Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Citizen engagement in well-being statistics, an example of good practice

Do you have any examples of good practice in citizen engagement in well-being and progress statistics?

A decade on from its first publication of Measures of Australia’s Progress (MAP) and in response to the burgeoning domestic and international interest in measuring progress and wellbeing, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) considered it was timely to review whether MAP was still measuring those aspects of life that matter most to Australians. In 2011-2012, we undertook a broad-ranging consultation that asked Australians ‘What is important to you for national progress?’ The feedback the ABS received was in the form of aspirational statements. 

The ABS’s method for bringing the consultation feedback together has been iterative. That is, following each phase of the consultation process, the ABS has undertaken a careful and methodical thematic analysis of the feedback received; drawing out and grouping common themes, articulating the important elements of those ideas and refining the aspirations and views expressed by participants. The outcome has been a set of aspirations for national progress that has evolved throughout the consultation process that the ABS hopes resonate with Australians.

In consultation with our Expert Reference Group, we decided upon a multi-faceted consultation model with people drawn from the areas of society shown below. The government, community, business and academic sectors were all represented, as were particular groups through representatives of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. A balance of representation across the various sectors was sought as was a gender and age balance. The following diagram shows the MAP consultation groups and channels.

We consulted directly with around 1000 people and indirectly with many more through social media, utilizing participant networks. We also gathered information through one point of contact who then gathered input from a range of constituents. We used a multi-stream consultation, targeting a variety of audiences. This provided us with a wide representation of views within a limited budget.

The consultation was launched through a national statistical conference by the Australian Statistician where Australians were invited to participate through submissions, workshops and a variety of social media tools. This launch was accompanied by a feature article and media releases.

The whole of the consultation process, including the results, has been reported back to Australians in Measures of Australia’s Progress – Aspirations for our nation: a conversation with Australians about progress 2013 ABS 1370.0.00.002.

Another key contributor to the success of the MAP consultation was having a clear consultation model. This tool allowed us to visually represent key concepts to participants , such as Progress as an unambiguous movement of society in a positive direction toward an identified aspiration or goal. We also used it to clarify the stages of the consultation that the ABS and participants would contribute to (i.e. Participants provided the aspirations for progress whilst ABS will provide the measures). We used this model to convey and explain the purpose of the consultation - to establish what was important for progress - and that looking at available measures was a subsequent activity. In this way we ensured that the feedback would provide all of the important areas of progress, without reference to whether or not they are currently measurable.

Lessons learned from the MAP consultation were that it's important to engage and include the media in any campaign, both traditional and social. As ABS was launching into the 'new' social media space we learned to be guided by our staff who had skills in this area and listened to their advice about using more informal language and tone and allowing for humour. With such a quick response tool as social media we needed to be prepared and had 3 months worth of conversations starters, prominent Australian contributions, articles of interest etc. With this, we also found that we needed to be flexible enough to respond to conversation threads, rather than ploughing on with our pre-arranged blog schedule. The MAP 2.0 blog needed a dedicated staff member to ensure that the ABS and participants received the benefits that we wanted.

Championship of the consultation within the media, from our prominent Australians and by our ABS leaders also ensured that interest in the project was high and obstacles were removed early. Rather than talking to our traditional data users, we chose to engage in a much broader based consultation. This approach delivered us the broad ranging views that we needed in order to refresh MAP and gather new ideas about progress.

What role can technology play in improving citizen engagement with well-being and progress statistics?

We used multiple modes to contact our audiences, for example social media (which captured a younger cohort), online, paper, face to face, interactive, media. Many of these processes were able to be undertaken simultaneously which helped make the process efficient, in terms of time and cost.

The MAP consultation aimed to promote a conversation about progress. Even though blogs are one of the oldest social media tools, they have many advantages as an engagement tool, and the MAP 2.0 blog proved a successful way of inspiring interest in the topic of national progress, and enabling us to quickly gain insights into people's views on progress. The blog allowed a range of responses from short replies to more lengthy and complex replies. One aspect of promoting interest in the blog and the consultation was to post contributions from prominent Australians, from entrepreneurs through to sports people. Media outlets picked up on these contributions and a series of interviews and radio talk back sessions followed, further promoting and broadening 'the conversation' about progress. ABS Facebook and twitter were used to channel people to the MAP 2.0 blog. We felt our social media campaign was successful with many 1000's of website hits and page visits and hundreds of quality comments that we could use.

We developed a list of MAP Community contacts during the consultation and used these to tap into further online networks. We linked to relevant progress and wellbeing sites, particularly by developing innovative infographics that captured interest and imagination, for example our Progress MAP below. 

Click map to enlarge. 

We developed and produced an promotional video, using contributions from our prominent Australians, to capture the aspirational spirit of the consultation. This was shown at forums and online.

David Skutenko

Director, Social and Progress Reporting, ABS

Wikiprogress and partners invite you to participate in an online discussion from 22 – 30 April 

  • How can citizen engagement improve the development and use of well-being and progress statistics?
  • Do you have any examples of good practice in citizen engagement in well-being and progress statistics?
  • What role can technology - such as mobile apps or interactive web platforms - play in improving citizen engagement with well-being and progress statistics?

To leave a comment, click here and scroll to the section entitled “Contribute!”

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