Whichever type of project you are thinking of implementing, crowdsourcing ideas from your community is a good step to include. You can better understand your residents’ interests by enabling your community to share their ideas and feedback. Here are four ways to design high-quality idea crowdsourcing projects.
1. Make it specific and interesting
When launching an idea crowdsourcing project, potential participants must clearly understand what the project is about and what contributions you want from them. There are several ways to do this, for example, by sparking your community’s inspiration with clear and persuasive storytelling. Another tactic is to kick off your project with in-person or online town hall meetings to get high engagement and interest from the community.
A big pitfall for many local governments is not refining community engagement projects. We recommend breaking down the engagement process into smaller questions. When available, it’s also a good idea to provide examples or tips to assist community members in their ideation process.
2. Open up for inclusivity
Community engagement is based on the democratic idea that everyone affected by a specific topic should have a say in decision-making. This means consultations shouldn’t be restricted to particular community members or experts. Hence, from the start of the project, it is important to reach out to people of diverse backgrounds, thoughts, and demographics. Regularly tracking how representative your platform and project are, ensures inclusiveness. You’ll be able to spot if certain groups within your community are currently underrepresented and set up specific outreach programs. This will help you make more equitable decisions and gain the trust of your whole community.
To help the cities keep track of their representativeness, we recently released our “Representation Dashboard”. This provides an overview of the demographics on the platform compared to the overall community’s census, showing how representative your platform & projects are. Read more about this feature and the other tools CitizenLab offers local governments to ensure representation in community engagement projects.
3. Experiment with different ideation methods
When it comes to crowdsourcing ideas, there is no one-size-fits-all engagement approach. The best way is for you to experiment with different methods. Here are a few of the tried-and-true methods from our global CitizenLab client network:
- Open forum: open up a space where all community members can freely share their ideas and interact with others. This format is great for straightforward participatory projects like choosing the name of a bridge.
- Options analysis: this approach presents several options to the community, and residents vote for and discuss the possibilities. This format is suitable for formal discussions, such as budgeting or strategic analysis, and informal ones, such as choosing the final mural design for a park.
- Open ideation process: this method is similar to an open forum but with added phases. As a local government, you can set up a multi-phase engagement process. The first step is collecting ideas, and asking community members to vote for their favorite ideas. In the second, you discuss, deliberate, and detail the chosen ideas.
Want to take the level of engagement a step further? You can customize these idea crowdsourcing approaches even further using CitizenLab’s online engagement platform. You can play around with different configurations of how participants can engage with the ideas, such as upvoting, downvoting, dot voting, or threaded discussions. Moreover, our platform has different collaboration formats for specific engagement projects. To name two examples: you can have participants add ideas directly on a map in urban planning projects or let community members allocate a budget over different ideas in participatory budgeting projects.
4. Provide feedback continuously & transparently
Last but not least, providing regular feedback to community members is crucial. This will increase the chances participants will continue engaging in current and future projects. It shows you put money where your mouth is when it comes to responsiveness and transparency. This will positively impact your community’s trust in your engagement projects and participation.
From our experience working with 400+ local governments, we know that ensuring every participant gets feedback can be a resource-intensive task. That is why the CitizenLab platform allows you to update the ‘status’ of received input, which triggers an automated notification and email.
Take your ideation projects to the next level
Idea crowdsourcing is an easy way to get direct and diverse perspectives on a project you are running. One of the key advantages is that it provides a rich curation of ideas, which can be used to shape fairer and more innovative policies. In a context of eroding trust, crowdsourcing ideas is also a way for governments to involve community members in the decision-making process, therefore increasing transparency and regaining trust.
Work these ideation projects into your policy cycle to further develop your community. And leverage an engagement platform, like CitizenLab, you can efficiently do this.