There are a number of electronic methods currently in use, ranging from the simple use of websites for information giving to more interactive processes that allow stakeholders to ‘converse’ online or participate in processes that emulate conventional participative processes.
Involvement processes to interactive with participants include:
- Online forums – can create communities that would not otherwise exist by putting participants in touch with people that they would not communicate with otherwise;
- Blogs – structured templates allow very large volumes of feedback to be collated, analysed and presented back to participants eg online questionnaires, citizen space which is a tool which can be used to organise and publish consultations easily.
Electronic processes can be used to gain input to decision making and give/gather information without the group size or travel distance constraints that real life meetings have.
- Social networks have the potential to gather momentum and stimulate wide discussion;
- Allows participants to discuss an issue at their convenience (regardless of location or time);
- Anonymity of online processes can encourage open discussion;
- Large numbers can participate;
- Helps those who are not comfortable with other methods (for example, people who are inhibited by meetings);
- Excellent tool for promoting events, information and announcements;
- Has the ability for information and messaging to go to a larger audience.
- Online engagement tools needs to be set up and managed on an ongoing basis;
- Not everyone is computer literate or has access to a PC;
- The technology can shape the process rather than vice-versa;
- Written communication can be a barrier for some already marginalised groups;
- Online Forums are often chaotic but anonymous and unaccountable moderators can also frustrate participants;
- Any perceived complexity, such as registration, can be a barrier to participation;
- Often, the lack of decision makers involved;
- Requires time and resources to analyse feedback.
- General input to decisions;
- Informal sharing of ideas between participants.
- Empowered participants;
- Strong relationships between participants.
Level of Involvement: Engaging