Bayswater: The People’s Choice

About City of Bayswater

Just northeast of Perth’s central business district you’ll find the local government area City of Bayswater. The City is home to about 66,000 people and hugs the banks of the Swan River. As well as being a well-connected inner-city region of a thriving capital city, City of Bayswater is home to a very popular engagement site: Engage Bayswater.

What makes Engage Bayswater a standout?

Engage Bayswater is eye-catching, approachable, and packed with great examples of digital-first engagement. It has a strong community following, and perhaps an even stronger professional practitioner following.

City of Bayswater’s EngagementHQ site is a frequently referenced example by other local government clients, on a project-to-project basis, or during the initial site build process. EngagementHQ clients both within Western Australia or from further afield will often comment on aspects of Engage Bayswater they’d like to replicate, and internally here at Bang the Table, City of Bayswater projects frequently make for excellent examples to share when exploring what makes a great project.

Engagement Manager, Lauren Mitchell, spoke to the team at City of Bayswater to get a better understanding of the elements that make Engage Bayswater a popular destination for practitioners and stakeholders alike.

Smart branding

The Community Engagement team at Bayswater works closely with the wider marketing communications team at Council to ensure their site conforms to Council brand guidelines. The result is a visually appealing homepage, based on the image-driven classic Whitehaven template.

Project images are carefully designed and selected to best represent the topic of engagement and for higher-profile consultations like strategic community plans, the community engagement and marketing communication teams work together to develop project-specific branding to really make the project pop.

Part of the charm of the site’s branding is its conversational tone. Community Engagement Advisor at the City of Bayswater, Janelle Easthope, notes this has been a concerted push to ensure Engage Bayswater appeals to the community while being more approachable than perhaps ‘traditional’ local government communication is seen to be. ‘Shape Baysie’ is one such example, with the much-loved colloquial term for the City’s namesake setting the tone for the important strategic community plan review.

Flexible community engagement delivery

Embracing the universal theme of the year 2020—just keep pivoting—the team at Bayswater took the rapid shift away from face-to-face engagement in their stride by promoting a downloadable ‘Conversation Kit’. Designed to replicate the long-practiced tradition of neighbors sitting around the dinner table and talking through local issues, the kit sparked offline discussion around the strategic plan and replicated the process of online workshops taking place.

Promoting informed stakeholder engagement

Projects on Engage Bayswater are mapped to IAP2 Public Participation Spectrum based on the individual project requirements. However, one common theme on all projects is having well-rounded information available on project pages. This ensures the community has the opportunity for considered engagement, and in this regard, all projects meet, at a minimum, the Inform model of public participation: ‘To provide the public with balanced and objective information to assist them in understanding the problem, alternatives, opportunities and/or solutions’. (See the spectrum.)

As noted by Janelle, “We really try and ensure we have the right information, and the right level of information available for all our projects.”

One consistent theme across Engage Bayswater’s numerous projects is the high use of Widgets, sometimes referred to also as ‘learning tools’. Well used widgets ensure the community becomes well-versed in the topic at hand, and this is reflected in the site’s ‘Inform’ metrics which are consistently high.

Ensuring widgets are well used is beneficial to managing community expectations around the engagement process; providing an upfront understanding of how the engagement process will unfold and when the community will have a chance to have their say. The Life Cycle widget is particularly useful in this regard, and care is taken to ensure everything outlined and promised is accurate to continue to foster the goodwill that exists between the community and Council on matters of engagement.

Ongoing reflection

One of the most recently completed initiatives of reflection is an evaluation on the first 12 months of the Engage Bayswater Panel. The Community Panel at Bayswater is made up of about 500 passionate Bayswater locals who actively volunteered to play an extra special role in shaping their city’s future. As well as regularly participating in protected projects about specialist issues, the Panel is frequently entrusted with informing upcoming engagement projects.

Shonie McKibbin, the City’s Community Engagement Support Officer, undertook the recent evaluation and plans to use the findings to ensure the Panel continues to play a relevant role in informing engagement across the City, while also delivering growing participation rates in line with the increasing Panel numbers.

Bayswater community engagement project

Another initiative underway is a review and update of the City’s Community Engagement Framework. Both the Panel and the broader Bayswater community have been invited to submit their feedback in consideration of updating the Framework, which was last revised in 2016. For the first time, the project and accompanying survey have been presented bilingually, in English and Mandarin to encourage wide participation.

Where to next?

City of Bayswater has been long regarded as a stand-out site, and with another 12 months of engagement just around the corner, and some flagship consultations on the calendar, there is no doubt that this vibrant Council engagement site will continue to deliver.

With a shift to the new Appearance Editor homepage flagged for the coming months expect to see a fresh new homepage building on the existing elements that make the site so appealing, plus some key consultations taking center stage in 2021. With all this in the works, no doubt some more great examples will emerge to share with the vibrant Bang the Table engagement community at home in Australia and across the globe.

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