This week, we spoke to Emma Smith, CEO and founder of community engagement site myEnvolve which aims to connect local communities to the decisions being made about them.  Its mantra is ‘no decision about me without me’.

TechSPARK: Emma, tell us a little bit about where you’ve come from…

Emma Smith: My background is in project management where I started my career for a number of public organisations – councils, NHS trusts. A big part of my job was working on the ground to consult the public on issues which affected them.

Eventually I worked my way up to become Director of Operations for Engagement for the council. In 2013 I completed a year of research for my MSc on issues with public engagement. What I found in my studies wasn’t Nobel Prize-winning stuff, but it confirmed what I’d experienced in my earlier work with the public: there are too many websites for community consultation. The places people find out about issues that affect them are too widespread and can cause a real headache. That gave me the idea for myEnvolve.

TS: Tell us a little about the myEnvolve project…

ES: MyEnvolve comes from a simple concept: we want to bring all public service providers and community engagement projects together in one space online so that anyone can use their postcode to find out what planned public work or projects will affect themselves and their families.

Before we launched the site we carried out a pilot to see whether service providers and the public would engage with the project. The organisations that used the site experienced seven to ten times more public engagement for their projects, while saving time and money on consultation costs. Our site gave the service providers opportunity to reach out to people they wouldn’t usually access thanks to our large public database.

“The government doesn’t know how to engage with the public – we want to change that”


TS: How long has myEnvolve been running?

ES: We began building the site in March last year. The process started when I visited SETsquared at the University of Bath. I told Simon Bond and the team the idea behind myEnvolve, but I had no money and no technical expertise. They suggested I partner with a technical officer, to begin building a website and get the project off the ground. They found me a CTO, who immediately understood my vision for the project and its potential, and came on-board straight away.

Getting technical help was the best decision I’ve made so far. We then spent a year piloting the scheme, and launched on April 2nd 2014 at St James’s Palace, at the invitation of the Duke of York.

TS: While the idea for myEnvolve was born out of your own research and working experience, it’s also got a strong ethical flavour, hasn’t it?

ES: Absolutely. A platform like myEnvolve has the potential to have huge social impact. Research shows that when people feel engaged with public projects they draw much more value from those them.

Take the Dorchester Street bus gate in Bath as an example. In the past months Bath City Council have been making thousands of pounds in fines for a scheme which most people didn’t know about because they weren’t aware of the consultation process behind the change. The money from those fines could have been saved and put into frontline council services.


We want to put all public consultation in one place. If I want to know about a road being built near my house or a new park for my children, I’ll go to myEnvolve. The project also has potential on a national scale: take the legislation for changes to cigarette packaging, which could have gone quite differently if more members of the public had had their say. The government doesn’t know how to engage with the public – we want to change that.

TS: How are things looking for the future of myEnvolve?

ES: During the pilot period we spoke to 90 organisations about using myEnvolve. 90% of them want to move forward with us because they know that digital inclusion is the way to get people involved in their projects. All of the public organisations in Bath and Wiltshire are on-board, which goes to show the potential for expanding the project on a national level – or even an international one.

“People tend to assume that London is the place to be to make tech projects work, when actually there’s so much going on outside the M25 corridor”


MyEnvolve is run using a freemium price model, which makes it accessible to all organisations. If a mothers’ group proposes to put some new equipment in a park, they can use myEnvolve at a low cost. Being accessible in this way is what makes myEnvolve unique.

TS: What are your next steps?

ES: We’re making myEnvolve work for Bath, Bristol, Swindon and the Wiltshire area first, then plan to roll out the scheme across the UK. Our vision is that in two to three years time, myEnvolve will be the place to find out what’s going on in different areas across the country.

TS: One last thing: why choose Bath for working on a project like myEnvolve?

ES: That’s easy; Bath is such a vibrant city with a great mix of tech-industries. People tend to assume that London is the place to be to make tech projects work, when actually there’s so much going on outside the M25 corridor. You only have to go to one of the BathSPARK or South West Founders meetings to see the amount of great work going on here – tickets for the BathSPARK events in particular, are snapped up immediately after they go on sale. We knew we wanted to grow myEnvolve within that tech environment.

Thanks to Emma for taking the time to talk to us.