Selecting the right tool for your consultation is essential if you are going to get the feedback you need. When thinking about which tools you might want to utilise for your next consultation, you might consider the spectrum above and first decide on the type of engagement environment you are comfortable operating in.

What you can see in the diagram, is three operating environments which are open, mixed and controlled. Each of these environments has a range of tools that are suitable for use on their own or in combination with others as part of a more thought out methodology.

Understanding what you want to learn from your community and how you want to learn it will be a key determining factor for your tool selection. Remember, your engagement tool selection and methodology are the vehicle for collecting your feedback only. Hence should always think about what you would like to learn from your community before you select your tools to engage with them.

Open Environment Tools

These tools allow participants to engage with each other. Comments, images and ideas are visible to the community.

Forums

Forums allow your community to interact with each other in threaded conversations. You can even use them to like or dislike someone else's comments. For open discussion nothing beats a forum. This tool promotes openness and a willingness to trust your community to discuss the issues that matter most to them. This tool is supported by our 24/7 moderators. To get started on using this tool, read our detailed article on how to create a forum topic in EHQ and how it looks for a participant

Ideas

This tool allows you to propose a question and get your community to contribute ideas. Ideation is an important part of designing a solution to a problem and this tool facilitates brainstorming. This tool works fantastically as part of a broader methodology. To get started on using this tool, read our detailed article on how to create an idea topic in EHQ and how it looks for a participant. 

Places

If you're looking to capture information about an issue that requires you to identify geographic information, places is the best tool for you to use. Places allows you to create a customised surveys for a pin marker response to capture the information you need. You can use this tool to get your community to identify service requirements, issues or even for options testing. You can even highlight areas for comment, create different categories and customise the experience to suit your needs. To get started on using this tool, read our detailed article on how to configure the places tool in EHQ and how it looks for a participant.

Mixed Environment Tools

Participants can see other participant contributions. However, there is little peer-to-peer interaction. Some data may be visible to the community while some data is accessible only by the administrator. 

Stories

Empathising with your community is essential for understanding the "lived" experience in relation to an issue or event. This tool allows people to share rich-media including videos and images. It also allows the contributor the option to receive comments on their contribution and also a sentiment tracking feature so that people can like or dislike these comments. Use this tool as part of a design thinking methodology to understand your communities needs and desires. To get started on using this tool, read our detailed article on how to configure the Stories tool in EHQ and how it looks for a participant. 

Guestbook

Use this tool if you would like your community to be able to respond to an issue without promoting debate in the same way a forum works. This tool operates in a mixed environment and can be pre or post moderated giving you control over how the messages are curated. To get started on using this tool, read our detailed article on how to set up the guestbook tool in EHQ and how it looks for a participant. 

Questions

This tool is great for building a community knowledge bank of questions and allows you to curate responses to publish publicly. Use this tool if you want to open yourself up to queries about your consultation and also for creating centralised "get in touch" pages as part of your site. To get started on using this tool, read our detailed article on how to configure the Q&A tool in EHQ and how to use it for responding to participants. 

Closed Environment Tools

Participants cannot engage with each other. Data is stored in the backend and only accessible by the administrator.

Polls

Polls are a quick and easy way to gauge sentiment or options preferences. The best way to use polls is un-verified so people can quickly get involved. You might consider using polls as part of an ongoing engagement strategy to continually drive traffic to your engagement space. This tool is the only tool that can be activated as a widget and appear in the sidebar of your project page. To get started on using this tool, read our detailed article on how to configure the quick polls tool in EHQ and how it looks for a participant. 

Surveys

This is one of EHQ's most commonly utilised tools. Use surveys when you are trying to quantify a decision, perspectives or collect information. While surveys can also be used for qualitative responses, we recommend using our Forum tool for deeper conversations as it operates in more transparent environment.

Surveys are also the likely tool you will use for accepting formal submissions by utilising the file upload tool type. Keep in mind that surveys operate in a closed environment so all of the responses will be hidden to your community. This will mean you must report back on the outcomes and input captured with the survey tool to ensure you maintain trust with your community.  To get started on using this tool, read our detailed article on how to set up and create a survey or how to create a submission tool and how it looks for a participant

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These tools can be used in any combination and at anytime, however you should always think about what is interesting, what you want to learn and the risk environment of your project before diving in.

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