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Set up a public consultation - Digital Standards

Build and run effective online consultations using the Engage Victoria platform.

This guide for creating an online consultation has been developed to help you through the key steps involved in creating and managing your online consultation on Engage Victoria, the Victorian Government’s platform for online consultation.

Before you begin

What is online consultation?

Online consultation is a way to collect public feedback using digital tools. The government regularly consults citizens regarding their views on potential government policies, programs, new public infrastructure and services. The tools and techniques used to deliver consultations varies depending on the aims.

What is Engage Victoria?

Launched in 2016, Engage Victoria is the Victorian Government’s readymade centralised online consultation platform. It is available to all departments and agencies, is moderated 24/7 and provides a range of digital tools to generate discussion and gather public feedback on particular topics or projects.

What can Engage Victoria be used for?

The Engage Victoria platform has been designed to be used on projects when there is a meaningful opportunity for the public to influence and shape project outcomes by providing feedback. We can help you to design the most effective public engagement process possible.

How do I know if Engage Victoria is the right engagement approach?

Engage Victoria is not designed to exclusively support document sharing and storage, communications or recruitment for social research. You can discuss your engagement challenge with your departmental Engagement Manager or the team at Engage Victoria and we can let you know if our system is a good fit, or if another tool or approach may best suit your needs.

What are the benefits of using Engage Victoria?

Using Engage Victoria as a tool in your public engagement process has a number of benefits.

  • we can be more consistent in our public engagement processes across departments and agencies, helping us to better manage expectations of, and offer an improved user experience to, the Victorian public
  • when designed and executed effectively, Engage Victoria can provide your consultation with significant reach and unique access to all Victorians
  • it offers participants the freedom to provide feedback when and how it suits them – on their own terms, in their own time
  • you can promote your consultation directly to people who have already subscribed and registered their interest in certain topics, helping you reach interested Victorians
  • you can choose from a range of tools depending on what best suits your project’s needs. Tools include discussion forums to generate two-way dialogue between contributors, voting boards, mapping platforms and surveys
  • it can allow for participant anonymity, particularly important for sensitive projects and topics

It is also important to note that like all engagement activities, consulting online may also create barriers for some participants. As such, it is recommended that your Engage Victoria approach aligns with wider public engagement process that include face-to-face engagement techniques.

10 tips for a successful online consultation

  1. Plan out your wider public engagement process before you start to plan your online approach. Consider your purpose, audience and what parts of your project you need feedback on
  2. Have a clear call to action, a short two-line statement that clearly explains the purpose of your consultation
  3. Have specific and well thought out questions that will gather the information you need to make decisions
  4. Be concise - focus on the most important information your audience needs to know to provide informed responses
  5. Identify how you will analyse and report on the feedback
  6. Allow for sufficient planning and lead time and ensure your consultation period is long enough. As a guide, we suggest no less than three weeks
  7. Combine online consultation with other methods and mirror face-to-face engagement
  8. Communicate your consultation widely. Share and link users to the page
  9. Test, test and test again
  10. Follow the 12 design principles for best practice

What standards must be met?

Security

Comply with the Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014. Refer to the How-to guide: How to secure your service, and the security framework and standards on the Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner.

Privacy

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 privacy or the Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner website).

Branding

Apply Brand Victoria. Refer to the How-to guide, How to apply Brand Victoria (specifically written for digital).

Accessibility

To comply with the federal Disability Discrimination Act 1992 and Victoria’s Equal Opportunity Act 2010 your online consultation must comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Version 2.0 (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 accessible.

Manage public records

The Public Record Office Victoria (PROV) (under Section 12 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 website.

Getting your consultation approved

When using Engage Victoria, you will need to seek the following approvals:

  • use of Engage Victoria: seek approval from your communications department and nominated Engage Victoria Engagement Manager. Written approval is recommended - an email is fine.
  • Consultation Strategy Template: send your completed template to your Engagement Manager for review. They will then forward the template to the Engage Victoria team for final review and approval.
  • privacy: seek advice and approval from your privacy or legal team for your Privacy Impact Assessment.
  • you may also need your Manager to approve the consultation.  Please seek their approval before going to the final step of publishing.
  • page design and content: your page will need final approval from your Engagement Manager and the Engage Victoria team before it is published.

Planning your online consultation

To support you in your use of Engage Victoria, the following key guidance documents have been developed:

12 Principles of the Digital Standards framework

Engage Victoria User Guide (this is available once your strategy is approved and user account created).

The process

Here are the key steps to guide you through planning, delivering, reporting and evaluating your online consultation on Engage Victoria.

