Our interview with Joanne starts here:
Joanne, thanks for speaking with us. To get started, could you tell us a little bit about East Gippsland?
The East Gippsland Shire takes up a large swathe of rural and beachside territory including a number of townships and communities across South East Victoria, Australia, with a population of just over 40,000 residents.
Why is it important to consult the community about council plans?
I think it is really important to involve people early in the consultation process so they can have their say on the issues that matter to them. Also, by engaging early, you prevent misunderstandings and possible conflict later down the track.
Why engage with your community online via EngagementHQ?
EngagementHQ provides people with a central place for all of their online engagement activities. It is a very easy to use platform with so many tools available to project managers. Having so many options available helps people think outside the square for their engagement activities as it is all right there and easy for them to use.
Why did you choose EngagementHQ for your online engagement needs?
Many people in my workplace already knew about Bang the Table [the makers of EngagementHQ – ed] and you have a very good reputation. So the EngagementHQ platform was a standout option. It is a straightforward tool for engagement with no hidden agenda. You are not trying to sell any extras unlike some of the other platforms available. It was really easy to use and ticked all the boxes as far as we were concerned.
What are the benefits of EngagementHQ?
EngagementHQ is simple to operate and a very welcomed tool. The ease of use makes people want to use it. We love the capacity to share consultations via Facebook, which really allows you to broaden your audience. It makes it easy for project officers to go that extra mile in their engagement activities and is accessible to people with varying levels of technical knowledge.
How has the East Gippsland Shire Council used EngagementHQ for your engagement activities?
Due to the maturity of our organisation, we have been a little overly focused on surveys. I am trying to encourage the use of tools such as forums and the Q&A. I’d love people to be braver and experiment more! To think beyond surveys and implement tools such as brainstormer to get a different kind of engagement from the public. We need to encourage people to think differently about engagement.
What are some great examples of prior projects?
The APEX Park Upgrade that we ran a few years back was a fantastic project. The project officers at the time did a terrific job of keeping the site up-to-date with great content and promoted it really well on many different channels, which led to a lot of public engagement. The software really did a phenomenal job to support the consultation.
Another recent project was the Recreational Vehicles – Lakes Entrance consultation. The site had a lot of hits and people shared it a lot through Facebook, which was great and again led to high levels of engagement.
How was the information gathered used?
We use the platform analytics to measure engagement and provide output. I encourage project admins to really analyse project pages and the backend so they can see how the consultation has performed and then present that information to decision-makers.
How did you get internal buy-in to get people in your organisation to use the platform?
I created a clear and simple EngagementHQ user guide, which I am currently updating. The user guide really helps guide people’s practice and helps them understand how they can use the platform. It is also important to spend time in person, of up to 1-hour sometimes, teaching people how to use the platform. If people are not confident with their technical skills, you can help them build their page the first time they use the platform, and then they will be confident to do it themselves the next time around.
Once the platform is explained well to project officers, they are very willing to use EngagementHQ as it helps them do their job. It is very useful as it helps people in the organisation with their engagement activities. Once they get a hang of it, everyone loves it.