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  1. What processes are involved in e-consultation?
  2. How does technology make a difference?
  3. In practical terms, how does the use of e-technology change how we engage in public consultation?
  4. Strategy development

E-consultation processes

What processes are involved in e-consultation?

Public consultation takes many forms, and whilst a variety of techniques are presented here, this can by no means be considered an exhaustive list. Not only are new methods emerging constantly, but as existing methods are adapted to fit the objective at hand, they become further differentiated from the generic form. Types of consultation processes:

Capabilities of Technologies

How does technology make a difference? and in practical terms, how does the use of e-technology change how we engage in public consultation?

Most obviously, ICTs have capacity for the production and dissemination of information in various formats and the means for communication between citizen and state. In addition, perhaps less obviously, the tradition of ICT use in business has provided a legacy of operational functions that lend themselves to the overall consultation process. These include information management systems and systems to support collaborative work (Groupware, group decision support systems and individual Computer Mediated Communications Systems).

Strategy Development

The need for a corporate framework to which all services can refer, which would give help to managers and ensure that appropriate standards of consultation are met. It is not intended that the framework will be prescriptive, but it is expected that it will nevertheless establish a bespoke way of doing things.

  • Explaining the role and various uses of good, well-managed consultation to staff.

This will involve both one to one guidance when specific work is being contemplated, but also general training sessions for key staff.

  • Illustrate the use and application of different methods of consultation and when to use them.

Many different types of consultation exist - the Audit Commission publication ‘Listen Up - Effective Community Consultation’, for example, lists in excess of one hundred different techniques. To avoid ‘overkill’ however, initially this guidance document, at Appendix 1, has focused on 10 methods, which it is felt are capable of providing a sufficient mix of both qualitative and quantitative feedback. Many of our services are currently using some of these techniques, so knowledge of the advantages/disadvantages and cost etc should not be too difficult to establish

  • Identify appropriate methods of feeding back the outcome to consultees.
  • Evaluation of the outcome of each consultation exercise against set objectives.

You need to be honest in the assessment of the true value which was obtained from the activity, and share this information outside the immediate service area concerned. This feedback process will ensure that we can learn from mistakes and also share good practice.

  • Co-ordination of consultation activity to avoid duplication both between services and with our wider partner organisations.

Getting this right will produce real savings in both staff time and the cost of consultation work. More importantly, it will reduce the danger of ‘consultation overload’ from those who are being asked to participate.

  • Ensuring that sufficient consideration is given to the needs of the so called ‘hard to reach groups’ in the planning and undertaking of such work.
  • Developing knowledge, skills and resources for consultation i.e. a ‘capacity’ to do it well (which considers the financial, training and development ‘angles’!).