What is an e-Forum?Edit

An e-Forum is a consultation tool which uses the Internet to connect community with each other and with Council, making for a more engaged community which feels listened to and more positive about their local Council.

An e-Forum is not just providing information on a website to people, or an online form for feedback. It is also not a stand-alone consultation tool and would be used in conjunction with your existing tools, such as public meetings and surveys. However e-Forums can and do attract more members of the community and deeper, more constructive dialogue over a period of time, allowing people to get into the crux of an issue in ways that meetings and more traditional forms of consultation do not always permit.

What’s in it for me and my area of Council?Edit

Use of the e-Forum will help you engage your sector, get constructive feedback on policies and improve the level of trust in your community for Council staff and Councillors. It is an easy and cheap way of conducting part of your consultation phase of policy development and will provide real insights into the way people are thinking on an issue.

E-forums are part of a wave of e-democracy. Australian governments are on board with the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) running an e-democracy newsgroup, WA and Qld having dedicated units to e-consultation and local councils setting up e-forums as part of their suite of consultation tools.

What are the incentives for doing e-consultation?Edit

  • helps you with your consultation work
  • it’s easy to do
  • it’s the latest thing and you have to get involved or you’ll miss out
  • it’s got the support of senior Council executive
  • there are internal staff incentives eg free movie pass random draws amongst e-consultation co-moderators
  • e-Government awards

How much time, work and money will it cost me?Edit

You will have to provide a co-moderator who will spend approximately half an hour a day for the period of your discussion topic running on the e-forum. You don’t have to provide any money unless you want to provide, for example, giveaway movie tickets or other enticements to community to participate in the discussion.

Have other councils used this before? What have been the benefits?Edit

Yes. Darebin City Council has an e-forum which has run topics from its environment, arts and leisure and multicultural areas of Council. They have done an evaluation and found that the e-forum has more members than regular ward public meetings and has more constructive dialogue than most public meetings allow time for. Forum participants enjoy their participation and feel more positive about their local Council’s interest in their views.

Other benefits of e-consultation include engagement of people with disabilities who find it difficult to attend meetings, parents with young children, young people and time poor professionals who do not have time to make it or participate in other forms of consultation by Council. e-consultation can also be used to increase citizens’ feeling of ownership and responsibility for ultimate policies.

Other councils also use e-consultation, including Brisbane CC, Manningham CC and La Trobe CC. Kingston and Surf Coast Shire are developing e-Forums. Internationally e-Forums are used regularly.

How do I use it? Is it hard?Edit

The e-Forum is not hard to use. It is like a combination of email and website, where you type in comments to a website instead of into your email program and you can read all the comments before yours.