Consultations about council and strategic plans are a regular sight in Australia and New Zealand. It happens at least every four years after elections. In EngagementHQ, we see all sorts of approaches to it, with a variety of outcomes.
This particular approach from the team at Glenelg Shire Council in Victoria stood out from the rest because it explains the requirements behind a council plan and need for engagement in very simple terms. Read on to learn what we like about it.
Client: Glenelg Shire Council, Victoria, Australia
Project: Glenelg Shire Council Plan 2017-21
Publish Date: 11 February 2017
Topic: The Shire is encouraging the community to understand the background and importance of the Council Plan and to share their ideas on the future of Glenelg.
Tools: Survey, Forum
Widgets: SignUp Banner, FAQ, Document Library, Lifecycle, Who's Listening, 2x Facebook
- Keeping it simple: Council plans and strategic consultations are usually dry in nature and it can be challenging to engage the community. The team at Glenelg have taken an interesting approach and tried to simplify the topic as much as possible. This means asking basic questions such as "What does council do?" or "What is the Council Plan?". While this may be trivial to some, chances are that participants in this project ask themselves that very question.
Breaking the topic down to this level is great in many ways. For starters, it shows participants that it is okay to ask simple questions. Secondly, it provides basic knowledge for all participants to be able to comment in a meaningful way.
- Survey structure: The survey starts off simple enough but gains a bit of complexity as it progresses. While overall complex and long surveys can be a deterrent to participants, this survey uses conditional questions cleverly to keep the core survey short, while at the same time providing participants with the chance to add more detail as they advance. This way it caters for participants who quickly want to have their say and for those who want to elaborate more.
If you make your way to the fourth page of the survey you will find a little nugget of clever engagement practice. After participants had their say on the council plan they are invited, but not forced, to answer a few questions about a similar engagement topic.
Council is also in the process of creating a Glenelg Shire Health and Wellbeing Plan. This plan will focus on encouraging, improving and protecting the health of people who live, learn, work and play in the Glenelg Shire, at every stage of life.
Would you like to answer some extra questions that are specifically about health and wellbeing?
It is a smart way to raise awareness of another consultation topic and to collect some feedback on the spot.
- Commitment to closing the loop: Throughout the project page you can see the team is committed to 'closing the loop', that means reporting back to the community on the progress and ultimately the outcome of the consultation. There is a note of when results can be expected at the end of the survey and the Lifecycle widget clearly outlines each stage of the consultation process in detail. This level of transparency and commitment to include the community in the decision making process is key part of good engagement practice.
- Leading question: The project features a leading question in its banner. "In the next four years I wish council would...". What a way to introduce the overall topic and put the audience in the right mindset. This is about them and their ideas for the council.
For further consideration:
More links: The overall project set up is straightforward with good formatting in the project description. However, we are missing links to the key document(s). This is noticeable in both the description as well as the FAQs where the text refers to the document 'on the right side of the page'. It would be better to link to the document directly, there should not be any need to tell people where they can find links or content if you direct them with links.
- Missing call to action: The project title is missing a call to action, such as 'Get Involved in' or 'Have your say on'. We like to think that project titles with call to actions attract more attention, especially on the homepage where projects are competing with each other.
OVERALL: The commitment of the team to promote transparency, closing the loop and keeping content and engagement simple is outstanding. It makes the consultation on the council plan, which often can be dry and hard to engage with, more accessible. As long as enough traffic is driven to the page, this project should see some good engagement. Well done Glenelg Shire Council
NOTE: The article above is based on a visit to the site on 13 February 2016. Changes made to the project after that date may have altered the appearance of the project.