Tag Archives: online participation

Thoughts about ‘Fracking’ and local communities

If you’ve been reading the news lately you might have come across ‘fracking.’

Fracking involves drilling into rocks where natural gas is trapped; injecting sand, water and chemicals at high pressure. This splits the rock so the gas can be extracted at the surface.

It’s popped up now because the British Geological Survey has revised its estimates on the British gas reserves, and there may be decades worth. (Although it’s unlikely that all of this will be available for extraction, and nobody will know exactly how much can be extracted until drilling has begun).

The government has recently announced ยฃ100,000 of community benefits to be distributed at fracking sites, with an additional 1% of revenues at the production stage also funding the local community. But how these benefits will be distributed is not yet clear.

When deciding the location of windfarms, it was found that local residents were much more willing to accept them if they got a share of the benefits.

So the question is, will local communities get the chance to influence how the fracking subsidies are spent? Hopefully, yes.

Evidence of Digital Democracy in Universities

Back in June I posted some ideas on how universities could embrace digital democracy. I argued that crowdsourcing dialogues and online consultations should be utilised to engage with students in order to improve levels of student satisfaction.

Some interesting Twitter discussions on the issue occurred recently from @ed_andersson, @NCCPE, @TimJHughes, @ben_fowkes and @Davidrowen which prompted me to find some practical examples of universities using digital democracy:

Student Union E-Petitions

University Student Unions are a democracy of sorts,with views of students represented by elected student union officers, yet there is little evidence of any democratic participation by students beyond voting in the elections.

University of Sheffield Student Union are one of the few to be trying to encouraging student activism and engagement beyond this by encouraging students to submit and sign online petitions. Any petition with 50 signatures will be added to the Student Union Council agenda and at 1,000 signatures the petition will become a referendum.

Digital democracy is ideal for politically engaging students as research has shown that whilst only 10% have acted politically offline, 30% of 15-24 year olds have engaged in an online political activity [1] (Thanks to @TimJHughes for sourcing the stats).

The Union also has a ‘You Said, We Did’ page showing what action was taken as a result of their engagement. This is a feature we implement as part of our Citizen Space and Dialogue App products, as informing stakeholders of changes as a result from an engagement activity helps to convey the benefits of public consultation.

Fruni – Promoting “Free Range” Universities

Hats off to @Davidrowen for pointing out this example. Fruni is a social enterprise from a former Bristol University student (@TomCorfield) that encourages students to sample the most inspirational lecturers in the university.

It’s currently being trialled at the University of Bristol and looks set to (hopefully) expand to other universities, provided they can gain the digital signatures of 100 students, staff and alumni. As it requires some form of activism to implement, it could also help promote a culture amongst students that encourages them to be more politically involved in their university.

Implementing Fruni on campus would not only enrich and broaden the university experience for the student, it could also encourage lecturers to improve their lectures by learning from those who the students have deemed “inspirational”.

Crowdfunding University Research

Innovocracy is a new initiative which facilitates crowdfunding of research projects at universities. The idea makes sense given that research budgets at universities have been slashed in recent years.

Whilst in beta, it’s currently supporting the crowdfunding of research projects from four American universities. You can view the the projects awaiting crowdfunding from the University of Rochester, Cornell University, Rochester Institute of Technology and Clarkson University.

Final Thoughts

One thing I’ve noticed whilst doing my research is that a growing number of universities provide courses on digital democracy (e.g. Tufts University, University of Washington – thanks to @NCCPE for finding these) but very little is being done to implement these techniques to engage students and the wider community.

Hopefully, by highlighting some interesting case studies and the supporting arguments promoting it, we can see some progression towards implenting digital democracy in our universities in the years to come ๐Ÿ™‚


1. Gibson, R. K. et al. (2005) ‘Online Participation in the UK: Testing a ‘Contextualised’ Model of Internet Effects’, The British Journal of Politics & International Relations, pp.573-574

Testing The Mobility Our Apps

In order to effectively engage citizens, methods for engagement should fit around typical consumption habits so it’s accessible and convenient for participants.

