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July 21, 2017

Turning opinions into the data that will transform our city

Community consultation is getting more sophisticated in its approach and more effective in its results for the City of Adelaide.

  • City of Adelaide & CityMag

Jane Reed, City of Adelaide’s Senior Community Engagement Officer

The idea of a local council as a collection of people is almost an abstract thought.

For some, the real-world presence of the City of Adelaide (CoA) amounts mostly to paper leaflets and a quote in print from the Lord Mayor, but community engagement is an increasingly tangible part of supporting good decision making for CoA elected members.

“Community engagement is a much stronger theme for all organisations now, arguably than it has ever been,” CoA’s Senior Community Engagement Officer, Jane Reed, says.

“It’s about getting consumers  and residents involved in the decisions Council is making about the services that they are going to receive.

“[If we’re] designing a street, we need to be talking to the business owners, people that are walking down the street, people who might walk down the street in the future, and we need to get their input to shape what the street actually looks like, what functionality it has, what potential uses we might be able to encourage in the future.”

And now we are no longer strictly in the age of snail mail and surveyors walking the streets, Jane is leading a push to bring more people onto Your Say Adelaide– the City’s online community engagement platform.

In the 15 months she’s been in her current role, Jane has seen the number of people registered on Your Say increase by 50 per cent, jumping from 3,000 to around 4,500. And as the number grows, so does the Council’s efficacy.

The form and function of our city is being built on the transparent and trackable data community consultation yields. Photo Ryan Cantwell

“It’s about us actually having the best opportunity to get it right the first time. It costs a lot more money and is a lot more irritating to people if we build it without their input and then get it wrong and have to go back and retro-fit,” Jane says.

The platform also enables different forms of communication between the City and the public, like live Q&A sessions with the Lord Mayor, and a more rounded conversation.

“Council has consulted heavily with the community to get their input into the four year Strategic Plan. That then forms our business plan for each over the next four years,” Jane says.

“When the annual budget comes out, we can say ‘We’ve heard you, we know these things are important to you because you’ve told us. Here’s what we’re proposing to do – what do you think?’

“The fact that people had input and understand what the Council has delivered and is going to deliver, I think creates a rationale and shows them the breadth of what we do as well.”

There is still development to be done in the community engagement field, and this is a priority for Jane.

This photo Sven Kovac

“One of the critical things for us is the hard to reach groups,” she says.

“I’ve worked in the homelessness sector, worked in aged care, worked in mental health, so I understand the dynamics that are involved in trying to ensure that those people have a say as well when there’s something that relates to them.”

No matter who you are, if the City is important to you, the CoA wants your voice.

Head to to get involved

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