Tag Archives: online consultation tips

Introducing ENTSO-E: Delib’s first mainland European customer

ENTSO-E is the European Network of Transmission System Operators. They’re based in Brussels and also happen to be our first mainland European customer to use Citizen Space.

I hadn’t really gained an appreciation of the scale the organisation works at and the varied geographical levels they need to consult on until I recently spent a couple of days in Brussels running my first European training session. Representing a total of 41 electricity transmission system operators (TSOs) from 34 countries across Europe, ENTSO-E is tasked with implementing the long-term transition from national oriented electricity markets and technical systems towards an integrated European view.

Due to the technical nature of ENTSO-E tasks, their consultations have been primarily oriented towards close stakeholders since they were created in 2009. However, as ENTSO-E is growing and gaining experience, they aim to use Citizen Space as a part of their strategy to open up their activities beyond this historical group. They want to provider an easier way for other groups such as environmental or citizen organisations, and for European citizens, to directly comment on their activities.


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The organisation had an existing consultation process but it was fragmented across different systems and there was plenty of room for improvement. They chose Citizen Space to bring all of their consultation activity into one easy-to-manage system.

Previously, ENTSO-E had been using a cumbersome approach of SharePoint coupled with an Excel spreadsheet. As well as being difficult to administer, this process also often resulted in stakeholders sending an email through with their consultation response – making the submissions difficult to analyse. By adopting Citizen Space, they can now create, promote and analyse consultations all in the same system. This massively reduces the administration overhead and simplifies the work involved in running these large scale consultations. It also means users get the benefit of a far more intuitive, attractive way to submit their response, and all submissions feed into a single, centralised data set.

ENTSO-E also have the challenge of needing to consult on large documents. Citizen Space helps meet this need, as large documents can be broken down per-chapter and added into Citizen Space via the tool’s document reader. The opportunity for consultees to leave a free-text response enables them to comment on existing proposals alongside suggesting alternatives, creating an informed response.

The organisation will primarily be looking to use their Citizen Space instance to consult on all stages of the drafting process of major work products, which have significant impact on pan-European energy transmission.

One of the major consultations which ENTSO-E will be conducting each year is the European Ten Year Development Plan (TYNDP). This document lists and prioritizes which new high voltage electricity lines (over head or submarine) are needed between European countries to allow renewable electricity to flow across Europe at a minimum cost for consumers. It is a key element of the European decarbonisation strategy. The 2015 consultation on the 2016 plan was recently opened for consultation, running an online survey as well as promoting associated consultation events.

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As part of the consultation process, ENTSO-E are also asking respondents for feedback on their new approach at the end of their first consultations. This helps to ensure that their whole consultation process is being continually improved upon.

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 12.40.30We welcome ENTSO-E to the Citizen Space family and look forward to seeing how they chose to use Citizen Space.

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 http://www.businessinteriors.co.uk


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

10 key learnings from our first local government Citizen Space user group

Our fledgling Citizen Space user groups have offered an opportunity for some of our customers to get together and learn what each other have been up to, how different organisations use the software, as well as being able to discover and discuss our future plans for Citizen Space.

Citizen Space user group

Following the success of our first ever central government meet-up, hosted by the Department of Health back in the summer, we were excited to take the opportunity to chat to more of our customer base from all over the country at our first local government group, kindly hosted by Birmingham City Council. If you missed the sessions this time we thought we’d put some of the main nuggets of consultation gold in a lovely blog, and here they are:

1) Aim to promote Citizen Space effectively internally

“As Birmingham is such a large council, it is great to be able to link everything up via Citizen Space”

Steve Rose – Head of Strategic Research

Citizen Space is essentially unlimited. This means that as many users, departments and consultations as an organisation requires can be created – but to get the most out of this the tool is promoted internally. Both Birmingham City Council and Staffordshire County Council discussed the benefits of their approaches to promoting Citizen Space internally.

Kristian Walker from Staffordshire often takes the time to pop round and talk to colleagues about Citizen Space when they are about to use the tool, which has been a proven approach used in other government departments in the past. With effective internal communications, and a network of Citizen Space champions, Birmingham City Council have been able to successfully roll Citizen Space out across their organisation and reinforce their standardised approach via a councillor mandate.

2) Decide on an adoption approach that suits your organisation

Most Citizen Space customers choose to adopt either a de-centralised or centralised model of working when it comes to using the tool. Which model to choose often depends on an organisation’s set-up or team structure. The user group presented an opportunity to discuss the pros and cons of both approaches, with some councils such as Bristol City Council choosing to switch between the two modes over the past few years, adapting to the needs of staff availability and the council’s structure.

3) Using other digital tools alongside Citizen Space can help with process

Citizen Space plays nicely with other digital tools. This means that rather than using Citizen Space as a hub in isolation, it is possible to combine it with a variety of applications. In order to help ensure that consultation owners and the team are aware of consultations going live, Bristol City Council have created email reminder notifications using an Excel document. With lots of organisations slowly moving towards using Gmail, Google Docs is also an option available to many more organisations for creating custom work-flow processes. Both tools can be used in order to set-up reminder emails, supplementing the email notifications already available in Citizen Space.

