CoMConnect: Digital engagement

I spent last weekend at CoMConnect, a City of Melbourne initiative, which gathered approximately 150 of Melbourne’s biggest digital and creative movers, shakers and thinkers – a tremendous event. Read my initial thoughts about CoMConnect here. In this post I’ll be taking the various discussions I was part of to discuss digital engagement for addressing the city’s challenges and to participate in the decision making processes.

There are many different means of engaging with people and to involve them with the city’s challenges and decision making processes. However with the rapid rise of mobile and social technologies it is easier than ever for people to stay connected with each other.

These technologies present organisations like the City of Melbourne awesome opportunities to reach out to residents and ratepayers and include them in conversations about the city’s challenges. There are plenty of opportunities to see what residents and ratepayers think of developments, public transport, sanitation, waste, parks and gardens; among the many issues municipalities deal with.

It enables the city to have conversations about priorities or areas of most need, with the communities most affected by decisions made by the City of Melbourne.

Through my own experiences of working on community and union campaigns, it seems most people feel they lack the information to make informed choices about what’s happening. In many cases, giving simple and direct information is well received and often helps people develop a more reasoned opinion about the issues at hand; rather than a knee-jerk reaction.

However I have to stress that I don’t think there is a one-size-fits-all approach. This was made clear from listening to what others were saying about engaging with people. It was also clear that, like real-life consultation, it requires people to self-identify and prepared to participate. There was also discussion about how to work through the development of consultation models and how different issues may require different kinds of models.

There are multiple digital responses the City of Melbourne should consider deploying when attempting to engage with their online communities. Whichever responses are consider it is important to keep in mind the need for people to self-identify to participate, as well as specifically reaching out to targeted individuals and/or online communities.

While I won’t and necessarily can’t get into specifics, there are some things I think can be deployed by the City of Melbourne to establish and sustain online engagement with the City’s residents, ratepayers and visitors. The things I think the City of Melbourne can deploy include:

  • Modified management information systems to use as digital focus groups
  • A City of Melbourne online forum
  • Digital listening posts to develop a picture of where and what people are saying about the City of Melbourne and its services
  • Use on-demand chat, like the service used by Telstra, for the City of Melbourne website to allow people to chat with CoM representatives to assist with all kinds of queries, including how to make submissions or how to get in touch with their ward’s Councillor.
  • Real life digital listening posts where the City sets up booths with internet connected laptops to encourage people to leave their thoughts about different issues.
  • The City of Melbourne could work with local traders and Foursquare to develop push notifications about different consultation opportunities as people walk past different parts of the city.

These are only a handful of things I could think of after listening to the various ideas and thoughts put forward by the people at CoMConnect.

It was definitely a worthwhile experience. I look forward to seeing the results of CoMConnect and the digital approaches the City of Melbourne develops.

  1. Hi Sean

    Thanks for leaving your comment.

    I don’t think opportunities will be missed to engage residents and communities around Melbourne face to face. Indeed I think that face to face consultation is still an absolute necessity for the City of Melbourne’s engagement with residents, ratepayers and visitors regardless of whatever strategy they use for digital engagement.

    I also think you’re right about finding points that can be augemented by a digital city though I disagree that the rest will slot into place.

    Thanks again.

  2. Yes engaging digitally is vital, but will the opportunity be missed to engage the residents and communities around Melbourne face to face. Following people lives and finding points that can be augmented by a digital city is the challenge here… The rest will slot in place

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