The City of Unley wanted to develop an active participation framework – a structured, generic approach that the Council could use to engage the community on complex and polarising policy and city-wide issues.
The goal was to have an approach that:
- Improved how the Council engages on strategic policy or city-wide issues
- Positively engages the community in such a way that draws on their diverse knowledge and expertise.
- Is simple and easy to manage for Council officials.
- Is simple to use / follow for participants and is easily accessible for their community (including online)
DemocracyCo developed the active participation framework and then trialed the approach on the highly locally contentious issue of parking restrictions.
DemocracyCo worked with Council staff and Executives to develop a 5-stage process which enables the diversity of the Unley community providing Council with considered and informed advice – moving beyond ‘opinion’ to considered judgement.
The Framework process involves the community from the beginning and steps through the problems, opportunities, and possible solutions with them – side by side with Council. In this way the process helps Council to build a partnership with the community and draw on their diverse skills and knowledge in a respectful and collaborative way.
The Framework process enables both broad feed in from everyone interested and deep reflection and deliberation by a diverse representative sample of the Councils residents. It does this via a whole of Council survey and open online conversation, which feeds into a diverse and representative Panel (of less than 50 participants) The Panel produces draft recommendations which are then tested with the whole community online. The Panel then refines their recommendations based on feedback from the broader community before presenting to Council.
We trialled the approach for the development of the Councils parking strategy.
At democracyCo we design our processes to have impact. In this project we worked closely with the Council to design a framework which would help them deliver on their core objectives. For their generic framework and for the Parking Strategy project in particular the City Of Unley wanted to understand what their diverse community can agree on, build a social licence for reform and avoid community outrage in the policy development process.
The engagement process has been effective in positively bringing community voices into the development of the Parking Strategy and understanding how council should engage on parking issues in a way that works for the community into the future. The Council intends to launch the final strategy at the end of 2023.
“Very very impressed with how respectful everyone has been of all sorts of issues – a group of really different people have worked together to come up with a very big picture – not focussing on the small, minor squabbles. I did not expect it to be this enjoyable.” ~ Participant
“Thanks for looking after us. Kudos to council for this. It’s a bold move – probably doesn’t usually work in your favour to engage the community, so well done. Everyone satisfied.” ~ Participant