The New Westminster school district is trying something new this year to improve community engagement in its budget planning process.
In December, superintendent Karim Hachlaf announced the district would be using the services of Thoughtexchange, an online forum that allows users to share ideas, see what others are sharing, discuss different topics and highlight what is most important to them.
Residents have until next week to go online and take part in the budget consultation. The district, with help from the folks at Thoughtexchange, came up with a number of discussion questions that residents will be able to answer. Once they’ve answered the questions, they can then take part in the ongoing discussion and even rate other comments based on whether they agree or not. Everyone’s identity remains anonymous.
“It will be about investing our financial resources into priorities surrounding student success, and, with that, we’re excited about a more robust consultation process. We have made a commitment with Thoughtexchange,” Hachlaf said in December.
The district paid $20,000 for an annual subscription to Thoughtexchange. If everything goes well with the budget consultation, the district will begin using the software for other community engagement projects, according to Hachlaf.
“With our upcoming budget process for 2019-20 and the development of our school district’s strategic plan, the timing could not be better to invest in a different way to engage with our stakeholders and public. Moreover, we wanted to pursue a platform that goes beyond traditional surveys and could really maximize an opportunity for easy and thoughtful engagement,” he wrote in an email to the Record.
Anyone interested in taking part in the consultation can do so online at https://my.thoughtexchange.com/#611599839. The deadline to provide feedback in Jan. 14.