June 25, 2014 5:15 pm

City of Edmonton launches tool for ongoing public feedback

Above: Want more say on issues impacting our city? Edmonton has just launched the Insight Community to get public input on many issues over a long period of time. Emily Mertz has the details.

EDMONTON – Edmonton is one of the first municipalities in Canada to launch an online community to connect with residents and gather feedback on an ongoing basis.

The Edmonton Insight Community was officially launched on Wednesday.

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“We have heard loud and clear that citizens have an increased expectation when it comes to public engagement,” said Mayor Don Iveson. “The more opportunities we can offer people to contribute in ways that are meaningful and easier for them, the better outcomes we will see on decisions that affect our neighbourhoods and our city.”

This online forum is different from other methods of public consultation because it will provide information – and collect feedback – on a variety of different topics over an extended period of time.

“One vote every four years for our elected officials – people do not believe translates into all the issues they are interested in,” explained Jason Darrah, director of public communications for the City of Edmonton. “This is an opportunity for people to engage throughout the year, throughout four years, on everything from urban beaches to dog parks to photo radar to snow clearing and potholes.”

Organizers of the Insight Community – which is a two-year, $60,000 pilot project – hope to have 2,000 people sign up in the first two years and, if the project continues, eventually have 5,000 participants.

The city believes the large size, as well as monitored demographic information of participants, will help ensure the Insight Community reflects the interests of the broader population.

“This is sort of trackable over time too in a general way,” said Iveson, “not ‘what does one person think?’ but ‘what are the trends over time?’

“So, this allows us to wrap up community sentiment into some results that are way easier to report than general social media engagement, which is hard to measure.”

The city will then use the feedback in a number of ways when considering the topics discussed online.

“In the case where we’ve asked the Insight Community for feedback, that’s going to come into council reports, it’s going to come to us at various times, in memos and other things, so that we’re aware of it,” said Iveson. “And, if there’s a clear consensus in the community, that’s certainly going to weigh on council.”

“Our consultation will sometimes target only the people that … want to learn more about that subject and we’ll give them information and then consult on it,” added Darrah. “Other times, we’ll send it to the entire community and people can pick and choose.”

When signing up, people will be asked some questions about themselves, including their age, work, and particular issues they’re interested in.

“It’s just a very helpful thing to initially learn where people’s interests are then it helps us develop questions that we’re really eager to ask,” said Darrah.

In order to join, individuals must be 15 years of age or older, live in the City of Edmonton or own property in Edmonton and be willing to participate in the community on a regular basis.

Click here to sign up to be part of the Edmonton Insight Community.

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