Tag Archives: Delib 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!



Delib’s Temporary Australian Office

Last year Chris visited Australia as part of his seasonal Digital Democracy Down Under tour, and wrote a post about the various temporary offices he and Craig frequented. Mostly it revolved around coffee shops and benches with a glorious views. This time myself and Rowena have made the trip and we’ve also spent an inordinate amount of time chasing caffeine and the elusive good wi-fi connection.

At the moment we’re making a whistle stop trip to Adelaide, and with a bit of time to kill we resumed the hunt. Staying bang in the CBD means expensive coffee, so we decided to try our luck with a public library instead and lucky for us, Adelaide is well placed for just such an activity. As UK citizens we approached the State Library with the usual sense of caution, expecting plastic seats, newspapers and a collection of archaic computers with CRT monitors. Instead we stumbled across this:

Not only is this the coolest place I’ve been knowingly allowed to walk around, it also has free wi-fi and security guards who know a lot about the history of the place, some of which I can regurgitate for you now.

The clock above was made by Dent of The Strand, London before being shipped over here some 150 years ago. So far, so colonial. However a quick trawl of Wikipedia told me that they’re also the company who made and installed Big Ben, how about that, fact fans? But it gets better, one of the good people from Dent still comes all the way to Australia to maintain the thing. That’s what I call service!

Other joys to be observed are the collection of the Royal South Australian Geographical society, (by appointment only unfortunately), a small collection of medieval books and the very desk on which the Australian Constitution was drafted. I also like the globe above because, A: it’s enormous and B: the collective finger marks of generations have worn Adelaide away.

Anyway, enough with the history lesson. We’re moving on to Melbourne next but I suspect it’ll have to go some way to beating this.

How Citizen Space can help organisational process: a case study of WA Environmental Protection Authority

Western Australia’s Environmental Protection Authority have been a key Citizen Space user since October 2012 and were our first pin on the map in Western Australia.

The adoption of Citizen Space has helped the EPA both internally and externally. Our Australian and UK account management and sales teams met with Donna Weston at EPA to learn some more about the benefits of using the app.

3 ways Citizen Space has helped internal stakeholders at EPA:

“Citizen Space is an example of serving the communication of the business” Donna Weston, EPA

1) Presenting comments in a clean way

The simple and clean interface of Citizen Space has helped the agency establish a clear internal cultural standard for online consultations. This has assisted staff to work more quickly through consultation projects using the app’s easy-to-use structure.

2) Having an externally hosted instance

Having Citizen Space externally hosted within Australian territory has been really beneficial. It helps reduce the strain on limited IT resources and frees the EPA from having to carry out any updates or install new software, as we manage all of that for our customers.

3) Improved and more efficient analysis process

Previously the EPA received consultation submissions via email or paper. Admin staff would collate the comments into an Excel spreadsheet before showing assessment officers who considered the feedback. This step has now been cut out, and assessment officers can view comments and statistics in real time as consultation responses come in. This is a more efficient way of processing user responses, as results can be analysed straightaway, rather than at the end of the process.

3 ways Citizen Space has helped external stakeholders at EPA:

1) Being able to collate on the ground information in an efficient manner

EPA are a small department without many staff. Consulting online helps the department to collate information which may have not otherwise have been collected or considered.

2) Providing end-users with an acknowledgement email and ID number helps confirm their response

The ability to add a response manually helps to identify duplicates. The acknowledgement email and ID numbers are really handy as they help when associating responses and allow for manually adding submissions.

3) Easy to promote internally and to relevant stakeholder groups

The EPA Citizen Space instance has been shown to the EPA’s Stakeholder Reference Group, a mix of external professional organisations, agencies, individuals and chambers of commerce. They are really busy so anything that helps streamline the consultation process and allows them to keep abreast of it is of benefit.

Internally it is possible to keep up to date with any consultations added to the system via RSS feeds. This helps people inside the agency to see what consultations are being created in other areas of the EPA and identify potential cross-overs.

Adventures in Victoria – Mornington Peninsula

When I’m travelling around the world on one of our Delib Tours I’m like a dog, obediently following the directions of my colleagues and going wherever I’m told.

What this means is that I normally don’t know where I’m going, and certainly never know what to expect when I get there. The surprises normally come in the form of travel (e.g. finding out that the only way to get somewhere is by boat-plane), in the form of location (e.g. discovering the place has an amazing beach metres from the meeting location) or in the form of weather (e.g. discovering it’s so cold you can skate to your meeting!).

Today’s excitement has involved mostly the middle of those 3 surprises – i.e. discovering an amazing meeting location. In this case the amazing location was *Mornington Peninsula*, an amazingly beautiful Coastal Shire about 45kms North East of Melbourne.


Mornington’s very much a bit of a *not so well kept secret* of a place, where (apparently) wealthy Melbourne-ites decamp at weekends for sea-related activities (surfing or sailing) – and has similarities to parts of Cornwall in the UK, with its natural coastal beauty.


Beyond Mornington being a super beautiful place, it also has a pretty progressive Council who are interested in how the internet and wider Gov20 technologies can be used to better engage their widely dispersed and (partly) transient population.

Very kindly Jenni and the comms team had organised a big group of Council staff to come and listen to me talk about our varied work in the *digital democracy space*. Possibly the most interest aspect of the talk (for me at least) was the audience, who consisted of a wide range of people involved in the Council – from the Mayor, the CEO, Councillors and a wide breadth of Council staff – all of whom seemed interested in ways to help improve their engagement processes online.

