Background from the customer: The OCDSB has used Thoughtexchange for a large number of community engagements, including district wide strategic planning consultations, accommodation reviews, school based consultations, community workshops, PA Day evaluations, senior staff feedback, and several other initiatives. We have used several versions of the enterprise system and have been impressed with the incredible progress/evolution of the system over time. We have also used the app based application in a number of situations and really appreciate the flexibility and ease of use of the system.
Last year, the OCDSB undertook a relatively complex community engagement process relating to the opening of a new International Baccalaureate program. As a result, there were three questions include in the exchange.
- What are your thoughts or questions about the proposed attendance boundary for the two IB programs?
- Merivale HS is currently a semestered school. What are your thoughts about moving to a non-semestered program delivery model for students at Merivale HS?
- Merivale HS currently starts at 8:00/8:10 AM . What are your thoughts or questions about a later start time for Merivale High School students?
What progress and/or personal value did it create?
This exchange allowed us to undertake a relatively complex engagement process in a meaningful way. The Board was faced with making a series of decisions which had different impacts for different school communities/stakeholder groups. Working with Thoughtexchange we were able to develop three very specific and straightforward questions that all stakeholders could respond to. However, we also wanted to ensure that stakeholders only had to respond to the questions of interest/value to them. The structure of the Thoughtexchange allowed for that and using some front end demographic questions allowed us to look at the feedback from a system-wide perspective and by stakeholder group.
In this process, the Thoughtexchange was one of several mechanisms being used in the community engagement process. One of the very interesting things we learned in this exchange was that we were able to monitor the thoughts and starring in the exchange in real time. This gave us great insight into the different perspectives of the various stakeholders, but also, it helped to inform all of our other work in the engagement process. For example, some of the early feedback helped to identify areas were the district needed better precision in our messaging in our web content, letters to parents, workshop language etcetera. As a result, we were able to be responsive to those concerns and make necessary modifications to language and/or process. In addition, we could tell which stakeholder groups were responding, which allowed us to do some additional reach out to other stakeholders to ensure a balanced perspective.
Our goals using Thoughtexchange were: allow easy online access for all stakeholders; use a methodology which allowed for stakeholders to provide feedback but also to learn from each other about the complexity of the issues and different perspectives;
use a methodology which provided data at the end of the engagement to help inform decision-making.
The added value of using Thoughtexchange was that it actually allowed us to improve the engagement process. Based on the feedback we were able to make adjustments to enhance our communication to parents, the planning of our public meetings, the methods we used for follow-up and feedback. This was a true value-add.
What advice do you have for other people asking this question?
Questions of this nature are complex and need careful planning. While the Thoughtexchange platform is a wonderful tool, the best way to optimize the tool is to take advantage of the knowledge and experience of the Thoughtexchange staff. Investing meeting time with Thoughtexchange staff to carefully plan the exchange questions is a great learning opportunity and makes a huge difference in the quality of the stakeholder engagement process.