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How can online consultations engage hard-to-reach groups?
Posted on July 10, 2013 by Joanna Hemingway
When running any public consultation, it’s important to gather a wide range of opinions from relevant citizens and stakeholders. Yet, it almost goes without saying that certain social groups are harder to engage with than others.
Although, if you consider why certain social groups are hard-to-reach, consulting online can only improve levels of engagement:
A lot of people are online. Specifically in the UK, the Office for National Statistics reported that over 85% of UK citizens had used the Internet, with access made easier by the expansion of broadband infrastructure, WiFi hotspots and mobile 3G networks. In other words, in the majority of cases, a significant proportion of your target consultees are likely to be online.
People are busy. Many individuals work long hours, have a fairly long commute and a significant proportion may also have kids to look after. These features of modern life then often becomes barriers to political participation. Yet, hosting an engagement activity online helps these “time poor” individuals by giving them the freedom to participate over a significant period, and at a time which suits them, rather them requiring them to be free at a specific time or date.
People can’t always travel to participate. This is an issue for not only for the “time poor” but also those with little disposable income or mobility issues, such as disabled communities. Additionally, when Delib visited Western Australia, the benefits of digital democracy across such a geographically disparate area became clear. Hosting consultations online gives interested parties the freedom to participate anywhere they can find an Internet connection.