10 tips for using electronic consultation processes

1. Be absolutely clear about what you want to learn from the consultation.

2. Decide whether you can get what you want from asking people specific questions and giving them boxes to tick (a ‘closed process’), or whether you need to ask open questions and give people space to formulate their own replies (an ‘open process’).

3. If you want to use an open process, invite named individuals and provide them with a secure means of participating - anonymously if necessary.

4. Explain the purpose of the process and exactly what scope it has to influence its sponsors.

5. Participants generally contribute best to open processes when they are responding to or commenting on specific information.

6. If either a closed or open process is to involve any form of vote by the participants, then to be meaningful the participants must be statistically representative.

7. One of the advantages of electronic consultation is that it frees people from the constraints of time and space. Rather than require participants all to be on-line at the same time, provide ‘windows’ of time, usually two or three weeks, and ask people to make their submissions at any time during that window.

8. Aim to collate and feed back the results of open processes to participants within one week of the end of the process or of each stage of it.

9. Reserve the right to remove abusive or offensive comments.

10. At the end of the process make available a record of every comment from every participant to ensure the process is transparent.



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