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!