Clients often ask how they can set up useful consultations. The London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham, one of our longest-running Citizen Space clients, recently ran some training sessions for their 80 admin users. Following attending one of these, here are some ‘ideas from the coalface’ on getting a useful consultation output from Citizen Space.

Stephen Kennelly, Policy & Research Officer for LBHF, offers a top tip. He says, “it is much easier to think about the goal of the consultation first and then work backwards form there.”

Further to this:

Design your questions so that the end results are useful. The opportunity to develop an accurate and usable evidence base needs to be considered at the very beginning of the consultation process. Ensuring from the beginning that the output can be easily analysed can save time at the end of the process.

Match the consultation questions and expected output with your team’s capacity to analyse and deliver the service changes identified. Quantitative, multiple- or single-choice questions may provide a much more useful overview and guide to consultation participants than multiple free text answer components. Check boxes or radio button answers supplemented with free text questions will ensure that participants have their say but that the data output is still useful.

Bring in other data sets in order to develop a broader picture. Another team, or a previous consultation, may already hold a useful insight into a current/forthcoming consultation, or one that is being analysed.

Set a consultation target response number before you begin. Identifying what would be a useful number of responses before you set up your consultation creates a goal to be met. Check your consultation dashboard regularly to ensure you are on target. If responses are low, this regular monitoring may give you time to further promote the consultation and boost participation.

Set an output goal for your consultation from the outset. Deciding what you wish your outcome to be helps to clarify what questions, and what type of questions, need to be included.

Choose useful tags or codes when analysing. Selecting five on a per-question basis can bring up key themes. Reviewing an overview on the response by respondent page in Citizen Space can for example, help bring out key themes. Tags can then be applied on a per question basis.

Plan ahead and supplement online with offline. GDS are increasingly advocating ‘Digital by Default’. However offline is still important, as it allows you to reach those who don’t have computer access. Think through the offline process prior to starting your consultation process. Adding a code to paper-based surveys which has been mapped to a particular geographic area may ensure that respondents are coming from a useful sample of stakeholders.

Link tags into key service terms. For example, if ensuring police visibility is a key service area then choose the term ‘police visibility’ as a tag.

Set up useful demographic questions and then add them to saved questions. Using similar questions helps build up a broader picture of what is important within differing areas.

Fully utilise the mobility of having a consultation online. Some Citizen Space clients have chosen to take their consultation out directly to the audience being consulted on. For example, Stockport PCT take iPads into GP surgeries in order to ask people on their thoughts.

More about Citizen Space online consultation software here.