Monthly Archives: March 2013

Using Welsh language social media to engage in the public sector

Despite being a fluent Welsh speaker, my confidence in using it in work varies. Despite replying to consultations on behalf of Participation Cymru over the last 2 years, it was only last month that I responded in Welsh for the first time. I speak Welsh everyday, but I don’t encounter the language that’s used in consultations on a day to day basis.

When I was invited to do a presentation at Comms Cymru’s Beyond the Gap symposium on the Welsh language and social media, I was immediately keen – I’ve really enjoyed using social media as part of my role, which has helped to break down the conventional boundaries of an information service which broadcasts information. Social media has enabled me to share ideas, learn from others and network with organisations around the world.

As a Welsh speaker, I’m also keen to be given the opportunity to live my life in Welsh wherever possible. To enable this to happen, organisations need to offer me the chance to engage in the language of my choice. I’m fortunate that I live in Cardiff, where Cardiff Council have a great Welsh Twitter account, that enables me to do just that.

Unfortunately not everyone in Wales has that opportunity. Of the 257 people that completed the Welsh language section of the All Wales public services internet and social media survey, only a third (33%) of respondents said their organisation had Welsh language or bilingual social media streams, whereas 28% were unsure and 39% said they did not.

Interestingly there was mixed feelings about having bilingual streams or separate streams in English and Welsh, both in the survey and at the event, with some people feeling that bilingual streams normalised the use of Welsh, whereas others said they liked to have the option so they could engage in the language of their choice.

The results of the survey showed that one of the most commonly perceived barriers is that organisations do not have enough Welsh speaking staff to run an effective service, with the speed of response being a particular concern when using social media platforms where immediacy is key.

Respondents also felt that it was difficult to get people to engage in Welsh, and it was difficult to make a business case for extra investment in the area when usage is low. However some respondents said that they felt that the reason less Welsh speakers engaged with social media was because Welsh language content was not written in a style they would speak and that messages are simply translated versions of English messages.

I’m currently re-writing my recommendations for the report following the Minister’s decision on Welsh Language Standards, but my recommendations in draft form include that Welsh language social media is mainstreamed into organisations’ work as a communication tool, as opposed to being an add-on, and also that engagement work meets principle 5 of the National Principles for Public Engagement in Wales, which calls for information to be ‘jargon free, appropriate and understandable’. The guidance notes state that ‘information is available in Welsh and English as well as other ethnic minority languages’, and it’s vital that we engage in ways that people want to use, and also that we engage on people’s own terms by using clear language that everyone can understand. Social media is an ideal tool to help us do this, as its informal nature means we can use clear language to better communicate with people, whatever their choice of language.

– Dyfrig

Channel Shift: Making the best use of your citizen communication channels

This is Participation Cymru’s first guest blog, which comes from Tanwen Berrington. If you would like to contribute to our blog, please email

Public Sector Customer Services Forum

Towards the end of February, I went along to the somewhat elaborately-titled conference, ‘Multi Channel Customer Contact Strategies & Channel Shift for the Public Sector’, organised by PSCSF. I found myself surrounded by public sector customer service specialists and private sector companies sponsoring the event. Now, I am not an expert in these areas and I imagine many readers won’t be either.

However, I was pleasantly surprised at how the wider concept of public engagement has become a key consideration for both these sectors; public engagement sells nowadays.

There was quite a mix of presentations on the day, including speakers from English and Welsh local authorities and private sector companies specialising in social, online and electronic customer communication (though not enough of the latter to turn the conference into a sales-pitch).

They all focused on multi-channel customer contact and making the best use of these channels. Some focused on the technology available to manage your public engagement and all were interested in providing a better customer service through improved communication and engagement.

For us lay-people, some of the presentations which specialised in customer contact centres might have been a little above our heads. For me, the presentation given by Sarah Barrow from Wokingham Borough Council on selecting appropriate channels of communication and by Leon Stafford from LiveOps on ‘empowering your agents to autonomous engagement’ were particularly interesting.

What did I learn?

  • To my understanding, channel shift is not just a case of shifting your citizens to social and online media; this is, after all, a little dictatorial! It is rather about engaging citizens on the most appropriate channels. This means shifting between different media depending on the nature of the service and the media the citizen is most comfortable using, or uses in their day-to-day lives. So, a customer complaining about a service on Twitter might appreciate an immediate response via a web chat (which of course, conveniently comes with the added bonus of privacy).
  • It’s not necessarily good practice to use your social and online media just to broadcast information. Twitter can be useful for broadcasting traffic updates, for instance, but it is also a cheap and easy way to actually listen to your citizens. Social media and technology can be used as a pre-prepared ‘human sensor network’ (a nice concept used by Professor Dave Snowden) that you can use as a temperature check, to become aware of local issues which are a source of complaint or praise. Why arrange irregular and infrequent consultations when you already have a regular feedback loop?These networks can also be ‘activated’. I was charmed by the example of the network of dog walkers in Wokingham Borough; when a dog is lost, the Council sends text messages to network members, who then turn into a borough-wide search and rescue party (though I must admit, I am a ‘dog person’).

What does this mean?

  • Often, organisations already have many of their engagement channels set up. You don’t necessarily need to re-invent the wheel therefore, just make the best use of what you already have.
  • This can be as simple as actually paying attention to what your citizens are saying!
  • Or managing your channels so your messages are co-ordinated. Citizens will feel they can get in touch by whatever means they feel comfortable with, without getting lost in the system.

