Tag Archives: information sharing

Digital inclusion and the future of e-participation

On the 25th and 26th of February 2015, Communities 2.0 hosted a conference about Digital Inclusion and Participation Cymru went along to find out more.

Here are our thoughts about the significance and role of digital inclusion for the future of participation in Wales.

It is quite astonishing to think about how far technology has come in such a short amount of time. I’m sure many of us remember our first computer (probably like me, a clunky Windows ‘95 affair), or even our first brick – perhaps a Nokia 32:10 mobile phone. It’s strange to think of just how much we can now do from a basic smart mobile at a fraction of the cost.

(Check out the photo below and see how many of these take you back!)

Communities 2.0 Digital Inclusion

Technology like this has irrevocably changed the landscape in which we live our day to day lives. But as the digital world races ahead, it is easy to get left behind.

For most of us whose lifestyles and workplaces are increasingly digitalised, it is perhaps difficult to appreciate the kind of hurdles we would face if we did not have the resources and skillset needed to be autonomous in the digital world.

As society becomes more and more digital, the divide that exists between those who are digitally included and digitally excluded begins to present a real problem and has implications across all levels, even economically and democratically.

It is this division that fell under scrutiny across the two days of the communities 2.0 conference.

It was estimated in 2015 by the Money Advice Service that over 500,000 adults remain digitally excluded in Wales (approximately 1 in 6 of us). The association that exists between digital exclusion and poverty along with other vulnerable groups of people indicates that digital inclusion is a social justice issue, and it is not difficult to see how digital exclusion can compound a state of powerlessness.

From a business perspective, the increasingly digitalised global marketplace means that digitally switched on organisations have a much greater opportunity to source cheaper materials, broaden their reach with customers, simplify working processes and cut down on working hours. All of this makes it much more difficult for businesses that are not utilising the web to survive.

A lack of digital know-how not only limits employment opportunities, but even makes it problematic to access benefits such as a job seeker’s allowance

Maintaining human relationships – something as simple as keeping in touch – can become increasingly difficult if you are amongst the digitally excluded. Furthermore, as more and more public services make the move to online services, you are much less likely to hear about news and information on things which might affect you.

From this point of view, to be digitally excluded is to not only be isolated and disenabled, but also fundamentally disempowered. So, what can we do to help put an end to digital exclusion?

Well, there is no simple answer. Whilst the Welsh government is taking positive steps to increase the focus of digital literacy in Wales, it is encouraging that independent organisations like #techmums also exist to help break down those barriers and increase the confidence of digital users. As ever, there is always fantastic ongoing work being undertaken by volunteers across the nation to help empower those who need it.

The efforts of these groups and people really did highlight that it is important to bear in mind, whether in work or in our personal lives, that we share a responsibility to share our power and ensure nobody gets left behind.

It is easy to think about technology in terms of what it gives us – whether it is the tools to find the answers we need, the opportunity to advertise our business or find employment, the ability to simplify our daily lives, provide us with entertainment or new things to learn – even something as simple as the ability to keep in touch with the ones we love. Perhaps it is time to think about technology from another point of view, and see if it helps us to give something back.

Georgina

Update: Regional Participation Networks

Free Tools

We held regional participation network events this month in Rhyl, Newport and Carmarthen. At the network events we explored several free online tools that can be used for engagement. A wide variety of organisations attended and shared a lot of interesting ideas.

Here is the list of websites and tools that we discussed:

Socrative – quiz tool

Read-Able – readability checker

Easel.ly – create info-graphics

Infogram – create info-graphics

Powtoon – create animated cartoons

Pixabay – free stock photos

Morguefile – more free stock photos

Phrase it! – add speech bubbles to images

Pixlr – free online image editor

Mailchimp – create newsletters for your mailing lists

Twtpoll – polls and surveys for Twitter

Tagboard – search for topics/hashtags on Twitter

https://twitter.com/search-home – Twitter search

Eventbrite – organise bookable events

Survey Monkey – design surveys and questionnaires

Magisto – movie clip editor

Google Charity Apps

Doodle – organise meetings with others

KeePass – Encrypted password safe (open-source downloadable software)

http://www.gimp.org/ – GNU Image Manipulation Programme (open-source downloadable photo editor)

Skitch – Photos & drawings in Evernote (downloadable software)

Geospike – Travel diary using GPS

We will be holding regional network events again in May where local Community Voice projects across Wales will be sharing their work. If you would like to be involved please contact us for more information.

– Sarah

Photo credit: Pixabay

October Regional participation networks: tools and techniques

If you’re new to this blog, our regional participation networks are suitable for anyone working in the field of participation and citizen engagement and we run them three times a year in North Wales, South East Wales and South West Wales. Attendees come from a range of different organisations in the public and third sector that focus on a variety of issues. The events are suitable for anyone from any level within an organisation that has an interest in practical participatory work, including consultation officers, trustees, volunteers, development workers and managers.

