Why we use 'agreements' at Commonplace
By Fred Gulliford | Tue, Mar 2, 2021
3 min read
Our consultations are full of comments, opinions and ideas. From active travel to planning and development, Commonplace provides digital community engagements for the public to express their views. Whether it is through dropping a pin on a map and answering a survey or commenting on specific proposals, our community members can share their thoughts with their peers and invite others to agree with their posts.
Why do we have agreements?
People like to read other respondent’s comments - and frequently find other suggestions that they agree with. So we designed a way for you to show your agreement on Commonplace.
You can react to other people’s comments by agreeing and sharing them. If you see another person’s comment that you like, you can easily show your support by clicking on the ‘agree button’.
Why is there no 'disagree' button?
If you’ve ever interacted with one of our online community engagements you’ll have noticed that there is no ‘disagreement’ button. This is deliberate - and we are sometimes asked why you can’t simply disagree as easily as you can agree. Commonplace is a platform for opinions. If you “Disagree” with an opinion, there is no clue as to what you think is a better suggestion or point of view. Agreeing is specifically linked to a visible, expressed idea.
Here is an analogy: you are standing at a crossroads with a friend and you are deciding which way to go. Your friend suggests a direction. If you agree with them, it is clear where you both will be heading. But if you just disagree, saying: “No, I won’t go there” there is no alternative direction suggested.
So what do I do if I disagree with someone's perspective?
Diverging views are always welcomed. It is important that a range of perspectives are considered, and therefore if you see a comment you disagree with, you can express your opinion by adding your own comment, which others can then agree with if they choose to.
For example, if there are two contradictory views about the same location, members of the community can show which of the two comments they agree with. If one contribution receives more agreements, it has collected more support from other people in the local community.
Community engagement is about understanding community views, priorities and opinions so that a better, more inclusive decision can be made. To achieve this, we believe that engagement activities should support an open, respectful conversation that can happen without any antagonism and animosity. People should feel safe to air their opinion without the fear of being mocked or criticised.
Today, expression on social media can be fuelled by an ambition to cause a stir. A scandal for the sake of controversy detracts from the social purpose of digital tools like Commonplace; amplifying public opinions to accelerate positive change. We need to protect voices and provide a safe space for expression, creating a place of uplifting stories and new learnings.
Prioritisation of community ideas
The purpose and the scope of community engagement is often to identify or prioritise key areas for community planning. Once ideas and suggestions are prioritised, additional technical information such as cost, feasibility or environmental impact can be considered and put together to create an action plan for future development or initiatives.
The Commonplace platform, helps customers to gather ideas and innovative thinking from the local community. The 'agreement' button then helps to pave a way forward by prioritising those ideas with greatest support/influence in order to aid the production of an action plan.
The need for transparency
According to our latest research, people feel that the planning system as a whole lacks transparency, and that decisions are taken behind closed doors. Our polling data showed that:
"52% of people thought that planning decisions about new developments were taken in secret to avoid public backlash."
Engaging for the Future, Commonplace
Such a lack of transparency inevitably leads to a lack if trust and becomes a barrier for engagement. Public consultations should therefore be open and transparent for everyone. Residents need to be able to see other people's comments, perspectives and agreements so that consensus can be reached. In the age of social media age, local democracy must embrace and be energised by digital conversations that are transparent, representative and honest.
At Commonplace that is precisely what we try to do. We firmly believe that communities who collaborate inclusively with each other and with other parties, are more resilient and better able to solve local problems. That is why the 'agreement' button is so important to our platform and is something that is here to stay.
Want to find out more about Commonplace?