Posted tagged ‘involvement’

An engaging conversation

June 21, 2012

Our week of local government introspection continues with part four today, and as yesterdays post seemed at first to be similar to one earlier in the week, so today’s touches on yet remains separate to another post, namely that around digital engagement and innovation.  Before exploring this link let’s start at the basics.

Starter for ten: What is engagement and why bother with it?  A pair of very simple questions perhaps but worth asking.  Engagement in relation to local government centres around how we involve local people in the planning, running and evaluation of our services, and comes in a number of forms and methods.  Popular engagement techniques include surveys, questionnaires, focus groups, workshops and interviews, but can also be as creative as World Cafes, PinPoint, Open Space facilitation or Planning for Real.

As for why, well if you have to ask this then perhaps you’ve not been around local government for too long.  The business case is fairly simple: firstly we are told we have to, secondly it helps us builds a two-way relationship with residents and thirdly good engagement actually opens up a huge world of knowledge which we otherwise may not find out about.

We’ve often remarked that you should never throw away your drainpipe trousers as sooner or later they will come back into fashion, and so it seems to be the case with approaches to community engagement.  There is no one single way of doing this, and so successive governments have tried various ways to encourage or force local authorities and residents to engage with each other.   (more…)

Talking about talking

March 15, 2011

 

Be careful or the public might tell you what they actually want

Here at We Love Local Government we love a good guest post, and here indeed is a guest post worth loving.  If you’ve got something to do with local government you’d like to write about from any angle (even if you think we’d disagree with you) then e-mail it to us at welovelocalgovernment@gmail.com.  Until you do though, read this and enjoy.

Reading the recent WLLG post on the way in which councils talk to local people brought back some unpleasant memories for me. I used to be a scrutiny officer. Without knowing much (ok, anything) about the art or science of “community engagement” I and my colleagues, with backbench Members, periodically organised public meetings to inform scrutiny committees’ views on various topics of local interest.
One particularly good one was on the subject of a high-profile local community event. The council and a number of other “local partners” – including the police – wanted to make some significant changes to the way it was run. Predictably, local people – including the organisers of the event – didn’t. Predictably, there was a massive bunfight, generating far more heat than light. We found it difficult – practically impossible, in fact – to get through the agenda, because attendees kept butting in and heckling. It was all the chairman could do to keep order. In the end we got through it but it was a hairy experience and I, as a relatively junior officer, wiped my brow and silently vowed to myself that I’d never do it again. (more…)

Invisible You

March 3, 2011

Surely we know what we're talking about?

For Valentines Day my other half gave me a very unexpected and welcome surprise by writing a piece for us on how involved she felt she was and wanted to be with her local Council.  She shared that she had very little to do with the council, instead trusting them to do what was needed as well as they could.  Whilst some people felt that this was an old fashioned view which doesn’t exist any more, I can assure you that it is alive and kicking at home!

It got me thinking about how much time and effort we put into engagement with the public and whether or not it is effort well spent.  I speak with a small degree of knowledge having worked I the public engagement arena for almost 16 years in one form or another, both in the public and voluntary sectors.

In my current workplace we are constantly developing things which affect our residents: action plans, strategies, policies, procedures, and headaches amongst others.  As is the way with any hierarchical organisation the real work is done by operational staff who generally know their onions, and base their thoughts and ideas on extensive theoretical and practical knowledge mixed with a healthy dose of experience.  They rarely suggest anything outrageous, and generally strive to do what is best.

These plans and projects then begin their slow crawl through the bureaucratic process to get signed off and implemented: this often involves a variation on taking it to their team, their line manager, their service head (and their team), their director (and their team) and potentially on to the chief exec and then on in turn to elected members and/or mayors and their advisors.  None of this is quick, and with each new person or group comes a perceived requirement to change a bit here or ask a pointless question there.

And of course at the final hurdle comes the usual phrase: have you done any consultation with the public?  No?  Well, go away and do it and then come back when you have. (more…)


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