Public submission processes are common engagement method used to capture detailed written feedback from stakeholders.
These processes are often guided by legislative requirements or simply by internal policy from with an organisation.
Capturing submissions is often done via survey, email or even post and there is usually mandatory information about the participant, which must be captured in order for a submission to be valid.
This article looks at how to setup a versatile submission form using EHQ in order to run an online submission process for your next consultation.
When should you use a public submission process?
Submission processes are best used in public engagement in circumstances where you require complex written statements from individuals or representative groups.
The nature of submission processes means that individuals or representative groups have time to deliberate and coordinate their position towards your proposal and (hopefully) construct a cohesive written statement.
While we believe there are a myriad of different ways to conduct a cohesive community engagement program using a variety of tools and techniques, we acknowledge that submission processes are often held as the most comprehensive and valuable form of stakeholder engagement feedback and in many regulatory environments are required as the only valid means of engagement.
Submission processes are generally used as a device to accept feedback on policy proposals, industry regulation, development schemes or other activities where a deeper response is required.
What are the drawbacks of using submissions?
While submission process can assist with collecting deeper more detailed responses to your proposals, there are some draw backs to be aware of.
Firstly, making a submission often takes a lot of preparation time for the participant and in some circumstances can deter people who would otherwise have a say on your project.
Secondly, because of the detailed written nature of submissions you must be prepared to read and conduct thematic mapping for each of your submissions as part of your reporting process.
Thematic mapping is essential for you to unpack your responses to get an understanding of your communities views.
If you are time poor and ill-equipped to read and code your submissions manually, then using submissions might not be right for you.
Finally, the nature of submission processes can often mean that you are hearing from representative groups or organisations that you have previously consulted with and may already know there position.
In some circumstances, you risk finding out what you already know and simply create more work for yourself in the process.
What does a public submission form in EHQ look like?
As with most online submission forms, building out your submission form in EHQ will require you to use our survey tool.
Before you begin building an online submission form, it’s a good idea to map out your questions and fields on paper before you try and translate it to the online tool.
This will ensure that you have a clear guide as to what question types you will use, the wording of the questions, and hopefully cut down the time required to build out your submission form.
Below you can see an example submission form, which was created for the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinets Smart Cities Plan in 2016.
The submission form was built over three seperate pages using page elements in EHQ, with each page capturing a different set of information.
On page one of the submission form, single line question types were used to capture the contact information of the person and organisation making the submission.
This page also included an email address question type in order to capture a correctly formatted email address for the respondent.
The only two mandatory fields on this form were given name and postcode and all other fields were optional.
Each organisation or legislative environment will have it’s own rules around which information is required to be captured for submission processes so it’s important you know what you requirements are.
Sometimes personal information is captured on the uploaded submission itself, although it’s better if you can capture it as mandatory on the submission form so you have a pre-formatted excel dataset which you can use to filter your responses.
Page two of this example was used solely for permissions and privacy declarations.
Including a page on your submission form which clearly identifies how personal information will be used and published is essential for good practice and in many cases legally required.
In this example you can see explicit options for people to request their information be redacted when submissions are published and also an option to restrict publishing altogether.
There is also a nice option asking people to opt in to being contacted about their submission.
Capturing this information is important from a privacy perspective but also from a data analysis perspective as these fields allow you to filter through different groups of contributors with much more ease.
One the third and final page of this example are options for making the submission by entering written feedback into the online form.
This question is asked by using a radio button question type with each response triggering a conditional question.
For example, if the participant selects to upload their document via Word, RTF or PDF format, a conditional file upload question will be shown allowing the participant to upload their submission (below).
If the participant selects to reply to the online submission form, a series of check box conditional questions are triggered asking the participant to select which areas of the plan they would like to comment on (below).
This subsequently triggers essay question boxes for each of the areas of comment the participant selects.
In many ways, providing access for written submissions entries to be made online can assist with thematic mapping and coding of your submissions.
This is because you can simply filter via the pre-defined fields or checkbox sections of people’s responses and quickly see the responses in your reporting.
Alternatively, when people upload written submissions, it becomes a manual process of unpacking and mapping responses to the relevant areas of feedback.
Therefore, providing two options can be useful not only for you, when it comes time to reporting, but can also make the process simpler for the participant taking part.
For more information on setting up a form using EHQ, check out our help section on surveys and forms.