Leicester City Council also use an email-based reminder system, referring to this as a  ‘consultation tracker’, which is sent out to all service leads on a regular basis. Jay Hardman from Leicester City Council explained to the group how their Citizen Space and work-flow processes combined had worked to ensure the organisation was consulting effectively. The tracker lists a ‘forthcoming’, ‘done’ and ‘close-down’ section which, if not completed within 12 weeks, will flag the consultation owner’s name. This helps encourage consultation owners to complete their full consultation cycle, providing a better result for respondents.

4) Create Citizen Space champions to lead the policy area 

In a de-centralised approach, some customers choose to assign Citizen Space or consultation champions within each team. This helps ensure that there is always someone knowledgeable on-hand to help out, who also has an in-depth knowledge of the area of policy being consulted on. Birmingham City Council have chosen to adopt this approach with a further consultation lead as the main point of contact for all of the department champions.

5) Provide users with any additional guidance they may need, at a point when they need it

In order to ensure colleagues have all of the information in one place at the time when they will be running a consultation, consultation leads will sometimes choose to link to guidance from their intranet pages.  Jay Hardman from Leicester cited two key documents/principles which he normally links users to for an overview of online consultation:

Cabinet Office guidelines
– The Gunning Principles (the idea that a consultation must take place at a formative stage with sufficient reasons to allow for a considered response. Adequate time must also be given to respond and the feedback should be conscientiously be taken into account)

We at Delib also run an online knowledge base and an active blog, both with useful information for a variety of user levels.

6) Create a culture of continuous improvement and learn from past consultations

Leicester City Council have recognised that each consultation can present different challenges and outcomes, and as a result are learning how to operate a culture of continuous improvement. If a consultation doesn’t go exactly as planned, and especially if there are follow-up consultations, it is useful to ensure that challenges and learnings are acknowledged before running the next engagement exercise.

7) Help build users’ general digital skills via Citizen Space

Creating consultations in Citizen Space can help improve upon general digital skills. Being able to successfully set-up and then digitally promote a consultation encompasses many skills – from copy-writing through to general online dexterity, such as being able to upload images. Having trained a variety of organisations on using Citizen Space and running online consultations, we’re learning that becoming confident with using Citizen Space is linked to confidence in web-skills generally.

8) Encourage colleagues to plan consultations in advance 

Leicester City Council have created what they call a ‘public consultation tracker’ – if colleagues fill if in the key information about the consultation well in advance (12 weeks beforehand) then the consultation team will help out. This helps ensure that support is at-hand, but only if teams are organised enough to call in assistance early on in the process. The completion of an ‘intention to consult’ form means that the consultation team can advise early-on in the process.

9) Use Citizen Space to monitor performance 

Citizen Space is often used by a number of departments across an organisation, so some customers choose to provide their research team with access to key statistics in Citizen Space, as this can help with performance monitoring. Taking forward best practice from these investigations and making sure all departments reach the same level of consultation expertise can only be good for respondents across the board.

“Citizen Space helps monitor best practice so that we can help maintain the council’s reputation”

Kristian Walker, Staffordshire County Council

10) Create your own expert panel of consultation advisers

Online consultation requires a variety of skills ,which one individual alone may not be expert in. One way of ensuring that all the skills are in one place is to create a consultation panel/steering board, who may be able to provide oversight of all consultation happening within an organisation. This might not necessarily be solely a consultation team – it may also include a member of the web or communications team.

We’re hoping to continue running two user-groups a year in collaboration with customers. Watch this space for the next event!


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 (louise@delib.net) or Rowena (rowena@delib.net) or give us a call on 0845 638 1848.

Friday Afternoon Consultation Review

A round-up of some of the innovative ways our customers have been using Citizen Space for their consultations this week:

BBC Trust’s use of tables:

The BBC Trust is reviewing News and Current Affairs and used tables in its overview to explain what the consultation is about and provide lots of ways for respondents to take part.

It’s not difficult to do and can make things clearer – we’ve written an article on how to add tables to a consultation

Scotland’s National Tree

Forestry Commission Scotland has put in some lovely images and a video to capture the imagination of respondents in their bid to choose a National Tree.

Guess what? We’ve also written an article on how to embed rich media such as videos and slideshows into a consultation

Norfolk County Council’s two-pronged approach to budget consultation

Norfolk are running a detailed non-linear Citizen Space survey alongside the use of our Budget Simulator for maximum local input on its current budget consultations. Get in touch if we can help with budget consultations, we’ve just the tools for this job.

NHS England’s registration form

In an innovative use of its Citizen Space hub, NHS England is not just using this for consultations and surveys, but also as a registration form for some upcoming webinar events. Nice!

Birmingham City Council’s Twitter

Using more than one avenue to encourage communication is a great idea. Birmingham has employed the use of a dedicated Twitter account and hashtag to further engage local citizens in an important consultation on Sexual Health Services.


