by Dan Slee
Sometimes a simple idea pings around in your head and nags away.
One such was mentioned at Shropcamp in June held at Harper Adams Agricultural College amongst the summer fields.
'How do we make it really easy for people to take part in the decisions local government make?,' the idea runs.
Don’t think for a second you needed to be a local government anorak to get this. A patchwork of small Town Hall decisions affect your everyday lives every day. Schools, roads, libraries, leisure, parks and 695 other things. They’re all local government.
In 2010, the turn-out for local government elections stood at 65 per cent amongst the lowest in Western Europe.
One regular criticism of Town Halls up and down the country is that they’re too remote and don’t listen enough.
So isn’t it a good idea to better listen to those voices and can digital channels help?
These were the questions Dave Briggs posed at Shropcamp. There he called the process of getting residents to comment on things as micro-participation.
In my own head it’s also this: 'How do you make it easy for people who have a few minutes in the ad break of Coronation Street?'
For an ever optimistic comms person like me, that’s a simple thing to grasp. You don’t need to turn-up at a committee room at 6pm on a Thursday to read a news story.
But a word of warning. This isn’t spin. This is about transparency and making public decisions and communicating them effectively. It’s the reason why live tweeting Full Council meetings as growing numbers do works. But it’s also about residents better communicating their views and local government being better at that.
Is it something comms people should be getting involved with?
If communications is about better reputation. Then better decisions make for a better council and happier residents.
SIX THINGS TO DO
1. Tweet from meetings. Tell people what the big decisions are at Full Council. They’re the big set-piece decisions that can affect people’s lives. It’s where the Council Tax gets set and the budget decided. It’s not getting people directly involved just yet. But it’s an important first step.
2. Set up a Facebook page for consultation. But don’t link to a pdf and expect that to be enough. Ask a small bite sized question that can be read and answered during the ad break to Coronation Street.
3. Use an agile survey tool like Survey Monkey. Quick, well framed questions work. If they’re written in human and not council speak.
4. So, include the feedback into decision making. Listen to what is said and reflect on it.
5. Communicate the final decision. There’s nothing worse than someone asking for your view then not bothering to tell you the decision.
6. Remember that it’s not all a bed of roses. People won’t always like a plan or proposal. But using social tools properly means a chance to test the water and listen. Isn’t it better to find out that £100k scheme is in the wrong place sooner rather than later?