The resources required for e-consultation vary. There is a surprising amount you can do for low cost. All forums require time invested in initial planning to map out your aims for your forum, choose the right Forum software, either open source or proprietary, to cater to your requirements, testing the software and getting Council support and community membership of the Forum.
This uses open source software, a volunteer site administrator and existing staff time amongst council staff to moderate the Forum.
Darebin City Council spent $2000 on print advertising the forum using bookmarks which were distributed in the area and in public spaces such as the local libraries. Staff time was drawn from the existing staff in the Social Policy, Strategy and Governance Department. Once staff gained permission to go ahead with the e-forum approximately 1-2 hours were required per week for a period of about 12 months to:
- project manage the technical site development
- development of an internal Council collaboration model and securing the input of all departments of Council
- developing the partnership with the Melbourne PC user group to secure volunteer site administration
- initial topic development
- scheduling and consultation with other Council areas to line up co-moderators for the first few topics.
The Darebin site administrator is a volunteer, Mr Richard Solly. He estimates that if you start with a functional set of files, raw set up takes two hours and customisation takes between 8 and 40 person hours.
Ongoing forum managementEdit
|Key moderator||Topic setting, moderation and monitoring of threads, approving posts (both moderators have permission to do this), advertising forum.||approx half a day per week.|
|Co-moderator||This involves emailing their networks, writing a media release, writing para for internal bulletin, following discussion, approving posts, contributing to discussions and writing summaries of discussion at the end of discussion which is posted on the e-Forum and on the Council website.||approx half hour a day during discussion period, which lasts for approx 2 weeks.|
|Site administrator||Oversee technical maintenance of site||2 hours per week plus time to find and fix bugs. See below for comments.|
Darebin’s volunteer administrator Mr Richard Solly notes that whilst maintenance of a fully functioning system does not require a large amount of time, time to find and fix bugs in the software can take many hours. Both commercial and open source software have bugs, so time to fix them should be factored into the project plan for e-forum implementation. Ensuring a bug free installation is the key to avoiding having to spend too much time on fixing bugs once the forum is up and running. Therefore a fully tested set of files for installation is critical. Mr Solly notes that the current release of GroupServer is not fully tested and may therefore take additional time in the set up phase to iron out bugs before commencing.
Surf Coast Shire CouncilEdit
Surf Coast Shire uses different software to Darebin. Surf Coast Shire has chosen to pay a website consultant to support the forum, with minimal additional internal Information Technology resources required.
It cost Surf Coast Shire $1,500 to establish its eforum. With thanks to Darebin resources required to create the space, text and procedures were minimal due to Darebin sharing its resources.
Ongoing forum managementEdit
|Key moderator||Topic setting, moderation and monitoring of threads, approving posts (both moderators have permission to do this), advertising forum.||approx half a day per week (this is an assumption based on Darebin's workload)|
|Co-moderator||This involves emailing their networks, writing a media release, writing para for internal bulletin, following discussion, approving posts, contributing to discussions and writing summaries of discussion at the end of discussion which is posted on the e-Forum and on the Council website.||approx half hour a day during discussion period, which lasts for approx 2 weeks (this is an assumption based on Darebin's workload)|
|Site administrator||Oversee technical maintenance of site||$400 per year. The money will come from an IT or central budget as there is recognition that this is a Council tool and not the property/cost of a single business unit. The contractor also supply surveys and polls at an additional cost on a needs basis and maintains the Shire's community & business listing.|
Brisbane City CouncilEdit
Brisbane City Council has a project officer whose role includes the management of the Your Say Online space and 12,000 member Your City, Your Say community reference group along with supporting work units from across Council in maximising the use of these engagement opportunities. Another team member provides support in regards to strategic directions. Members of the Council's corporate web team play a content development role bringing supporting information content together.
The current discussion forum was produced in-house in 2000 and is currently being updated. The future solution will be sourced externally and will be produced and hosted for between $5,000 - $10,000.
Ongoing forum management:Edit
All forums established need to link in with Council initiated policy development or project planning. Topics will influence a resultant Council action, community input is valued and Council want to utilise the information given. The discussion forums and survey tools all rely on work units from across Council for their content. In establishing the forums we also seek to provide supporting background information to provide a level of context or to provide a point from which to respond.
|Project officer||Topic setting, moderation and monitoring of discussions, liasing with work unit and web content producer, promoting discussion forum to community reference group email list, summarising discussion for website and work unit.||Approx 4 hours to liaise with work unit and get discussion content and supporting material written and up.
5 - 10 mins a day to monitor and moderate discussion comments.2-3 hours to summarise forum content for and arrange posting on web.
|Work unit contact||Supply topic information, monitoring of discussion, provide responses to participants as required via Project Officer.||Approx 8 hours to collect information required and scope discussion content.
1 hr per week to respond to comments.1 hr to provide information on how feedback will be used.
|Website content producer||Create supporting pages for discussion topics, interpreting supplied information, setting up links, loading documents.||Approx 8 hours to set up new page using raw information, establishing links, displaying imagery.
30 mins - 1 hour to update contents and links off current consultations page.30 mins to update content with results.