Manx views: refreshing public involvement on the Isle of Man
We recently got to chat with the Isle of Man Government about how they changed the way they communicated with citizens using Dialogue. Here’s what they told us -
The Isle of Man Government is continuing to modernise the way it interacts with citizens, as part of a commitment to openness and transparency.
Embracing digital media, enhancing web-based services and inviting public feedback via a new consultation hub are encouraging more people to have their say on important issues and to conduct their business with Government online.
Many of the Island’s residents are active online, with an estimated 60% signed up to Facebook. A lot of discussion of political issues takes place on digital media channels and online forums and Government was keen to provide an official platform for people to air their views.
The Isle of Man Government first used Dialogue to help generate broad public engagement in its Securing Added Value and Efficiencies (SAVE) project. It was considered a good way to connect with the public in a space that could be monitored and regulated and where ideas could be formally recognized, reported and acted upon.
People were invited to submit ideas to help Government achieve multi-million pound budget savings and deliver public services more effectively.
The response was overwhelming. By the end of the first week the Dialogue site had 414 registered users who submitted 401 ideas and 770 comments. One individual contributed no fewer than 80 ideas during the course of the challenge — a level of engagement the SAVE team had not expected.
People also used the Dialogue site to communicate with one another and to collaborate on their ideas. Submissions could be refined and improved by combining suggestions.
The SAVE team opted to moderate posts, but found that the site was largely self-policing and the conversation was mostly constructive.
A weekend working rota enabled responses to be checked outside of normal office hours. This proved particularly helpful as people were very engaged on Sunday evenings — possibly on account of being on their ‘downtime’, when they had an opportunity to really think about their ideas.
People could also feedback to the SAVE initiative on postcards and cut-out coupons from the local newspaper. Postcards were available at public locations around the Island and members of the SAVE team were on hand to encourage participation and answer specific questions.
Postcard and coupon responses were input to the Dialogue site, so that they could be viewed and commented upon by the majority of people who were contributing online.
The manual responses were not as detailed as those submitted online, suggesting that people found it easier to share ideas on the Dialogue site and were perhaps deliberating over matters more when they could provide their ideas in a considered way.
Users may have also been more engaged using the Dialogue tool where ideas and comments are shared, unlike conventional methods where suggestions are submitted in isolation.
By the deadline, there were more than 1,300 responses and over 2,300 comments — a fantastic result in terms of public engagement.
The Isle of Man team updated the site to confirm the exercise had closed and to inform people about the next steps in terms of assessing the ideas and selecting a number for further consideration.
Several suggestions submitted the SAVE challenge via the Dialogue site are currently being developed in partnership with the relevant Government Departments.
The Isle of Man Government is using Dialogue again to generate public feedback and ideas to improve road safety.
It has also been inspired by HM Courts and Tribunals’ use of Dialogue to generate internal staff suggestions and may consider a similar challenge to improve staff engagement in the future.
Overall, the Isle of Man Government’s experience of Dialogue has been an extremely positive one.