Monthly Archives: January 2013

Margaret Peters reflects on the work of Participation Cymru

The below video is the second in a series of three interviews that we’ve conducted with Participation Cymru Advisory Panel members that we’ve filmed as part of our Evaluation Framework.

Margaret Peters on Participation Cymru / Margaret Peters ar Gyfranogaeth Cymru from Participation Cymru on Vimeo.

Unlike the first interview with Derek Walker of the Wales Co-operative Centre, where we interviewed Derek in person, we interviewed Margaret over the phone and used images and video from our panel meeting.

When we asked Margaret about the role of the Advisory Panel she said “I think they’re there to steer Participation Cymru in the right direction and support them, and the fact that having such a range of public service organisation as panel members allows for joint working and a consistent approach to citizen and community engagement across Wales’ public service organisations”.

Margaret has represented the Countryside Council for Wales on our Advisory Panel since before the current team had even begun our jobs at Participation Cymru, and following this interview she’s changed roles and she is no longer a member of the panel. She’s worked incredibly hard to assist us with our work, and we’re all incredibly grateful for the time and effort she has put into being a panel member. We all wish her well in her new role.

Whilst I’m the first to admit that the video isn’t quite Hollywood quality, it’s nevertheless surprising that the video was put together with free software. I used Windows Moviemaker, which is a standard part of Windows packages, and I also used Audacity, which is free open-source software that enables you to edit audio files.

Using video instead of written documents allows people to get a better feel for the work we do as a project. It means that people can listen to and watch panel members talk about what they do in their own words.

Monmouthshire County Council have taken video to the next level by using YouTube to consult on their budget proposals. Their blog is a fascinating account of their work and well worth a read if you’re looking to start using video to consult and engage.

– Dyfrig

Developing a health and wellbeing site for the Welsh citizen

Yesterday I was part of a task and finish group on developing a health and wellbeing website for the Welsh citizen. The website aims to give information to people and to help them have choice and control over the services they’re accessing. The crux of the matter being that without the right information at your fingertips it’s very difficult, if not impossible to choose which services to access.

Cathryn Thomas of the Social Services Improvement Agency (SSIA) explained to me that “strong voice and control is only as good as the information we have to make these decisions. This programme wants to pull together all the strands of social care information, for instance leisure, housing and health, in to one easily accessible place which then allows individuals to make informed choices about how they can best maintain their independence”.

There was quite an eclectic mix of people attending, with representatives from the public and third sectors. But the best part of it is that they’ve also recognised the importance of engaging with citizens at an early stage before any decisions on the site have been made. So I asked Andrea Cruttenden, a carer who is a member of the task and finish group, why she’s glad to be involved and her hopes for the site. You can hear her response in the AudioBoo below.

She said that the design of websites can be “over-complicated and a little bit scary for first time users as well, and I value the importance of trying to keep the site as simple and uncomplicated as possible.” I was in the same group as Angela, who contributed so much useful information during the day, which we simply wouldn’t have heard without the citizen representation. Not only that, but her ideas were backed up with powerful evidence from examples in her life of the difference user-centred information can make to people’s lives.

Importantly we discussed the importance of accessibility so that everyone can access it, both in terms of disability and inaccessible language and jargon. It was said during the event that the language shouldn’t be “local authority speak”.

Before the next meeting in February we’ve been asked to think about websites that we like and why we like them, so it would be great if you could let us know what websites you like and why in the comments field below! We promise to take these examples with us and we won’t try and pass them off as our own!

– Dyfrig

Derek Walker reflects on the work of Participation Cymru

Evaluation is vital to make sure that engagement is undertaken in an effective way, after all it’s the only way we can learn from both our successes and our mistakes. When we engaged with people around Wales to put the National Principles for Public Engagement in Wales together, you agreed with us, so it became principle 10 – “learn and share lessons to improve the process of engagement”.

We’ve implemented an evaluation framework so that we can better capture the results of the work that we’re doing. The people we work with are central to how we evaluate our success, which is why we ask for your comments after our training and networks – so that we can improve our services and ensure that they better meet your needs.

As part of our evaluation framework, we have decided to interview some of our Advisory Panel members about their work with Participation Cymru. They have a unique perspective as panel members, as they help to shape the direction of Participation Cymru but also work for organisations who access our services. First up is an interview with our Vice-chair Derek Walker, who is the Chief Executive of the Wales Co-operative Centre.

Derek Walker on Participation Cymru / Derek Walker ar Gyfranogaeth Cymru from Participation Cymru on Vimeo.

Derek was a great interviewee and believes wholeheartedly in the importance of participation. He said “Co-operative businesses seem to be doing pretty well at the moment compared to other parts of the economy, and partly that’s because they engage. They engage with their members – they speak to their members, whether they be workers, whether they be customers, whether they be stakeholders within their community, and as a result they can adjust their business. They can adjust their products in order to meet the needs of their customers, and as a result be better businesses – do better business”.

Back in 2010 we interviewed some of our other panel members about their roles, which you can also see here.

We have also interviewed Margaret Peters of the Countryside Council for Wales and Wayne Jepson of the National Leadership and Innovation Agency for Healthcare, which we’ll also share with you soon.

– Dyfrig

Blogs to look out for in 2013

First things first – happy new year everyone! Hope you had a brilliant Christmas!

2013 will be our second year of blogging (I’m not counting that we only started blogging in October!), and so far it’s really given me the chance to reflect on the work I’m doing and to draw learning from it. As a counterpoint to that, blogging has also led to me checking out lots of other blogs and learning from them.


Here are some that I think may be worth you following for 2013:

What’s the Pont
This blog is about learning and sharing knowledge in order to improve public services. We regularly retweet links to the blog as it’s a great example of how effective blogging can be – it’s personal, humorous and filled with useful information!

Powys Mental Health Blog
This blog is by the Powys Agency for Mental Health team, who work for Powys Association of Voluntary Organisations. Again, it’s a really interesting personal take on work that’s taking place. There’s a variety of contributors, which include 3 staff members, as well as service users who contribute their own experiences (like in this post) – very participatory!

Weekly Blog Club
Like the Powys Mental Health Blog, this blog features posts by a range of contributors, except the contributors are from a range of people who work in or with the public sector or with charitable trusts or voluntary groups or communities in the UK. Following this blog is a great way of hearing about a great array of work that’s taking place on both sides of Offa’s Dyke.

Dave Mckenna works in local government scrutiny, and his blog is a thoroughly interesting read! It aims to share 101 different ways of doing local democracy. This post about using social media to scrutinise local government is a great example!

Ace Digital Comms
This is a blog by Helen Reynolds, who works in digital engagement in local government. The strapline from her blog says “Moving communication from broadcast to conversation using social media and other digital tools”, which nicely sums up e-participation!

There’s plenty more blogs out there that are full of useful information, including Jason Nickels’ blog, Communities 2.0 and the Involve and GEECS websites, which are both based on blogs.

I hope these blogs inspire you and I also hope that you all have a great 2013!

– Dyfrig

Photo credit:
By Cortega9 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons