Analysis: Citizen engagement at the heart of tomorrow’s services

19/06/2019

Citizen engagement has become a big theme in the infrastructure sector. With the growth of social media and smartphone technology, there are now many ways to engage with the people using public services every day.

As an industry, we’re keen to understand more about citizens’ needs, views and opinions. Of course, it helps us deliver better services. We know that citizens, more than ever, want to have a voice on decisions and a way to share their voice with authorities and decision-makers.

However, we have an ongoing challenge: we engage with less than 5% of citizens across the UK, when assessing their views on their highways service. How can we say this is truly representative of the communities and cities that we operate in?

Engagement through technology

Citizen engagement is not a new concept. Traditional methods of seeking citizen feedback and understanding satisfaction levels rely on paper-based, quantitative surveys. These are still being used within our industries. Going hand in hand with perceptive reports from organisations such as Transport Focus (which delves into detailed perspectives), they can provide valuable information and insight.

What is new is the emergence of big data. We’re at a stage now where we are able to collect data in unprecedented volumes, and that will only continue to increase. As we start to consume and analyse big data in a very different way, this enables us to have greater confidence to make commissioning decisions based on data outputs.

By linking data from different sources and encouraging citizens to engage through new mediums such as mobility apps, we have the opportunity to look at measuring citizen experience differently. What we need to do if we are truly going to recognise the view of citizens and ensure our asset management principles correlate with their perspectives, is ensure that our data sources and analysis methods complement the research.

Should citizens be driving change or just informing it?

If you’re thinking this sounds like a complex challenge, you’re right. Marrying research, citizen views and the swathes of big data that we are increasingly receiving to ensure we are delivering an optimal service is not straightforward.

It also poses us with a question – to what degree should citizens be driving change in our services? Should people’s feedback just be informing change? Ultimately, should key decisions be left to the asset management experts?

In some cases, it’s clear that engaging citizens directly enhances the services we provide. Recycling is the most obvious example – the more you engage with people on the issue of recycling, the more likely it is that people will sort their rubbish for recycling.

In a highway maintenance environment, it’s different. While we engage with end users, this should be balanced with the views of experienced asset managers – using the knowledge and expectations of all parties to make the most informed decisions.

Citizen engagement: Shifting perceptions

Engaging citizens should also lead to a greater understanding of the challenges authorities face - to juggle budgets, urgent repairs, ongoing maintenance and citizens’ priorities. Equally, it allows authorities to truly understand what’s actually important to their citizens.

Over time, I think we’ll see a shift to a position where citizen engagement, and ultimately satisfaction, will have an increased importance weighting when making decisions to identify and prioritise projects.

Collectively, the industry has a broad range of skills - asset management knowledge, traditional engineering experience, data services, technology developments and more. Through collaboration between the public and private sectors, we have the ability to deliver services that best serve the highways asset - and can be built to meet citizens’ needs. Collaboration is key.

It will take a collaborative shift in hearts and minds to realise that we can only unlock this potential together, no single company, organisation or individual can deliver this vision, but together it can be realised.

We still need to create a business environment that enables these elements to collaboratively unlock the potential public services offer in smart, urban or rural environments. Too often we compete where we need to collaborate. There is a growing momentum for change, and great work is being done to move this forward, although still too often being conducted in silos.

We also need to support entrepreneurial start-ups who offer more open innovation and incubation of new ideas. Unfortunately, this is often restricted by legislation, out of date intellectual property expectations or barriers to entry.

We’re beginning to see some change, and I hope this could be accelerated by a common industry approach to unlock blockers and maximise the opportunities a full market collaboration could deliver for the citizen.

David Ogden is business director (highways) at Amey.

