Thinking about using the social web to do democratic things…..

Virtual Town Hall Pilot

{UPDATE:  January 2012}

I’ve been meaning to update this page for ages as the pilots were completed some time ago and the chapter is now in the thesis ready for final editing.  In summary the Virtual Town Hall Pilot turned out to be a starting point for much further exploration and hinged on a few key findings:

1) Democratic debate needs to be supported by wider civic conversation that is not going to happen on a government platform.  This really informed the work that turned in the Social Media Audits which are a systematic way of finding these civic conversations.

2) The community ambassadors idea is interesting but needs developing in a far more sophisticated way – which I hope we are doing in the We Live Here project.

3) There are some core skills and permissions that are needed within the democratic infrastructure if you are going to use more co-productive engagement approaches and these need to be explored at the start of the process.

4) We probably put the technology in the field too early and this effected levels of confidence – this is particularly clear if you look at the difference in what we were working with 18 months ago compared with the current platform.

Were the pilots a success?  Well none of them ‘took off’ and none of them have established a life outside of the pilot period so by that measure they were a failure.  However overall the learning was huge – and has directly shaped a number of other projects.  By that measure they were a success!  Once the thesis is out of the way then I will publish a more formal write up and people can perhaps judge for themselves.  In the meantime please contact me if you have questions.

_____________________

There is a lot of talk here about my Virtual Town Hall pilot which I thought should be explained!  The pilot project is part product development and part PHD research.  Hopefully with the two things complementing each other!

At Public-i we are in the process of launching a new engagement platform called Citizenscape.  This has a number of aims but it basically supports these principles:

  • Its designed to incorporate and respond to the next online fad and the one after that.
  • It’s a co-created space.
  • Its moderated and managed – by all of the stakeholders.
  • Content is accountable and transparent.

You can read more about  these ideas here.  Or look at the page on the Public-i site.

The initial plan was a January 2009 launch with a 12 month pilot.  As I explain here things are not going according to this original timeline but we are moving forward and should have some early information later this year.

We are also using #virtualTH on twitter

4 Responses to “Virtual Town Hall Pilot”

  1. Catherine,

    Heard about your work at the “My public services” event last week. I think there may be some synergies worth exploring or at least a discussion.

    Community Infopoint (“CIP”) provides an innovative digital solution to Government, Brands, Businesses and Advertisers to trade, shop and share information with the tens of millions of consumers, traditionally difficult to reach, living and working in local communities. CIP will replace the cluttered advertising space displayed in most local shop windows with an interactive web based digital Infopoint which will transform and position the local shop as a Community Communications hub and provide hyperlocal web access for the 10 million digitally excluded people in the UK.

    We are working with Kent County Council with a view to a 10 location pilot in March 2010. They would like to utilise CIP as a way of empowering local communities to interact and have a shared voice. We are now starting to receive interest from Central Government.

    Would love to meet for a coffee, my email address is gary@communityinfopoint.com

    Rgds

    Gary Coyle

    • Hi Gary – does sound intersting as I think there is a real role for ‘real time’ info as part of the public sphere. Drop me an email (catherine [dot] howe [at] public-i [dot]) info and suggest some times to talk – and let me knwo where you are based!

  2. Hi Catherine

    I heard about your Virtual Town Hall pilot from John Bullivent at North Lincs. We have agreed funding from the CLG’s Customer Led Transformation Programme to extend it onto Digital TV and mobile platforms.

    It would be useful to meet to learn more about what you are trying to achieve through the pilots. The role of the community moderators seems to be vital in helping to keep the number of messages / issues that a public body would need to respond to at a manageable level. My question is, what is in it for the moderators?

    Best regards

    Richard Greening
    IDeA
    T: 020 7296 6824
    E: richard.greening@idea.gov.uk

  3. Hi Richard, I’m really pleased about the Digital TV/mobile funding – I think its essential that we are looking at the whole space and not just at the PC because its easier!

    You are completely right about the community ambassadors being the key here – though recently I have been thinking more about the cross over with elected representatives and thinking that we should designate a set of democratic tasks rather than try to pre-guess what people will want / have time to do – anyone who does a lot should argueably stand for election.

    Anyway – would love to talk more – will give you a shout in the New Year – assume you are London based?

    Merry Christmas

    C.

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