The Coronavirus pandemic has forced those of us who seek public opinion on proposals for change to public services to think differently. Like GP telephone appointments and video consultations, most of us have embraced digital technology to create online dialogue with people who want to give their opinions.

There are webinars, podcasts, surveys and polls galore. We could all spend all day on virtual calls with whiteboards, breakout rooms, virtual town hall displays and ideas generation boards. The opportunities to express an opinion are endless as long as we are connected and have a high enough level of digital literacy to participate without cussing at the mobile device or laptop or berating the bandwidth. Who would have thought we can now do this from a device we keep in our pockets?

So, the seldom online or digitally excluded are unable to participate unless they are supported. This is causing much consternation amongst consultors, what are the best methods to reach people in a ‘no contact’ or ‘analogue’ environment without putting them at risk of contracting Covid-19?

Those of us old enough to remember when we had to purchase a peripheral web cam and plug-in speakers for our desk top computer will remember when this all felt new and exciting. Those of us who have been in the world of consultation for decades, remember the days before that when the world wide web was a new concept and we wrote memos to colleagues which we put in the internal mail. I distinctly remember the feeling of empowerment when I was able to email press releases to journalists instead of feeding the fax machine for hours. 

Why is it so difficult then to go back to basics and re-ignite some of those old methods? Postal surveys and telephone calls may be the way forward, or is this now junk mail and nuisance calling? We can still buy mailing lists but GDPR prevents us from talking to people unless we have their explicit consent to store their data.

With the demise of public waiting rooms, are we still able to place a pile of unlaminated survey papers and a reply return box readily available for those who are bored? Possibly not when they are pre-occupied with their social media instead of willing to tick some boxes with a free pen. And, who would collect said reply box?

There is a legal obligation for consultors to provide accessible and meaningful information for people to participate and we need to follow a fair and reasonable process.

If you have a proposal you wish to discuss with your stakeholders and are wondering how best to reach them all, contact us for a 30 minute consultation and we can provide some fresh thinking and new ideas to help you to do the right thing.

Why PHpoint0? Because that’s smack bang in the middle of the pH value for coffee. We love nothing more than good coffee and stimulating chat and if you prefer a virtual cuppa, we can do that too.