Tag Archives: the couch

Hearing from fathers on The Couch

For quite a while we’ve wanted to get an up-to-date snapshot pressures, concerns, and joys faced by fathers. Mothers tend to be very vocal and find the time to get on to The Couch, but poll results suggeted the dads were not so forthcoming.

So, on father’s day we launched a poll asking for replies just from dads. We’ve asked about role models, access to information on being a father, the nature of the role and time spent with their children, plus we’ve left some space for men to share views on highs and lows.

After just over a week 7% of members have completed the poll.

I’m hoping a few more blokes might get online and let us know about being a dad. Pass on the message to dads you know.

The Couch’s first birthday

the couch banner
Yeeha!! We celebrated the first anniversary of The Couch today. Rebecca pulled together a celebratory breakfast for staff at the Families Commission. With lots of help we cooked up a big pile of pancakes, with lashings of fresh fruit, maple syrup and bacon. While 30 plus staff ate around an extended table, a birthday cake was winging it’s way to Auckland office to make sure they got in on the spirit of things.

To mark our first year online we’re asking members what they think about how we are going. After just a week we’d received over 350 responses. A full analysis of the results will wait until after the end of the poll, but I did take a sneak preview and we’ve got loads of really valuable feedback.

One thing I picked up on skimming comments is that members want reassurance that what they’re saying is having an impact on government policy related to families. Being alert to expectations raised by any public participation process is really important. One of the things we’ve been talking about is having a regular newsletter that demonstrates how we are using the data collected. I think we’ll bring creation of that forward.

As we enter year two, with 3,000 members and lots of valuable contributions, we’re going to continue pushing to we ensure the website makes a difference for families.

Fun family photos

Couch fun family photo promotionThe Fun family photos promotion the Families Commission ran at the International Cultural Festival in Auckland on 26 February was a real hoot. During the course of the day we took over 250 photos of different familes, friends and other permutations of bodies and faces.

I was part of the team cajoling festival goers, handing out secret codes, and answering queries about the Families Commission. We are trialling the photo promotion at a couple of events to boost Couch members amongst demographic groups that are currently under-represented. The promotion is next appearing at the Pasifika festival in Auckland on 10 March.

Since posting each photo privately on The Couch, about a third of people who we snapped have visited the website to collect their photo. If the website statistics are reliable, most of the people who visited actually signed up to become a Couch member.

Some people turned away when we said it was an Internet only promotion. This felt uncomfortable as it goes against the inclusive nature of community engagement work. My motto is never turn anyone away. Others scratched their heads and then decided to get a photo taken when they thought of a friend who had Internet access, or were open to the suggestion of going to a public library or somewhere else where public Internet access is available.

After trialling the promotion at two events we’ll consider whether we use it again in the future. Having seen the excitment, trepidation and delight in the faces of those who participated, I vote for using the promotion again. But as we’ll have to consider this in the hard, cool light of day based on facts and figures, I’m not sure which way we’ll go.

Applause for The Couch

It’s gratifying when people notice that you’re doing good work. Last week David Hume, a consultant working for the State Services Commission, said The Couch is “a leading example of online participation in New Zealand”.

David is part of a team promoting efforts by government agencies to use the Internet for citizen participation. You can read more about the participation strand of the e-government strategy at www.e.govt.nz. Or if you’re keen, you can hear David’s comments as a panel member in something called a Karajoz Great Blend – a seminar of sorts which is not actually called something as unhip as a seminar – on digital democracy hosted by commentator Russell Brown (see his story “Back when I worked in the arms industry … “ to find out more about the blend, blending, blenders, etc). The audio is available on the Scoop website.

Anyway I didn’t mean to get tangled up in big picture stuff. I want to write about The Couch. It’s been a quite a while since I started managing the website, in May 2006 to be exact, and until now I haven’t got around to writing anything about it.

The Families Commission Komihana a Whanau lauched the consultation website in April 2006 to give people opportunities to tell the Commission what they think about issues relating to family life. Every four to six weeks we run online polls on a range of topics, from parenting to living with disabilities. Information gathered feeds into policy development, identification of hot topics for families, and ongoing advocacy.

We’ve been successful at attracting a large membership. It’s still growing with 2,700 members on board, and people are active with 81% of members having participated in at least one poll. I’m not sure exactly how many people read the results, which we try to publish within a month of polls closing, but the numbers are probably not as high as those who complete polls.

An often neglected aspect of consultation websites is promotion, but the Commission is working very hard to make sure a cross section of New Zealand families join up. Attracting new members from under-represented demographic groups is a key thrust of the marketing. Hence our presence at selected events around the country (more on this soon).

When we don’t have our heads in the administration of the website, we’re looking ahead to how we can build on what has been achieved in the last ten months. With a field as new as online participation, constant refinement and enhancements need to be made. An evaluation of members’ views using an online poll is scheduled to begin next month. The results will give us an idea of whether our plans are on track.

That’s enough for now given I finished work hours ago. There’s much more to say about The Couch so I plan to write something again soon.