1. INOVEM has been providing online consultation software to the UK public sector since 2003. Although we have a few central government clients, most of our clients are in the local authority sector. I think this is due to the fact that local and health authorities have a ‘duty to involve’ and consult on a wide range of issues and therefore scalability, accessibility and cost-efficiency make e-consultation a no-brainer. Many government departments still consider a PDF download and email link as satisfactory – which is in the era of social media participation is clearly unacceptable.

    You are right, proper consultation requires a mix of dialogue methods, on and off-line. Logic-based questionnaires, quick polls, document section commenting and moderated discussion forums are just some of the on-line tools suppliers like INOVEM provide. Recording offline feedback is therefore also important as are tools to analyse and report on both qualitative and quantitative feedback as part of the evidence base.

    We notice that most of our clients distinguish between formal consultations (statutory 12 week exercises) and informal consultations (discussion forums, anonymous polls etc) which are used on an ongoing basis to sound out stakeholders about ad-hoc ideas and topics and provide them with a perpetual opportunity to contribute views. Some of these on-line techniques are also used to support pre-consultation activities and internal staff surveys.

    Given that there is no one-size-fits-all approach we have tried to develop software and response channels that are configurable. This not only provides more flexibility but also allows organisations to evolve (culturally and operationally) as to how they use on-line tools to engage as part of their consultation activities.

    1. Hi John. Thanks for your comment. You’re absolutely right there is no one-size-fits-all approach, that’s why I think there’s value in our stated aim of identifying and discussing a wide range of tools and platforms which facilitate effective engagement. I’m hoping the other issues you’ve highlighted will also be discussed in some detail once this exercise kicks off.

  2. The move into collecting data from more and more sources has, in our experience, led to a decline in the quality of that data; someone completing a poll on Facebook may respond differently, and give questions more consideration, if they were sat around a table being formally consulted. Obvious, maybe.

    Collecting data that feeds into a consultation is good, treating all data as equal is not. There seems to be a sliding scale between ease of use and quality of data where the easiest methods of contribution (anonymous polls for example) have the less reliable data and should be treated as a vague guideline at best. So, having said that, what’s the point of having easy and open consultations that produce meaningless data?

    The easy and open bit should be about finding willing participants in methods that produce more considered results.

    1. Hi. I think the gist of your comment is: it’s important to identify the most effective means of engaging with an audience depending on the nature of the topic under discussion and the kind of information you’re after. I completely agree and that’s what we’re hoping to achieve through this exercise.

      I believe you’ve highlighted (at least) two issues: (1) clarity of purpose before conducting any form of engagement and (2) identifying the most appropriate means of engaging with a given audience. When the desired outcomes from an engagement exercise are clear then the tasks of identifying your audience and working out the most appropriate means/method of engaging with them, become a lot easier. There are times when all you’re looking to do is to roughly gauge consensus on a subject and a Facebook poll might provide a quick and effective way of doing that. Alternatively when you’re seeking detailed responses following a period of discussion and reflection you’d probably opt for a different method. That “different method” might be a round table discussion (as you’ve described above) or it might be via a digital platform that supports discursive engagement amongst, and with, people who have a lot to contribute but can’t or won’t attend a face-to-face event.

      The question we’re trying to answer (in collaboration with others) is: in the latter case, how do we ensure that such engagement is better than it is now. I hope you’ll be contributing to the discussion when it starts. Thanks.

      1. I am new to digital engagement and have found reading through the messages so far helpful .. where is this online conversation at now please ?

        1. Hi Louise. The conversation is taking place in a number of different places. For example, we’ve partnered with Demsoc on its Open Policymaking project. There are a lot of contributors to the site so the content is quite wide-ranging. There’s something there for everyone with an interest in the various aspects of open policymaking. It’s a good place to start. I’ve also found the Involve blog really interesting. If you do visit the open policymaking project site, it would be good to hear your thoughts on it. I do hope you’ll get involved in the discussions :-).

  3. Hi Ade,

    Just one note, and it’s to do with the use of old and new media. We know that on one hand we have programmes like “the big questions”. We have QandA in Australia. The old broadcast box is usually the place most older people start. And there’s embryonic development of feedback from broadcast to online (and rarely the other way). Thought you might like this illustration. https://www.bigquestionsonline.com/content/how-can-communication-technology-encourage-civility

    So it’s a natural, as this convergence evolves, we will see some formalization between a programme’s various questions and the online/social media spaces, which can support each thread.

    It’s pretty easy to spot that the govspace is trying to reinvent what the BBC and the UK Open Uni (in your country) have been doing since the web was invented (and before). Although you’re focussing on deliverin/sharin the development of a policy, whereas they focus on deliverin/sharing an education.

    The thing I’m trying to understand is that while all these gov/edu departments only want to engage with a community of interest to “get a job done” or “deliver a service” who is responsible for the communities after all the government departments have finished with them?

    BTW. You might like to join this group of policy makers. An EU perspective. http://lnkd.in/_DPh7p

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s