On May 17th, we presented EngagingApps on a Tech Tuesday session with the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation. Tech Tuesday is a monthly webinar series that helps dialogue and deliberation practitioners learn about online engagement technology and how it can be applied to enhance community conversations. We were excited to share our tools and talk specifically about digital participation during later stages of public process, when the discussions become more focused and unique to individual communities.
There are a variety of web tools that are are great for early-stage, open-ended visioning processes, including our own EngagingPlans. These tools are great for sharing basic information and asking for ideas and comments, and even for prioritization via surveys and polls. But authentic public engagement requires continued opportunities for participation as conversations become more complex and involve trade-offs that impact the entire community. For these conversations, there are significantly fewer options for tools that can facilitate meaningful engagement and generate the insights teams need to effectively plan for the future. EngagingApps is designed to address this gap, and we highlighted a few examples of how these tools can be used for later stage participation.
Crowchild Trail Corridor Study - Calgary, Alberta: This project received nearly 500 improvement suggestions from the community last fall and needed a way to present the consolidated feedback on a map and ask people to evaluate alignment between various improvements and project goals.
General Plan - Elk Grove, California: This project needed a way to confirm the areas of stability and transformation identified by the community, ask for feedback on potential development alternatives, and offer a way to submit a new area for consideration.
Funding Allocation - Georgia DOT: This project needed a tool to communicate transportation trends and alternative scenarios as they related to financial resources, enabling users to submit a preferred budget based on interactive performance indicators.
Nonprofit Strategic Plan - JISC, United Kingdom: This organization serves universities throughout the UK and had a draft strategic plan that was ready for stakeholder comment and they needed a tool that allowed for collaborative PDF annotation and commenting at a granular level.
Economic Development Strategy - Altoona, Pennsylvania: This team needed a way to present their regional strategy online in a way that made it accessible, active, and available for feedback from the community.
After presenting these examples to the group, we had some great conversation about the capacity of our tools and digital engagement platforms in general to deliver various insights. Ultimately, every tool has its pros and cons, and practitioners should give intentional consideration to their desired outcomes and then evaluate a tool’s ability to provide the information that will help get them there.