Highways jobs

Assistant Traffic Technician x 2

Devon County Council
£19,554 - £21,589
Devon County Council are seeking two enthusiastic and skilled people to join its Traffic Orders, Policy and Programme Team Devon
Recruiter: Devon County Council

Regeneration Delivery Manager - Heritage Action Zone

Royal Borough of Greenwich
£42684 - £45585 per annum
(Fixed Term Opportunity until March 2024)Woolwich town is undergoing a period of intensive regeneration with huge investment in new housing, transport England, London, Woolwich
Recruiter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Senior Local Engineer

Birmingham City Council
£27,741 - £34,728
The Senior Local Engineer role is to provide technical service at senior level to Local Engineering teams Birmingham, West Midlands
Recruiter: Birmingham City Council

Traffic & Transportation Engineer

Conwy County Borough Council
£41,881 - £44,863 per annum
You should have a degree or diploma in civil engineering or other relevant discipline, and extensive experience in... North Wales
Recruiter: Conwy County Borough Council

Principal Development Co-ordinator

Gloucestershire County Council
£33,799.00 - £38,813.00 + 12% MRS
Leading on the review of Major Development Proposals. Gloucester, Gloucestershire
Recruiter: Gloucestershire County Council

Highways Development Management (HDM) Manager

Gloucestershire County Council
£53,445.00 - £58,008.00 + MRS
To oversee all aspects of Highways Development Management from pre application discussions to road adoption. Gloucester, Gloucestershire
Recruiter: Gloucestershire County Council

Principal Development Engineer

Gloucestershire County Council
£33,799.00 - £38,813.00 + 12% MRS
You will be responsible for undertaking design audit of third party developer works under Section 38 and 278 of the Highways Act 1980. Gloucester, Gloucestershire
Recruiter: Gloucestershire County Council

Director of Environment

Southwark London Borough Council
Up to £136,000
A fairer future for all A fairer future for all Southwark, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Southwark London Borough Council

Director of Public Health

Southwark London Borough Council
Up to £136,000
A fairer future for all Southwark, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Southwark London Borough Council

Parks Development Officer

Kirklees Metropolitan Council
£26,999 - £29,636 per annum
You will work with community groups, organisations, ward members, residents and colleagues in order to... Kirklees, West Yorkshire
Recruiter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

Head of Infrastructure & Facilities

East Riding of Yorkshire Council
circa 100k
We are seeking a Head of Infrastructure & Facilities to lead the strategic management of the service in a unique and exciting opportunity for a... Beverley, East Riding of Yorkshire
Recruiter: East Riding of Yorkshire Council

Senior Professional and Technical Officer – Project Manager

Bristol City Council
£32,910 - £34,728
We are seeking to appoint a Project Manager, to work in the Transport Service, to help support the delivery of the above plans. Bristol
Recruiter: Bristol City Council

Policy Advisor – The Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise (ICCAN)

Department for Transport
£37,803
Look to the sky for a great career opportunity Woking, Surrey
Recruiter: Department for Transport

Skilled Road Worker (TRR)

London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth
£26,025 - £31,536 depending on knowledge, skills and experience
Do you want to be part of a supportive team and use an innovative method of working on the highway? London (Greater)
Recruiter: London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth

Assistant Director of Transport & Sustainability

Royal Borough of Greenwich
£93,098 - £102,841
This dynamic role will see you provide strategic leadership to our transport strategy Greenwich, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Highways Customer Communications Officer

North Yorkshire County Council
£27,741 to £30,451
We are looking for a strong communicator to join our Highways Team in Boroughbridge.   Boroughbridge, York
Recruiter: North Yorkshire County Council

Assistant Engineer - Grade 2

Northumberland County Council
£24,313 and £26,999
We are looking for candidates to fill the post of Assistant Engineer. Morpeth, Northumberland
Recruiter: Northumberland County Council

Street Cleaning Operative / Driver

Barnet London Borough Council
Competitive Salary
We are looking for hard working, motivated, reliable people to join our team. Barnet (City/Town), London (Greater)
Recruiter: Barnet London Borough Council

Highways Manager - Operations

Lancashire County Council
£46,566-£50,514 Per annum
Lancashire is a vibrant and striking place to live and work and it’s also one of the fastest growing locations in the UK. Lancashire
Recruiter: Lancashire County Council

Highways Inspector

Hackney London Borough Council
£28,752 - £32,577
We are looking for an organised and self-motivated individual to join our Streetworks Team based in Hackney Central. Hackney, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Hackney London Borough Council

Highways on Fridays

Register now!

Latest Issue

latest magazine issue
  • Shell celebrates 100 years of bitumen
  • Why we need to be more strategic about safety
  • Major reforms aim to close cycling gap
View the latest issue

Latest Video