City recruiting hundreds of people with opinions they want to share. Interested?

By Pepper Parr

January 29, 2014


We would like to invite you to join Insight Burlington – an online, interactive community panel that will give participants an opportunity to engage and connect on a variety of issues.  You will be invited to share your thoughts, ideas and insights on a variety of issues that are important to you and the City of Burlington”, said the email.

Sounded pretty straightforward. 

“To get started please click on the link below and complete the short survey. It should take you no more than 6 minutes” took less.

You can be part of this Insight panel the city is setting up. Click on the link below and answer the questions and you’re in.

Knowing what people think helps a city provide the services the city can afford.

City manager Jeff Fielding had hoped to have several thousand people signed up and ready to answer whatever questions the city wanted to ask.  When there is an issue being considered the city wanted to be able to turn this Insight panel – run a couple of questions by them and factor that “public opinion” into their decision.

The city does not own the software that runs the program and all the background technology that makes the service work is owned and operated by the son of one of the best public opinion polling expert this country has.  Angus Reid, basically retired now, serves as a thinker for Vision Critical – the name of the service Burlington bought into.

Who you are is none of the city’s business.  They will, for example, know you are 55 years of age, live in L7M 1T5, own your home and have a household income of $119,000.  The WHO you are by name – the city will never know – all that information stays on the Vision Critical computers which happen to be located in Vancouver.

The Insight panel is something the city manager has control of – members of council don’t get to put their sticky fingers anywhere near it.  They may be asked if there are questions they would like to see posed – but the service is in place for the city administration.  It is a tool to help them make decisions.

The Insight Burlington panel is open to anyone 16 years of age and older who is a resident, taxpayer or business owner/operator in the City of Burlington.   The goal is to create a panel that reflects the community. It is an opportunity to voice your opinions on a variety of topics and issues related to the city and the services it provides. 

The service is described as a part of the Engagement Charter – now there’s something we haven’t heard about for some time. 

What fascinates the people at city hall is the granularity the service will give them.  Suppose you said you never used transit – they could ask you why and focus on people in specific parts of the community based on the postal code that was captured.

If there is an issue related to parents in the northern part of the city – the postal codes allow survey questions to be directed to people they are relevant to.

If you want to join click on the link below and answer the questions.  The system will get back to you letting you know that you are one of the chosen – actually you choose yourself.

The system can’t be gamed, you can’t flood it by having all your buddies, people who think the way you do, register.  The software was designed to provide the city administration with a balanced view.

The city manager is starting this with a soft launch – they want to see how well it works.  Early thinking had them taking a look at transit but that may have changed.

Leah Bisutti, administrative  assistant in City Manager’s Office has what is called “ownership” of the service.  Bisutti along with four other people at city hall have been trained on how to set up a questionnaire.  The intention is to send out questions frequently but keep them short.  And for those with Smart phones – you will be able to respond on the GO train.

Bisutti is excited about the project.  Burlington is the first city in Ontario to take this approach to community engagement.  The question staff ask is: Will it work, will people take us up on this.

If you registered to become part of the panel – you can expect to see the first set of question within three to five days.  I’m excited, Leah is excited and the city manager is hoping that the investment pays off – he doesn’t want to have to tell council that he blew $100,000 on an idea.

Checking in – being heard.

If you didn’t get one; accept this invitation from the Gazette.  Join Now

Got questions?  Bisutti has an electronic help line – pop her a note and ask your questions.

If you are unable to click on the link above, please copy and paste the full URL below into your browser:


City reveals public opinion polling plans, not cheap.

City hall recruits public for opinions



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