The official PlaceSpeak & SurveyGizmo partnership announcement can be found HERE.
The following post was originally written by Mary Leong, Communications Manager at PlaceSpeak.
Citizen engagement is an essential component of a well-functioning democracy. As part of the decision-making process, public and private sector organizations at all levels need to consult with residents within specific geographic boundaries. Consistent and authentic engagement with the public and key stakeholders is crucial for collecting reliable feedback, making better decisions, identifying potential concerns, and mitigating issues in the future.
For example, social license can mean the difference between a controversial project moving forward or being stalled indefinitely, bringing social and economic consequences for both the proponent and the community. Rather than consulting after the decisions have been made (“decide, announce, defend”), people are usually responsive and eager to participate if they are invited to be part of the process right from the start. By including the community along each step of the way, they are more likely to trust the process and take ownership of decisions and policies which they have helped to co-create.
Why Engage Online?
Traditional forms of citizen engagement such as town hall meetings or public hearings tend to draw “the usual suspects”. These events are often held at inconvenient times, and the participants are not necessarily representative of the community. Online methods of engagement are crucial for reaching underrepresented groups or those who are less likely to attend in-person events, such as youth, families with children, new immigrants, or people with disabilities. For example, although people may be too busy to attend an open house, they may have a few minutes after work or before bed to take a survey or leave a comment online. Hearing from a diverse range of perspectives helps to shape better policies or decisions which may impact on the entire community.
Online engagement also makes it easy customize the process for each project. Different audiences and different types of consultations require different approaches, tools and techniques. For example, PlaceSpeak provides a wide variety of feedback collection tools and features, including simple polls, surveys, discussion forums, participatory mapping, ideation, and more. These tools can be used independently or in combination for the collection of high-quality, defensible qualitative and quantitative data. Consider the demographics that you’re trying to reach and modify your approach if you’re not getting the expected levels of engagement or the right participants. By offering multiple ways to provide input, you are more likely to hear from a more diverse group of participants.
Finally, organizations who have built an engaged audience online can easily report back to participants at the end of the process. By “closing the loop” and demonstrating how participant feedback has had a tangible impact on the outcome, they are more likely to stay engaged and get involved again in the future.
Benefits of Incorporating a Survey
Surveys are one of the most ubiquitous methods of gathering feedback. As your organization starts to engage with the public online, here are some of the benefits of incorporating a survey as part of the online engagement process.
A survey is the most efficient way to gather aggregate, large-scale data about a population of interest. By incorporating more questions than a simple poll, a survey allows decision-makers to explore topics in greater depth and correlate data from different variables in order to draw conclusions. PlaceSpeak’s recent integration with SurveyGizmo allows organizations to limit participation to residents within specific geographic or jurisdictional boundaries (e.g. neighborhood, municipality, region). By connecting respondents to their physical location, PlaceSpeak ensures that feedback accurately reflects community perspectives, and is relevant and defensible for evidence-based decision-making.
Surveys are also intuitive and easy to complete, even for people who are not especially involved or engaged. While participants may not have time to dedicate to participating in discussion forums or other more in-depth methods of providing feedback, a survey is straightforward and can be completed in their own time.
At the end of the online engagement process, survey results can be easily compiled and analyzed. The feedback collected can be presented in the form of graphs, charts, infographics, and more. These visual elements can also be published and shared with participants to demonstrate additional transparency, and show how their feedback was taken into account during the public input process.
PlaceSpeak is a pioneering location-based citizen engagement platform that solves the problem of how to consult online with people within specific geographical boundaries. Developed with the support of the National Research Council of Canada (NRC-IRAP), PlaceSpeak has expanded across Canada, into the USA, UK and Australia. By connecting participants to their physical location, PlaceSpeak ensures that the feedback collected is relevant and defensible for informed decision-making. Its unique geo-verification technology has been featured in Forbes and Government Technology.