4 thoughts on “Public engagement: crap apps, Lego, conversation and politicians

  1. Budget simulators have their place amongst the tools we use but my best experience of them came from using it to support facilitated group work. Small groups were tasked with balancing the budget using the simulator. The simulator included potential consequences for their decisions, like services failing and legal action. Someone moving lego bricks around doesn’t get this information and as a result most results look similar – take money out of staff/councillor salaries/pensions and shut services no one knows about.
    In terms of using politicians the main stumbling block is that they are not in a neutral or objective position. They are going to be tasked with either defending or attacking the administration, and either defending or attacking government decisions. That means any conversations with the public will be seen through those prisms; ‘it’s all the governments fault’ or ‘it’s all the council leader’s fault’. That will not only skew the data that comes back but will also turn the conversation from the choices we are actually faced with to ones that aren’t even anything to do with the council. Lots of councillors are also community activists so have the skills to engage publicly but not all do, so even coverage is also a challenge.
    The key is not to think there is a single golden bullet that can reach everyone; you have to understand what mechanisms already exist in the area, tap into them and then make adjustments to reach communities where there are gaps. It isn’t easy and sometimes it isn’t cheap but the consequences of getting it wrong can be so severe that investing is not just doing the right thing, it is sensible risk management.

  2. Great piece Helen, something that someone had to say. Something I’ve been banging on about for a while. Also after this the need and ability to continue these relationships/conversations beyond the ‘consultation’ is desperately needed to build understanding and trust.

  3. Nailed it! First time I’ve seen your blog, Hel, but this resonates a ton. Building increasingly complex widgets will not bring understanding of the people we serve. It takes real connection.

    Technology and initiatives like the one you mentioned can certainly help us reach people, and create opportunities to bring more people into the conversation. But that takes ongoing effort or the infrastructure to organize those contacts and re-engage them, something we don’t see very often.

    Look forward to reading more, thanks for providing leadership on this topic!

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