Anyway, huge thanks to Jenni and her Mornington colleagues for organising the meeting, and I look forward to visiting the Peninsula in the near future! (Hope you enjoy the photos – if you look closely at the photo below you’ll see the skyline of Melbourne in the distance, 40kms away!)



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 . . .

An interview with Craig Thomler – new Delib Australia MD

Being a super social company we’re always keen to be as open as possible, and share as much information about us as a company, us as individuals and all the great stuff we do. So we thought the best way to start introducing Craig Thomler – our new Australia MD – to the world was via a quick interview. We did a couple a few months ago with Alison and Verne in Australia, so thought we’d use the same format (and questions).

So, here you go – first question . . .

When did you first use the internet, and what did you use it for?

I was using bulletin boards back in the 1980s before there was a publicly available internet in Australia, using a 900 baud modem, using it for games and chatting.

In 1995 I could see the potential of the internet – even though there were only a few thousand Australian users and I went to work at one of the first five commercial ISPs, running their customer service section for a few months before a group of us took off to found Australia’s first web content development and community management company.

What’s the most awesome online engagement project you’ve worked on?

Hard to pick one, but my heart always goes back to the work I did helping Telstra manage online engagement for the Wireplay gaming service in the mid-90s.

When it launched the service struggled technically to achieve smooth gameplay and there was an extremely vocal bunch of gamers criticising both it and Telstra. Though continuous community engagement and demonstrating how the community was being listened to, via online forums, we managed to turn views around. Some of their biggest critics even ended up working for Telstra!

What’s your top community engagement tip?

Listen to the community with an open heart and mind. Your community will almost always see things differently to you, have different concerns, wishes, perceptions and fears. Unless you listen actively you will never hear the true issues and will spend your time addressing symptoms – a more time-consuming, inefficient process that doesn’t deliver long-term outcomes.

Who’s your hero [and why]?

I prefer ‘small heroes’ to large heroes – there’s no-one I really look to as a perfect rolemodel, but there are tens of people who have one to two characteristics or skills I’d like to have. So here’s a list of a few people who have been heroes to me in various ways:

My wife Madeleine Clifford, who is one of the deepest thinkers and most effective strategists I know, who understands intuitively how to engage stakeholders, win and maintain their trust and deliver win-win outcomes

Pia Waugh, whose energy, enthusiasm and ability to build community and support is legendary

Rose Holley, whose vision for digitalising newspapers through crowdsourcing at the National Library is one of the most enduring and successful open government initiatives in Australia

Bernard De Broglio, who has almost single-handedly put Mosman Council on the global map as a Gov 2.0 leader

James Kliemt and Kim Charlton from Queensland Police, who have changed the game for emergency public engagement in Australia through the QPS Facebook and Twitter pages.

So there you go. I hope you now feel you know Craig a little better. If you want to get to know him even more, then follow him on Twitter @CraigThomler or drop him a mail craig@delib.net

Chris and Craig’s April Australia adventure – dates

We’re big fans of alliteration at Delib. We’re also big fans of Australia. So, to celebrate the *official launch of Delib Australia* and the appointment of our new Australian MD Craig Thomler, we’re pleased to announce the dates for *Chris and Craig’s April Australia Adventure* – a tour of Australia by Chris and Craig in April.

[Australia image – thanks to FridayMash.com]

The idea behind the tour is for us to do some *showing and telling* of the new look Delib Australia headed up by Craig, and give insights into our visions of citizen engagement 2.0 from an Australian and Global perspective; having worked doing Gov2.0 stuff for Australian Federal Government for the last 5 years, Craig’s got some great insights to share from an Australian perspective, and I (Chris) have a whole bunch of interesting global insights from my travels around the world.

If you’re interested in us dropping by to say hi + doing a *show and tell session* we’d be happy to – just drop Craig a note – Craig AT Delib.net. Here are the rough dates we’ll be visiting the different Australian States:

  • Perth / WA – Wednesday 11th to Friday 13th
  • Sydney / NSW – Monday 16th to Wednesday 18th
  • Brisbane / QLD – Thursday 19th to Friday 20th
  • Canberra / ACT – Monday 23rd
  • Adelaide / SA – Tuesday 24th
  • Melbourne / Victoria – Wednesday 25th to Friday 27th

A very merry Melbourne Christmas

Travelling around Australia for the last few weeks has been pretty awesome fun. Obviously the sun has been a massive bonus, especially compared to the freezing cold of London I’d usually be facing at this time of year.

That said, I did find the idea of Christmas in the sun a wee bit of an odd one – this oddness was especially amplified by the festive decorations e.g. the sight of Father Christmas with his sleigh heading through Melbourne’s CBD in 30 degree heat. Though, when I stumbled across Jesus in his manger in Christmas Square it did make me think that given Jesus was born in a hot and sunny Bethlehem maybe a sunny Melbourne Christmas was more aligned to reality than a snowy London Christmas.

Anyway, amidst all these random thoughts I decided to create a photo tour of Melbourne’s Christmas decorations. So here you go . . . and have a great Christmas from everyone at Delib UK and Delib Australia 😉

Fed Square’s Christmas tree forest

Christmas carol concert in Fed Square School

Shooting star lights over Flinders Street

Jesus in his manger in Christmas square