Coventry City Council has recently unveiled its City Centre’s Masterplan to the local people of Coventry. This billion pound project achieved its Final Masterplan following a massive consultation exercise with local people. The council used various ways to ensure local people were involved in the project by raising awareness through the normal media channels;
1) Local press and media,
2) Online coverage (a consultation questionnaire was available on the Coventry City Council website, with links to the BBC website. There were also targeted e-mail invitations to key groups to engage in consultation),
3) Local publications (Coventry City Council and partner publications were used to raise the profile of the masterplanning process. Consultation questions with a freepost reply slip were available through Citivision, a magazine sent to every household in the city)
4) Presentations (presentations were given to more than 1000 people at meetings and groups across the city.)
The Facebook effect…
Though what interests me here is the use of Facebook as another tool for consultation. To tell you the truth, even I had not thought of this possibility. What a great idea! Mind you, Facebook in this case was used as another outlet to complement the reach out to customers for consultation and not as a single channel of engagement.
Its not just Facebook…
This is an important point to make so local councils understand that online engagement does not replace offline engagement. They are like ‘two peas in a pod’. One does not exist without the other. The conversation does not only exist offline in town halls, public meetings or shopping malls, the conversation is very much alive online as well. And it is because of this reason; online engagement channels such as social media should be fed into internal training and offered as an additional option for local councils to deliver their services in every area. It not only offers a wider range in audience but it could also be really cost effective and fitting for the times we are living in now.
Its about staff who are passionate, creative and are not afraid to innovate...
So Alison Hook (E-Communications Editor) at Coventry City Council certainly had the right idea when she decided to launch a Facebook Group as another form of consultation for the council. The group created to get feedback from local people has 396 members and 48 wall posts with many constructive and positive feedbacks submitted by its members. Here is the link the Facebook Group . See below are just some examples of the wall posts written. This first comment was written on 29th September 2008 and the latest comment is as recent as 28th February 2009.
Comments on the Wall
This is one by Alison responding to the questions on the wall which I feel is a core element for this type of channel of engagement to work.
I’m a fan of what the council has done!
Following the success of gaining feedback from the public via Facebook, Alison setup Facebook Fan Page (to see difference between Facebook Group and Fan Page, see here) to unveil the Coventry City Centres Final Masterplan. (Click here to see the fan page) It was essentially a press release (facebook version) that the public can actually respond to (doesn’t happen very often does it?)
I’m proud to live in Coventry….
Alison notified me that only after 2 days of setting up this fan page, it already had 64 fans! This fan page was only setup after the unveiling of the final masterplan on Friday (27th February 2009), last week. Now it has 78 fans with 12 wall posts and a flickr display of the final masterplan. What grabbed my attention was some of the heartwarming messages they left on the wall in response to the consultation.
Was it good for you…?
So I consider this a successful and effective use of social media (facebook in specific) in a local council. Getting feedback is one thing but acknowledging what happened next is also just as important. For instance in the press release displayed on the fan page acknowledged two important pieces of information, what feedback was being fed back into the plans and what wasn’t. See below.
The feedback applied…
Local people also had good ideas for other parts of the masterplan which has been changed to reflect what people had to say, including:
* Breaking the roof top green spaces in to smaller parcels – making them feel more like small parks and gardens. This means they will feel safer and more accessible
* Making the Coventry Arena more compact – so it has a better balance of public space and commercial space. The designers have brought the main event space back down to the precinct level and it now feels more intimate – but still with enough room for performances, street theatre and events
* Making the residential apartments lower in height and spreading them more evenly across the city centre. This means that we will be able to better protect the impressive views of the city’s three historic spires, it moves away from high rise towers that were shown before and integrates the residential accommodation far better within the city centre
* Breaking some of the bigger chunks of development down into smaller parcels so they can be built in a more organic and phased way. This means that over time it will be easier for them to adapt to changes in demand for city centres and will help us to avoid being where we are now with everything needing to be done at the same time
The overall amount of office space has been reduced – this is so there is no clash with the development planned at Friargate
Things that remained unchanged…
Key elements that remain unchanged from the first draft include:
* The Sherbourne River Walk
* The city wall gateway at Bull Yard
* Lower Precinct
* The buildings at the top of the upper precinct that wrap around on to Broadgate and were part of Donald Gibson’s original plan
* The redevelopment of Cathedral Lanes and the improved Broadgate
Also, not to forget… Coventry also used Flickr in this project. You can see the pictures here.
Thats all for now folks!
So, that concludes LGEO Research digging on online engagement for today. Stay tuned to more news and features of online engagement soon.
To Be Continued….
Hope this was useful! ?