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  • Success Story
  • Cessnock Council

How Cessnock Council Connected Their Engagement and Revitalised Their Analytics 

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Cessnock Council found themselves juggling numerous systems to connect their engagement programs, creating inconsistent experiences and, as a result, getting an incomplete picture of their outcomes and analytics. With the help of the OpenCities x EngagementHQ Connector (Connector), Cessnock staff were able to bridge those gaps and get a better picture of their engagement efforts.

“EngagementHQ projects are showcased swiftly even using slightly abstract search terms. (The Connector makes) jumping between EHQ and our OpenCities site easy, quick, and seamless.”
Tom Griffiths, Community Engagement Officer, Cessnock City Council


  • 10 minutes down from hours to promote engagement projects on council website
  • 3x average community engagement rate
  • Thousands  of dollars saved by consolidating technology vendors
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Losing Audiences with Inconsistent Experiences 

Located west of Newcastle in New South Wales, Australia, the City of Cessnock is home to a diverse population of over 60,000 that spans from young families to older populations and an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population double the national average. With such a broad population the work done by Community Engagement Officer Tom Griffiths plays a vital role to the relationship between the council and the communities it serves.

But when Griffiths took on his role with the council, he realised that engagement opportunities were being lost from the council’s OpenCities-created websites that connected to third-party tools such as SurveyMonkey or Social Pinpoint. Talking to users, Griffiths’ team found that inconsistent experiences that looked different or tools that opened too many new browser windows would drive users away from engagement opportunities. Worse, relying on disparate third-party tools made it difficult to fully track participation analytics on projects from Cessnock’s website.

“We were losing participants because they were going to different platforms and going, ‘Oh, this all looks different.’ Or it was opening so many browsers. From talking to users, that was the experience. And now it's just all housed so nicely. The design all looks the same.”
Tom Griffiths, Community Engagement Officer, Cessnock City Council

Connecting Two Powerful Tools 

Using multiple tools to address engagement-specific purposes is something, Griffiths said, that might have been creating the pain points were facing in their projects. While the OpenCities platform housed house digital engagement projects, which were featured on the council’s front page, Griffiths wanted to leverage the Council’s EngagementHQ without losing existing cross-searching and other functionalities that were already in place.

The new OpenCities x EngagementHQ Connector was the answer to Griffith’s plans for Cessnocks digital engagement. Aimed at helping residents discover engagement products within OpenCities websites, this tool syncs EngagementHQ projects with tagged recommendations in OpenCities to help increase the discoverability of projects that might not be as easily found by interested users, helping drive involvement and engagement with council projects all while maintaining a consistent digital experience.

Whereas previously awareness of projects might have been a button on the lower corner of the website, now Griffiths was able to give those projects what he called a “pride of place, right in the middle” in a seamless way that didn’t change the previous user experience.

The benefits of a common interface went beyond the user experience, according to Griffiths, saving time for staff creating projects. “I did a few setups with the previous platform, and the setup of the actual engagement page with the Connector is half the time because it’s all housed in EngagementHQ really nicely,” he said. “Setting it up on the website works really well because the connector is really easy to understand and fairly similar to OpenCities setup that we were doing previously.”

“What we have seen on an average number of engagement opportunities [since implementing the Connector] is that the increase in participants has been astronomical and just only increased.”
Tom Griffiths, Community Engagement Officer, Cessnock City Council

Fuller, Clear, and Greater Participation Analytics 

After using a setup that, Griffiths said, tracked nothing except for participant numbers, implementing the OpenCities x EngagementHQ Connector has resulted in not just an increase in participation (thanks to the tighter integration of projects and messaging) but the ability to leverage Google Analytics tools within EngagementHQ to gain a better understanding of analytic data.

For Griffiths, it’s a reflection of how a change that brings greater opportunities for participation can drive improvements in related areas.

“I wish I could show a previous analytics board,” he said, noting that participation has almost tripled since implementing the Connector due to the greater visibility of projects. “But the reality is that it wasn’t captured before. The metrics that we’ve used from historical engagements, before I joined, was just looking at all of the different tools that were used in all different places across a number of projects and then trying to figure out how many individual participants interacted with it and averaging it out. With our new platform not only are we seeing a huge increase in participation, but we can get better information.”

“Internally the set-up is really intuitive, and updating the OpenCities site to showcase consultations takes little effort and looks great. The support through the process has also been sensational.”
Tom Griffiths, Community Engagement Officer, Cessnock City Council