Virtual Town Hall workshop @ Chorley

Just a quick note on my excellent day in Chorley on Monday. We were running through the internal workshop agenda for the Virtual Town Hall project which is aimed at:

  • Project management stuff:
  1. Getting the internal team fully briefed on the project
  2. Getting support from senior managers and from key members
  3. Giving an overview of the technology and thinking through which widgets are to be used
  • Trying to decide what to call it!!!
  • Reviewing the social web audits
  • Discussing the social web contract – this is a single document for Members, Officers and Citizens which also covers details of what the actual democratic promises being made on the site are
  • Deciding on who to approach to be community ambassadors

This question of what to call the web spaces is increasingly vexed. Virtual Town Hall works really well in very defined areas but has a risk firstly of sounding too ‘council’ and secondly of alienating anyone who feels that live in another town that we are trying to reach and ‘Citizenscape’ is rather esoteric. I am trying to issue a moratorium on using words and phrases like ‘Involve’ and ‘Have your say’ as these have been rather done to death but at this point we get stuck!! Next plan is to speak to the community ambassadors and ask them what they want to call it.

In terms of the social web audits – we are currently breaking these down into these areas:

This is to try and make a distinction between formally managed content and citizen generated content as well as making a differential between active individuals and active groups. These are further divided into ‘networked publics’ and online communities as these have very different characteristics. I will post more another time about how we do the research for these.
Part of the session discussed the issue of digital identity and what would be needed in order to free Officers in order to be able to participate firstly as officers but also as members of the community. This is an issue across all sites and at present we are moving forward cautiously. This first step is to ensure that the project teams can all engage online as representing the council – the next step will be exploring the use of ‘experts’ within the council in order to respond to specific topics and consultations. The thorny issue of officers actually being able to respond freely is yet to be addressed but will stay on the agenda.

Good session with members which as ever helped to remind me that these spaces are going to be, and should be, political and that we shouldn’t be afraid of this.

We finished with my favourite ‘scenario’s of doom’ session were we all try and think of the worst thing that can happen so we can get a risk management plan in place – excellent doom from Chorley all of which is now in the risk register!!!!.

  1. Hugh Flouch

    November 29, 2009 at 8:05 pm

    Interesting Catherine. I posted the first part of the model I’m developing, (which you saw at Future Democracy), on our website at As you know it’s being developed for research we’re just starting along with London Councils on the impact on citizen led neighbourhood websites. It’s likely to develop somewhat as we go along.

    Look forward to bringing our two streams together.

  2. curiouscatherine

    December 4, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    Ditto – I really like the model you are developing and I like to idea of coming at the same problem from two different directions! Am going to read the info on your research project in more detail and then hopefully we can meet up again to discuss?


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