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Hidden Comments: Helping your statutory consultations

Today we want to introduce you to the Hidden Comments component of Commonplace Select, an easy way to gather the accurate data you need for your statutory consultations and pre-decision matters.

Before we delve into the specifics of the Hidden Comment feature, here is a brief reminder of what Commonplace Select is:

We’ve created Commonplace Select to enable our public sector customers to conduct consultations with a predefined list of stakeholders, needed for statutory consultations for specific groups, pre-planning stakeholder engagement, surveys for tenants in housing associations or residents in post-occupancy evaluation.


Commonplace Select is available as part of our most comprehensive package, find out today what this can help you achieve beyond your current setup.

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Now onto the good stuff.

Hidden Comments

In line with the main objectives of Commonplace Select, the Hidden Comments feature makes room for you to properly engage with stakeholders on specific or sometimes sensitive subject matters. The idea is that during the consultations, community members cannot see the comments of others until they make a contribution of their own, and in some cases, they won’t be able to see other responses at all.

Why is this important for ‘closed’ statutory consultations?

Have you ever been in a meeting room full of people and hesitated to say how you really feel? Well the beauty of online engagement is that this barrier is removed. Community members don’t need to worry about speaking up in a room full of people to provide their honest feedback, but the hidden comments feature takes this one step further. Restricting the view of other comments means stakeholders can share the thoughts reflecting what they believe to be the true priorities of the topic being discussed. 

In some cases, initially restricting the view of other comments can incentivise community members to contribute. Neighbours and fellow townspeople may be keen to see what others have to say, and contributing their own thoughts will enable them access.

When stakeholders’ responses cannot directly influence  one another, you can see themes of concern to the community with less of an “echo chamber”, which can be a useful prelude to the public, open Commonplace engagement that follows. 

How does this feature work?

Transparency and trust are core Commonplace values and ones we share with our customers. Whenever our platform powers an engagement, we want to make sure openness and honesty is maintained. Therefore, the Software Licence Agreement for the Hidden Comments feature includes a customer commitment to publish the findings of their engagement.

Hidden comments for public sector engagements:

In this case, respondents need to submit a contribution before seeing other contributions.  This approach fosters curiosity amongst community members, incentivising them to participate in the consultation. When activated, contributions will be hidden until the contributor comments once. Then, they will be able to see all contributions from all proposals within this project. 

Hidden comments for private sector engagements:

These engagements are typically pre-planning stakeholder engagements, conducted with a predefined list. When activated, contributions will remain hidden unless the contributor belongs to a  list of stakeholders to which you’d like to grant wider access. For the remaining contributors, once a contribution is made the stakeholder will be redirected to a page with the project summary. This means customers in this category can conduct engagements on more sensitive topics, removing bias and creating a safe space for participants to contribute freely.

How does the Hidden Comments feature benefit your stakeholder consultation

So far, a few benefits to this feature have been mentioned, but here is a recap including a few more reasons the hidden comment feature would be a good option for you:

  • It allows stakeholders to provide feedback with minimal bias, and enables vulnerable groups to contribute freely. 
  • We also believe that this feature lessens risks when it comes to ‘controversial’ developments as people provide honest opinions on initial plans, to better inform finalised plans. 
  • This feature also produces a higher response rate, as for option 2 stakeholders are provided a unique link to access the engagement, therefore contributors might feel like a significant part of the process. 
  • Our research shows that communities can be encouraged to contribute their own feedback upon seeing that other members of their neighbourhood have participated. This can also be the reason for higher participation rates. People are incentivised to contribute to find out what their neighbours have said.

The hidden comments feature, alongside Commonplace Select, was developed based on the feedback of our customers to better cater to your engagement needs. To learn more if this feature is suitable for your next project, get in touch below.


Want to learn more about the hidden comments feature? Get in touch.

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Nouvella Kusi

Nouvella Kusi

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