Dale Burgos, Executive Director of Communications, Privacy and Community Engagement, recently held an exchange for Nanaimo-Ladysmith Public Schools. Their goal? To get feedback on what they're doing well, and where they can improve.
What are your thoughts about what is working well and what can be improved in our/your school?
What business and/or personal value did it create?
My school district has created numerous surveys in the past. We would ask questions on topics such as calendar and budget. We found that there were many good responses in the open-ended questions, but it was difficult to extract what was most important to the participants (other than reading page after page of comments).
I needed a better way to collect and report on the open-ended responses. Thoughtexchange’s collaboration tool helped me achieve my goal. During our engagement, we collected amost 1,200 thoughts from adults which in turn collected almost 13,000 ratings! The numbers were far greater for our students – 3,200 thoughts and just over 70,000 ratings. Senior staff and our Board of Education were very impressed by the number of participants, which historically, has seen low participatory rates.
The final report provided high level concerns which we were able to address during the budget development process. For example, wifi was top of mind for students. As a result, the district is now in the planning stages to address our wireless infrastructure at all schools. While upgrading the network has always been on its to-do list, staff and Board realized that it should become a top priority. The voices in the report provided validation to continue forward on an extremely costly, but much needed initiative.
What advice do you have for other people asking this question?
Like any public bodies, the first question is “How Much” will it cost me? There is also the concern that our budget won’t allow it.
Admittedly, I was in this position for many years. However, I’ve been noticing that the community engagement aspect of my job has been taking the front seat as of late. Engaging with your community is a transparent and productive way to gather thoughts and feedback from direct stakeholders. Parents are and will be the most passionate advocate for their child. While we are in the business of education, parents will often provide useful direction on what may work best for their children. Thoughexchange allowed us to ask important questions and receive thoughtful feedback whether good or bad. This process has been invaluable.
Some organizations may not feel entirely comfortable asking these big questions, as they may by afraid of the responses. But sometimes, these responses are what you need to learn, grow and move forward in the most respectful way.