In February 2013, the Wellington City Council contracted Loomio to run the online side of their largest public consultation exercise of the year – developing an alcohol management strategy for the city. The Council chose Loomio because they wanted to get diverse input from people who would usually be too busy to attend traditional public consultation meetings.
What resulted was a lively mixture of bar owners, students, residents associations, liquor industry employees, emergency services staff, teenagers and anti-alcohol campaigners, all getting together online in a month-long collaboration focused on finding solutions that balance the negative impacts of alcohol on communities with the social and economic benefits that come from a thriving entertainment scene in the city.
“One thing that’s truly unique about Loomio is not only the diversity of participation, but how this range of people of quite different backgrounds took each other seriously and communicated constructively. Loomio has a particular strength at bringing out a wide range of ideas from the community at the very beginning of the process.” – Jaime Dyhrberg, Wellington City Council
“With Loomio you can just sit down for 10 minutes and participate in something that matters to you – without leaving your home, and at whatever time suits you.” – Lindsay Ferrari, Wellington resident.
How it worked:
Any Wellington resident could join the online collaboration. The discussion was seeded with 9 topics, and anyone participating could start a discussion about any topic or issue they were particularly interested in. Similarly, anyone could start a proposal as a way of testing their ideas with the group.
“I really liked the proposal function. It helped keep conversations going when they started to get to that point of resolution or needing a bit more energy put into it, and discussing a proposal focused peoples’ minds and helped make the conversations tangible.” – Jaime Dyhrberg
Council staff also took part in the discussion, providing resources like statistics and policy documents, and answering questions. When the conversation got to a point where expert knowledge was needed, Council staff could invite in specialists in different areas, like emergency services staff, police and community workers. This resulted in a high quality discussion that invited people to think beyond the preconceptions they might have arrived with, and to have well-informed discussion that could lead to real solutions.
Once the discussions had run their course and the Council staff had drafted the Strategy, they could bring it back to the group to get direct feedback on the document. This meant that people had developed the initial thinking and proposals, as well as policy solutions, to inform the draft strategy.
Facilitation and collaboration services
As well as providing the platform, Loomio was contracted to provide additional services to maintain a respectful and productive space for discussion, and to engage a diverse range of stakeholders:
- engagement strategy (online and in-person)
- question design and discussion seeding
- online facilitation
- collaboration design
From the Council’s perspective, Loomio went beyond automating the old consultation models, offering a real opportunity for deepening neighbourhood democracy.
“The ability to give people an opportunity to engage with each other and develop their thinking was really valuable. It is one thing to tell an official what you think of something and what you think should be happening, it is another to propose or discuss your ideas within a group and have to justify your position and see what other ideas/views people have.” – Giselle Bareta, WCC