Toolkit: All Our Ideas


The challenge with co-producing ideas about the kinds of climate action to take locally is that it can get very messy, very quickly. Social media platforms are not designed for this and have a tendency to polarise opinions rather than bring different groups together. As we see all too frequently, false information throws people off balance while debate becomes partisan. It’s not surprising that some local councillors are wary about engaging with the public online and are on the defensive, at the same time as some community groups feel their voices are not heard or fairly represented.

This blog focuses on wikisurveys as one type of digital tool that can be used effectively to engage different community groups and the wider public in co-producing ideas for local Climate Action Plans. They do not solve all the challenges of using traditional social media, but as an alternative they are a healthier space that can improve the quality of feedback from the community as well as the level of interaction with lots of people across an entire local authority area.

Think about a wikisurvey as a survey that is created by the people that are taking it: any participant can add a statement which then goes into the pool of statements and randomly presented back to others. Unlike a traditional survey, the wikisurvey builds a more and more accurate picture over time of the most popular (and unpopular) statements.

Consider a wikisurvey as being greedy, collaborative and adaptive: greedy in collecting more information than a fixed survey format would allow; collaborative in seeking out what participants have to say; adaptive in evolving continually to elicit the most useful information.

Importantly, wikisurveys are not a free-for-all. Everyone responds to everyone else’s comments in a very structured way; for example, participants can only focus on one statement at a time and asked to “agree”, “disagree” or “pass” on each statement before proceeding. This dynamic, guided flow avoids the pitfalls of more typical online forums and static surveys that can create a high volume of undirected responses that need a lot of time and effort to sort through and sift for insights.

One wikisurvey tool that helps the broader community to co-produce ideas is All Our Ideas. All Our Ideas works by presenting participants with paired statements, simply asking them to choose whichever they prefer the most: over time, it rank these ideas from most to least popular. New statements from participants are added and then paired appropriately by the platform. Fresh, unexpected ideas rise to the top or fall to bottom based on the collective response.

Wikisurveys are good for co-producing ideas as well as determining the diversity of opinion and where the divisions lie among large numbers of people. Sometimes the results can be clustered visually rather than simply counted numerically, helping to illustrate different strands of opinion. They are simple and quick to set up but need a little more time for an accurate picture of collective opinions to emerge.

Perhaps the most important piece of advice in using this type of tool is to “let go”. To get the most value from the digital engagement, we need to be comfortable with trial and error. So, embrace the opportunity and be bold: co-production means giving up a degree of control in exchange for wider participation and a better outcome.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

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