On that note, recent reports have outlined the rise of smartphone and tablet usage. Some quick takeaway stats from the UK:

  • Around four in ten adults own a smartphone [1]
  • Forty-two per cent of smartphone-owners say it’s the most important device for accessing the internet [1]
  • 15% now own or have access to a tablet [2]
  • 29% of tablet owners now use their laptop less frequently. One of five claim they now hardly ever use their laptop [2]

To make sure our apps are accessible to as many users as possible we run lots of cross compatibility tests on various operating systems and internet browsers. Yet, as browsing habits begin to shift away from traditional platforms towards mobile devices it’s important to make sure our apps are fully functional on them.

So, I thought I’d run a quick test to see how well our Citizen Space and Dialogue App ran on some gadgets we had in the office:

Citizen Space/Quick Consult

Here are the screenshots from a live consultation on the Ask Derbyshire Citizen Space.




Although it’s not that clear from the pictures, all Citizen Space’s public-facing features are fully functional. Therefore, users can easily engage with consultations on the go through a mobile browser.

It’s also worth noting that there’s no special interface specifically optimised for mobile platforms, so the visuals and functionality will be identical to a respondent viewing the consultation on a computer web browser.

Dialogue App

The screenshots below are from the Dialogue App currently being run by Wyong Shire Council in Australia. You can participate in the dialogue here.




Again, Dialogue App functions fully on the devices we tested, looking essentially identical to the online version.

A basic version of Dialogue App is available for free and you can even sign up and launch your dialogue directly from a mobile device.

So there we have it, Delib encouraging crowdsourcing and consultations on the go ๐Ÿ™‚


1. (2012) UK is now texting more than talking, Ofcom.

2. (2012) Deloitte report reveals momentum of tablet revolution, Deloitte.

Thames Tunnel videos syndicated from our site

As I touched upon in my previous launch post we made the decision to host all of Thames Tunnel’s consultation materials on resources that allowed users to easily share, embed and generally syndicate them. One of these systems is the well known (and pretty, popular alternative to YouTube) Vimeo.

Whilst navigating the popular Londonist site on a recent excursion to the city I was pleased to see that they had taken one of the excellent explanatory videos from the site and embedded it on the site. I think this is a really great example of how the consultation can be explained quickly in one article using resources that were easily accessible.

Well done Londonist, and well done Vimeo.

My2050 presented as part of Climate Change pathways conference

Much to our excitement here at Delib, My2050 was presented at Bristol University as part of David Mackay’s lecture on how government is planning our energy future:

Following an interesting and engaging lecture to a hall full of people, David Mackay, DECC’s Chief Scientific Advisor, presented the My2050 tool which was launched in March this year. My2050 provides a user friendly version of the 2050 web tool which allows users to create their own UK emissions reduction pathway, and see the impact using real UK data.

The lecture focused on how the government is planning our energy future, presenting a series of questions such as:

  • How easy is it to get off our fossil fuel habit?
  • How does our current energy consumption compare with our sustainable energy options?
  • How can we make energy plans that add up?

My2050 challenges you to get UK COโ‚‚ emissions below 20% by 2050 by setting how much effort is applied to areas both in the Supply and Demand sectors. The percentage is compared to 1990 levels of COโ‚‚ emissions.

Excitingly My2050 was also shortlisted today as part of the SocialBuzz Awards for ‘The Best Socially Responsible Initiative’. Lets hope it wins ๐Ÿ™‚

For more information on our custom projects or to speak to one of our consultants about our awesome suite of apps please contact Ben or Gill on 0845 638 1848 (UK) or +44 1173 812 989 (anywhere else)

Delib @ #BurningRubber – and some reflections from seven years of digital democracy

#BurningRubber was an event to celebrate ten years of Team Rubber (Delib’s parent company). It was a lot of fun to take the day out in *deepest North Somerset* at Colliters Brook Farm. There were small amounts of danger, some ball sports and a fire, all to be seen in Burning Rubber – the photo story.

Meanwhile, I just worked out that Delib is seven years old (incorporated June 2004). There have been a lot of changes in digital democracy in that time, here are some reflections from me:

After a turbulent 2010 (and a lot of turmoil for our public sector friends and clients), I’m seeing more and more great stuff in the UK, and abroad (hello Australia). I’m bullish about the potential of digital democracy to build a more inclusive, more responsive, more rewarding society. Times are interesting – and in a good way.



Group photo. Some of these people work for Delib.  They like apples.  I am not in this picture

Some of these people work for Delib. They like apples. I am not in this picture.

