Epanels Apr09

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Epanels Apr09

  1. 1. The potential of e-panels Online community engagement
  2. 2. Citizens’ Panels <ul><li>Very common in the UK – less so in NZ </li></ul><ul><li>Comprise representative sample of population for regular surveys </li></ul><ul><li>In Bristol, 2000 residents received 3 surveys a year – mainly by post </li></ul><ul><li>Panellists sent feedback and results plus invited to focus groups etc </li></ul><ul><li>Good practice to replace members after 3 years </li></ul>
  3. 3. E-panels <ul><li>Online or e-engaged citizens’ panel </li></ul><ul><li>Can follow similar model to regular panel but has more flexibility </li></ul><ul><li>Surveys, online discussions, polls, chats </li></ul><ul><li>Aim for representative mix of participants </li></ul><ul><li>Cheaper to run and quicker to communicate </li></ul>
  4. 4. Recruitment <ul><li>Two key approaches: </li></ul><ul><li>Standard market research approach – recruit randomly according to quotas </li></ul><ul><li>Allow self-selection – active recruitment/ marketing of panel to encourage good mix of participants (less likely to be fully representative) </li></ul>
  5. 5. Bristol City Council <ul><li>400,000 population </li></ul><ul><li>Good history of engagement through equality forums, petitions, consultation </li></ul><ul><li>Strong public representation at council/cabinet meetings </li></ul><ul><li>Online engagement started 2002 </li></ul>
  6. 6. Why e-participation? <ul><li>Traditional methods of engagement mainly attractive to older, retired, white, middle class </li></ul><ul><li>To broaden input into local decision-making processes by making it easier </li></ul><ul><li>To create ongoing links with citizens </li></ul><ul><li>Evolve techniques of engagement to meet changing customer demands </li></ul>
  7. 7. Developing a range of tools <ul><li>Webcasting </li></ul><ul><li>Multimedia consultation tool </li></ul><ul><li>Local issues forums </li></ul><ul><li>Ask Bristol </li></ul><ul><li>E-petitions </li></ul><ul><li>Consultation Finder </li></ul><ul><li>Online surveys </li></ul>2008 2000
  8. 8. Bristol’s e-panel: Askbristol <ul><li>Citizens’ panel already established </li></ul><ul><li>Opted for neutral webspace </li></ul><ul><li>Website and recruitment started October 2004 – combination of promotion and market research – launched Jan 2005 </li></ul><ul><li>Asked for best and worst things about Bristol – quotes used in marketing </li></ul><ul><li>Public launch for participants and media to hear about e-panel and first consultations </li></ul>
  9. 10. Consultation tools <ul><li>Ask Bristol web space focus on online discussions – participants need to register before commenting but no pre-moderation </li></ul><ul><li>Provides database of interested people to promote online surveys, focus groups, other engagement activities </li></ul><ul><li>Also used live chat, deliberative polls, budget simulator </li></ul><ul><li>Multimedia incorporated Jan 2008 </li></ul>
  10. 11. Some of the issues <ul><li>Service-led issues: waste and recycling </li></ul><ul><li>City priorities: smoke free Bristol, perceptions of alcohol, Best & Worst </li></ul><ul><li>Select committee evidence: future of Bristol’s libraries, climate change </li></ul><ul><li>Strategy development: city centre strategy </li></ul><ul><li>Planning issues: wind turbines, Colston Hall </li></ul>
  11. 12. What worked well? <ul><li>Online discussions: </li></ul><ul><li>Pre-strategy consultations. Particularly where broad-ranging issues eg city centre strategy </li></ul><ul><li>Select committee work – provided evidence that fed into committee </li></ul><ul><li>Surveys: </li></ul><ul><li>Where more focused – eg perceptions of alcohol, wind turbines </li></ul><ul><li>Deliberative poll – series of arguments looking at issue eg whether or not to control gulls </li></ul>
  12. 13. What didn’t work as well? <ul><li>Technical/complex issues – eg sustainable construction policy </li></ul><ul><li>Live chat – difficult to find the right time but potential there for right topic/targeted audience </li></ul><ul><li>Difficult to keep steady stream of online discussions going </li></ul><ul><li>Many departments prefer quantitative rather than qualitative feedback </li></ul>
  13. 14. Managing the panel <ul><li>Participants asked to complete sign-up form with some demographics (optional) </li></ul><ul><li>Discussion forum mainly council structured with clear closing dates and what’s next - but includes open forum </li></ul><ul><li>New comments checked at least daily – more often if lively debate (weekends/evenings) </li></ul><ul><li>Participants emailed to encourage to participate. Works best with regular updates </li></ul>
  14. 15. Participants <ul><li>Most give postcode so able to monitor geographical representation (fairly good) </li></ul><ul><li>Many give further demographics – initially successful with 25-50 year olds but many more older people in last year </li></ul><ul><li>Digital divide in poorer areas plus language/ cultural issues with some communities </li></ul><ul><li>Issues drive membership – street artist Banksy most successful recruitment issue </li></ul>
