Neil has blogged some thoughts and slides on digital engagement that he worked on with Simon Dickson and me, on the fringes of the Alphagov project. (Literally the fringes, we were sat round a forlorn a set of pedestal drawers, brainstorming in the corner of a room at Alphagov towers):
As Neil says, it’s a big nut to crack, and will take a lot of people, and a lot of will, to turn ‘nonsultation’ into something more meaningful. People like me talk a lot about channels and tools, but fundamentally public sector organisations need to think about opening up policymaking in ways which:
- treat people with respect: if you spend time contributing constructively, that should be worth a proper acknowledgement, at least
- treat different people differently: there’s not a ‘general public’ who have views on policy: there are service users, their relatives, people who work in public services, people who lobby about them, people who have oddly expert experience or niche specialisms. Consultation should be layered, asking people to give feedback on different aspects of the same thing, based on how much they know and care
- combine customer and citizen roles: boost participation and improve public services by asking people for ideas when it’s relevant, connecting a public service experience with feedback on the policy behind it
I don’t think these slides are 100% of the solution, quite, and the examples make me a squirm a bit, looking back. But if the team manages to kick off some more first-principles thinking on consultation, like Alphagov is doing about user experience of government content online, then that’s a good start.