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South Australia leads the charge on social media

The South Australian government is taking the lead on social media and community engagement programs – with more than 12,000 people engaging with the administration on policy and key decision-making.

09/03/2012

This engagement, being delivered under a “YourSAy” initiative, is a multi-channel, on-line platform that engages citizens across the state.

Communities can participate in making policy spanning a broad range of areas. These include healthcare, education, recreational services, affordable housing, and green development projects.

The foundations for the Your SAy project were laid during one of Australia’s largest community consultation programs, says Gail Fairlamb, Principal, Community Engagement and Stakeholder Relations, Cabinet Office, Department of Premier and Cabinet (SA).

The SA government sought citizen feedback on its Strategic Plan in 2010. This Plan is a development blueprint that is refreshed every four years. Subsequent consultations offered a chance to engage communities in new and innovative ways.

The SA government now uses established online tools and techniques to engage an online community of more than 12,000 people across cities, towns and regional areas. This engagement was refined during the 2010-2011 consultations.

During the update of the Plan, the team needed to “connect people to policy” using the most interactive and far-reaching communications channels, says Gail Fairlamb.

“Social media and online engagement offered us the best tools, while complementing face-to-face and other, more traditional communications.”

Social media now offers a new, cutting-edge approach for government-community engagement.

“Reaching new audiences involves more than just segmenting the audience according to a demographic group. We needed to know things like: what are peoples’ values? What motivates them to participate?

“People engage for different reasons and it’s important to match the content, tone of voice and channels to communicate with people online.”

The team is sharing its knowledge with other government agencies in South Australia. This knowledge incorporates in-house online capability, including a dedicated web-site, database access, social media tools and other expertise.

A detailed interview with Gail Fairlamb is featured in the March-April 2012 edition of FutureGov Magazine.

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