  15. 16. Case study: Climate Change <ul><li>Select Committee covered transport, home energy, council energy, planning issues </li></ul><ul><li>Ask Bristol discussions structured around committee meeting topics – provided evidence at each meeting </li></ul><ul><li>Ask Bristol members encouraged to watch webcast and given monthly update </li></ul><ul><li>Received 145 comments from 77 people and around 1500 webcast views </li></ul>
  16. 18. Climate change - feedback <ul><li>‘ I wished for my voice to be heard ~ This resource enabled this to happen. I also think this would be a good resource for other topic areas ’ – participant </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Enables the committee/council to better reach it's audience and improve public involvement ’ - Councillor </li></ul><ul><li>Good vehicle for dynamic dialogue with the public/staff and not simply passive involvement/interest. Dialogue on: understanding the challenge and the response - Officer </li></ul>
  17. 19. Local eDemocracy National Project <ul><li>Bristol’s e-panel pilot as part of e-government programme </li></ul><ul><li>Other e-panel pilots to share knowledge and gain greater understanding </li></ul><ul><li>Funding for software, recruitment, developing training courses, project management </li></ul><ul><li>National project work ran April 2004–05: additional year promoting and marketing approach to other councils </li></ul>
  18. 20. E-panel project aims <ul><li>Understand how to recruit and engage citizens in ongoing consultation </li></ul><ul><li>Consider if possible to recruit balanced and representative sample </li></ul><ul><li>Make recommendations on how e-participation can be used to make citizen and community panels more democratically effective </li></ul><ul><li>Create opportunities for deliberation </li></ul>
  19. 21. E-panel evaluation results (1) <ul><li>E-panels can engage more and different citizens into local democracy but should not be used in isolation to traditional channels </li></ul><ul><li>Evaluation from Ask Bristol showed that 44% had not taken part in consultations by post or public meetings in the previous year </li></ul>
  20. 22. E-panel evaluation results (2) <ul><li>E-panels seem to be more attractive to hard to reach groups including time-poor and young people </li></ul><ul><li>Bristol participant says: “I …very much appreciate the accessibility offered by the web – I am usually at work when public meetings take place… I prefer on the whole to speak to people in person but …that is seldom feasible and Askbristol is the best alternative.” </li></ul>
  21. 23. E-panel evaluation results (3) <ul><li>Barriers to participation can be minimised by providing training and support through community organisations </li></ul><ul><li>The Black Country Knowledge Society carried out work as part of long-term educational programme that included putting computers in the homes of school children and providing training and support through UK online centres – focus on black and ethnic minority communities </li></ul>
  22. 24. E-panel evaluation results (4) <ul><li>Participants should be involved in deciding issues but topics also need useable results </li></ul><ul><li>Ask Bristol participants were asked to vote for their next topic for discussion and chose ‘cyclists: sinners or saints’ but felt let down by lack of direct outcome </li></ul>
  23. 25. E-panel evaluation results (5) <ul><li>Active and good moderation is key to success </li></ul><ul><li>Officers in St Albans felt that external moderators did not understand the subject and local area well enough which led to misguided debate </li></ul>
  24. 26. Recruitment activities <ul><li>Good: </li></ul><ul><li>Market research company –representative mix </li></ul><ul><li>Direct mail </li></ul><ul><li>Providing training through libraries/UK online centres etc </li></ul><ul><li>Council produced publications and website </li></ul><ul><li>Press coverage </li></ul><ul><li>Word of mouth </li></ul>
  25. 27. What are we doing in Rodney? <ul><li>Mainly random postal recruitment through property database </li></ul><ul><li>Aiming for 1,000+ citizens – quotas on location, age, gender, ethnicity </li></ul><ul><li>3 or more surveys a year – will replace annual residents survey </li></ul><ul><li>Intend to establish online forums to complement – open to all </li></ul>
  26. 28. Final thoughts.. <ul><li>Ask Bristol brand built since late 2004 – initially wanted arms length: advantages & disadvantages </li></ul><ul><li>Regular promotion of issues & communication of feedback and results key to success </li></ul><ul><li>Demographically representative is still tricky – need to consider local population & complementary activities </li></ul><ul><li>Lots of technology options - depends on objectives, budget and staff </li></ul><ul><li>Evaluation material at www.bristol.gov.uk/edemocracy </li></ul>

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