Recent research showed that a majority of the people do not understand or wish to engage with Parliament. They liken Parliament to the sun, “We know that it is there, and it is important, but it is too far”. People also have the perception that engaging and participating in Parliament is not for "every day Kiwis".
Implementing the Parliament Engagement Strategy will require building on and enhancing the work already done. Vital to success will be strong partnerships, innovative approaches and hard work. Enhanced public engagement will have long-term rewards and lead to life-long behavioural changes in people’s perceptions of Parliament.
We know that engagement leads to greater understanding of, and enhanced trust in political institutions. Public engagement is key to democratic health.
The Communications Strategy for Parliament was developed in 2013, and intended to change the perception of Parliament, celebrate its strengths, and encourage participation by the public in parliamentary democracy.
We’re proud that many of the goals and objectives of the Communications Strategy have been achieved, and they have laid strong foundations for Parliament to build on. These foundations include:
- Focus on users’ needs
- Communications are public-centric
- Content is more engaging and lively and in plain English
- Enhanced use of videos
- New Zealand Sign Language and captioning now offered more widely
- Parliament has a role as an international citizen and this is captured with enhanced communications about the inter-parliamentary relations programme, particularly via social media
- Establish and enhance digital and broadcasting channels
- The website was re-designed
- Social media is actively used with the establishment of a Facebook page for Parliament and for each committee
- Twitter is more proactively used as an engagement tool
- The Speaker’s videos now play on both the website and PTV
- Educating the wider State sector
- More frequent and better quality training seminars are delivered to public servants.
- These are generally oversubscribed and by working with other agencies, Parliament has established targeted education programmes and resources for public servants
- An active LinkedIn profile has provided a new channel to communicate with other agencies
- Communications infrastructure established
- A small but effective engagement team was established. This is supported by all staff in both the Office of the Clerk and the Parliamentary Service
Opportunities and challenges
More work needs to be done! It is no longer enough to communicate with the public. It is now crucial for Parliament to actively engage with the public in order to maintain its relevance.
There are several opportunities and challenges to increase the public’s engagement and participation in Parliament. These are:
- Making people feel connected to Parliament and a level of ownership over it.
- Increasing children’s and young adults’ interest and engagement with Parliament.
- Unlocking the potential of social media to promote outreach. Creating both digital and physical communities interested in Parliament.
- Finding new and engaging ways to communicate to the public about how they are able to participate in parliamentary democracy.
- Demystifying Parliament – Making it interactive.
- Changing perceptions of Parliament and MPs.
- Creating champions for Parliament.
The outcomes that the Parliament Engagement Strategy aims to achieve by 2021 are:
- Public participation will increase. There will be more and better quality submissions and petitions.
- Audiences in all parliamentary communication channels will increase.
- Assisting the Electoral Commission with its goal of increasing voter turnout.
- Every school child has the opportunity to learn about, value and understand Parliament.
- Public perception of Parliament and MPs is enhanced. There is a reduction in the number of critical comments about Parliament and its members in mainstream and social media channels.
- Increase in positive stories about Parliament reported by the media.
- Influence civics education being added to the curriculum.
- Enhanced engagement from disengaged or disadvantaged groups, in particularly youth, Māori, Pasifika and new New Zealanders
Six focus areas have been identified to deliver on the Strategy:
- Connect and reach out
- Engage –Parliament is interactive
- Inform Share the stories of Parliament
- Inspire and nurture future voters
- Make it easier to be involved
- Build partnerships
Get in touch
If you have any suggestions on how we can engage better with the public, let us know! Email Parliamentary.Engagement@parliament.govt.nz