Tag Archives: public participation

How the Scottish #IndyRef showed us all how to do democracy

Here at Delib, we’re not political, but we are passionate about democracy. With the vote announced this morning, we look at how Scotland won at democracy during this momentous referendum.

We’ve been following this with interest, from the initial discussions and consultations, to the fiery passions and clamour of the final few weeks. Arguably, it is the fervour with which this campaign has been fought, particularly in its latter stages, that has led to a record number of citizens registering to vote and standing up to make their voices heard on the future of their country. The result: a voter turnout of over 84.5% – the highest in the UK since the general election of 1950.

Some basic rules of engagement were followed as part of the referendum:

A simple question was asked > in a defined timescale > with full inclusion of the Scottish public in the journey to polling day.

The seeds of change were sown in 2012 at the beginning of this referendum process, when the Scottish Government ran the Scottish Referendum Consultation (using Citizen Space).

The consultation asked the Scottish people to become part of the machinery of democracy and to shape the structure of their referendum. It asked nine questions, ranging from whether 16 and 17 year olds would get the vote, to how voting could be made easier for them to take part.

An image of the nine questions in the Scottish Referendum Consultation
The nine questions in the Scottish Referendum Consultation

To keep things completely transparent, the responses of all consenting participants were published in full on the site.

What we really loved about this consultation was that the public response to the questions asked, was directly actioned by the Scottish Government. When it asked whether 16 and 17 year olds should get the vote, the public said yes – so it happened. The nature of the referendum question and the ballot paper were decided by the respondents to the consultation. This was true of all nine questions – no response was left unread, no voice left unheard.

By asking Scottish citizens to be involved from the outset, the result has been that they have responded in their millions to vote and to own the process.

There will be many people in Scotland today understandably feeling defeated, but their participation in the vote means their assembled voices cannot be ignored. Their actions may also be the catalyst for significant, democratic and constitutional change across the UK.

We have a number of Scottish customers using our apps; Scottish Government, Clackmannanshire Council, East Renfrewshire Council, East Lothian Council, East Dunbartonshire Council, Aberdeenshire Council, Scottish Borders, Edinburgh City Council, Forestry Commission Scotland and the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, and we’ve worked with more in the past.

One thing we have known for a while is that Scotland does democracy well, and now the rest of the world has been able to see it too.

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 🙂


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

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

Welcome to Government as a participative platform

There are some people you should never ignore. That’s the clever people. So, whilst working over in the US we’ve been making sure we’ve had our ears (and eyes) open listening to lots of clever people sharing their clever ideas of what the future (and present) model of government (and governance) should look like.

One concept in particular that we’ve picked up is the idea of “government as a platform” – an idea which Tim O’Reilly (*founding father of pithy clever concept articulation*) has been effusively espousing for a while in Gov2.0 circles.

Not to be out articulated, we’ve developed this concept on further to include a central tenet of modern governance – which is “participation”. Our take on the future of governance is what we call “government as a participative platform” – the idea of government opening it up in such as a way that allows it to be shaped (via data and ideas) by the citizens.

This is best explained via our quick presentation below:
Government as a participative platform presentation

Excitingly for us (and governments across the world) we’ve been working on turning this vision into reality with a new (hush-hush) project we’ve been working on. So – fingers-crossed – we should be able to share the realisation of “government as a participative platform” with the world in the months to come ; – )