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Lesson #5: Give The Public A Clear Timeline For Consultation

I recently shared a presentation giving my top 10 lessons for online citizen engagement with a group of engagement professionals in Vancouver, Canada and thought there may be value in sharing them more widely. 

These are lessons learned in collaboration with over 300 clients and more than 4000 online engagement projects in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the USA, using the EngagementHQ platform to reach out to the community and engage them at different levels.

I’m going to publish these one lesson at a time to make them bite-sizedThis is the fifth post in the series. Read lesson 1, lesson 2, lesson 3 and lesson 4.

– Matthew Crozier, CEO

I might be accused of ‘stating the bleeding obvious’ here but it is surprising how often we see digital citizen engagement failing to orientate the community as to the timing and sequencing of a consultation process. In fact, we only added a timeline function to our EngagementHQ platform a year ago. It was an instantly popular upgrade and immediately clear from the feedback that the presence of a simple timeline feature as part of an online consultation project lowered the anxiety levels of some of the participants.

Showing people that the decisions you made are based on a thorough engagement process or that you are at the first stage of such a process does a lot to reduce community angst. Even if you are at a later stage of the process, providing a full project timeline illustrates clearly the history of engagement for your project.

This is also a great way to highlight opportunities to participate in face to face engagement activities.

I’ve chosen the site of the Alberta Energy regulator to illustrate this. This project, as well as including a timeline, makes it very clear to the reader what is happening and what to expect from the process.

It seeks to educate and also answers participant questions. All of which inform the user and make the process transparent and time relevant.

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