Before you begin
What is online consultation?
Online consultation is a way to collect public opinion using online tools. The government regularly consults citizens regarding their views and opinions on potential government policies, programs, and services. The mode used to deliver consultations varies depending on the aims.
Why consult online?
The online space provides your agency with unique access to all Victorians. At the same time, it gives Victoria’s citizens a unique freedom to participate. It allows government to obtain deeper insights into how it can improve policy and service delivery. Offering consultation online also strengthens the Victorian community by making new connections between community members.
The Engage Victoria tool also allows your team to promote new engagements to people who already have created a profile and registered their interest in certain topics, and thereby reach a possibly more representative sample of the population.
What does the Victorian Government recommend?
All Victorian Government departments should consider online consultation when gathering public opinion, whether as advice or as feedback.
Take digital tools (that is, mobile devices) to face-to-face engagements. It's a very useful way to educate and collect data in digital formats for record keeping and analysis.
Engage is now the Victorian government’s readymade online consultation platform. It’s available to all departments and agencies. It’s moderated 24/7, provides a range of digital tools, and has many examples of best practice.
What standards must be met?
Comply with the Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014. Refer to the How-to guide: How to manage security, and the security framework and standards on the Office of the Victorian Information.
Apply Brand Victoria. Refer to the How-to guide, How to apply Brand (specifically written for digital).
Comply with the Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014, and only collect information you’re legally entitled to collect. You’ll need to craft and publish a privacy ‘collection notice’ (refer to the How-to guide: How to manage or the Office of the Victorian Information website.)
If your digital presence collects personal information, then the physical location of the servers where it’s stored must have the same level of legal protection for private data as we offer citizens in Victoria.
To comply with the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Disability Discrimination Act, and the WoVG standard ‘Conform to Level AA of version 2.0 of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0)’, your digital presence must comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Version (WCAG) AA standard.
If your audience is primarily people with a disability (for example, National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) clients), your site must pass the test for the AAA standard. Refer to the How-to guide: How to make content.
Manage public records
The Public Record Office Victoria (PROV) (under Section of the Public Records Act 1973) sets the standards for managing the public records your department or agency creates. Always check with your department’s or agency’s records or information management specialist first for the approach to compliance.
Refer to How to manage online records for more information or the PROV.
Getting it approved
You’ll need approval from your department’s engagement manager first. (Otherwise, check with your strategic communications area.) When you get their (written) go ahead — or even better still, before that — read the principles and planning guidelines.
Then complete the Consultation Strategy Template:
Note: Every department or agency has its own processes for approvals. For example, getting legal sign off or doing a Privacy Impact Assessment (Explained in the How-to guide: How to manage privacy). Check with your engagement manager or strategic communications area to see if there are any extras you need. This is important (the next section explains why.)
Engage Victoria Product Manager also has to approve it
The Engage Victoria Product Manager () must review and approve both your strategy and your draft consultation (both in the completed template you email them.) You’ll be responsible for adding the content to the online draft.
To avoid creating confusion by changing an already published public consultation, the product manager will check you have every signoff you need before they will publish your consultation. This might include staff more senior than the staff member who signed off on your original approval to go ahead.
The five stages of consulting online
The Victorian Government has been consulting online in one form or another for well over a decade. In that time, so much has been learnt about how to succeed in delivering online consultations. We’ve learnt there’s no one fixed way to deliver a consultation – but there are a specific set of stages common to all.
Successful online consultations need careful planning around these five stages. Compliance and best practice can sit comfortably alongside each other in a well-planned consultation.
The 5 stages from the start to the end of your consultation are:
Understand what you need to do to achieve your aims.
2. Design and build
Make sure the most engaging content is the stuff that goes live.
Maintain a proactive role in the consultation process.
4. Analyse and communicate results
Make sense of the feedback you’ve been given and to tell the story in a meaningful way.
Wrap it up and share the learning gained with your colleagues as well as stakeholders.
Getting your online consultation started
Start by reading the Engage Victoria Principles and Planning Guideline. Then download and complete the Consultation Strategy Template.
Engage in learning, build your skills
No one consultation is a mirror of another. And no one practitioner has all the answers. It takes skill to identify and segment an audience, to write questions or design surveys and polls that will provide you with outcomes that truly match your purpose. The best way to improve your skills is to get engaged. Read, ask questions of people in the know and continually review your practice.
Learn from experienced team members
Learning from people experienced in online consultation in invaluable, so we recommend you ask your strategic comms team for an introduction to one of the Online Engagers working in Victorian Government.
Learn from other consultation practitioners
Learning from experienced practitioners outside your department is a great way to build your online consultation skills. Some leading practitioners to learn from are:
Other helpful resources from experienced practitioners include:
Engage - to occupy or attract attention.
Related How-to guides
Reviewed 14 January 2019