Monthly Archives: December 2013

Scrutiny! scrutiny! scrutiny!

Scrutiny‘Effective Public Engagement and scrutiny go hand in hand’ – these are the words of Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Local Government, in her opening speech at the conference ‘Scrutiny in the Spotlight’ in the Swalec Stadium, Cardiff on 28 November. Since then my working life seems to have been a whirl of scrutiny related conversations and activities. I was pleased to be facilitating a session with Kevin and Virginia from the National Assembly for Wales on the very topic of public engagement and scrutiny. It was good to hear the views and opinions of scrutiny members and officers on this important issue. Views and experiences were varied but a common thread was the issue of ‘How do we make scrutiny sexy?’ (my words not theirs!), do people understand what scrutiny is and do they realise its relevancy to their lives? Is it relevant to their lives?

I then ‘did scrutiny’ in Swansea – my first time and very interesting! I have been co-opted onto a panel looking at public engagement, both across the LSB and the Council, an involvement that has been financially support by the ESF LSB in Welsh Government. We first met last week to question officers and the deputy leader on the role of engagement within the LSB in Swansea – a useful and insightful experience. Next week we look at the vision and plan of Swansea Council in terms of Public Engagement. I wonder what the people of Swansea think?

Apart from these two scrutinising experiences I have also had conversations with the third sector on how they might better be prepared for involving individuals and groups in scrutiny processes.  I sense the time is coming and is needed already here when the people of Wales demand more from scrutiny and expect to have their say. The age of public scrutineers is upon us – are we ready?

In Participation Cymru this is one of the key strands of our work as we move forward into a new year. Our work is based around 4 pillars, identified in WCVA’s publication ‘Putting People at the Centre’: Engagement, Prevention and early intervention, Seeking alternative Models and Scrutiny. We will be offering training on Public Engagement and Scrutiny in our new accredited training course, Public Engagement: Theory and Practice (Stage 2) and scrutiny and public engagement will be the theme of our February 2014 regional networks. Our network events fill up very quickly so please book now to avoid disappointment. We will be continuing our work with Swansea Scrutiny and also beginning some exciting work with the Centre for Public Scrutiny.

So, it is indeed Scrutiny, Scrutiny, Scrutiny!! And thinking about it……..we might even hold a competition for coming up with a sexier name for what is a vital aspect of citizen centred public services in Wales. Watch out for this exciting opportunity…

–          Mandy

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Mobile apps that could be useful for your engagement work

This blog post is going to look at some mobile and tablet apps that could be useful for anyone working in the field citizen engagement or participation.

Mind Tools (iTunes and Android)

mindtoolsDescription:
Learn more than 100 management, business and personal productivity skills from the MindTools.com toolkit. Build useful skills whenever you have a spare moment.

Skill types include leadership, team management, strategy, problem solving, decision-making, project management, time management and personal productivity, stress management, communication, creativity and career development.

This app is basically a list of tools such as starbursting, SWOT Analysis, mapping and loads more and this is a useful quick reference guide to have at your fingertips.

participationcompassParticipation Compass (iTunes and Android)

Description:
The app helps you:
– Browse and choose between dozens of engagement methods covering face-to-face and digital approaches
– Find a method tailored to your situation and your participants’ needs
– Explore case studies of participation in action from around the world
– Browse resource and practical guidance of how to do this work on the ground
– Keep up to date with relevant RSS feeds
– Browse expert organisations in facilitation, e-democracy, open government, involvement, digital democracy and related fields.

In keeping with the ethos of the site, users are invited to contribute their own experiences and knowledge to any one of the aforementioned sections. In doing so, you can also be considered for Expert directory.

The app has been developed by UK participation specialists Involve, and the German Foundation Bertelsmann Stiftung.

This app is very good, but it required me to sync to the database every time I opened it before it worked properly (using Android). There are loads of participatory methods and case studies packed into this app, as well as a library of publications and resources. It includes a useful planning tool to filter relevant methods and information depending on what type of project you’re doing and there is also a links section called “experts” and we were pleased to see that Participation Cymru are listed in this section!  Like the Participation Compass website, this app is constantly updated which is probably a likely reason for needing to sync each time it opened.

Contexts of Participation (Android)contextofparticipation

Description:
Contexts of Participation is a conceptual tool to help you consider the complex contexts that affect participation in everyday life. In particular, it helps the user to think more critically about the barriers and enablers to participation. The tool provides a map to the person in their wider contexts, with participation as both being the output of a person and a means for change. By turning the wheels and considering the ways different factors interact, you can provoke new ways of thinking about the relationship between people, participation and social structures.

This is a critical thinking tool by Rayya Guhl & Dr Ian Marsh and the app was developed by Canterbury Christ Church University and is designed to be very easy to use.  You can find out more about this tool here or download the app to have it at your fingertips!

I also came across some interesting apps when searching through the app store and many weren’t available in the UK, or were available to download but weren’t in English.

There were some innovative examples of apps in Europe such as Colab, a Portuguese social network connected to Facebook that lets citizens highlight problems in their areas, propose solutions and evaluate existing services using their smartphones. There is also FlashPoll, a German app which aims to provide a platform towards a better involvement of citizens in municipal decision-making processes through location based polling.

This post is specifically related to tools for participation and engagement, however apps can also be used by organisations to engage with their customers or service users, or simply provide people with up-to-date information that is just one tap away on your smartphone. For example:

-a bilingual app called Choose Well Wales | Dewis Doeth Cymru for choosewellcitizens in Wales that serves as a guide to choosing the right NHS service. It also includes useful self-care information and provides access to the NHS Direct Wales website. (iTunes and Android)

– the UK Food Standards Agency have an app that lets you search for the hygiene ratings of food establishments. (iTunes and Android)

Please comment with any suggestions of mobile apps you know of that could help anyone working in the field citizen engagement or participation, or if your organisation has an app that you’d like to share.

All of the apps in this post are free to download.

–          Sarah