Future Melbourne is the community of Melbourne’s long-term plan for the future direction of all aspects of city life.When the City of Melbourne decided to use an online platform to support collaboration between itself, stakeholders and the public, they realized a comprehensive strategy for implementing the technology was essential. The ‘Future Melbourne’ website was created using wiki software with the strong belief to not only implement the technology but to proactively address common problems typically encountered in online collaboration.
How was the plan implemented? First, a group of city employees dubbed the Future Melbourne Team underwent extensive training in the software and its management. Once the new website went live, a closed-review process occurred between stakeholders. This acted as a trial period for the following month-long public consultation period in which the website was open to anyone for commenting and editing.
How did the team ensure the website was user-friendly and accessible to all citizens? Acknowledging some citizen’s lack of computer access, face to face public forums were scheduled and highly publicized. When it came to online support, the Future Melbourne Team’s prior training allowed them to lend some technical support. For those overwhelmed when first exploring the site, the team developed a universal guide to participation which then linked to a detailed guide on how to edit and contribute to the plan. For those less than tech-savy individuals, the Future Melbourne Team went so far as to address ‘netiquette’. An entire section on the website provided definitions for general internet slang terms and a guide to emoticons and abbreviations.
How was the site moderated? A portion of the Future Melbourne Team training addressed how best moderate the forum. This provided a framework for how team members were expected to encourage discussion and interact with contributors. Additionally, the site itself contained detailed Policies and Procedures for how to interact on the forum. Topics included general civility, dispute resolution and a section on constructive criticism entitled ‘criticize ideas, not people’.
It’s clear from their implementation strategy that the City of Melbourne invested the time and resources necessary to lay a strong foundation for future collaboration. It is also evident that they truly wanted to encourage a very positive interaction across a wide audience. Under their own procedural guidelines, Future Melbourne offered the following advice: Be Bold.
In part 2 we will see if this bold initiative was successful and what lessons were learned. Stay tuned.