I have just got back from a trip to Slovakia for our latest CitzenScape project meeting. As ever on these trips the hospitality was amazing and we got a lot done – we also seemed to drink rather a lot but that’s also typical of these trips! Some general observations are below.
The first thing we discussed was the fact that we are running behind schedule according to the project plan and we spent some time discussing why this is. There seem to be a number of reasons:
- The technology build has been slower than we hoped and though things are now close to completion (at least in a beta kind of way) this has obviously held us up
- The pilot sites have found it hard to pull together groups of participants to work at each site as moderators or facilitators. This is partly because we underestimated how much the project team needed to learn before they felt confident in setting up these meetings but also because of the low level of current online participation in all but one of the sites. Bristol, with a long track record of online engagement, are substantially ahead of the other sites and are close to being properly operational. It will be necessary therefore for amend the starting stages of the CitizenScape approach and assume zero pre-existing participation. That way if it is there we can use it but the process will not be reliant on finding these people. One concern I have with this fact is that it makes it less likely that we will be able to bring in much content from existing websites / social networks and this concerns me as to the extent this will effect the co-creation impact – ie will people still feel this is a shared space as this was one of the ways in which we were going to establish this. Only research will tell!!!
- Poor project management – we have not been structured enough or built enough milestones into the project to keep momentum going. This is going to change with a new project manager on board who will be working with each of the sites to do a marketing and engagement plan which will help structure activity at each of the sites in more detail
- There is some real difficulties within Council’s at the idea of the community moderators – and I am seeing this at other sites that we work with. Though everyone we talk to sees the sense of this approach and we are finding people who are keen to try this there is a general concern about the risks. To counter this I have been working on more details guidance around setting ‘rules of engagement’ and also will put together a risk management piece that people can use to identify real risks as compared to general anxiety!!!
Generally however it was encouraging to see that the team have a stronger sense of the underlying idea and are keen to get CitizenScape out in the world so we can test it.