As part of my Oct-Dec 2015 trip to Australia and New Zealand, we’re running a series of Citizen Space user groups. These are day-long sessions to hear from, learn from and share information with the people who use the system day-in, day-out. We’ve just had the first user group with customers in Western Australia (WA), kindly hosted by one of said customers, the Department of Sport and Recreation, in Leederville, Perth.

WA user group
This was our second user group to be held this month, following hot on the heels of our UK Citizen Space user group held in London. (Interestingly for us, there was a fair bit of overlap between the topics raised in the two sessions, despite the obvious geographical and contextual differences.)

Here are some of my take-home pointers from the day:

  1. Consultations are more than just questions – there’s opportunity to engage and educate respondents as well
    WA Health ran a major ‘Have your say on cancer in WA’ consultation. They worked to ensure the consultation was as engaging and informative as possible, using a wealth of infographics, images and videos to help participants understand the choices under consideration. It’s a really good example of a well-designed consultation – not just in terms of looking pretty but in (the more important) terms of providing useful, apposite, structured content for respondents.
  2. Citizen Space is a core part of an organisation’s toolbox but it’s not a panacea
    There’s no such thing as a single piece of software that will magically solve all of one’s online challenges. Rather, organisations should make use of a range of systems, channels and approaches – commonly referred to as a “toolbox” – in order to most effectively consult and engage respondents.

    “There’s a misunderstanding in our organisation that Citizen Space is a silver bullet when actually it’s part of a suite of tools available” – Geraldine, WA Planning

  3. Different organisations are at different stages of the adoption path/journey
    The WA Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) were our first customer to adopt Citizen Space in the state, meaning they were in a position to feed back to, and help advise, more recent adopters on how to effectively embed Citizen Space in their organisations.
  4. Don’t underestimate the value of ‘retrospecting’ a single project or consultation
    During the London user group, customers like The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) advocated the importance of ‘retrospecting’ their overall use of Citizen Space to date (looking back over what has been successful, where there is room for improvement etc). In the Perth user group, there was discussion of how it’s also useful to hone in on individual projects or consultations and dig into the finer details of what went well, what not so well, what can be improved upon and so on. WA Planning, for instance, are just about to embark on a similar conversation for one of their recent consultations.
  5. Get new users to fill in a Citizen Space survey before building one of their own
    WA Planning had a great little piece of advice on helping make sure staff are ready to use Citizen Space: they ask any new administrator to fill in a specially-designed feedback form on Citizen Space. The feedback form includes questions relating to privacy, helping those who will be building surveys to appreciate both how the design of Citizen Space works in practice, and what it feels like to interact with the department via the platform.
  6. ‘We Asked, You Said, We Did’ is going to get more prominent
    Donna from WA EPA advocated the importance of using Citizen Space’s ‘We Asked, You Said, We Did’ function to feed back to citizens about consultations that have taken place. We’re also going to be releasing a neat little improvement to Citizen Space which will help our customers use this feature even more – watch this space 😉
  7. Don’t be afraid to try some creative promotion
    Whilst running their ‘Have your say on cancer in WA’ consultation earlier in 2015, Laura Miller and her team were given the freedom to try some new things when it came to promoting the consultation. The team advertised the consultation through social media channels, the local and national press and internally to colleagues. More than that, though, they also had some joy with novel innovations, like reaching out to local university students to help with the graphics for the survey, and getting health professionals involved in the videos embedded in the consultation.