Establishing Citizen Space & consultation standards – people, process & tools

Your Citizen Space instance is online and the first consultation has been built. What’s more, it has started receiving responses… excellent, but what next? How can your organisation fully adopt Citizen Space and maintain the positive start? Of course, every organisation is different, but I would argue that it all comes down to the right balance of people, processes and tools….

People, processes and tools source

Image taken from Seapine Software’s guide to “scaling agile for product teams

  • People – establish a consultation lead or Citizen Space advocate as the ‘go-to’ expert and individual on all things consultation.

    Customers such as Defra and Birmingham City Council have recently adopted a consultation lead. This individual gains full visibility on any up-and-coming consultations, catching their existence early and advising on structure to ensure quality and consistency. They also advocate the use of Citizen Space within the organisation, perhaps focusing on the app’s time-saving, value-adding nature.

  • Process – add standards to your organisation’s intranet & ensure staff have visibility on the existence of a consultation tool-kit, with Citizen Space a key part of this.

    Delib customers such as LB Hammersmith & Fulham and Staffordshire County Council raise the visibility of consultation standards on staff intranets, in meetings and via the newsletter. Stockport CCG have also ensured that Citizen Space is included as part of their existing Communication and Engagement Strategy.

    Alternatively, to help ensure consultations are of the highest quality, it may be useful to set up a consultation ‘check-list’ to act as a memoir for each time an online consultation is created:

    – Does the consultation include all of the key information that a respondent needs to produce an informed response?
    – Does the consultation include some contextual and visual information such as images or videos to make it more engaging?
    – Have the consultation questions been tested with a small sample group to ensure they make sense? Has the consultation flow been tested both online and offline?
    – Does the consultation have a key strategy and overall aim?
    – Have the questions and answer components been set up with reporting in mind and are there plans in terms of collating consultation results and feeding back to consultees?

  • Tools – Set up standard templates and ‘macros’ for consultation creation and reporting to help standardise the quality on this.

    Customers such as Rochdale Borough Council and Avon and Somerset PCC utilise a variety of the features & tools available in Citizen Space to improve their consultation processes. Our newly released survey cloning feature, for example, enables administrators to set-up pre-designed templates such as a ‘park satisfaction survey’ or ‘quarterly staff survey’ which can then be cloned, edited and re-published. For quarterly satisfaction surveys, results can then be collated outside of Citizen Space with reporting macros created and trends easily identifiable.

    Going to consultation can be expensive, and bad consultation can run the risk of jeopardising an organisation’s reputation. By ensuring that the right people, processes and tools are established and working in harmony around your Citizen Space instance, online consultation can be much more effective & efficient.

Revisiting the tobacco packaging consultation

In April 2012, the Department of Health launched a UK-wide consultation on the potential public health benefits and/or legal and financial consequences of standardising tobacco packaging.

The consultation was largely influenced by legislation implemented in Australia in 2012, which standardises the branding on tobacco products and its packaging.

Example of the standardised tobacco packaging implemented in Australia

The Department of Health used Citizen Space’s online survey tool as part of a wider strategy to garner responses from interested members of the public. Over 2,000 members of the public responded to the consultation through either Citizen Space, email or post.

We also advised the Department of Health on how best to adapt their paper survey into an online one, so the user experience was kept as consistent as possible between mediums.

In the summary report of the consultation published in July 2013, quantitative data is presented through either frequency tables or pie charts.

For open-ended questions, the broad themes of qualitative answers were summarised in the report. The report also includes a comprehensive summary of the feedback of respondents that either agreed and disagreed with the proposals.

We also have more advice on how to analyse and present consultation responses in the “Managing and Interpreting Responses” section of our Citizen Space Knowledge Base.

Tips on how to develop up your online engagement capacity

When you’ve been used to running all your engagement processes in a more traditional way – for example, town hall meetings and postal surveys – the idea of *going virtual*, and starting to run online engagement exercises can be quite a scary prospect.

Although the Delib team are 100% geeky digital natives, we do understand the engagement landscape and the need to integrate online and offline to create the most effective multi-channel mix. After all, not everyone in the world are Angry Birds champions!

So, to help government organisations make that transition from offline to online (multi-channel), we’ve developed up some quick tips as to how to develop up your online engagement capacity (see below).

I suppose one of the key points to make is that online and offline aren’t mutually exclusive. In particular there are two great ways online and offline can merge and help each other:

  1. Management / organisation / data storage: using a consultation management system like Citizen Space allows you to organise and manage all your consultations (across your organisation) in one place. Databases / calendars, enable citizens and staff to understand when consultations are taking place, and also provide a useful data record / archive of past consultations and their outcomes.
  2. Using Apps in live events: possibly more exciting, is the use of online apps in live events. Both the Dialogue App and Budget Simulator are both used regularly by our clients in town hall meetings, to help facilitate open community dialogue.

More tips and tricks below!

Consultation Infrastructure Tips