The City is unveiling the Edmonton Insight Community (EIC) today, its latest public engagement tool. It provides the City with another way to hear from Edmontonians on an ongoing basis:
“It’s a place to collaborate and communicate with us and others in our community. We want to hear your opinions, learn about your needs, share information with you, and ask you to express what’s most important to you.”
You can sign up right now if you want to (any resident over the age of 15 can join). Or if you prefer, try a demo first.
Once you’re logged in, you’ll see available activities (surveys), a quick poll, newsletters, and survey findings. That last one is launching in July, and I think it’s the most important. “Survey findings will be made available by default,” Cory Segin, Manager of the Office of Public Engagement, told me. He knows that closing the loop is critical. The tool also shows you a listing of all the surveys you have completed, but at the moment I can’t review my responses. That would be a useful addition.
Importantly, the tool is responsive and should work just as well on your mobile device as it does on your desktop. This has always been an issue with the tools selected by the City for public engagement, so it’s great to see that it has been considered from the start for the EIC.
The EIC will allow the City to ask citizens for input without being tied to a specific project’s public consultation plan. That will hopefully mean less “tick the box” consultation, and will potentially lead to new insights. But the EIC is less about replacing other methods of consultation and more about adding another way to engage the public. Not every user will receive every survey – some will only show up for users that have indicated an interest in a specific topic, others may be segregated by demographics. The other major benefit to the City is that they can look at trends, something that is currently very difficult to do.
Here’s what Mayor Don Iveson had to say about the EIC:
The tool is powered by Vision Critical, a Vancouver-based firm that provides “a cloud-based customer intelligence platform that allows companies to build engaged, secure communities of customers they can use continuously, across the enterprise, for ongoing, real-time feedback and insight.” Other cities using their technology include Vancouver, Surrey, and Burlington. Other cities are creating similar communities using alternative tools. It definitely seems like the trend lately is to establish communities that the municipal government can tap into from time to time.
Like most initiatives, the EIC is a pilot project. An internal soft launch took place on June 16, and an external soft launch took place June 19 (which is when many of you reading this were probably invited to join). Now the City is hoping to attract up to 5,000 people to join and take part in the surveys, though estimates have varied quite a bit internally (some feel adoption will be slow, others feel the goal is realistic). I really hope the tool proves to be popular, because I think it’s a big step in the right direction.
One challenge will be getting departments within the City to adopt the tool. There is no requirement that the EIC be used by City staff, and a lot of internal communication will need to take place to ensure they understand the benefits of the tool.
There are many other public engagement related activities in the works at the City, so don’t think of the Edmonton Insight Community as the end. I’ve heard more talk about Open City, Open 311, “Mobile City Hall”, and other technology-based tools and approaches in the last six months than ever before. Public Engagement is of course a new City Council initiative, but it’s also one of Administration’s big three areas of focus for 2014. I’m looking forward to many more innovations and opportunities in the months ahead.
6 thoughts on “Get engaged with the new Edmonton Insight Community”
Interesting. I wonder how Cory and others are thinking about the representativeness of this self-selecting group. What will opinion trends within this group be taken to say about what communities in the city want, about the legitimacy of policy directions, etc.?
Any sense of this, Mack?
They certainly recognize the limitations, and don’t anticipate pointing to the community as being widely representative. It won’t replace the kinds of research done by firms like Bannister. My sense is that position will evolve though, based on adoption.
Thanks for the post on this new tool and new approach!
Regarding David’s good question on representativeness, the whole point of building such a large sample size for this community is to be able to get wider participation, and when combined with the robust demographic info we require each “panelist” to provide, we can work to ensure that the community reflects the Edmonton population demographics. We do this by targeting under-represented groups with specific recruitment efforts, and we can weight the results against the census data for our city’s population.
But representation is always an issue with any form of consultation, and self-selection is an issue at all types of consultation, such as the angry resident at a public meeting.
In addition, Stats Can just released data this week that says households here with traditional landlines have dropped to 56%. That makes phone polls more challenging. However, in Alberta the proportion of households with an active cell phone was the highest in Canada at 91%, making consultation that considers mobile devices a logical direction to add to consultation methodology.
The other hypothesis behind an ongoing community is that a self-selection may be the case for one topic, but the fact that this is an ongoing consultation on range of topics may mean someone joins for one reason and they contribute for a wide range of issues.
As with any method of consultation – and this will complement others – public input is only one of the factors for decision makers to consider, along with technical, financial, greater good… factors.
Finally – is self-selection always bad when we are talking about getting informed and sharing local knowledge to help shape the city? Sometimes that’s called leadership or civic responsibility.
Nevertheless, we are very sensitive to representativeness, perhaps more than other institutions such as our law courts that select 12 people to decide on serious issues. But, like the law courts, we also focus on the validity of panelists to delve into issues, learn and share their knowledge and INSIGHTS for the community benefit.
Look forward to more discussion on engagement and representativeness – just don’t try to phone me at dinner with a random phone poll! 🙂
Thanks for the great clarification Jas!
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