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What is a challenge?

Louise Cato -

Challenges are the main focus of your Dialogue site. This is your space to grab people's attention to encourage them to submit great ideas. 

When you lay out a challenge you are asking for help from your audience to solve an problem, so it's important to explain the challenge clearly and make it as easy as possible for people to respond to.

Online Dialogue is more similar to social media than formal consultation, this means it needs plain language, short sentences and a clear call to action. You may find that a lot of your visitors are viewing your challenge on a mobile phone or tablet, so keep it brief and simple, and by all means add in a picture or video.

Hackney Council's Dialogue challenge on how to recognise diversity and improve Hackney for all residents

The best-laid challenges:

  1. Are humble - "We don't have all the answers and need your help to solve x"
  2. Are easy to respond to - "How should we spend this fund - give us your best ideas" "What one thing should we focus on for the next year". If the challenge is too broad it's really difficult to know where to start, so people won't
  3. Use dynamic, not bureaucratic, language - "Help wanted! Ideas for improving <placename>" "We need..." We want..." not "Please consider..."
  4. Ask your visitors to do one thing, not many - "What's your best idea for...?" not "We want you to consider these seven survey questions"
  5. Say what you will do with the ideas - why should people respond? If their ideas matter, tell them - it's a great way to generate more interaction with the challenge and good PR for you as an organisation
  6. Give people a chance to win - 'We want your best ideas and we will choose the top ten of these for consideration / will be published in the local newspaper / will be discussed in parliament / will be put into action / etc."
  7. Are concise - not much dampens the enthusiasm like a well-meaning, but overly-long explanation. Challenges should grab the attention, imagine responding to one on a mobile phone
  8. Have active community management - active community management can encourage more interaction. Not only does being actively involved in the conversation keep you close to the ideas coming in and on top of moderating the content - it also feels good for your respondents to know that you are actually listening to them 
  9. Are promoted effectively - having something on a website does not mean people will automatically know it is there. The best challenges have active social media campaigns using Facebook, Twitter etc, local events, and well-planned promotion around them to drive traffic to the site
  10. Are time-limited - restricting the amount of time people have to submit ideas to your challenge both encourages early involvement and makes it feel as though the ideas are going towards something specific

Our Dialogue success guide goes into this in more detail if you'd like further tips, plus your account manager will always be keen to help you create excellent challenges.

The final thing to note is that not all challenges will be successful even if every rule is followed - sadly some subjects just may not prove interesting to your audience. Don't be disheartened by this; your Dialogue site allows you to run as many challenges as you like, so make the most of this and keep running well-crafted and well-promoted challenges. You potentially only need one or two brilliant ideas to make a difference.