Future Melbourne Wiki FAQ (Frequently asked questions)

Why conduct the Future Melbourne consultation process through a wiki?

Future Melbourne has been developed using a transparent and collaborative process. The City of Melbourne, in combination with its partners, stakeholders, Reference Group and importantly the public, have worked together over the last 12 months to develop the draft Future Melbourne plan.

When the formal public consultation period arrived, the wiki was a perfect fit for the project as it enables wide-scale collaboration unrestricted by time or geographical constraints. This meant a wide variety of participants were able to take part, whether city residents, workers, visitors or students. Unlike traditional public meetings, online participation and collaboration can occur 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This is particularly useful for those who are ‘time poor’ and unable to attend a public meeting due to employment or other commitments. With the shift towards staggered working hours and the demise of the standard nine to five workday, it is increasingly difficult to schedule traditional fixed public meetings at a time that is convenient for most people.

How does the Future Melbourne wiki compare with the traditional consultation process?

The City of Melbourne is the first government in Australia to use this highly interactive online tool for public consultation and collaboration. For the first time ever, the community was able to directly contribute their ideas to enhance and develop the city towards 2020 and beyond.

The primary difference between the wiki and the traditional consultation processes lies in the ability for people to directly engage and participate with the content in the plan, and to collaborate with other users and City of Melbourne staff. Participants are able to directly add their own ideas to the document at the location which they feel is most appropriate. A built-in history function saves and archives a new version of the document each time an edit or change is made.

In developing the Future Melbourne wiki, we were heavily influenced by the standards and procedures developed by Wikipedia. We consider our tagline “The city plan that anyone can edit” to be an obligatory ‘tip of the hat’ to what has grown to be the most influential wiki in the world.

Whilst the wiki was our primary consultation tool, it was just one in a suite of tools. We continued to offer more traditional consultation options in order to ensure those without computer/internet access were not disadvantaged. These included face-to face sessions where the community could meet the Future Melbourne team in person, a variety of public forums, community and targeted stakeholder workshops, as well as the opportunity to engage with hardcopies and executive summaries of the plan at local libraries and community centres. Submissions have also been received orally, by post and email.

Overall, the popularity and level of participation witnessed online in the wiki has far outweighed the level of community involvement seen previously with more traditional consultation tools.

For further detail on the effectiveness of online collaborative processes such as the Future Melbourne wiki please refer to the attached paper “From consultation to participation”, which was prepared specifically for the Future Melbourne project by Dr. Mark Alan Elliott.

How long has the Future Melbourne wiki been online for?

The Future Melbourne wiki opened for public participation and editing on 17 May. The consultation phase of public editing culminated on the weekend of 14 June. The site will remain online and the discussion pages associated with each topic in the plan will remain open for comment. As the site is a living document, the public will be able to watch as the content continues to be edited and refined by the Future Melbourne team between now and the official launch of the plan in late September.

Prior to 17 May, the wiki was utilised by the Future Melbourne team and our project partners, stakeholders, Reference Group and members of the City of Melbourne's eVillage online discussion forum as an internal and inter-organisational collaborative tool to develop the draft Future Melbourne plan.

What level of response did we receive?

During the period of consultation between 17 May and 14 June, we received approximately 9,300 visits to the site from 7,000 individuals. These visitors accumulated a total of over 30,000 page views.

During this period, over 200 individual edits were made to both the plan and its discussion pages. These ranged from new ideas to extensive, well-researched contributions on the future of our city. The contributions will now be reviewed by the Future Melbourne team to organise, refine and incorporate the range of ideas into the Future Melbourne plan in the best possible way.

What other opportunities exist to apply wiki technology?

The Future Melbourne wiki has generated interest in a variety of other areas in Council. We are currently investigating what other avenues exist to apply this technology within the organisation. There is the possibility that the technology could be used for future public consultations for similar projects conducted by the City of Melbourne. For the moment however, our focus remains on the delivery of Future Melbourne by the end of September 2008. No formal decision has yet been made on whether the technology will be used in other areas.

What happens to the Future Melbourne wiki now the public consultation period has finished?

The Future Melbourne plan will remain available online to view and comment on at www.futuremelbourne.com.au Hosting the document online also enables related and supporting documents, research, and reports to be directly linked to the plan and updated as required. We’ve also incorporated additional functionality to encourage ongoing, active participation and engagement such as video, audio, a blog, areas for discussion, as well as a creative ‘Future Scenarios’ section where members of the public can edit, discuss or write their own creative stories of the future.

Online information about the Future of Melbourne for homework help:

1. Future Melbourne on Collaborationprojects.org

2. Future Melbourne on Worldchanging.com

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