– Tanwen Berrington
Working in public sector improvement. These views are my own.

How children and young people are feeding in to the Citizen’s Panel for Social Services in Wales

The second round of meetings of the Citizen Panel for Social Services in Wales have now taken place. There are adult panels in the North, South East and South West Wales, and we’re also working with children and young people around Wales who are affected by the way that social services are delivered.

The views of children and young people are being fed in by Beckii Parnham, a young carer from Torfaen, who originally applied to be a member of the panel. We’re so lucky to have Beckii working with us – Beckii cares for her mother, her brother and her sister, she’s a representative for Funky Dragon, she helps run a young carer’s group, has done work experience with the social services team in her area and is now working with us to feed in children and young people’s views in to the social services partnership forum. I feel positively lazy when I hear about everything she’s up to!

I asked Beckii why she wanted to be on the panel, and she said “I wanted to be on the panel because of the experiences I’ve had myself and the experiences that I want to share. I’ve got experience of actually working alongside Social Services and I’ve got experience of receiving the services”. You can also hear Beckii talk more about this and the work we did with Torfaen Youth Forum in the AudioBoo below, where we met with some of the young people in the above video (which includes Beckii, who’s the one the left of the still photo at the start of the video).

We’ve visited Wrexham Young Person’s Care Council, Crossroads Care Swansea Neath Port Talbot and Crossroads Care Cwm Taf, Whizz-Kidz in Bangor, Voices From Care Cymru, Eat Carrots Be Safe From Elephants (which is an amazing name!), and we’ll be visiting a few more in the coming months. We’ll be making sure that we visit groups around Wales from all the protected characteristics of the Equality Act to ensure that we hear from as wide a range of young people as possible.

There are some great tools for working with children and young people out there. We have some helpful publications available at the bottom of this page on our website. You can hear about the latest work that’s being undertaken with young people in Wales by joining the Participation Workers’ Network for Wales, Save the Children Cymru’s Participation Unit have produced some great Blast Off! Guides, and you can also find lots of websites, training and resources at

– Dyfrig

Information sharing and feedback – our February / March Participation Networks

Our Participation Networks, which take place in North, South East and South West Wales, are practical sessions that take place to help public service organisations to examine different issues; use different methods to engage; to share good practice; and to network.

This quarter’s networks have looked at information sharing and feedback. These themes are often highlighted as being central to the success or failure of consultation and engagement, so we decided to dedicate this round of networks to examining them.

We always start the networks with ice-breakers a.k.a. the Marmite of participation – you either love ‘em or hate ‘em! They can be very divisive, but throughout my time facilitating I’ve found that they help people get to know each other at the beginning of an event, which is vital at the beginning of an event like this that is all about networking!

In this case we asked participants to introduce the person sitting next to them by finding out their names, job titles, organisation and the reason they attended the network. This ice-breaker takes the pressure off of individuals who might be uncomfortable introducing themselves, and is useful for those who might normally hate icebreakers! As we discussed in yesterday’s South East Wales network, the important thing is to tailor your ice-breaker to your audience so that you can ensure that they get to know each other, but also feel comfortable in the environment.

Our first exercise looked at sharing information between organisations. Between the three networks we uncovered a lot of barriers and a lot of processes that could really get information sharing going.


I had drawn a hot air balloon and asked participants to place post-it notes on certain points of the picture in order to highlight:

  • What’s holding information sharing back?
  • Who needs to be on board?
  • What needs to be in place for the services to take off?
  • What could blow the balloon off course?
  • What will really make it fly?

The exercise certainly seemed to get people thinking, and as we discussed the method afterwards some attendees highlighted really interesting points about how they would adapt the technique. David Lloyd of TPAS Cymru suggested using different post-it notes for different groups so you could see who said what and also that you could collect post-its in clearly labelled envelopes afterwards so that you don’t lose any valuable feedback. Steph Landeryou from the Welsh Government shared details of the Wales Accord of Sharing Personal Information (WASPI) at the South East Wales Network, which you can find here. I think it’s fair to say that I learn as much from networks as attendees do. Click here to see the notes.

For the second exercise we asked what the world’s worst feedback process looks like.


We then asked participants to think about what steps they could take to stop this from happening. Everyone seemed to be inspired by looking at the negative side first, as unfortunately we’ve all had experiences of ineffective feedback! But interestingly it also focussed us on what steps we could put in place to ensure that this didn’t happen. At the South West Wales Network it was raised that you may have to be careful about how you used this, as the focus on the negative may exacerbate some issues. Conversely, it was also suggested it could help some groups to get issues off their chest and to plot a constructive way forward.

We then ran an around the group session, which allows people to share what details about what participatory activities they’re up to at the moment, any good practice they’ve encountered, and also any issues they are having. It’s always fantastic to hear about the great participatory work that’s taking place around Wales.

Last but not least we evaluated the session by placing post-it notes on a thermometer to indicate how useful they found the session.


We asked participants to write on suggestions of topics for future events on the post-its as we’ve just come to the end of this programme of networks, so that we can ensure that the networks continue to meet their needs. You can see the feedback from the North Wales network here, the South West Network here and the South East Wales Network here. If you have any other suggestions please let us know in the comments section below.

Thanks to all attendees for coming and I look forward to May’s networks!

– Dyfrig