Fielding gives his opinion survey tool a test drive – the wheels didn’t fall off. He would like more people involved.

By Pepper Parr

March 27, 2014

BURLINGTON, ON.

The city will be taking its best minds and prettiest faces to Queen’s Park to tell our story and present our case for more support from the province.

Burlington is sort of like that bright child that doesn’t get into trouble, runs its operations well enough ad gets forgotten.  Burlington doesn’t do drama or crisis.  Everyone likes everyone Burlington – it is the greatest place to live – so what’s to worry?

There are problems – and the city wants the province to be more aware that we are here, have a great story to tell and when we have problems – we’d at least like Queen’s Park to be aware of them.

When the discussions were taking place about IKEA taking up residence on the North service Road between Guelph Line and Walkers Line city hall staff ran into all kinds of problems with the Ministry of Transportation over just when and how the QEW might get widened.  We wanted to know what the MoT could do for us in the way of help with the interchanges on Walkers Line and staff found that there wasn’t a lot of help coming in.

Burlington realized it didn’t have a presence in the minds of the decision makers at Queen’s Park so we decided to put together a team of people who would GO train it to Toronto and meet with the provincial government

If you haven’t asked to be part of this panel – don’t complain and say city hall doesn’t listen.

As part of the preparation for that event city manager Jeff Fielding used his most recent communications tool – Insight Burlington – to ask his panel of more than 500  people what they thought the city should talk to the provincial government about.

There were six questions – four related to transportation and two related to employment.

The computer application that has been developed is kind of slick.  The questions are set out on the left hand side of your computer monitor.  On the right there is a row of boxes – one under the other with the words 1st choice, 2nd choice – right through to the 6th choice.

All you had to do was drag the question on the left to a place on the right – which was how you ranked the questions – showing which you thought was the most important to the least important.

The only thing missing was an opportunity to put in thoughts that were your own.  There could have been a box to type in a comment or a question that could have been asked.

There are times when city hall staff would like public opinion quickly.  The Insight panel makes that possible.

The members of the panel got an email yesterday afternoon and were asked to click on a link that took them to the survey.  It took just two minutes to complete the survey. Sometime at the end of the day or early tomorrow Fielding will get a report from his team that will tell him what the community thought he should do.

It is quick, short and gives city administrators a very valid sample of what the community thinks.

The program that runs behind the questions gets an even distribution from each of the six wards, a balance of age, gender and income.  All that data will have been collected earlier when the members of the panel were put into the system

Fielding would like a bigger panel and he wishes the members of council has been more diligent in promoting the idea.  He believes that over time people will hear about the panel and want to become part of it.

Fielding would like a bigger panel and he wishes the members of council has been more diligent in promoting the idea.The beauty of this service is that the city is able to get opinions very quickly – and they don’t know who you are – they just know that you are of a certain age, which ward you live in, if you are a home owner or an apartment dweller.  The will know if you drive a car or are a transit user or both.  But they don’t know who YOU are.

If you would like to become part of the panel – log into the web site and answer the questions – remember – they don’t know who you are.  The data collected is not kept at city hall.  All they get are the results of the survey.

If you believe in a democracy and want to be of service to your community – became part of the panel.  Some people have mentioned that they applied and were told they were on a waiting list.  That would have been because there were too many people, say, of a certain age group which would skew the sample population.

While this is an extreme example: if 56% of the population is female but 80% of the people who applied were male – the results would not be reflective of the city.  So some of those male applicants would get put on a waiting list and when the number of female applicants in the same age grouping increased they would be added to the survey panel.

What is vital is that the sample be reflective of the city’s population.

It will be interesting to hear what the city got back in the way of rankings to the six questions that were asked.

Background links:

City to create an opinion  survey panel.

City recruiting panel members.

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2 comments to Fielding gives his opinion survey tool a test drive – the wheels didn’t fall off. He would like more people involved.

  • donald

    great tool

  • Chris Ariens

    In my opinion, the potential of the Insight Burlington panel is limited. It’s a one-way conversation.

    The city has been using another tool, <a href="https://www.letstalkburlington.com title="Lets Talk Burlington" to get feedback on issues from the Transportation Master Plan to the new parking bylaws. Residents have had the opportunity to reach out both to the city and to each other to share ideas, which is far more productive than filling out a survey with limited options which a city staffer will no doubt filter before sharing with the public. Burlington, you have engaged people who want to talk about the issues…all you have to do is listen to them!