Success stories

How Cheshire West and Chester Council Created Community Connections in Unexpected Ways

Fully Digital
community-connecting engagement solution
A Variety
of engagement tools in one place
two-week implementation process
Data-Rich Insights
drive informed decision-making
With a focus on creating connections between community members, organizations, and partners, Cheshire West and Chester Council developed sustainable strategies to address issues that affected the social, economic, and environmental well-being of their constituents. The council chose EngagementHQ to help them create community connections in unexpected ways.
“For us, it was about moving away from lengthy online surveys, and thinking about doing things in a more engaging way to understand people’s views and ideas.”
Anna Miller

Selecting an Online Engagement Platform

Established in 2009, the Chester Council area covers around 350 miles and provides a range of services and support to 343,000 people. Aware of how important public consultation is to community projects, Cheshire West and Chester Council members first engaged the public through traditional communication methods such as paper and online surveys, focus groups, and consultation events. Soon,
however, they realized the need for their engagement to go deeper, reach more individuals, and provide the council with data-rich insights to guide decision-making.

After narrowing down their criteria for an online engagement platform, Cheshire West and Chester Council selected EngagementHQ and launched a game-changing communications platform for their community called Participate Now, where community members could get involved according to their individual interests and preferences. Because everyone wants to share their opinions in ways that are most comfortable to them, EngagementHQ was an ideal solution. Some residents prefer a more detailed online survey, while others are accustomed to sharing their opinions in more of a social media format.

Criteria for the online engagement platform included:

  • A variety of communication tools in one place
  • Built-in survey capabilities
  • Options for other interactive tools
  • Easy-to-use for non-technical staff members
  • An affordable price

Personalized, Intuitive, and Adaptable

Like many government entities, Cheshire West and Chester Council have limited financial and staff resources. They knew the software they chose would have to be cost-effective and provide high value. EngagementHQ met their criteria beautifully and could be personalized and adapted to suit their unique needs.

“EngagementHQ has a wide range of different tools which means we can add more variety and choice to our offer in terms of how people may want to give us their feedback.”
Anna Miller
Research Team Manager at Cheshire West and Chester Council

The staff at Cheshire West and Chester Council were pleased with how quickly they were able to get their online engagement site up and running. From contract finalization to site launch, the implementation process only took two weeks. Governments are usually required to follow strict, time-consuming processes and procedures, but Bang the Table—now part of Granicus—made the processes much easier by meeting procurement regulations and data security requirements from the start.

Because of the intuitive nature of the software, along with helpful articles and tips, very little internal training was necessary to get staff members up-to-speed. Questions were answered within minutes using the chatbot function, a favorite feature among staff members.

EngagementHQ hosts a range of dialogue tools that sit in an open environment and allow for creative engagement. The software can be rolled out in two major stages of project engagement. The first stage is ideal for tools like the forums, ideas, and places tools—when residents are curious and potentially open to learn more about various topics and provide their initial feedback. The second stage is designed to capture more quantitative data, so tools like the surveys, questions, stories, and guestbook tools are more appropriate.

Stage one tools

Forums: A discussion forum centered around a specific topic. Residents can share their thoughts and read comments from other residents.

Ideas: A digital idea board where thoughts, images, and links can be shared to spark real conversation.

Places: Where residents indicate areas for improvement or new projects on an interactive map, with comments about the perceived issues.

Stage two tools

Surveys: Where structured feedback and quantitative data can be collected using single- or multi-page questions to gather actionable insights.

Q&A: Residents can ask pressing questions and agencies can answer them publicly or privately.

Stories: Residents can share their lived experiences, stoke empathy, and build community. – Guestbook: A safe, moderated space for one-way, open-ended engagement.

Guestbook: A safe, moderated space for one-way, open-ended engagement.

EngagementHQ also has tools that help in-house researchers and staff members make sense of all the data collected in both stages of project engagement. These tools include a text analysis tool, a survey analysis tool, and a sentiment analysis tool to help analyze commentary.

“The more we are realizing about EngagementHQ and how much it offers, I think the only thing that restricts you is your imagination.”
Anna Miller
Research Team Manager at Cheshire West and Chester Council

Capturing Community Spirit

EngagementHQ inspired conversations, transformed how Cheshire West and Chester Council offered digital consultation, and efficiently managed incoming data and insights from participants. “People actually sparked off each other’s ideas,” Miller said. “They started to have conversations with each other, and it brought real energy to the overall conversation. It was really different.”

Since implementation, the council has been trying out more tools in the software and honing their approach to community engagement. Intent on keeping the survey tool at the center of their strategy, the council plans to distill the data they receive and use EngagementHQ’s analysis capabilities to make sense of everything they learn. Demand for the solution has increased across the organization, including the communications, economic regeneration, and library teams. Implementation among these teams will help to create community connections across different groups of local stakeholders.

“We want to work with a range of different teams within the council and we’re working with Bang the Table [now part of Granicus] on putting together an engagement portal, within our platform, that provides learning resources and training for all departments.”
Beverley Wilson
Insight and Intelligence Manager at Cheshire West and Chester Council

EngagementHQ helped the council capture community spirit during the early, tough days of the pandemic when everyone began to quarantine. The ideas tool was used to facilitate widespread support for mental and physical health, home schooling activities, and healthy habits during the global public health crisis. The stories tool helped create a space called Inspire Chester West where heartwarming, positive stories were shared about how neighborhood people were helping each other during the pandemic. The tool provided a space for public gratitude and thanks, furthering the creation of community connections during a difficult time. “We’re so glad that we got this just before the pandemic,” Wilson said. “We could breathe a sigh of relief because we had a really good alternative that we could rely on because the consultation [with the public] didn’t stop, that kept going. It gave us a way to lift our engagement into this digital world with a much better offer than we could have done previously.”

When dealing with sensitive issues, Cheshire West and Chester Council learned to moderate those public conversations — another convenient feature made possible by EngagementHQ. Often, the public would start sensitive conversations around key topics over the weekends or in the evenings. “We bought the tool as research officers,” Miller stated. “To carry out research, consultation, and engagement to understand people’s views and to be able to feed that data through to evidence-based decision-making. But actually, we’ve realized it offers so much more than that.” The solution goes far beyond being an online survey tool, it is a complete digital engagement platform that gives residents the luxury of choice and variety regarding how they take part in public matters. And the service is provided in a way that’s similar to how residents are accustomed to interacting online. With EngagementHQ, the council has been able to create community connections, reach people where they are, hear from them readily, and analyze and report on what they’ve heard all in one place, building trust and transparency within their community.

“It’s not just about the software. You have to have that ability to translate the product into success for the client.”
Jonathan Bradley
Head of Business and Practice, UK, Bang the Table, now part of Granicus

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