eDemocracy Webinar Series - Social

Webinar Summary

1:54 - John Richardson, CEO, introduces Ethelo eDemocracy and the Ethelo platform. John then introduces Darcy Vermeulen, Director of Engagement at Argyle, and Miranda Eng, a Senior Consultant at Argyle.

4:32 - Miranda gives a homelands acknowledgement. She notes that equitable, decolonized engagement with Indigenous communities is a core value in Argyle’s work. 

5:37 - John sets the stage for the conversation by explaining the value of partnerships between Ethelo and engagement consulting firms, in terms of how the Ethelo platform can be tailored for complex decision-making processes.  

8:14 - Miranda adds a disclaimer that Argyle is “platform agnostic”. They work with clients to understand their project objectives, risks, and challenges before suggesting a platform. For these two projects, Ethelo’s features helped them achieve their particular engagement objectives.  

9:17 - Miranda distinguishes the two projects they’ll be speaking about. She will be speaking about It’s Time, an engagement process on mobility pricing in Metro Vancouver. Darcy will speak to a public engagement process around an architectural design for a new BC Ferries terminal.  

10:08 - Darcy gives background on Argyle, a strategy-to-implementation full-service consulting firm, which focuses on building healthy and sustainable communities. He also speaks about digital technology as an alternative strategy for engagement in the context of social distancing.

  • “Digital is certainly a phenomenal tool to reach out there...there are some really unique ways that you can customize the platforms to really get at the nuanced discussions, to meet with communities that are hard to reach. You can still accomplish those objectives online, it just requires a little bit more strategic thought.”

13:33 - Miranda acknowledges the challenges of online engagement, before diving into It’s Time, which worked to overcome those challenges. It’s Time received Digital Campaign of the Year from CPRS and Core Values Award for Creativity, Contribution, and Innovation in the field from IAP2.

15:58 - Miranda uses slides to explain the summary, objectives, and challenges of the controversial project. Argyle acted as Communications & Engagement lead to make sure the public were informed and involved in how mobility pricing options could work fairly in Metro Vancouver. 

17:23 - Miranda speaks to the challenges around promoting fairness when there is no common definition of fairness. To combat this, Argyle used:

  • A robust in-person engagement component with diverse stakeholders from government, advocacy, and industry
  • Targeted campaigns to reach lower income and multilingual communities
  • Designing accessibility into the Ethelo platform 
  • Multilingual versions of the platform 

22:30: Miranda talks about report-back features, transparency, accessibility, and data visualization as some of the reasons they chose Ethelo for this particular project. The process found common values from which to come up with mobility pricing recommendations, which were then approved by the Translink Board of Directors.

26:39 - Miranda passes it over to Darcy to speak (using slides) about the Horseshoe Bay terminal upgrade program with BC Ferries. Argyle used Ethelo for an appreciative inquiry approach in order to bring people into the decision-making over how the building should be designed. 

  • “That first step for us was in creativity...it was just taking a different approach. How could we do things differently? And in particular, how could we humanize and make accessible an expert-led process in architectural design? Having someone who can bridge that technical viewpoint and bring it public is where we try to nestle ourselves. We knew that on one hand, this terminal is very much in a small community. But we also knew that it plays an essential service and a central role in people's lives. So thinking intentionally and creatively about this was our mission.”

32:03 - Darcy outlines how the project moved from drawing inspiration to the public, arriving at a vision for the building, and then collecting feedback on the vision. By designing validation and accountability into the engagement process, 76% of people were supportive of the vision at the end. Darcy also mentions the importance of partnerships and keeping the long-term goals and expectations of stakeholders in mind. 

  • “What I really liked about this project, and what I really appreciated with the trust from BC Ferries, is that this allowed the public to have an incredibly meaningful role in what would otherwise have been a very expert-led process.” 

40:11 - Miranda now takes it back to It’s Time for a detailed walk through of the customized Ethelo platform. Key features included:

  • Demographic questions and indicators to understand the balance of representation (and to use this information to update targeted advertising campaigns on the fly)
  • Pages to assess “problem areas” in regards to mobility pricing
  • Interactive comment boxes, which collected 17,000 comments
  • Opportunities to prioritize and weight suggestions for transportation investment
  • Understanding different interpretations of fairness with “fairness statements”
  • A report-back feature, which allowed the client and the participants to see the survey results, demographics, and collective opinion in real-time 

46:26 - John asks Miranda about "response bias": How did you know that the participants were representative of the public you're hoping to engage?

46:48 - Miranda discusses how they designed a strategy to make sure their participants were representative of the population, as well as monitor the comments to avoid destructive interaction.

49:12 - John asks both: What did you do to promote engagement? How did you get people to come to the platform?

49:21 - Miranda and Darcy discuss how they promoted their respective engagement projects, digitally and with traditional methods, as well as in different languages. John mentions Ethelo’s participant recruitment service which helps bring representatives sample data to projects. 

51:34 - John & Darcy speak about how to identify and address suspicious participant input. 

 53:17 - Darcy shares a walk-through of the BC Ferries project on the Ethelo platform, including the features that help engagement professionals “close the loop” with participants. 

56:29 - John & Darcy talk about ways that privacy is protected in Ethelo projects, through adherence to Canadian privacy laws, client’s privacy policies, and gatekeeping processes. 

58:24 - The session is wrapped up. 

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