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Solace blog

26th June 2019

Transform how you engage and collaborate with your communities

The complexities of the challenges facing local authorities cannot be underestimated.  From the burgeoning demand for adult social care to the increasing pressure of delivering services across the board, it’s becoming harder for local authorities to balance the books.  Meanwhile central Government has made transparency and Open Data a priority to foster accountability, efficiency and spark economic development.

Having said that, there are some key factors to consider which bring a more positive light to the way in which local authorities can transform their engagement with citizens.  Firstly, the very nature of communities themselves; no-one cares more about a community than the people who live there.  Families grow, households foster connections with neighbours and people take civic pride in their neighbourhoods.  People actively participate in making their community a better place to live in.

This human interaction goes hand in hand with technology and the rise of the internet which has provided a platform for immediate access to information, people and places. Today, technology makes it easier for organisations to not only share their data quickly and securely but also present it in a format that’s easy to understand, analyse and re-use.  Citizens have the unprecedented ability to interact with that information.  And they expect to connect to government through apps, websites, community engagement dashboards, and social media; citizens rightly want easy, reliable and frictionless ways of communication, engagement, and collaboration.

Transforming engagement while driving down costs

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are already used extensively through government in both the back office and improving people’s access to frontline services.  One example is Cornwall Council who are making strategic use of GIS technology to drive cost savings.  Utilising Esri’s ArcGIS platform, the Council’s use of GIS helps it to protect vital public services and deliver new programmes for families in need while implementing a wide range of cost reduction initiatives.

GIS technology continues to develop at a remarkable pace.  The ArcGIS Hub is a new engagement platform that rallies communities around issues and initiatives, applying data to decision-making to create more efficient, liveable, sustainable, smarter communities.  It helps central Government and local authorities to maximise communication, collaboration and data-sharing with citizens, and track progress to improve outcomes. Essentially, the ArcGIS Hub enables local authorities to create value from Open Data and connects internal departments and external stakeholders to issues and initiatives they care about.

Creating value from Open Data

With Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to local authorities almost doubling over the last decade, we know that citizens are becoming increasingly active.  Most requests are for information that is not publicly available or searchable, missing key efficiencies and highlighting the need for increased automation.   Using ArcGIS Hub Foundation, local authorities can now build quick-to-set- up Open Data portals that give citizens free access to important data, supporting cost-efficiencies through channel shift, while meeting Open Data/transparency obligations.

The ArcGIS Hub is already successfully being used by Esri GIS users, helping them to cost-effectively and sustainably fulfill their transparency obligations by sharing Open Data. The Oil & Gas Authority is supporting the development of the UK oil and gas industry by publishing authoritative data about the UK’s oil and gas resources via an Open Data Portal, powered by ArcGIS Hub Foundation.  New and existing investors now have a single point of access to all the data they might need and can make faster, well-informed decisions about financing new oil or gas exploration.

 Encouraging data-driven citizenship

Most local authorities will have high profile projects that have a specified need to engage and collaborate with citizens and external stakeholders.  ArcGIS Hub Premium provides local authorities with a two-way digital engagement platform which supports redevelopment, regeneration and other key policy initiatives allowing for two-way engagement on pressing issues.

For example, there may be a need to communicate the breadth, scope and ambition of a redevelopment.   ArcGIS Hub can be deployed to demonstrate a geographical representation of project timelines, locations, dependencies and proposed scenarios from which a core data set can be used to inform communication and consultation strategies.   If we look how ArcGIS Hub supports a regeneration project, it provides a means of engaging and consulting with citizens and gives the local authority a better understanding of their needs, views, and aspirations for the future.

 Harnessing the power of volunteering

We know from the Community Life Survey that “improving things and helping others” is the cornerstone for why people volunteer.  Local authorities can spur participation in the community and harness the significant capability these volunteers represent by allowing volunteers to digitally sign-up to initiatives.   ArcGIS Hub’s ability to offer a two-way collaboration platform provides volunteers with the ability to offer their support, for example, on projects to improve the quality of the local environment by enhancing open space, accessibility, natural features, and biodiversity.

Local authorities now have a powerful digital platform to engage with their communities, inform citizens of key initiatives and offer compelling ways for the public to provide feedback and collaborate with local government.  Would you like to find out more?   Esri UK is hosting a webinar on July 23rd, which will include first-hand experience from customers including Cheshire East Council and RSPB, showcasing the power of the ArcGIS Hub.  To discover more and register simply click here;   to dig deeper, click through to the website here or, quite simply, drop me a line at

By Paul Clarke, Head of Government, Esri UK