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End of Commitment Report – Exploring an Open Digital Engagement Platform


Name of Evaluator

Colin Birchenall


Member Name

Glasgow, United Kingdom

Action Plan Title

Action plan – Glasgow, United Kingdom, 2021 – 2023


Exploring an Open Digital Engagement Platform


To review the capability of CONSUL with community groups and third-sector organisations to assess whether it meets their needs compared to other digital sources of information, sharing, and engagement already used by the Council and other partners. This will allow the Council and partners to prepare a business case for an online digital engagement platform that meets the needs identified by community groups and the third sector where they can source ideas, access and share local information, collaborate, and vote on local proposals. A key requirement will be to consider how best to resource the running of any platform in conjunction with the third-sector interface and other partners.


Communities and third-sector organisations identified the need for an online resource where they could source ideas, access and share local information, collaborate, and vote on local proposals. They were not clear on how to obtain or share this information in the city without going to a number of sources. Without information in an easy to use and accessible digital platform, participating in local debate, citizens panels and decision-making is difficult.

Section 1.
Commitment completion

1.1 What was the overall level of progress in the commitment implementation at the time of this assessment?


Provide a brief explanation of your answer:

Implementation of the Consul Community Engagement Tool for Debates and User Testing: Glasgow has implemented the “Consul Democracy” open engagement tool and used the practical experience of users to gain their feedback. Prior to this, Consul had been deployed in Glasgow on a tactical basis to support Participatory Budgeting projects. Through the Open Government Action Plan, the solution moves towards being a city-wide engagement platform. During testing, it’s been used to facilitate debates on: Glasgow’s Slavery and Colonialism Legacy; Glasgow’s new Digital Strategy, and Road Safety in Glasgow. Feedback has been sought from users’ practical use of the platform, and gathered people’s input for the development of the new Digital Glasgow Strategy focused on Digital Rights (including digital community empowerment).
Face-to-Face Community Engagement: Engagement was undertaken with voluntary organizations that support community groups with protected characteristics and young people via schools.

1.2 Describe the main external or internal factors that impacted implementation of this commitment and how they were addressed (or not).

There were a number of external factors that impacted the implementation of the commitment.

  • The implementation and operational management of the Consul Open Engagement Platform in Glasgow, and the availability of appropriate technical skills.
  • Dependencies between the different commitments in the Open Government Action Plan.
  • Dependencies between the implementation of the commitment, and the community engagement for the Digital Glasgow Strategy.
  • Availability of resources for public participation.
  • Availability of community groups to engage with face-to-face engagements.
  • Online promotion for the online debates.
  • The use of a national digital identity service to access online engagement.

1.3 Was the commitment implemented as originally planned?

Most of the commitment milestones were implemented as planned.

Provide a brief explanation of your answer:

The objectives of the commitment have been met however a different approach has been taken to the one originally proposed. The original proposal was to co-develop ideas from the ground up, however, to address the internal and external factors impacting implementation as described above, the approach was amended to reflect current circumstances. Our approach therefore has been to re-use the learning from the Consul solution, and adopt parallel processes to:

  1. Engage with communities to develop a future vision of digital engagement as part of open government more broadly, in collaboration with the Centre for Civic Innovation and the Glasgow School of Art;
  2. Implement the Consul tool to support key city-wide debates, that could be used to gather practical user feedback from people; and
  3. Incorporate discussion about the platform into broader online and face-to-face engagement for digital rights and the development of Glasgow’s new Digital Strategy.

Section 2.
Did it open government?

2.1.1. – Did the government disclose more information; improve the quality of the information (new or existing); improve the value of the information; improve the channels to disclose or request information or improve accessibility to information?


Degree of result:


Explanation: In narrative form, what has been the impact on people or practice.

The focus of the engagement platform has been to facilitate online engagement rather than the publication of information. However, the approach taken has been to link the information available through data, maps and visualisations published via the Open Data Hub (Commitment 3) from the Digital Engagement Platform. This ensures that information relevant to the online engagement is readily accessible to support the discussion. An example of this was for the Slavery and Colonialism debate where information about Glasgow’s link to slavery was published, including maps of assets in the city with links to slavery published via the Open Data Hub.
By linking the open engagement with the open data it also provided more context and meaning for the open data itself, thus increasing the value of the data.

2.1.2. – Did the government create new opportunities to seek feedback from citizens/enable participation inform or influence decisions; improve existing channels or spaces to seek feedback from citizens/enable participation/ inform or influence decisions; create or improve capabilities in the government or the public aimed to improve how the government seeks feedback from citizens/enables participation/ or allows for the public to inform or influence decisions?


Degree of result:


Explanation: In narrative form, what has been the impact on people or practice.

This provided a specific opportunity to ask more detailed questions relating to user preference for online engagement and asked specific questions relating to both the Open Engagement Platform and the Open Data Hub to contribute to delivering against the commitment. The feedback, which included feedback from across different protected characteristics groups has been valuable and will be incorporated into both the new Digital Glasgow Strategy and the next Open Government Action Plan.
The engagement was undertaken with voluntary organisations that support community groups with protected characteristics and with younger people via schools. Although discussions related to Digital Rights and the new Digital Glasgow Strategy provided an opportunity to discuss online tools for community engagement and public participation.
By implementing the Consul Community Engagement platform for debates rather than just undertaking consultation activities with communities, Glasgow provided practical opportunities for communities to influence decision-making. The feedback provided by citizens will influence policies relating to Glasgow’s slavery legacy, road safety, and its new digital strategy. The feedback will also be used to inform the future of the online community engagement platform itself.

2.1.3 Did the government create or improve channels, opportunities or capabilities to hold officials answerable to their actions?

Not Applicable

2.1.4 Other Results

Not Applicable

2.2 Did the commitment address the public policy problem that it intended to address as described in the action plan?


Provide a brief explanation of your answer:

Partly: we commenced Glasgow’s journey of establishing an open digital community engagement platform for the city. It demonstrates that such a capability can have a substantial role in addressing the problem of raising visibility and increasing participation and engagement opportunities. However, more work is required in the next Action Plan to

  • Build a stronger presence for the platform as part of the overall redesign of the Council website.
  • Widen the use of the platform across the Council, public bodies, and the 3rd sector.
  • Build volume of online engagements in order to mainstream its use.
  • Create a stronger identity for the platform.
  • Build a more coherent marketing and promotion campaign for open government and the open digital community engagement platform.
  • Create a balance between preferred social channels for community engagement and formal community engagement via the platform.
  • Simplify user access to the platform.

Section 3.
Lessons from

3. Provide at least one lesson or reflection relating to the implementation of this commitment. It can be the identification of key barriers to implementation, an unexpected help/hindrance, recommendations for future commitments, or if the commitment should be taken forward to the next action plan.

As above, some of the key lessons from the implementation, including feedback from users of the Consul Community Engagement platform include:

  1. The need to find a better balance between verifying users are who they say they are to create trust within debates, and removing barriers to contributing to the debate, perhaps, having an adaptable approach depending on the content of the discussion.
  2. The need to create an overall identity for the platform, within the context of Open Government more generally, and actively marketing and promoting this, and creating a stronger presence on the Council website.
  3. Recognising people’s preferences to use existing social channels such as X, Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, etc for social engagement, and strengthening the links between informed engagement on these channels and more formal community engagement.
  4. Creating even stronger links between the Open Engagement Platform and the Open Data Hub, under the same “Open Government” identity.
  5. Recognise that there are cases where other engagement tools might be more suitable, but ensure that they are managed in a controlled way, and within an agreed overall framework under the Open Government banner.

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