Improving Public Engagement with District Engage
The Victorian Government is leading the way when it comes to community engagement. To guide and strengthen meaningful community engagement practices, the Victorian Government has recently issued the Public Engagement Framework 2021-2025. This Framework outlines six principles that encourage public consultation practices to be meaningful, effective and transparent. These principles are promoting the importance of:
- clarity of purpose and scope
- transparency and accountability
- continuous improvement.
As a business analyst for District Engage, my role is to ensure that our community engagement platform meets and exceeds the criteria set by the government, including complying with frameworks such as the Victorian Government's Public Engagement Framework. I’m proud that the design of District Engage not only aligns with this framework, but facilitates the practice of these principles for our customers in the government sector.
District Engage’s unique features and capabilities help governments improve their public engagement practices and build stronger relationships with the communities they serve.
Let’s take a closer look at how District Engage helps governments follow the principles outlined in the Public Engagement Framework.
Clarity of purpose and scope
The government must clearly define what it is trying to achieve through public engagement and what issues it is seeking feedback on. This is to ensure that engagement processes are transparent and aligned with the government's goals.
In District Engage, every project has a unique webpage. Easily searchable for the public to find, and full of helpful information, this webpage provides a clear and easy-to-understand description of the project and the engagement process that accompanies it. Engagement managers can use a timeline tool for a clear and concise way to document each stage of the public engagement process, from initial consultation, to review, to feedback. Together, these tools help to clarify the purpose and scope of the engagement process.
Accessibility means that all members of the community, regardless of their cultural background or circumstances, should have the ability to engage in public consultation practices.
On the ground, this means that engagement managers should provide a range of engagement options, including online surveys, face-to-face consultations, and even telephone hotlines if required, to ensure that individuals can choose a method that works best for them.
District Engage provides a multitude of participation tools to enable broad community participation, including surveys, quick polls, online discussions and ideation walls. We also have a tool to promote events such as town hall meetings, online meetings and community bbqs. We understand that people will engage in different ways. Not everyone has the time to collect signatures for a petition, but everyone should be able to participate, no matter their cultural background or personal circumstances.
Inclusivity is about ensuring the views of all members of the community, including those who are traditionally underrepresented or marginalised, are represented. This means that engagement managers should actively seek out and include the views of as broad a cross-section of the community as possible.
District Engage supports this by providing engagement options that are tailored to different communities and demographics. More importantly, we also offer advanced reporting functionality to review what segments or sections of the community have participated, so engagement managers can actively seek out more inclusive representation if required.
Transparency and accountability
To build trust and increase public participation into the future, the government must be open and transparent about the community feedback it has received and how it will be used to inform the development of the project. This is why it’s important for engagement managers to provide regular updates to the public about the feedback they’ve received, and any outcomes that have been achieved as a result.
Tools such as regular updates via District Engage’s notification system help engagement managers connect directly with members of the public that have participated in the public consultation process, as well as inform the general public more broadly. In addition, the timeline offers an overview of the consultation period, so the public know when to expect the government to report back, and reporting dashboards on all reporting levels help improve future engagement.
Engagement managers should work collaboratively with the public, stakeholders, and other government agencies to achieve shared goals, and ensure that the public engagement process is a collective effort.
District Engage provides opportunities for collaboration across all levels. For government departments, our exhaustive teams and user permission capabilities allow internal users and administrators to collaborate, while ensuring security and proper authorisation. For external users, our range of participation tools such as discussions, questions, and ideas facilitate two-way communication and ideation enabling the public to contribute to the decision-making process of government departments.
This principle suggests that engagement managers should gather feedback and insights, allowing them to continually review and improve their engagement practices.
Our platform provides a number of tools to facilitate monitoring and evaluation on engagement projects, including feedback surveys and analytics dashboards. We also provide updates to ensure the public is kept up-to-date about how their feedback is being used to inform projects. Combined, these tools help ensure that the principle of continuous improvement is supported by engagement managers.
These six principles underpin the Victorian Government’s Public Engagement Framework, and will help to ensure that any public engagement process undertaken by the government is meaningful, effective and transparent.
Because our platform is designed to support the principles of the Public Engagement Framework, government departments can improve their community engagement practises simply by leveraging the features and capabilities of District Engage.