#digifutures12: Question for the crowd.

This is a question for attendees of the digitalfutures conference (or anyone else that fancies chipping in too, you’re more than welcome).

A few of the talks today touched on community engagement, community involvement & better communication with local residents/communities.

The Shropshire village I live in has two of its three parish councillors on twitter, one of its two borough councillors on twitter, the local borough council engages through facebook & twitter. The Lightmoor Life Hyperlocal blog has a presence on twitter & Facebook. The parish council sends out a quarterly newsletter to every house in the parish.

Bournville Village Trust (who are one of the partners in the joint venture) employs a resident involvement manager that works in offices located on the village. They also employ an excellent team at the community centre. There’s a regular community newsletter that goes out to residents.

There are a number of community groups that have sprung up and also a recognised Resident Association.

My question is a simple one: how can we increase attendance of the residents association and parish council? There’s a core group of dedicated residents that turn up regularly but there’s a wider group that I’ve never met. I’m guessing a number of them work at the times meetings are held.

It’s a question I’ve been turning over in my mind through the day & would love input from the collective wisdom of attendees.

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7 Responses to #digifutures12: Question for the crowd.

  1. @kit2kat says:

    I’ve just this minute responded to my fellow Parish Councillors who are drafting a “your village needs you”…. Noooo people won’t respond!! It needs to be “fed up of not being listened to? Then come and tell us about it…” or something to that effect…

    I’ve got a plan… Can we meet and discuss…?? @kit2kat xx

  2. There are two things that spring to mind, both of which came up at today’s conference. Firstly: what’s in it for them? When we have village meetings here the ones that get the biggest attendance are the ones that concern everybody such as planning issues. The second: is do they need to attend? Speakers at today’s event talked about a democratic deficit and an engagement surplus viz the on line channels met a need, so why engage elsewhere? On line channels can also lead to analogue engagement so it’s worthwhile checking whether they do that effectively. The key message to come out of today, for me, was to discover the networks and then put in the knowledge. Do the channels you refer to achieve that; clearly you know the networks are out there; what is the best way to put in the knowledge.

    Just a few random thoughts.. Happy to chat

    • Ben W says:

      Random thoughts are most welcome.
      Agree that planning tends to be something that encourages people to turn up to meetings.
      We’ve a “summit” style event where residents can help set the budget for the resident involvement fund, they can meet with local parish councillors and the local MP. It’s also a chance to celebrate with Community Awards. One of the parts of the session will be reviewing the kinds of communication that people get from/about the village and asking them to be honest and say what does and doesn’t work for them.

  3. Pingback: How did it go? | Digital Futures 2012

  4. Tracy Bennett @TracyBennett12 says:

    It’s frustrating when you organise a meeting and just three people turn up isn’t it! But why measure success in terms of physical attendence at a meeting when we’ve invited people to talk to us in other ways which are all equally valid. Meetings exlude people for a number of reasons including venues (can people physically get there, is there a bus stop nearby, does the bus stop running at 6pm but the meetings at 7pm). Time of day, yes, people work shifts, but even if they don’t, they can have family committments that tie them up. What about single parents who can’t just nip out for a 2 hour meeting? Confidence, it’s quite hard to speak out, even as adults. Disenchantment, why bother, they never listen anyway.

    For me, it’s about recognising and valuing the different communication methods we’re offering. If someone tells you at a meeting that they’re not happy that the bus stops running at 6pm why is that more influential than the tweet or facebook comment that said the same thing.

    We need to develop, encourage and value community participation no matter what it looks like.

    To offer a more practical suggestion to your dilema of residents association meetings, how’s about conducting an on-line meeting? Via facebook, or a blog, and held over a few days or even a week prior to include the views of those who can’t physicallt get to the meeting?

    • Ben W says:

      Tracy, you sound like a kindred spirit.
      There’s a little part of me that worries that because we’ve been so good with leaflets, newsletters, blogs and twitter that people feel they’re informed and don’t feel the need to actually turn up. Some elected representatives can feel that by meeting just a handful of residents they’ve consulted with the community and don’t need to reach out further. (That’s not a representation of my position. I’m like the Shepherd from the parable of the lost sheep that goes looking for the one lost lamb)

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