results could be used to inform recommendations – including a decision to further educate government departments and the public on the importance of developing Green and Healthy Homes. A key outcome which will eventually lead to community empowerment.

Similarly DFC use another of our key apps – Citizen Space to help inform their SASP (South Australia Strategic Plan) update:

During the 2010 SASP update (a target of 10,000) South Australians will be invited to participate in extensive, state-wide consultations using a combination of face to face forums and interactive online forums.

Through using a combination of engagement techniques and our apps to inform different levels of engagement, our clients can work towards different levels of the spectrum of public participation, eventually collaborating with key stakeholders to empower communities.

If you are interested in learning more about our apps and how they inform public participation please contact either Ben or Gill on 0845 638 1848 (UK) or +44 117 031 609 508 (worldwide).

Here’s a nice video case study of the use of Dialogue App in public participation:

Delib Down Under – June tour

We’re pretty excited to say Delib has arrived back in Australia – and this time we’re here to stay!

Although the weather’s definitely not as sunny as it was when we were here last in February, things are looking pretty rosy in the world of *digital democracy*.

One of the key things we’ll be doing whilst we’re out here is setting up some more permanent partnerships to allow Australian Government benefit from our digital democracy expertise and whole host of low-cost apps we’ve developed over the last 5 years in the UK and US.

The biggest value Delib can bring to Australian Government is $$$ investment the UK and US governments have invested in our various apps. With thanks to the COI in the UK and Department of Homeland Security in the US we’re now in the lucky position to offer our Citizen Space and Dialogue App software at super low-cost to the Australian government – meaning Australian government gaining huge amounts of value.

I’m lucky enough to be kicking of this June’s tour today in Sydney at the annual Gov2.0 conference hosted by FroComm, and will then be traveling around Australia meeting lots of awesome people across government.

If you’re interested in meeting drop me a note – Chris AT Delib.co.uk – my schedule is roughly this:

  • Sydney: Tuesday 14th to Monday 20th June
  • Canberra: Tuesday 21st to Wednesday 22nd
  • Melbourne: Thursday 23rd to Monday 27th
  • Adelaide: Tuesday 28th
  • Perth: Wednesday 29th June to Friday 1st July

[amusing poster alert – Tom Selleck eat your heart out ;-)]

Quigley Down Under



Adventures in Adelaide

Things are certainly heating up in our #DDDU tour of Australia and New Zealand, as temperatures hit 40C during my seminar in Adelaide. Given the extreme temperatures, I had considered turning up to the seminar in shorts, however my stiff upper English lip forced me endure the heat in trousers and shirt . . .

Huge thanks to @FergusHogarth for organising the event and bringing along such a nice bunch of South Australian Government Gov2.0 people ++ an even bigger thanks to the Microsoft air conditioning for being so efficient : – )

For all those interested, here’s the “Adventures in Digital Democracy” talk I have broken up into nice amenable chunks – saving you trawling through the bits that bored you . . .

Huge thanks for an awesome time in Adelaide. Roll on *mild* Melbourne . . .

+ for future updates on our tour, follow us @DelibThinks

Digital democracy seminar Adelaide

Adventures in digital democracy presentation

Introducing Citizen Space presentation

Government as a platform presentation

Welcome to our new Australian Office!

So it’s start of our Digital Democracy Down Under tour, and I’m proud to announce the launch of our new Perth Office!



Well, I say “new office” – it’s really a temporary thing (sadly) as we sort ourselves out over here. The awesome thing about Perth is its openness, as it’s based around the Swan River which is a massive great thing surrounded by amazing houses (one of which I’m camping out in for this leg of my trip) with amazing views . . . all of which makes working that *little bit easier* – especially as you know you’ve got amazing beaches 2 mins away.

Today’s the *official start* to our tour of Australia, so I’ll be heading off to see various lovely people in the WA government, who I expect will have various degrees of sore heads and sunburn after yesterday’s Australia Day celebrations ; – )