Innovation Exchange

Effectively engaging and informing citizens

Introduction

Key activities

Benefits and impacts

Learning

Further Information

It is imperative for local government across Scotland to effectively engage with their citizens, keeping them informed about polities, upcoming events and new opportunities.

 

Local government also need to effectively communicate with their stakeholders who include local and national businesses. Their role is to give them the information they need to help expand their operations, exploit opportunities, embrace challenges and to contribute to the region’s economic growth.

 

But, local government face the problem of attracting and sustaining the attention of their external audiences.

 

South Ayrshire Council is not exempt from this. The Council is aware of the challenges that face them when sharing information and getting locals to engage.

 

The Council particularly wanted to increase public awareness of its Local Development Plan - a strategic policy document that sets out the council’s land use priorities. This potentially life-changing document had only been downloaded 1500 times from the Council’s website over the course of a year and with a population of over 111,000, the Council was determined to reach more people.

Theme: Digital; Housing and Regeneration

south ayrshire council logo

South Ayrshire Council, a user of Esri geographic information system (GIS) solutions, discovered Esri’s Story Map templates. They found it useful as a means of making information accessible and meaningful for citizens.

 

The Council began by producing a Story Map for its Local Development Plan which combines maps of the area with high quality images and the actual policy wording.

 

The Story Map which is accessible via the website clearly sets out where new commercial developments, like retail units, will be permitted, advises on the best sites developments like wind farms, and simplifies policy around residential planning restrictions.

In recognition of their new and engaging approach to publishing the Local Development Plan, South Ayrshire Council was named the overall winner in the Scottish Awards for Quality in Planning 2016.

 

Not only was the idea a success for that particular project, their GIS team were inundated with requests for additional Story Maps from other Council departments.

 

The requests weren’t all for Story Maps to engage with just external audiences. There was also a requirement that a similar approach could be used for communicating with internal audiences.

 

The Council says that there is ‘at least one new Story Map request every ten days.’ This has resulted in ten staff from various departments being trained to help keep up with demand.

 

Generally, there has been an increase in citizen engagement on local issues. People are better informed and are more involved in local issues.

 

In comparison to how often the previous Local Development Plans were viewed, the Story Map version was viewed nearly 4,500 times in just six months. It was accessed more times in the first five weeks than the plan had been downloaded in 12 months.

 

Another Story Map was produced to clarify proposed ward boundary changes, incorporated Esri’s

QuestionWhere survey app. It provided a direct means for citizens to comment on and influence council plans.

 

South Ayrshire Council also produced a Story Map which shows vacant land and derelict sites. The clarity of the information makes it easier for home owners and commercial organisations to recognise development opportunities, understand council policies and make appropriate planning applications that are more likely to obtain planning permission.

 

The hope is that this will assist in increasing the number of commercial, industrial and residential developments in South Ayrshire, helping to invigorate the local economy.

 

Enriched with quality imagery, the Story Maps help to promote South Ayrshire as a destination for visitors and support the local tourism industry. The council created a Story Map for the Open Golf Tournament, converting information from a dense 40-page Traffic Management document into a highly visual, interactive resource. It clarified how to get to the venue, where to park and how to use public transport and was viewed over 5,000 times in just two weeks.

 

They have also helped internal communications in the Council. This has improved employees’ understanding of corporate policies and procedures, contributing in some cases towards cost savings.

 

One example is the Story Map named ‘Better Mail Management,’ which shows employees how to handle mail and where to find franking machines - cost effective methods of sending mail.

 

Stewart McCall, Senior Systems Analyst at the Council said that the organisation ‘now have a rapidly growing portfolio of over 25 Story Maps that play a valuable role in improving communications with citizens, businesses and colleagues.’

 

He found the Story Maps helpful in ‘the tying together of maps, images and text, in one place, in an interactive format.’ He found that the description beside the map ‘makes it very clear what the map shows and why it is important, while the images draw people in and make the Story Maps compelling to view.’

 

Contact details:

To find out more about this case study, please contact:

 

Simon Roberts

Data and Engagement Strategist, Spatial Information Service

improvement Service

01506 283887

Case study added to site: December 2018

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