Tales from Notwestminster

2017-02-10-12-41-00

Friday and Saturday saw two days of “Democracy Geeks” getting together in the town where I live, Huddersfield. This is the third year that Notwestminster has happened and the event just goes from strength-to-strength.

Technically, Friday and Saturday were separate events, with Friday being the Democracy Experiments Day, and Saturday being the main event. But there were enough people present at both days to make it feel that they were completely connected, and a Pechakucha evening on the Friday night, also brought some other new voices into the picture.

Friday

So, on Friday, we split into groups to work on particular challenges. I joined the group led by Helen Cammack which was looking at how local authorities could work with community groups as a conduit to public involvement and consultation. After some discussion, we agreed that it would make sense to use Helen’s interests.me platform combined with Kathryn Corrick‘s Represent to develop an online consultation mechanism via which community groups could collectively input to council policy. Helen and Kathryn went away to work on this, while the rest of the group worked on our complementary idea, which was to put together a video news bulletin on forthcoming council business which could be shown at community group meetings.

The idea was to to create a user-friendly package, summarising the business the council was due to deal with in the next month which groups could then discuss and respond to. Thanks to Spencer Wilson who joined the group briefly to help us identify where we could find guides to up-coming business from Kirklees Council.

The video we came with up is below. This is a kind of proof-of-concept. It’s a bit rough and ready, but, I think a fairly good effort given that we basically did it all, including choosing the topics, writing scripts for the section, filming it, and doing a basic edit in half an hour. I finished editing it on Saturday. I’d be really interested in feedback on this concept. I firmly believe that reports and papers are not the way to communicate council business to the public, and I think this idea has merit. What do you think?

And here is the prototype consultation tool that Karen and Helen came up with https://app.represent.me/collections/4680/kcorrick/34/what-do-you-think-about-social-care/questions/3248/what-does-social-care-mean-most-to-you/ I think we’ve got something here.

After a brief break during which I walked the dogs, Friday evening saw a democracy-themed Pechakucha evening. There were some very inspiring talks, and a number of people who had never done a talk before in that format did a great job in grappling with it.  During the evening I launched the Civic Story Factory. More of that later.

img_20170210_211350

 

Saturday

We reassembled on Saturday morning, with a fair number of new people. The day kicked off with some Lightning Talks, and I was particularly pleased to see the in-coming Chief Executive of Kirklees Council (she started the job two days later), Jacqui Gedman delivering the first talk, and thus endorsing the Notwestminster approach.

Most of my focus on the Saturday was on the workshop I was running “Introducing the Civic Story Factory”, which launched my new social enterprise dedicated to unlocking the stories of great work done in the non-profit and public sectors. You can find notes of the session (largely compiled by the wonderful Louisa Thomson) here. I passionately believe that we need to tell the stories of what goes into delivering great public services to counter the negative propaganda put out by the mainstream media. The Civic Story Factory will help people to tell their stories and tell some of the best stories itself. Find out more about it here.

We had a great discussion in the Workshop and the actions we committed ourselves to were:

  • Further developing the concept of video summaries of up-coming council business as piloted in Friday’s session
  • Encouraging and facilitating the production of decision-summary videos following council meetings
  • Documenting the benefits to the village of Bradwell Parish Council‘s support for the village’s Annual Carnival.

If you’d like to work with us on making any of this happen, please get in touch.

Notwestminster 2017 was a great couple of days. Keep an eye on the site to see how the other experiments are progressing, and, if you haven’t made it to a Notwestminster event yet, don’t miss out on the next one!

img-20170211-wa0001

Thanks to @LDBytes (particularly Diane) for some of the images used in this post

Advertisements

Councillors and Social Media – Could They be YouTube Stars?

2016-02-12 10.04.45This is my second post on my takeaways from this year’s #notwestminster event. It may not be the last.

This was the second #notwestminster event, and there have been numerous other events with a similar slant, principally #localgovcamps over the past 8 years or so. It is tempting to think that we will always see progress as time passes, but I fear that this is not always the case. And in this instance, there is a field in which I think progress has stalled, or maybe even taken some backward steps, and that is the use of social media by councillors.

Councillors as Youtube Stars

Someone like Cllr. David Harrington from Stockton-on-Tees is living proof of why councillors should be making effective use of social media. More of that, including a video interview below. But, before that, at the Friday, Local Democracy Makers’ Day, I pitched an idea that I have outlined before, namely, how can we make Youtube stars out of councillors?

As I have written elsewhere, I am a firm believer that non-profit organisations need to make much more use of online video to engage with their customers and service users. There are now people who are making millions from YouTube videos; their audience is mainly young people, they are mainly young themselves, and their subject matter is normally pretty frivolous. But that doesn’t mean that this experience cannot be translated to a more serious area. And the benefits of Councillors engaging beyond the “usual suspects” of the politically-engaged, the campaigners and those with an axe to grind, has to be self-evident.

So, on Friday, we formed a group to work on how Councillors can use video to engage with their constituents, and I think we came up with something quite interesting, with possible applications beyond local government. The solution we came up with was a tool which would allow councillors to publish a map of their ward populated with videos about issues in particular locations. Lucy Knight pulled the tool together and published it immediately on her blog here, while I conducted a video interview with Cllr. Mike Jordan to give us some content to display. The video interview is posted below. It’s worth a watch as it gives some insights into how floods have been dealt with in Selby and North Yorkshire.

It’s a very rough and ready tool, but sometimes the most simple things are the best. I think this, if developed further, could be the basis of an engagement platform, providing opportunities for councillors to use video to engage their electorate. And it could be opened wider to allow local residents to publish their own videos on it in an effort to get something done about local issues. Please get in touch if you are interested in helping to develop this tool further.

Councillors and Social Media

And so to the wider issue of councillors using social media. I conducted the interview below with Councillor David Harrington because I was very struck with what he had said about how his councillor caseload has increased greatly as a result of his high profile on social media. A few years ago there was funding avialable to run programmes like this one which had quite an influence on increased uptake of social media on the part of local elected members. But, as austerity has bitten, funding for things like this has dried up. I think that is a great shame, and I’d be very interested in running some social media training sessions for councillors if either funding could be found, or if councillors themselves might be prepared to pay a modest amount to attend. If anyone can help with this, please get in touch. I’d be interested in the views of elected members themselves as to whether they would attend such sessions and how they might be funded.

Towards genuine consultation

image

This weekend, for the second year running, a lot of people came from all over the country to Huddersfield, the town where I live, for the Not Westminster event, which brings together people interested in finding ways of modernising local democratic processes. In fact, this year, many of them were here for two days, and the Local Democracy Makers event was held on the Friday, before the main event on Saturday. More about Friday shortlly.

One of the sessions I was in on Saturday was about re-designing consultation processes, led by  Elli Panagopoulos and Emilie Glazer of Eclipse.

A key conclusion our group came to was that consultations need to be led by organisations independent of the bodies which have vested interests in the outcome. This is rarely the case.

Elli and Emilie had given us all Play Do to help us craft our solutions. We didn’t have much of a clue what to do with it until I realised the shape I had moulded looked like a colourful igloo.

image

This led me to think that I really should resurrect my MeetingPoints idea, which is about making consultations fun and in people’s faces in prominent areas. Thanks to the Play Do, I have now added a colourful mobile igloo to be used as a space in which to do genuine consultations.