Harlow regen project secures digital insight with Stantec

Harlow regen project with Stantec - image of feedback on post-it notes
Feedback from sessions engaging with the Harlow regen project’s community

The Harlow & Gilston Garden Town (HGGT) regeneration project has turned to Stantec to help it engage digitally with its community.

The HGGT project in Cambridgeshire involves the delivery of 23,000 homes and related infrastructure. The garden town encompasses Harlow, together with surrounding strategic development sites in East Hertfordshire and Epping Forest districts. With investment from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, HGGT’s data discovery and digital solutions project will enable storing, sharing, and visualising of consultation data across boundaries to maximise the value of the information gained, with support from Stantec.

The discovery stage of the research process began in July, focusing on internal technical officers. It comprised a series of face-to-face workshops where officers from the participating local authorities and planning, transport, health, environment, and GIS/ICT teams shared the challenges they faced during the consultation process.

The user research explored how the officers currently managed consultation data, allowing Stantec to develop potential solutions to test in the next phase of development. The team used AI technology to quickly digest and organise the hundreds of written notes generated during the sessions.

The resulting insights were organised by priority and shared via an intuitive online dashboard. The next stage is focused on understanding further user cohorts: the local community, elected members and developer stakeholders. Stantec will use intuitive online surveys to capture insights around consultation data and its provision.

HGGT director Naisha Polaine revealed: “We’ve worked with Stantec to gather and analyse data from residents on an unprecedented scale across Harlow and the local area over the last 12 months.”

Understanding digital behaviours

The team used various data sets from previous local surveys and national data sets to gain a deep understanding of the digital behaviours of the community to ensure the survey and upcoming interviews provide the insights needed to inform better solutions. The user research recognises the need for a hybrid (digital and in-person) approach even when promoting and testing digital solutions.

Polaine added: “Too often people say, ‘what’s the point of giving a view, nothing happens’, but we want to show the community that it does make a difference to what we do. So, our first steps were to make sure we have the right digital and data systems, skills and tools in place to do this. Our partnership with Stantec has helped us to discover that and put those results into action.

“We will then be looking at creating an accessible dashboard for the public and our partners.”

Andy Porter, Stantec head of digital services for community development, concluded: “We’re increasingly seeing more value in taking a quantitative and data-driven approach to consultation. Reducing consultation fatigue within communities is an important issue for authorities.

“Going forward, we’re looking at how different Harlow & Gilston Garden Town residents make use of digital technology in their areas and how we can use their digital preferences to positively influence engagement. This undertaking will help us ensure important messages from partnership authorities are reaching and resonating with people, in the right places, in the right way.”

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