Online ideation activates community engagement

Ideation taps into community creativity to identify problems, locate solutions and build relationships to enrich conversations.

In their recent webinar, Nathan Connors and Johannes Kresling reveal how ideation can transform engagement. They illustrate how ideation can nurture valuable community relationships for ongoing and future projects, keep people invested in engagement, bring clarity to challenges, and be fun.    

What is ideation and why is it useful?

A vital component of design thinking methodology and co-design, ideation is a process for generating ideas and solutions that calls on the community to get involved in the conversation in ways beyond just submitting feedback and responding to surveys or discussion threads. Ideation is an opportunity to activate engagement, capture community insight and innovation, foster ownership, and bring transparency to the process.

Ideation is an essential part of co-design, or collaborative design processes that bring people together to create a shared vision and address complex problems. It is fundamental to design thinking – a solution-focused approach to tackling problems by understanding what is important to the people who have a stake in the matter. Design thinking involves the following five stages:

  1. Empathize – generate an understanding of the issues at hand
  2. Define – distill or identify the core problems  
  3. Ideate – come up with solutions, typically through brainstorming and other techniques
  4. Prototype – create model versions of the solutions generated
  5. Test – evaluate the prototype in action and respond to the results

Design thinking is iterative – it moves forwards and loops backwards as required until it can arrive at the desired results. It enables a sort of responsive movement between and across stages so that solutions can be created, investigated, and remodeled to ensure that the results are actually on the right track to tackling the issues at hand. Ideation sits at the centre of this process and looks both ways.  

How is ideation valuable to engagement?

For consultation, taking the design thinking route means initially applying a range of different tools and techniques towards empathising or understanding lived experiences and community knowledge to truly capture the issues at their core. This could include online storytelling, forum discussions, etc to help people illustrate how they feel about the issues at stake. This lends itself to defining the problems accurately, and then casting them out into the community to invite ideas. In an iterative process, the ideas produced can be assessed by the community to inform how solutions are selected, prototyped, and tested. This approach creates an ongoing feedback loop, so if the ideas do not hold up to testing, the process can be repeated and taken into new or right directions.

As part of an iterative process, ideation invites a range of different perspectives, backgrounds, knowledge, and skills to look at problems uniquely and feel heard within the consultation and with each other. In addition to giving people a greater sense of contribution and ownership, ideation can be fun and easy. This can be helpful in getting people in the door, taking them on a journey, and motivating them to stay interested in the outcomes. Online, ideation can take on new dimensions and bring further value to participants and to the consultation itself.

How does online ideation extend participation?

While brainstorming and similar techniques provide opportunities for offline community co-design, online ideation opens up additional ways to growing out engagement, even in hybrid approaches where technology captures ideas in face to face settings. The online space offers participation opportunities to a greater number and wider range of people in the community. It affords a media-rich way to create a dynamic conversation. Online ideation can support a greater volume and variety of ideas. In addition, it can be easily mapped and measured, thereby reducing the time required to iterate, frame further ideation, and close in on the right solutions.  

Crucially, online ideation brings greater transparency to the process with participants being able to look at their ideas in relation to each other and understand how their contributions have shaped the consultation. This sense of transparency underlines to participants how consulting organisations care about, engage with, and utilise their contributions. Transparency is vital to building trust and supporting engagement in the community. Beyond the lens of consultation, ideation can ignite and motivate important conversations.    

Tracing ideation conversations and insights from case studies in Australia and Canada, Connors and Kresling outline the contexts in which ideation can be beneficial, set out strategies for framing effective questions, and reveal how EHQ’s ideas tool can activate the community and find the answers.

Watch Using ideation in online engagement to learn more about how ideation can transform the conversation.

Photo by Rawpixel

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