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Report on German experience of E-consultation and public engagement

The University of Applied Sciences, Cologne have just released their report on an innovative online consultation run in partnership with Dialogue by Design for the Deutscher Bundestag (German Parliament).

The report "How would you like it to be?" discusses the results from the consultation about the design and content of the Bundestag website - a significant issue for a parliament wanting to involve people more closely in the political process.

According to the report’s author Prof. Dr. Simone Fühles-Ubach, the online consultation process revealed points of criticism and suggestions from internet users that could not have been identified in advance, and would not have been revealed using previous consultation methods such as forums or questionnaires.

The key to this was the multi-stage, deliberative nature of the online consultation process.

In stage one, participants were invited to enter short responses to the question “What information, functionalities and content offerings would you like the website of the German Bundestag to provide?“ into a web-based form. Open text boxes were provided for people to enter up to 10 ideas for improvements to the Bundestag website.

Over 1100 people registered to participate and 493 people made 1121 comments in the first stage. This was an excellent level of participation given that the subject was relatively uncontroversial.

In stage two, all the responses were collated, analysed and displayed back on the consultation website. Participants were then asked to review the findings and prioritise all the suggestions. At this stage many participants gave high priority to issues that they had previously not considered - illustrating the value of enabling participants to benefit from, and be influenced by, the opinions and suggestions of others.

In the third stage of this transparent process, all of the prioritised results were displayed online and participants evaluated the process. The Bundestag then published a response to the results explaining how they would address each issue raised.

As Prof. Dr. Simone Fühles-Ubach, Project director at the University of Applied Sciences, Cologne states:

“This exercise enabled a truly deliberative approach to consultation with very large numbers of people. We are extremely pleased with the participation rates and the results generated. Active cooperation between the Administration of the Bundestag and citizens has begun.”

For more information, contact Erwin Juenemann at Dialogue by Design.

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