1. Planning your consultation

  • With your project team, plan out your wider public engagement process. This will include defining the project’s engagement purpose, identifying opportunities for the public to influence and shape outcomes (what is negotiable and non-negotiable, identifying key stakeholders and your target audience, and developing key questions to guide the scope of feedback. Once you have undertaken wider engagement planning, you will be in a position to decide whether online consultation best meets the needs of your project and target audience.
  • Speak to your department’s Engagement Manager about your project’s engagement requirements. Your Engagement Manager will determine whether your project is suitable for Engage Victoria and will ask you to complete the Engage Victoria Consultation Strategy Template. Please contact us if need help connecting with your Engagement Manager.
  • Complete all required fields of the Strategy Template and submit to your Engagement Manager for review. You will not need to complete Section 1 or 3 of the template if you have already drafted an engagement and communications plan. Instead, you can submit this plan as a supporting document to the template.
  • Seek advice and approval on your Privacy Impact Assessment from your department’s privacy officer/team.
  • Work with your communications team to develop a supporting communications plan for your online consultation, to ensure your target audience is made aware of your consultation and the opportunity to provide input. Ensure all supporting communications materials and documents meet Victorian Government accessibility guidelines, outlined in the How-to guide: make content accessible.
  • Once reviewed, your Engagement Manager will forward your Consultation Strategy Template to the Engage Victoria team for final review and approval. The Engage Victoria team will contact you at this stage if further information is required (allow up to 1 week for review).
  • Following review and approvals, the Engage Victoria team will schedule a platform training session for your project team as required.

2. Building your page

  • Attend your Engage Victoria training session (1 hour in length). At this session, you will be shown how to build your page, including content, feedback forms and accessing the reporting dashboard.
  • After your training, the Engage Victoria team will set-up your login details and project page and email this information to you. Once received, you will be ready to build your page, remembering to check-in with the User Guide (account required) and 12 principles for digital standards.
  • Once the page is built, the Engage Victoria team will work with you to review your page and help you make any needed changes (allow 3 days for review). When changes have been made, your project page will be published and made available to the public by the Engage Victoria team.
  • Remember to advertise your consultation in the lead up to launch.

3. Managing your consultation

  • Through your consultation period, continue to advertise and share your page to reach your target audience.
  • Monitor feedback for any recurring questions that may require follow-up or further communications materials.
  • Monitor participant involvement to ensure your consultation is reaching the right audience and identify any gaps. Adapt your communications plan accordingly.
  • Work with the Engage Victoria team on any moderation issues regarding potentially inappropriate content.
  • At the end of the consultation period, close and update your consultation page with a thank you message outlining next steps. Refer to the Engage Victoria User Guide (account required) for more information on updating content.

4. Data analysis, reporting and feedback

  • Undertake your data coding and analysis to identify who you have heard from, and the key messages, themes and topics. The time and level of resourcing this takes will depend on the type of questions you have asked.
  • Summarise your engagement outcomes and next steps, sharing these with your project’s decision-maker.
  • Provide feedback and report back on key engagement outcomes and next steps to participants and other interested stakeholders. As a guide, if you think it could take longer than 12 weeks to report back, consider sending a participant thank you, sharing participant numbers and general demographic information (who you heard from), and noting when you expect the engagement report to be available. Further information on sending news updates to followers is provided in the Engage Victoria User Guide (account required).
  • If you are unable to provide a feedback report due to project sensitivities, you should still describe how the information will be used and share the next steps to close the loop with participants.

5. Project close and evaluation

At project close-out, remember to change the status of your project on Engage Victoria to ‘Complete’.

The Engage Victoria team will also work with you to:

  • Make sure a lessons learnt evaluation is undertaken to help us reflect and continuously improve on our processes. As a guide, lessons learnt evaluation should occur within eight weeks of project close. We also encourage you to incorporate any departmental or agency evaluation processes into your evaluation
  • Develop a case study to share your project and lessons learnt with other project teams.

Where can I get help?

For best practice advice and support, email the Engage Victoria team in the Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC), at contact@engage.vic.gov.au

Talk to your department’s Engagement Manager and strategic communications branch.

Look at department or agency community engagement resources

DHHS Stakeholder Engagement and Public Participation Framework and Toolkit

DELWP Community Engagement Toolkit (DELWP staff access required)

Learn from other projects – look at current and past consultations on Engage Victoria.

Learn from others. Some great examples and resources are:

YourSay SA

Participate Melbourne

Primers on Online Community Engagement

Reviewed 28 August 2019

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