The Western Bay of Plenty District Council is located on the picturesque North Island of New Zealand. The council's most recent online consultation speaks to coastal erosion and its effect on marine and community life in the area. We love how the council engagement team is getting the community involved at an early stage of the development of a 30-year policy. The project itself is also well designed, so let's take a look at what works.
Client: Western Bay of Plenty District Council, New Zealand
Project: Living With The Changing Tides
Publish Date: 08 November 2015
Topic: Coastal erosion is threatening the Western Bay of Plenty district and requires a long-term governmental plan for its management. The council is looking at developing a 30-year policy on the issue and want the community involved in formulating future solutions.
Tools: Forum, Q&A, Quick Pool, Newsfeed and Guestbook
Widgets: Photo Gallery, FAQ, 2x Document Library, 2x Quick Poll and Custom Widgets
- Excellent consultation practice: Getting the community involved early in a consultation process is fantastic engagement best practice. Instead of being asked to comment on a developed policy, participants get the chance to influence and shape that policy. This builds trust between the government and the community and gives engaged participants a sense of ownership over the consultation process.
- Range of content: The consultation provides a huge range of research and information about coastal erosion and outlines why it is a threat to coastal lands and communities. Content is provided in a number of forms, as downloadable documents, via a comprehensive FAQ section as well as through the Newsfeed (see point 3).
However, some of the content provided is too large (10MB and above), which can be cumbersome to download. We recommend providing this kind of content in the smallest size feasible for easy download and to not take up too much bandwidth.
- Use of the Newsfeed: The Newsfeed is being used to collate relevant articles from other websites making it a hub for regional news about coastal erosion. A great idea, which gives site visitors a reason to regularly return to check on the latest developments.
- Site look and feel: This project page looks and feels just right. The images match the tab colour, the background is subtle and there is a beautiful project banner.
- Promotion: We say this a lot - the best-designed projects don't necessarily receive the most engagement if they are not well promoted. Administrators need to be very active in promoting their consultations by any means available using corporate websites, social media, newsletter mailouts and traditional media such as local newspapers.
The Western Bay of Plenty engagement team did a fantastic job of project promotion resulting in the second highest amount of page views upon launch for an EHQ site ever! The forum already contains a number of comments close to its launch date.
For further consideration:
Guestbook: Whilst most of the engagement tools currently being used on the site make sense, the Guestbook could have been left out. When using a Forum, the Guestbook becomes redundant as it is a stripped down version of a Forum and distracts the user unnecessarily.
- Project Image: The large measurement gage image is too large and doesn't match the area of the project description text. A smaller image or no image can work just as well and brings the tools further up the project page.
OVERALL: Involving the community early in a project lifecycle is fantastic community engagement best practice. Doing so via a great-looking EngagementHQ project page is even better. This project has ticked both boxes and earned the title of this week's staff pick. Well done Western Bay of Plenty!
NOTE: The above is based on a visit to the site on 16 November 2015. Changes made to the project after that date may have altered the appearance of the project.