The highest level(s) of influence this method typically matches with on the IAP2 public participation spectrum is…


To provide the public with balanced and objective information.


To obtain public feedback on analysis, alternatives and/or decisions.


To work directly with the public throughout the process.


To partner with the public in each aspect of the decision.


To place final decision making in the hands of the public.

Main Focus
Collect and compile input
1-2 days
Highly staffed
Moderate cost (10k - 25k)
Medium scale (25-75)

Opt-in online panel is a variation of a citizen panel (standing panel with engagement responsibilities over 2 year timeframe). The main difference is the opportunity for citizens to self-select into the process as opposed to a random recruitment process.

What you'll need

Virtual Delivery

  • Video conferencing software with breakout rooms
  • Data capture software surveys, polling, ideas, collaborative authoring etc

How to guide

Opt-in online panels are a cost effective way of building a pool of interested citizens willing to participate in the organisations’ engagement activities.


  • Expressions of interest are sought and terms of reference agreed to.
  • Group sizes for standing panels are often over one hundred and they must be willing to commit to a minimum number of engagement activities (panel workshops, surveys etc) across a defined time period.

Payment and/or recognition

  • Look at ways to recognise or reimburse panel members for their time if they fulfil their commitment. This could be in the form of gift vouchers or civic contribution recognition.


  • Provide plain english (and translated materials) information for panel members to participate in a meaningful way – to understand the topic and their role, what to discuss.

Tracking who participants

  • Collecting demographic data of who is on the panel.
  • Tracking participation per engagement activity can help you identify whose voice is missing and needs to be sought via a different means.

Clear expectations

  • Provide clarity to participants on time commitments required, for example extend of pre-reading, own research or talking to their friends and family. Clarity is also required for each active engagement activity, whether the organisation is seeking an individual view (survey) or collective view (deliberative workshop) and how much influence it will have.

Regular communication and close the loop

  • Keeping the panel engaged, well informed and feeling like they are adding value. Regular communications about what has been happening and what is coming as well as progress updates on engagement outcomes they have contributed to.