Generally, the role of the organisation is to provide a safe space for discussion and observe the community in action. The value of listening to the community is not to influence their ideas, but rather to listen to their views, concepts and positions on a specific topic. As such, it is important to make sure your involvement adds to this richness and follows these principles.
Similar to facilitated discussions at workshops or meetings, there are some key principles that need to be applied and changing roles that need to be adopted in the online environment.
Stage 1: Before you embark on the discussion
Share information about the topic in a format the community will understand. See a great example of clear information being shared with the community here: NSW environment and heritage.
Write engaging questions to ensure your community is inspired to answer the questions at hand. For a good guide writing online questions check out this article: How to ask engaging questions.
Stage 2: During the discussion
Correct facts and information in this instance it’s about identifying incorrect information and sharing further material from credible sources.
Drive deeper lines of enquiry as there are times when the community will need to elaborate further. It is good if the facilitator can probe a subject deeper by using open questions to flesh out specific lines of enquiry.
Stage 3: After the discussion
Theme and analyse. This is the business end of your consultation where you will need to identify key themes, sentiment and weighting through analysing both the quantitative and qualitative data provided.
Share findings. Report back to the community about the key findings. This can happen at key points of the conversation but definitely at the end. Check out Australia Post’s post-consultation summary here: Conversations Australia Post.
These are just some of the ways to ensure that you are getting the most out of your deliberative forums and the community is having their say through deep engagement.