Philip Higgins and Anna McDermott, Consultation and Research Officers at Bristol City Council, offer their insights into how Bristol City Council is engaging its citizens.
Social media has changed the research game forever. Before, surveys used to be private and anonymous. But now social media is enabling everyone to become broadcasters. “Our job has become about communications as well as research,” says Philip. “We want to make it easy for people to share the fact that they’ve just taken part in a consultation with their Twitter contacts and Facebook friends. This is proving an increasingly important way of drawing in the public.”
Traditionally, researchers have discouraged people from passing on surveys to other participants, as this was seen to skew the results. However, in the new world of ‘personal broadcasters’, the council is actively looking to use people’s social media contacts to publicise their involvement in open public consultations. A growing number of Bristol’s consultations have ‘share’ buttons to make this easy for people.
Read more about how Bristol City Council engage with their citizens
Paul Kent is a Customer Engagement Officer at Hillingdon Council in London. The council use Snap’s online surveys service, Snap WebHost, for residents surveys, and since they went online have doubled the response rate.
“Online surveys fit into many people’s lives much better that paper surveys,” says Paul. “For example, if you send out a postal survey, you will tend to receive more responses from people who spend more time at home, rather than the working population, which skews the data. People at work are able to open up an online survey and fill it in during their lunch break, whereas they would be highly unlikely to pack a paper survey into their lunch box and take it into work!”
Read the full interview with Paul
The theme of this year’s conference was “Doing More with Less: Maximising the Value and Impact of Research and Intelligence”.
Due to the current economic climate and council cuts, the emphasis was on making better use of existing data sources, adopting innovative (and cost-effective) consultation methods, and using research findings to target council resources more effectively. There appeared to be a move away from traditional research methodologies and robust sampling methods, towards more creative solutions. Continue reading
Scanning is the most cost effective and speedy way to gather data from large volumes of paper questionnaires. However, some organisations prefer manual data entry, or to outsource data entry entirely.
Kristian Barker, Consultation Co-ordinator at Pendle Borough Council is a recent convert to scanning. Continue reading