The workshop at North Lincolnshire was slightly different to the others because it also involved some potential community ambassadors for the first half of the day.
The team had put out a general notice about the event and so we were joined by a range of people from the council (including someone who works with local volunteers which was great), a couple of town/parish councillors, a local blogger as well as a Local PCSO. This made for a really different debate as a lot of the focus was on discussing the right mix within a team of community ambassadors. We looked at the following factors within this discussion:
- Socio-economic background
- Life circumstances – we want people with young families, retired people, single people etc etc – a real mix of service users
- Rural / Urban – basically a good geographic mix across the area
- Gender (this one was mine but the team let me keep it in!)
I think there is a real debate to be had as to how the community ambassador role interplays with the role of the member – and I know the team at Kirklees are looking more closely at this. In terms of having town councillors there I think this could be a really interesting development as their role is fairly limited at present and could be really enhanced with more online engagement – though this may then set up tensions with other members.
Once again we had the reassuring experience of all the participants agreeing with the basic premise of the project – but as this is a self-selecting group it is perhaps not surprising. Once the sites are live then I think we need to do more work around how we find the people who aren’t immediately sold on the concept and to find out how (and if) they would want to be involved. Once idea has been to have an online representative of a community that prefers to stay offline. This makes me think of the work that Peter Cruikshank is doing on self-efficacy which worth taking a look at as we start to try and understand why some people choose not to participate at all – let alone online.
The team at North Lincs had done a great job with the social web audit – partly because they had really dug down to use ‘real’ words for the location searches. Their report shows the increased activity if you drill down from North Lincolnshire, to North Lincs, to Scunthorpe and finally to Scunny – which is where they found most results. I think this is a tip that all the other sites should take advantage of.
We also had a really good discussion of the social web contract – which will be shared by members, officers and citizens who participate in the space – and I think we will have a working draft of this very soon.
The day finished with a crazed 20 minute brainstorm which has resulted in a name for the site – we all agree that “Virtual Town Hall” is good for the project but not for the specific sites – more news later on what this actually is!