Once the purpose of your engagement has been defined, the Citizen Engagement Team will help you to determine the right tools for your engagement. There are a number of tools that can be used to engage the public:
Face-to-Face Engagement: One way to engage citizens is through face-to-face dialogue, which has many benefits:
- Citizens tend to feel more involved when they can hear directly from, and speak directly to, the people who are making the final decisions;
- Participants can see other people’s body language and gestures – important information that’s lost when using only written words;
- Participants don’t have outside distractions so they are often more attentive and engaged in the conversation; and
- Decisions can be made more quickly as participants must focus their efforts for a limited time.
Some useful documents to help plan a face-to-face meeting are Public Deliberation: The Manager’s Guide to Public Engagement, Reinventing Public Consultation and A Guide to Hosting Successful Face to Face meetings; as part of the Corporate Supply Arrangement, there are also experts in hosting public meetings available to assist when needed.
Engagement Platform (blog and online discussion forums): The B.C. government's engagement platform is used frequently as it provides an easy to use platform for two-way conversation between government and citizens. Some of the benefits of using blogs are that:
- They are relatively easy and cost effective to set up;
- They allow for open dialogue between citizens and government, as well as amongst citizens;
- The comments can easily be exported from the blog for analysis.
Online Poll Questions: There have also been instances where the public has been presented with background information, and then asked to answer questions related to the content, such as:
(Choose one) How concerned are you about distracted driving in B.C.?
- Not at all
- Very Concerned
Online Surveys or Feedback Forms: Sometimes it makes more sense to ask the public specific questions without their personal responses being public. A well designed survey or feedback form can provide government with good detail and also provide a strong mandate for action; on the other hand poorly designed surveys can provide misleading results and consequently be seen as insincere attempts at engagement. The Citizen Engagement Team has extensive experience developing well-designed surveys and has access to resources, tools, and expertise (such as B.C. Stats and external private polls) that can help you decide whether using this type of tool would be a valuable.
Twitter: Twitter allows you to ask questions of the public and initiate dialogue through short and concise messages called "tweets". Tweets are restricted to 140 characters or less and can easily be read, shared or forwarded thus expanding the reach of the original tweet. They are often used to broadcast messages, news or emergency notifications but can also be used to solicit feedback. One example of when the B.C. government used Twitter to collect ideas was during the B.C. Liquor Policy Review, when the hashtag #bcliquor was used to solicit ideas from citizens. During the course of the engagement there were 4,892 tweets and hundreds of ideas that were submitted using this hashtag. Those ideas were then collated and subsequently became part of the review process which included ideas received through stakeholder meetings, online and email. Ultimately the final recommendations report included tweets as part of the report back on what government heard.
Twitter Townhalls: Twitter Townhalls are a way to utilize Twitter that prompts immediate replies on specific questions. Online users are invited to a public online gathering that has a specific start and end time. Within that timeframe online users ask questions and receive direct responses, the idea is for interested parties to gather and share information. Questions are labelled with a unique-to-the-event hashtag allowing for them to be easily segregated from unrelated tweets. During the Liquor Policy Review Parliamentary Secretary John Yap hosted a Twitter Townhall to connect directly with the public.