It was refreshing to see the range of online consultation attempts by DoH in this video. As much as I like the folks at Delib, online survey as an input method is just too limited and (let’s be honest) a bit old fashioned. It’s ironic that people have dumped SNAP Survey in favour of other things when they just want to do survey work – particularly when it has a wide array of sampling methods and integrates both paper and digital surveys.
Actually, breaking free of Citizenspace is necessary when you want to consult on a document (the wording or the merits of it). I’ve been working with the Chinese government (legislators) on some of this and you can read some of the initial findings here. I think Steph did a great job of using WordPress to handle in-line commenting although there are some much slicker solutions now.
I don’t know how government departments are getting away from minimising the amount of parallel ‘offline’ consultation that they do but any CCG or local authority taking the same digital by default approach would be straight up for judicial review. But times are changing – in a recent consultation by Lincolnshire County Council, the majority of responses to a consultation about changes in their care provision were provided online.
Gaps? Well, I’m surprised there was no mention of use of digital tools already in play such as Hospedia , PatientOpinion and surgery TV providers such as this. A good point was made about unstructured contributions (such as by email) and stakeholder mapping. There are some good tools out there for handling this such as Darzin . There’s also a piece of work that needs doing around communicating submissions, I guess this is the feedback part for stakeholder consultations. Civiq have something interesting in that domain.
I’m also stuck by how online consultation has clung to its web box. For example, if you travel by Eurostar then you’ll notice that they often ask customers a short SMS survey just after their journey. If you ring your bank, you will often be asked to complete a survey after the call. My point is that the timing of the call to action is important but also that we can use other ways such as IVR or video conferencing or to consult digitally – which may suit some hard to reach groups.
It’s a little sad that nobody in this circuit has engaged with The Consultation Institute as I agree that the shortcomings of most online consultations are about method (which Susy refers to ‘comms’ failures). For example, how consultations could be improved by better framing a consultation using a structured mandate, options based consultations and options development, stakeholder mapping and developing analysis plans.
One of the ambitions in this video is perfect and gives me a lot of hope. There is a needs for a cross-government integrated consultation unit. We could learn a few lessons from TFL who have just this…and it is a huge department. Create a good post that is commutable from ‘up north’ and I’ll happily apply 😉