SOCIAL media is being used to help guide the future direction of the Hepburn Shire, with some surprising results.
The community has been sharing and voting for the ideas they want to see in the Hepburn Shire’s four year Council Plan using an online forum.
The Hepburn Shire OurSay website is now live and will see the top 10 ideas with the most votes inform the council’s strategic direction for the next four years.
OurSay.org director Matthew Gordon said the Hepburn Shire Council was the first in Australia to embark on the initiative.
He said for a council area with below average household income, socioeconomic status indicators and online penetration, this was a courageous move.
“We believe we can harness the likes of social media to drive public decisions,” he said.
“The Hepburn Shire saw this as a way to get more people involved.”
Mr Gordon said there were more than 100 ideas and more than 700 votes cast, by some surprising sources.
He said the largest group of people going online to vote and comment on ideas was over the age of 60.
The next biggest age group, 41-60, was also traditionally a lower demographic across social media and online platforms, Mr Gordon said.
“We’ve managed to get an extraordinary amount of engagement from the community,” he said.
“The challenge we want to drive over the next 17 days is to really try and find the younger voices in the community to give it a bit more balance.”
Issues winning the vote count include rate equity for Trentham, increased access to public transport to and from Daylesford, and a call to fast-track the development of the Daylesford Community Park.
The six week online forum will culminate in a Conference of Big Ideas later this month, where the community, councillors and officers will come together to discuss the key themes to incorporate into the council plan.
In addition to the online forum, the Hepburn Shire Council and OurSay are conducting several townhall events throughout the shire.
In another example of the local government sector harnessing the power of social media, The City of Ballarat Imagine strategy is using postcards, tweets and photographs from the public to help the council to determine a long-term vision for Ballarat.