This just in via the European Democracy Online Exchange, an interesting looking new online resource that’s being launched in the UK today. From the homepage:

Welcome to the Digital Engagement Cookbook. The purpose of this site is simple: to help you to explore the new opportunities that the digital world offers for engaging with and empowering citizens and consumers. It contains one of the most comprehensive, categorised collections of Digital Engagement methods on the web.

From the press release (PDF):

The Digital Engagement Cookbook – www.digitalengagement.org – has been created by Kind of Digital, in partnership with PartiTech, on behalf of Consumer Focus. The website aims to help users decipher which technology-based methods are best-suited to consumer empowerment activities such as campaigning, consulting and collective action. It is one of the most comprehensive, categorised collections of digital engagement methods on the web and includes over 140 links to examples of them in action.

The website will help public engagement professionals to explore the full range of ways to engage consumers effectively, and think wider than social media or web-only methods. The Digital Engagement Cookbook examines methods from webinars and online forums, to serious games and crowdsourcing, and everything in-between. It offers practical examples and detail on putting the methods into practice. It also gives information on evaluating the process as you go, to ensure users achieve the desired impact.

The site lists more than 60 methods for online engagement, covering a range of technologies and processes such as e-petitions, debate visualization and online chat. Each method belongs to one of four categories (Discover, Debate, Decide and Do). Here’s part of the entry on online consultations:

Description
Consultation is the dynamic process of dialogue between individuals or groups, based upon a genuine exchange of views and with the objective of influencing decisions, policies or programmes of action. This method involves the combination of digital tools to achieve this (i.e. is not the same as the Online Survey method). A key differentiator is the ‘stakeholder database’ which is a feature of online consultation tools that tracks individual participation across multiple consultations.

Related Methods

  • Online Survey
  • Spatially Enhanced Consultation

Purpose
The purpose of online consultation is typically to enhance information provision for a more informed exchange of views while harnessing the benefits of the digital channel such as immediacy, extended reach and targeting. For participants the key benefits include the ability to have their voice heard on more occasions, at their own convenience and among the knowledge of others.

Category
Decide

Strengths

  • Enhanced transparency and feedback loops.
  • Easier to co-ordinate, evaluate, manage and administer in the digital domain.
  • Considerably cheaper than paper consultation exercises.

Weaknesses

  • Takes considerable set-up.
  • Risks an underwhelming number of responses unless the issues are salient and there is sufficient marketing effort.
  • Best when used in tandem with an offline method but difficult to integrate the two.
  • Can be difficult to interpret or analyse results, such as long-tail discussions.

A catalogue of questions aims to help users narrow down the list of methods to match their particular participation parameters. High-level tips on planning and measuring as well as links to related resources complete the picture.