Tips for consultation and engagement in 2011

A new year has ticked over, and the public sector is in a very different place than it was 12 months ago. As a result, I thought it would be useful to post up some thoughts on three important tips regarding consultation and public engagement in 2011:

1. Doing more with less

The current climate has created a challenge of achieving cost-savings, whilst maintaining or improving quality of public engagement. Running consultations online is proven to be a more cost-effective way to consult.

Making efficiencies also extends to the way that consultations are created. Using one online system increases visibility and ensures that work isn’t duplicated.

Citizen Space has been built for Government, with Government and is a cost-saving move to run an effective, comprehensive consultation programme.

You can read about how London Borough of Sutton improved their consultation activity, whilst achieving cost-effectiveness by using Citizen Space:


2. Make use of social media

Collaboration is a key theme of running an effective consultation programme. Online mechanisms of response are key for enabling people to share and extend the reach of your
engagement activity. This cuts the costs per response and increases overall participation.

An example of this is Delib’s Dialogue App, which now allows people to Tweet or share their ideas to Facebook.

See the link below to read about the range of public sector organisations who have used Dialogue App to increase engagement with the public online:


3. Learn from what has worked

E-consultation has been around for a while now, and thus so, best-practice examples have had their time to emerge. In order to improve, its important to understand what other organisations are doing.

Delib have helped hundreds of public sector bodies run their engagement activities online. In addition to having a bank of case study documents for projects we’ve ran, we also have
videos and best-practice documents aimed at helping Government organisations improve their participation.

You can look at our bank of case studies or alternatively, get in touch to get advice on the best tool to run your engagement activity online.

How to make open government sustainable – SXSW round-up #1

If SXSW is geek central. Then yesterday’s “In code we trust” session was geek government central. And it was a really interesting session.

Geeks in government is a pretty big thing these days – something proved by yesterday’s “In code we trust” panel session at the SXSW festival – which was completely packed out. Up on stage were 3 pretty clever and insightful people (Alissa Black from San Fransisco, Noel Hildalgo from NYC Dmitry Kachaev from Washington DC), who’ve all gotten their hands pretty dirty doing OpenGov Gov.20 work – and they did some great idea sharing in their 60 min slot.

To share some geek government love, here are some quick take-aways from the session:

How can you make open government sustainable? – lessons from Alissa Black on how San Francisco’s OpenSF initiative.

Alissa said that their OpenSF iniative was structured around 3 core activities:

  • Open Source
  • Participation
  • Transparency

1) The first thing they focused on was transparency – focusing in on collating data sets from all departments. However, what they found was that not all depts were co-operatve, so they created got the Mayor of San Fran to mandate the “Open Data Directive” which made it mandatory for all depts to share their data. A simple top-down solution, to enable bottom-up innovation.

2) The next thing to move on was participation – providing platforms and apps to allow people to share ideas and access the open data. Example of these were RecoverySF, and Improve SF – their first attempt at an idea crowd-sourcing project.
Possibly one of the most interesting participation projects was their “employee budget challenge”, an internal crowd-sourcing process to get ideas from SF employees on how make the most of their budgets – which gathered 300 ideas and 1000 votes from 314 users.

3) The cherry on the cake for SF was a focus on Open Source. To promote Open Source within the wider SF government agency they created a mandatory open source software procurement policy where if you’re commissioning a software project over the value of $100,000, then you have to evaluate an open source option; that’s to say you don’t have to use open source, but you have to evaluate it as an option.

So there you go – 3 top tips from the West Coast on making Open Gov sustainable. More from SXSW soon ; – )

Twitter Explained Through A Cartoon

This made us smile in the Delib office, so thought it worth sharing with you all. http://current.com/items/89891774/twouble_with_twitters.htm

It’s pretty negative about Twitter, but it actually raises some interesting points. What is the point of Twittering?

Sure, it’s become a reasonably popular communication method, especially amongst people working in the web, and the media love it as a hook for stories at the moment, but what is actually gained from it in 95% of cases? It’s that old point again isn’t it. Just because technology can do or can enable something, doesn’t mean there’s anything to be gained from it doing so.

Thing is, I suspect there are definite benefits in the consultation and democratic fields to be gained through using Twitter, hashtags are particularly interesting as a standard for content aggregation during realtime events. Character limits can have their inherent advantages too.

That said, do enough people care for it to have a genuine impact, or is it just a thing to use with a niche audience, possibly one already engaged through other processes anyway?