These regional participation networks are suitable for anyone working in the field of participation and citizen engagement.

The theme of the events that took place in Glyncoch, Llanelli and Rhyl in October was participative tools and techniques. The sessions offered an opportunity for participants to learn and practice a number of practical techniques that can be used in face to face engagement activity.

Here is a summary of some of the techniques that we explored and the ideas we discussed:

Hopes and fears

Aims: To identify participants’ hopes and fears.

Method: Ask participants to write down their hopes and fears. We used this as an extended ice-breaker to identify what people were hoping to get from the session and what they were afraid of. It’s also valuable to re-visit these at the end of the session, to check whether the hopes were met and the fears were addressed.

This technique is particularly useful to use at the start of a session because it allows the facilitator to manage expectations from the beginning; for example if anyone has ‘hoped’ for something which is not relevant or off-topic then this can be made clear. It may also be comforting for participants to see that others share the same ‘fears’ as them – the facilitator could also reassure anyone with legitimate fears relating to the session.

20141022_105405

World’s best and worst

Aims: To draw attention to issues by looking at them in a dream/nightmare scenario. This can be both a visioning tool and a problem solving tool.

Method: Choose a topic that you want to explore and ask the group to imagine the absolute best and worst version they can imagine.

This technique is interesting because it allows the group to explore a situation by looking at it in its most extreme. It is also a very light hearted way of looking at serious issues. Following on from this – you could then move on to thinking about the process of how you achieve the ‘world’s best’ and how to avoid becoming the ‘world’s worst’!

For our network events, we chose the topic of neighbours: What does the world’s best/worst neighbour look like and what characteristics do they have?

20141022_105158

Facts vs. Assumptions

Aims: To distinguish facts from assumptions and build awareness that what people identify as fact is often rumour or opinion.

While we were preparing for this technique we were mindful of how to distinguish facts from assumptions and we found it difficult to pick a topic to use for demonstration purposes. We decided to ask what participant’s assumptions were about Participation Cymru and then we were able to ‘myth-bust’ them, which was a lot of fun! Some participants assumed that we were a large team, when we are a team of just four.

We then asked attendees to volunteer to be the ‘fact keeper’ for their own organisations and we repeated the exercise with organisations from people in the room. This was a fascinating way of networking and learning about each other’s organisations and it prompted a lot of discussion at our network events.

If the topic you’re discussing is controversial then it should be used carefully as facts are not always straightforward – lots of people will see their opinions as facts. This tool could also be used in partnership working between organisations; we use it in our Effective Partnership Working accredited training course.

Attendees at the 3 events also shared their own favourite techniques, we always welcome contributions to our participation networks – if you ever have an idea/topic or would like to be involved in planning or delivery our networks then please get in touch.

To evaluate these network events we asked attendees to rate each technique on its usefulness using stickers on a 1-10 scale (combined results from all 3 events):

20141022_11031020141022_105948 20141022_110137

The next round of network events are in February 2015 and they are free to attend. More information will be available soon but you can book early to guarantee your place! Thank you for your continued support of these participation networks.

 – Sarah

May Regional Participation Networks: Co-production

Co-production seems to be the latest buzz word to be found in all sectors of public service and some would argue that is means different things to different people. In the participation networks that took place at the beginning of May, we explored what co-production means to people and tried to make sense of what it means in the context of participation and engagement. Participants at the network also shared a lot of examples of co-production happening in their projects/organisations – but not everyone is calling it ‘co-production’. As we’ve learned in previous network events (February 2014, October 2013) it’s important not to get bogged down with definitions.

We began each network meeting with an ice-breaker exercise. We asked participants to form pairs and think about what co-production might look like, what is probably is and what it probably isn’t. This exercise wasn’t aiming to pin a definition down into words but aimed to identify what working co-productively actually entails.

maynetwork_03maynetwork_02

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The group identified that co-production is not a tokenistic approach to engagement; it’s not just about saving money and not about consultation. The groups also recognised that shared power, working towards a common goal and recognising people as assets capture what co-production ‘probably’ is – synonymous with Edgar Cahn’s core values of co-production:

  • Recognising people as assets
  • Valuing work differently
  • Promoting reciprocity/mutuality
  • Building social networks.

Click here to download the full icebreaker notes.

We had a different guest speaker in each event. Anne Collis from Barod was our speaker in North Wales. Barod have produced a sister document to WCVA’s Putting People at the Centre publication called Being at the Centre which will be published shortly. Being at the Centre is written in Everyday English and is aimed at members of the public who use public services.

Barod has developed a method that they call coffee shop conversations and they used this technique when developing the Being at the Centre publication. The method involves listening to people’s views in a relaxed environment (coffee shop or cafe) as opposed to a formal consultation meeting.

