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Ascentum is a Canada-based professional services firm that combines a unique technology expertise with specialized management consulting services. Dialogue Circles was Ascentum’s intermodal approach to consultation that aims to maximize the synergies between the traditional and online worlds of consultation and dialogue. Dialogue Circles provided clients with the flexibility to hold online or traditional consultation and dialogue. According to Ascentum, many of the most successful consultation and dialogue endeavors now involve a mix of online tools and traditional face-to-face approaches that complement one another.

Ascentum-logoAs of July 2014, Ascentum lists these offerings on its website:

  • Idea Forum: The online “Idea Forum” tool uses a ‘crowdsourcing’ approach that allows users to post their own ideas around the consultation issue(s). The Idea Forum is a generative approach, designed to bring new ideas into focus. In Ascentum’s Idea Forum crowdsourcing tool, participants are provided with key questions (or themes) that are designed to solicit ideas. In addition to posting ideas, participants can also comment on other ideas and rate an idea by voting it up (like) or down (dislike). Clients also have the option of allowing participants to share their ideas with their friends and colleagues on leading social media platforms (Facebook and Twitter).
  • Choicebooks and Workbooks: are to online engagement what the conversation guide is to in-person conversations: a critical enabler of informed participation. Choicebooks allow participants to place themselves in the shoes of decision-makers, and as the name implies, make tough choices. To this end, they provide balanced information on the issue(s) at hand, outlining benefits, drawbacks and tradeoffs associated with various approaches or options. Scenarios may also be used to illustrate the choices faced by decision-makers. Workbooks, by contrast, focus on providing relevant context information and facts to facilitate issue exploration, allowing participants to familiarize themselves with an issue by “working through it”.In both cases, participants are invited to review the background material provided and share their views by responding to a mix of close-ended and open-ended questions. These guides are often prerequisites for participating in other online engagement activities, since they provide a common baseline of information to all participants.
  • Surveys and polls: Clients can take advantage of customized surveys and polls, of varying length and complexity, delivered online.
  • Story and Idea Submission Tool: This tool allows participants to share their thoughts and experiences in a structured, confidential way by submitting personal stories and ideas. These qualitative submissions represent an invaluable source of experiential data that puts a human face on the issue(s).
  • Design, Hosting and Administration of Consultation Websites: Ascentum offers comprehensive web design, hosting and administration services in support of all its online projects. Typically, a base consultation website is developed, which either replicates the look and feel of an existing client website or has its own unique look and feel. A customized mix of web-based participation tools is then integrated into this base website to support the desired participant experience and outcomes. The consultation website also offers extensive management features (e.g., content management, data export capabilities), participant management features (e.g., participant account creation and management, online registration module, subscription forms) and security features (e.g., login process for secure electronic access, optional SSL 128 bit encryption).

Resource Link: www.ascentum.ca

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