Willoughby City Council Public Engagement

  • 2019

  • Service
    Public Sector Services

Designed By:

Commissioned By:

Willoughby City Council

Designed In:


To prepare their 10-year Community Strategic Plan, Willoughby City Council wanted to push beyond traditional community consultation to connect more genuinely with a more diverse spread of citizens. ThinkPlace was engaged to help imagine, design and facilitate innovative ways of engaging and energising the community to generate a more representative plan.

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  • How connected are you with your local council? How much time would you be prepared to spend helping them prepare their 10-year strategic plan? For most, the answers are probably “not much” and... “less than not much.” That’s a massive design challenge. Willoughby City Council threw that challenge at ThinkPlace. Councils must show that they have consulted with their community before drafting these plans. Too often in the past, all over Australia, this has meant a token consultation with a small, non-representative group of citizens. This results in strategy that does not serve the true diversity and interests of communities.

  • ThinkPlace collaborated with a team from the Council to develop and implement a strategy and engagement activities to create and test community-sourced goals for the Community Strategic Plan. These activities were designed to be fun. To create delight. Over 7 months the team designed and ran events, incorporating gamification techniques, to engage citizens. We used social media videos and campaign tools, interactive websites, postcard prompts and physical displays in the local library to spur engagement.The activities vastly increased the reach and quality of this important public discussion. ThinkPlace conducted a comprehensive and progressive synthesis on the data and feedback collected.

  • More than 7,000 thoughts, ideas and comments were collected during this project, a massive increase in the quantity, quality and diversity of responses, compared with standard methods. A social media video made to encourage engagement was viewed 20,000 times. The project delivered a comprehensive data set of themes, goals and actions from which the well-received plan - Our Future Willoughby 2028 - was created. Aided by ThinkPlace, Willoughby City Council went beyond consultation to genuinely connect with residents and businesses, allowing them to co-design its strategy. This project is a new gold standard for how councils include citizens in strategic planning.

  • A key feature was the Building Our Future symposium held in Chatswood. We invited people across the local community to come along for a morning of fun and games (and a free lunch). We even asked them to bring a friend. Free activities for kids meant parents could participate fully, leading to a younger and more culturally diverse crowd than in previous consultations. Almost 100 people, from across the local community took part in a two-hour workshop using gamification techniques such as a purpose-designed card games to ideate around the future needs of their community. And they had a great time. The successful event shows the power of gamification to help tackle wicked problems around apathy, diversity and dwindling citizen participation in democratic institutions. From this session we synthesised key, community-sourced, areas of strategic importance and helped develop a draft strategy around them. This was then socialised via a highly shareable social media video that outlined key concepts and encouraged citizens to give feedback via social media, a dedicated website and pop-up locations. - The project also led to a new, citizen created vision statement for the council that will underpin future activities for years to come.