Community consultation goes electronic

Community consultation goes electronic

Medway Council is using new technology to better analyse citizen survey data

Medway Council is piloting a scheme for qualitative data analysis to gain immediate results from community consultations.

The Kent council’s regeneration partnership Medway Renaissance first used the technology, provided by software firm Resolex, to gauge an accurate picture of public reaction to its large-scale regeneration programmes.

The results of a survey about how local residents feel the regeneration affected them is displayed on a dashboard screen, said planning and project manager for Medway’s community infrastructure department Haidee Brockway

Most of the information collated in council consultations is free text, viewpoints and opinions, said Brockway.

“The qualitative analysis enables us to immediately see which themes are most prevalent in different geographic areas which is useful for spotting trends in future,” she said.

The internet-based service statistically works out language patterns across public response documents by clustering comments that use similar language patterns.

The clusters are assigned themes that best describes the content of that group of comments which are then displayed in a contextual setting using a map, timebar and theme window.

Extracting qualitative data from consultations was previously done manually and was extremely labour intensive, said Brockway.

“Manual processing of consultation data is time consuming so we are now able to lengthen the time available for consultations by reducing the analysis period,” she said.

The new system requires handwritten information to be inputted manually by a typist which is a lot less effort than someone analysing the information, said Brockway.

“Over time there are certain scanning packages that will recognise the handwriting that will go straight into the system but we’re not at the stage where that would be value for money yet,” she said.