To help build a knowledge base for Public Square’s work, mySociety’s Head of Research Rebecca Rumbul has written a literature review examining current academic research around the question of how digital tools can assist the creation of a meaningful, participative and collaborative environment.
This review will help us to explore how digital tools are already addressing the barriers to citizen participation in decision making – helping us to think about how we use digital engagement as part of our work with our council partners.
The key conclusions are:
- Bureaucratic and institutional structures will exert pressure upon new digital platforms that may subvert or frustrate product development. Any digital tool needs to integrate into the existing structures while breaking down barriers between policy departments.
- Meaningful digital engagement necessarily goes beyond the transactional and should close the feedback loop. This requires not only citizen input, but a commitment that citizen input is not the end of the process.
- Social media platforms are the preferred method of contact for a large number of people. Any tool operating exclusively outside of this environment is likely to exclude those whose preference is to stay within their pre-existing media platform of choice. However, more effort need to be made to reach those who have less engagement with social media.
- Any platform needs to treat citizens as citizens, rather than consumers, and provide as far as possible, a rounded and holistic experience.
You can read the full review here.