Better together – engagement and service

Better together – engagement and service

This presentation was given to the NSW Government’s Customer Experience Community of Professionals session about engagement. The NSW Department of Finance, Services and Innovation asked me to facilitate and speak at the event. I also provided design advice to encourage interaction during the event so that participants could learn from and engage with each other. I was one of ten speakers – the others included representatives from NSW government organisations and some of the stakeholders they worked with.

The title of the event was Better Together: The Benefits of Community Engagement in Policy Making and Service Design. I was asked to talk about some of the benefits of engagement, the connection between engagement and service and how professionals in both fields might work better together. I was also asked to share industry trends and examples. When they registered participants also told us they want to learn more about engagement methods and how governments can demonstrate that they are listening and manage expectations while engaging. I had 15minutes to present.

My slides are embedded as a video into this post and below is a description of how I spoke to each slide.

SLIDE 1 – engage2 title slide – Benefits of working together

I used this slide to share the following key messages:
1. Engagement is a useful tool for representative governments.
2. There are many types of engagement being used in service design and policy making and program delivery, and we are better at them when we work together.
3. There are lots of great examples of engagement being done by teams across NSW Governments and this community is a wonderful opportunity to learn from each other.

SLIDE 2 – Benefits and risks

You can’t talk about engagement by government without talking about democracy. Democracy is under threat. Trust in gov is low. Technology are being developed that can enable or erode representative democracy. There are even some very clever people and organisations testing engagement methods to redesign representative democracy.

If an engagement process is run well it is useful for representative governments because it can:

  • increase acceptance, satisfaction and trust. When people see governments running an open and transparent engagement processes they are more likely to accept decisions even if the outcome is not what they wanted. This can help to increase satisfaction and trust in government generally.
  • help people understand that their view is just one of many that need to be reconciled. When governments demonstrate that they are listening to viewpoints from a range of different people, it helps participate understand the complexity of issues, the justification behind decisions and that governments need to balance interests.
  • help government understand how proposed changes will be received and the impacts that they might have. This information can be used by policy, service and program teams to that mitigate and proactively manage issues and risks. Taking into account details can make a big difference to the impact of change on individuals, families, businesses an communities while still delivering the intended outcomes for others.
  • give government a ‘license to operate’ and provide a social rationalisation for your project, event when the impacts are significant.
  • improve the experience your stakeholders, community members and staff have when engaging government.
SLIDE 3 – Engagement and design – better together

I shared my definition of engagement – as an activity that generates information and relationships. It is different to public relations, marketing and communications generally because it is at least two way. Meaning there is an interaction and an exchange of information. Some see it engagement as a responsibility of a representative democracy, others see it as a right. Whatever the case engagement always comes with expectations – that information shared will be listened to and contact will continue in some way.

Then I spoke about the IAP2 spectrum. IAP2 is the International Association for Public Participation created the spectrum to help people designing engagement determine their purpose and promise to the public. Someone had asked if the spectrum was still the industry standard when they registered and I said that it is. It is still the best way I have found to make sure your team is on the same page before engaging.

I also spoke very briefly about design thinking and how it is being used when engaging with users, customers, stakeholders and community.
I mentioned IDEO as an excellent source of information for those wanting to understand designing thinking and how it can be used to improve services and experiences.

I expressed my excited about how these practices – design and engagement – were coming together and what we could learn from each other. I shared how I like to use personas when designing an engaging experience as an example. Personas are commonly used by web managers and online service providers who then map user journey’s to personas to optimise online and service delivery experiences and I have also found them very useful when designing engagement events and processes. I suggested these teams might work together if they wanted to consider the citizen / customer / user journey when engaging with government.

I also raised a concern I have about the way expectation, information and relationships are being managed during engagements especially when consultants are used and staff from government agencies move around so much. I highlighted the opportunity for the engagement and design practices to learn from each other, the importance of managing information about and from stakeholders (as business / organisational intelligence), and the experience engagement professionals have managing stakeholder expectations.

SLIDE 4 – Engagement and service – better together

I used this slide to speak to the range of different types of engagement and connections to service.

I spoke about the number of people in NSW Government alone working on infrastructure projects and the way good community relations can help governments deliver projects, reduce the impacts and manage risks. Then I spoke about citizen science, community and industry development as a way to highlight the diversity of reasons the NSW government are engaging the community and their stakeholders and how we might learn from each others practices.

I highlighted the following ways community engagement and customer service teams might work together as an example:

  • briefing call centres and customer service centres before launching consultations about local issue.
  • asking for customer service centres for the local knowledge – stakeholders, networks, where people go for information in their communities.
  • working with customer service centres to inform locals about engagement and how they can provide input and feedback.
  • asking them for advice and support about case management when managing local impacts, and for their advice about relationship management software generally.
SLIDE 5 – Engage to develop community

I spoke about the ways governments were engaging to activate, facilitate and coordinate community, economic and industry development. How working with industry could deliver better outcomes and reduce the impact of regulation and how many people who participate in government engagement processes want to help to drive outcomes in their community not just participate in government decision making. I spoke to the social capital available in communities and how some governments engaged key groups to help co-deliver services in local communities. I mentioned the collaborate for impact methodology as a good method to do this, especially when working with multiple service providers and the role of economic and social development officers in local governments.

I also shared my concern that even the best engagement and design methods, like citizens juries and co-design, just generated recommendations and that this could increase expectations and pressure on governments rather than encourage shared responsibility to deliver outcomes.

SLIDE 6 – Engagement tech and service

I used this slide to speak to the role of technology in supporting the range of different engagement types. I spoke about how I had mapped the technologies available to engagement purposes as a way to make sense of the market and how useful the EngageTech Spectrum had been to help teams define their engagement technology (EngageTech) needs. I highlighted the trend among the industry to buy and use solutions without considering user experience internally and externally and the issues arising when they had to analyse the data being collected.

I also singled out some ways online engagement was being used by government’s in Paris, New York and the Czech Republic to demonstrate trade offs and invite participation in budgeting.

SLIDE 7 – Engagement as a service

I used this slide to highlight how some governments were looking at online engagement as a service. Designing the online customer experience and user journeys and working with teams across the whole of government to make engagement more accessible and user friendly.

SLIDE 8 – Listening, your UX and better process

I then spoke to the various sources of information that come in across multiple channels to government when engaging and how hard it can be to analyse submissions and input across these channels. Especially when it is qualitative. I shared how this challenge had driven me to look at technologies for engagement and how they might improve user experience of staff within government not just communities. I also shared some of the costs being incurred by those who had not considering this before running engagements across multiple channels.

I spoke about these sources of data, data about experiences and opinions gathered from the community, as a valuable source of information to use alongside behavioural data if governments want to realise the benefits of engagement.

SLIDE 9 – Better together – lessons

Finally, I shared some practical tips for bringing engagement and customer service practices together inside government organisations so teams might maximise the benefits of their efforts.

In closing

I finished my presentation by reminding participants that the customer service commissioner had told them to practice, learn and share and that this was the purpose of this Community of Professionals.

I told them the room that I was impressed by the engagement being done in NSW and that if practitioners in this community were to combine forces and work across disciplines that they would realise the benefits of engagement.

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