Ajax launches interactive consultation tool - Improving public participation
Jan. 21, 2015
By Leah Wong
Getting residents to participate in public consultation efforts is a challenge for municipal politicians across the GTA.
Ajax has launched an interactive online consultation tool in an attempt to engage more residents in the development of its new community action plan. Through Let’s Talk Ajax the town outlined the four strategic priorities set by council last year, as well as a series of initiatives that are being proposed to meet these goals.
“This is a new way to approach consultation for the community action plan,” senior communications advisor Rachael Wraith told NRU. “It also helps us to expand our reach. A lot of people are online and it’s an opportunity for them to visit [the site] and let us know what’s important to them.”
The four priorities - excellence in service delivery and governance, leader in environmental sustainability, strategic development and economic prosperity and strong sense of community - came out of a strategic planning session with council last year.
Ajax creates a new community improvement plan at the start of each term of council that continues on work that has been done in the previous term. The priorities for 2015-2018 are the same as those defined in the 2011-2014 plan. The Community Action Plan Success Report 2011-2014 noted that 106 of the 110 initiatives outlined in the plan were achieved by the end of last year.
Going online with the consultation for the next community action plan furthers work Ajax has been doing to engage residents digitally over the last four years. Historically, Ajax used online surveys during the budget process and this past fall it used electronic voting during the election period.
“For us it’s about making it as accessible and convenient as possible for residents to provide input and give them those opportunities,” said Wraith. “We’re always looking for new and progressive ways that we can engage with residents.”
The town has developed a tool called Rank It, which allows residents to give the thumbs up or thumbs down to proposed initiatives. Residents are also able to submit their own ideas through the site.
Residents have until February 13 to rank initiatives through the website. In its first week 550 people visited the Let’s Talk Ajax site.
“We’re in a mobile world now and it’s very important that we’re able to make this as accessible as possible for our residents,” said Wraith. “Not everyone is able to come to a public meeting. This is a great way to keep this [discussion] open for four weeks.”
The town is continuing its consultation off -line in tandem with the interactive website by allowing residents to submit written feedback in person at town hall and several recreational facilities. In early February the town has scheduled meet and greets with ward councillors, which will allow residents to learn about the action plan and share feedback with their councillors.