A couple of weeks ago we heard from David Porteous, one half of the City of Edinburgh’s Senior Business Intelligence team and now it’s time to meet the ying to his yang, Emma McEwan. True to form, Emma has many a sound opinion on the future of this digital democracy stuff and she’s also really rather amusing to boot (once you get past the excessive pet ownership).

Let’s jump right in.

1. What’s your name and where are you from?
My name is Emma McEwan and I’m originally from Irvine, which is on the west coast of Scotland and home of the Magnum… not the fantastically moustachioed P.I., but the leisure centre. I now live in Edinburgh.

2. What do you do for a living?
I’m a Senior Business Intelligence Officer.  My mum thinks I’m like a spy or something but really I manage a number of research and consultation projects for the City of Edinburgh Council.

3. Favourite band / or artist?
Ooh, that’s hard… I can’t pick. Instead, I’ve put my music on shuffle and these artists/bands were the first five:

1. Bjork
2. John Travolta
3. Girls Aloud
4. Biffy Clyro
5. The Civil Wars

Wait, John Travolta has completely thrown me! I’ve done the next five just to see if that is any better:

1. Lamb
2. Kylie Minogue
3. Mogwai
4. LCD Soundsystem
5. Nine Inch Nails

What I’ve now realised is:
1. ‘Shuffle’ is rubbish and basically just breaks up my music into alphabetical chunks;
2. The next lot probably would have included Katy Perry and Taylor Swift; and
3. I haven’t listened to the Grease soundtrack in a while.

4. Android or iPhone?
Android – purely because that’s what I have just now. I don’t particularly care. I just know how to use my phone to make calls, text and stalk people on Facebook when I’ve had too much wine. It does the trick.

5. PC or Mac?
PC. Again, purely because that’s what I use at work and what my partner has in the house. If someone bought me a Mac I wouldn’t chuck it out…

6. Creature of habit or maverick thinker?
At work, our team do a lot of creative thinking so when I’m there I’d like to think I’m in the zone! When I get home it’s a different story though… I’m probably more a creature of habit there. I like routine, if you upset my routine it makes me grumpy. I’ll probably always have an android phone. I always do the housework on a Saturday morning. The cushions always need to sit a particular way on the sofa. I can tell if someone has touched my stuff.

7. Your house is on fire, what do you save?
My partner can find his own way out… I’d save the animals – Mabel the rabbit, Winifred the hamster and the degus, Munch & Tutuola! You might be wondering what a degu is. This is a degu. They are awesome.

8. Biscuits – dunk or leave unsullied?
I don’t dunk biscuits. I don’t like the risk of little soggy biscuit bits at the bottom of my cup. I could forget I dunked my biscuit and then panic that I’ve just found a bug in the bottom of my cup. However, I do enjoy dunking a chocolate bar into tea.

9. Best project you’ve worked on and why?
A few years ago we consulted on the Leith Improvement Programme, where we were looking for input on how to deliver a range of environmental improvements to the area. We spoke to a range of key stakeholders for this – local residents, businesses, commuters (particularly cyclists) who all had different views on the issues we were exploring. We used a few engagement techniques to gather feedback – online surveys, focus groups and public events. It was a really interesting project as people were so passionate about improving the area. It was the first time I’d used images/maps etc., in an online survey to illustrate the proposals and ask people their views, so that was really interesting. And I really enjoyed working with the project team – you could tell they were really knowledgeable about the issues. The public events were great to see in action, as they gave people the opportunity to speak to officers, make suggestions and have a genuine discussion on the proposals and why certain ideas wouldn’t be feasible. The feedback gathered was invaluable for the development of the final plans for the programme, and we adopted a similar approach for the consultation work we did for Edinburgh’s city centre.

10. Where do hope the UK will be in 10 years in terms of online consultation/ digital democracy?
I’m already pretty amazed at the potential that using things like Citizen Space, Dialogue etc., have for gathering views and ideas from people. When I look back on projects like the Leith Improvement Programme, I think things would have been so much easier using Citizen Space in terms of illustrating the proposals and gathering views! My hope is that in the future we are able to use more online tools like these to make it easier for anyone to have their say on the matters that they care about, no matter where they are or when it is. I think making it as simple as possible for people is so important. I also hope that we are more creative in the different ways we engage with people – sometimes we need to be braver about trying out new things and not just sticking to the old tried and tested methods. I think no matter what, there will still be the need for offline consultation methods but we need to realise how powerful digital methods are for connecting us with a whole range of stakeholders too!

 11. Any shout-outs?
I feel like I’m writing my Oscar acceptance speech…

I’d just like to thank the rest of the Business Intelligence team. I work with a bunch of amazing people – they’re really supportive, incredibly clever and brilliant to brainstorm with if you have a project that is a bit complicated. They make work fun and you can always be sure someone will be up for a pint at the end of the day. And to my partner, Candy – who hasn’t banned me from Pets at Home’s adoption corner just yet!


So there you have it, a small insight into the mind of Emma McEwan; we laughed, we cried, we learned about Degus. Just make sure you don’t touch her stuff. Ever.

Until next time.