Promoting Community Engagement

Cambridge Open Systems (COS) provide the VOICE service and have extensive experience in developing tools for online community involvement.

A limited number of community groups within any LA area can apply and have a free website on this service. However, LAs can also sign-up to the managed service and receive an enhanced package which enables greater community involvement for a single annual fee.

VOICE runs on an open source software platform called dotCommunity, which is developed and maintained by COS. 15 local authorities and government organisations are already using dotCommunity, with more than 3,200 individual community sites up and running. Joining VOICE means that you benefit from the sharing of ideas, experience, and new developments.

When you sign up, we can create a website template for your portal designed to fit alongside your brand (or integrate a design that you provide). Any local community group within the LA can then request a free website. An easy to use content management system (CMS) ensures that management of individual websites does not require significant technical expertise.

Why Join the Managed Service?

Being part of the wider VOICE community offers a range of additional benefits to both LAs and communities:

  • Greater involvement and feedback from your local communities
    • All community website applications are reviewed and approved by the LA
    • Ability to email all community group users and administrators with updates
    • LA branded portal, URL, and community sites
    • LA user forums – ideal for consultations and gathering user feedback from the members of all sites in your area
  • Enhanced website features
    • Unlimited community websites in your area
    • Individual Community Website A-Z directory, listing all community sites in your area
    • Help to define the roadmap for future development of the VOICE service
    • Full training and support provided to LA to enable LA provided end-user support (free sites receive online support documentation only)
    • Optional enhanced support options: COS can provide technical support for all your community sites
    • Optional XML community information feed, for integration into other services and directories
  • Enhanced community engagement
    • Promotes e-democracy and digital inclusion within your LA.

Contact us to find out more about this great way of engaging with your local communities.

The Package

The single annual fee covers all hosting fees, admin level support, SLA and ongoing development work. As our community user base grows, the greater the funds available for new developments and scope for sharing ideas.

The package includes:

  • Hassle-free hosting
  • Service Level Agreement (SLA)
    • You can be sure of our commitment to service, and you will only need one SLA
  • Training
    • We will train you to be able to provide first line support to your local community users (enhanced support options are available)
  • Telephone and email support as well as an online bug tracker
    • Support available during office hours
  • Input into the VOICE development roadmap
    • To ensure it meets your needs
  • Regular upgrades
    • As defined by the development roadmap
  • One top-level design integration
    • We can even recommend a designer if necessary
  • Invitation to at least one COS User Group meeting per annum
    • To meet other LA users and share thoughts, ideas and experiences and feed into development plans
  • Set-up and configuration of the service


As part of the standard annual package, we will train your nominated community engagement officer (or equivalent), who will provide first level support and training for your local community groups using the service. Typically LAs have told us this equates to a half time post, although this will naturally vary among LAs. Full documentation and FAQs are available on our website to help you.

Through the dotCommunity forums you can talk to other LAs about how they manage the getting started process, the requests for free websites, and how they promote the service to communities.

If you would like to be involved with VOICE without providing support to your users, then contact us to discuss enhanced end user support options.