Civic Tech for Civic Engagement

Blog Post by Jason Farra: “When it came to gathering input for their new Environmental Master Plan, the Town of Okotoks, AB decided to try something different. Rather than using more traditional methods of consulting residents, they turned to a Canadian civic tech company called Ethelo.

Ethelo’s online software “enables groups to evaluate scenarios, apply constraints, prioritize options and come up with decisions that will get broad support from the group,” says John Richardson, the company’s CEO and founder.

Okotoks gathered over 350 responses, with residents able to compare and evaluate different solutions for a variety of environmental issues, including what kind of transportation and renewable energy options they wanted to see in their town.

One of the options presented to Okotoks residents in the online engagement site for the town’s Environmental Master Plan.

“Ethelo offered a different opportunity in terms of allowing a conversation to happen online,” Marni Hutchison, Communications Specialist with the Town of Okotoks, said in a case study of the project. “We can see the general consensus as it’s forming and participants have more opportunities to see different perspectives.”

John sees this as part of a broader shift in how governments and other organizations are approaching stakeholder engagement, particularly with groups like IAP2 working to improve engagement practices by training practitioners.

Rather than simply consulting, then informing residents about decisions, civic tech startups like Ethelo allow governments to involve residents more actively in the actual decision-making process….(More)”.