Online citizen panels as an advance in research and consultation – A Review of pilot results

Anne Sharp
Katherine Anderson


This paper details a new model for local government consultation and research. The model involves a local government partnering with a university to establish an online panel of citizens that is then used for consultations and research on a range of local government issues over time. The model was evaluated across an 18-month pilot involving three metropolitan councils in South Australia, each running its own panel. This paper details the rationale behind the panels, steps involved in their establishment, and what the most effective recruitment methods were to build panel membership. The model’s ability to recruit a wide audience of citizens as members, including those who would not normally participate in local government matters, is examined, as well as citizen expectations of the panel and satisfaction with being a member. Finally, key learnings from the pilot are identified. The pilot results demonstrate that such an online panel model can be used effectively in the local government context. The panels achieved citizen membership wider than that historically seen in local government consultation and research, and were sustainable in terms of continued participation and high levels of citizen satisfaction. Since the pilot, the project has grown to include seven councils and almost 2500 citizens. This is further evidence that this model offers a way forward for enhanced citizen participation in local government decision-making and policy development.

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