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

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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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How to Cite
Sharp, A., & Anderson, K. (1). Online citizen panels as an advance in research and consultation – A Review of pilot results. Commonwealth Journal of Local Governance, (6), 33-54.
Research and Evaluation (peer-reviewed)
Author Biographies

Anne Sharp, Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science/UniSA

Dr Anne Sharp heads the Institute's Sustainable Marketing research group. With over 15 years research experience, she has worked across a wide range of industries as well as building a strong track record in both State and Federal Government research. Her work has a focus on the application of marketing to social issues. This includes areas such as benchmarking service quality and satisfaction in a Government and regulatory body context, program evaluation and tracking, and the understanding decision-making processes. For the past 10 years she has assisted organisations to understand and adopt best-practice marketing principles. More information about her work can be found here:

Katherine Anderson, Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science/UniSA

Katherine has been a researcher at the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for more than four years. During this time she has worked on many projects for clients from a wide range of industries. Her relevant experience includes brand tracking, perceptual analysis and service quality evaluation (including mystery shopping). She has also worked as a researcher with Time and Fortune Magazines in London.