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Using Stakeholder Engagement to Empower Open Policy Making

One of the most significant outcomes of the Digital by Default agenda is the impetus it has given to government departments to digitise their engagement strategy for stakeholders. A common thread is one using digital stakeholder engagement to empower open policy making. It’s a significant step forward, and meets a need at the heart of government, as the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) explains:

“Lack of early, meaningful engagement with stakeholder organisations and our audiences can devalue the policy making process. If we are to make best use of the web for open policy-making, then digital has to turn policy making roles into that of facilitators between external groups.”

While departments are keen to open up policy making, there’s currently no consensus on the best way to do it. If there is one trend, it’s one of government placing emphasis on using social media to engage stakeholders. Here are some examples:

  • The Department of Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) has “busy and effective communities of stakeholders engaged through our social media channels, from Twitter to Instagram.”
  • Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC) “will use social media to complement our stakeholder communications; and, will pilot the use of social media in support of customer communications, essentially adding social media to the mix.”

Alternative Stakeholder Engagement Strategies

That said, departments have unveiled a range of other strategies to engage stakeholders in open policy making. The Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) plans to develop a specialised ‘toolkit’ that includes not only social media tools, but forums, online surveys and other services that allow them open up the policy making process to a broad range of stakeholders. The Department of Health wants to develop virtual networks for internal teams and key stakeholders to ”discuss and share information and ideas openly and transparently.“ And the Department for International Development (DIFD) hopes to bring new voices to the debate about the future of international development, speeding up evaluation and feedback cycles so that programmes that aren’t working can be adjusted – and further investment can be made in the ones that are.

Interestingly, the Department of Transport is also turning to online collaboration tools (as well as social media channels) to engage its customers and stakeholders:

“We will increase the use of social media and digital collaboration tools to encourage and enable our customers to get more involved with the department. This will help services to be developed in an open and accessible way, and mean more of our customers and stakeholders can influence, comment on and contribute actively to the decision making process.”

Stakeholder Engagement at the Land Registry

Work of this kind has already been done elsewhere in government. For example, the Land Registry chose Kahootz online collaboration software to help introduce a new e-Conveyancing system. It needed to bring together a task force of over 50 people, as well as engage with up to 200,000 others from a variety of stakeholder groups in the property sector, across government and within the department itself.

The Land Registry decided an online collaboration solution would be ideal because it “required a tool that could be used for engagement and consultation as well as document collaboration and information publishing.” Kahootz became central to its work, allowing it to provide stakeholders with training materials, keep the project on track and deal with problems as they arose. It also engaged stakeholders better – delivering a 30% increase in survey responses over those issued on paper. As Stakeholder Liaison Manager Christine Beech says:

“The service is certainly making it easier to involve our stakeholders and it is now a fundamental part of the way we do things. Our stakeholders are becoming increasingly aware of our web communities and value them as a method of keeping in touch with fast moving ideas and events in e-Conveyancing.”

The beauty of using online collaboration software for stakeholder engagement strategies and opening up policy making is that it offers tools that can be used at every stage of the process – whether you want to inform, consult or collaborate with your stakeholders.

It’s a topic we’ve explored in depth in our free guide, Transforming Public Sector Stakeholder Engagement, but as you can see from the following graphic, many of the tools you need to engage stakeholders at all levels are available within online collaboration packages like Kahootz.

Stakeholder engagement

So when you need to collaborate with stakeholders to develop policy, you can work together in a shared online workspace using team diaries, wikis, risk registers, co-authored documents and other tools to make progress. You can consult using discussion forums, online surveys, formal e-consultations, quick polls and more. And you can inform and update using a whole variety of features such as tweets, RSS feeds, blogs, links to articles and more – most of which are integral to Kahootz, or (in the case of social media channels) linked in to the system.

And while online collaboration is versatile for all aspects of stakeholder engagement, it’s also flexible, accessible and affordable. Per-user licences allow you to reach the exact number of stakeholders you need, only for as long as you need to. And because it’s Cloud software, stakeholders can access it from any device, in any location, at any time

Whether government departments choose Kahootz or other online collaboration software, the tools they offer can take them far beyond just social media channels and truly make stakeholder engagement strategies Digital by Default. If you’d like to learn how to make it happen in your own organisation, download Transforming Public Sector Stakeholder Engagement or browse our series of blog posts on public sector stakeholder engagement.

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