Our speaker in South East Wales was Gareth Coles, Public Service Delivery Officer in WCVA. Gareth asked participants to think about the barriers to working co-productively and they came up with:

  • The idea of co-production can be confusing as there are many different ideas and definition of what it is
  • Co-production asks people in organisations to give up their power and to give power to communities and members of the public. Co-production can’t happen unless kick-started by the people at the top, who are often unwilling to share power.
  • Financial pressures.  Also a current lack of honesty in communications with the public – many organisations are actually afraid to meet residents and to be honest with them.
  • Organisations don’t always recognise that service users have something to give back

The group then discussed what steps organisations can take to work more co-productively:

  • Spend more time listening
  • Not being afraid to give the answer they don’t want to hear
  • Ask for concerns and solutions
  • Put yourself in shoes of recipient
  • Building and pooling skills/resources
  • Accept criticism
  • Give it a go (with good faith)
  • Creating transparent dialogue

In South West Wales, the speakers were Rick Wilson from Community Lives Consortium and some project leaders from the Time to Meet project. Time to meet is organised by people with learning disabilities and their friends, family and staff in Swansea. It is there to help members to build stronger social lives with people around them by sharing skills, interests and time. This includes jewellery making workshops, card making workshops, coffee mornings and lots of other activities including their own version of Come Dine with Me called Come Eat With Us!

Rick demonstrated a method they use to identify what their members want to do. We were each given red pieces of paper and blue pieces of paper. The red piece had a question: What would you like to do? And on the blue piece: What do you like doing, or are good at doing? Once we’d all written our answers down we put all the papers on the floor and grouped them together. It turned out that a lot of us wanted to learn about gardening and cooking and there were also people in the room who already had knowledge about these topics so as a group we’d immediately identified an opportunity for people to learn and a resource to do so.

maynetwork_01

To end each network meeting we always break into small groups to share recent pieces of work and examples of good practice or just to continue general discussion. Finally participants are asked to complete a participative evaluation exercise.

Participation Cymru no longer receive any funding to facilitate and organise these participation networks so we’re very grateful to the participants’ organisations for providing the venues and refreshments (on this occasion: Careers Wales – Bangor, South Wales Fire & Rescue HQ – Llantrisant and Carmarthenshire County Council). We’re also very grateful to the speakers for giving us their time. We will endeavour to keep these network meetings going and the next round of meetings in October will focus on participative tools and techniques so if you would like to demonstrate or try out a technique or if you’re able to contribute anything else to these networks then please get in touch.

Next week, Non Humphries will blog about Co-Production in Action.

–       Sarah

Our radio debut!

RadioCardiffRadio Cardiff 97.8FM is Cardiff’s community radio station, which is a type of radio service that offers broadcasting beyond commercial and public service. They broadcast content that is popular and relevant to a local and specific audience which can often be overlooked.

Diverse Cardiff is live every Tuesday 13:30-15:00 and Participation Cymru were asked to come and speak on the show. I thought this was a really exciting opportunity so I volunteered myself for this; I’m really good at chatting about our work so I thought: why not?!

Just before I arrived at the studio I remembered the ‘Confidence at Public Events’ training course that I attended last year and it definitely came in handy at this point! I particularly remembered the part of the course about overcoming fear…

  1. The fear will never go away as long as I continue to grow
  2. The only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is to go out and do it
  3. The only way to feel better about myself is to go out…and do it
  4. Not only am I going to experience fear whenever I’m on unfamiliar territory, but so is everyone else.
  5. Pushing through fear is less frightening than living with the underlying fear that comes from a feeling of helplessness

(taken from Susan Jeffers ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’)

I was clearly nervous before I started speaking but within a few minutes I began to really enjoy myself and didn’t want to stop talking!

The format of the show is very informal, chatty and conversational, with it being so close to St. David’s Day all of the music played on the show was by welsh artists, so I had the pleasure of listening to some Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci & Super Furry Animals whilst I was waiting.

I began by introducing Participation Cymru, who we are and what we do, then I spoke about some pieces of work we have recently been involved with and I finished by speaking about ways in which people can get involved with us, by attending our training, networks and endorsing the National Principles for Public Engagement. I also mentioned some local opportunities for the people of Cardiff to be involved, I signposted to websites such as www.askcardiff.com and http://www.thewaleswewant.co.uk/

Diverse Cardiff are always looking for guests to speak on the show, so if you have an interesting local project that you’d like to speak about then click here to contact Diverse Cardiff.

Here are a few tips for any first time radio guests:

  • You’re just having a general chat about work; imagine the table with the microphone isn’t there.
  • Speak in Plain English – don’t use long sentences or jargon-words which you might stumble on and if you do stumble – just start over again – the chances are no one will notice (apart from yourself!)
  • Be prepared – you could even write some questions that you want the presenters to ask and send them in advance so you know what to expect
  • Remember time seems a lot quicker when you’re actually speaking – what you think may take 2 minutes to say could actually take 5 minutes

You can listen to the entire show here or just Participation Cymru’s interview here; the other guest was Chrissie Nicholls from Welsh Women’s Aid.

–          Sarah

More scrutiny!

As you may already know, we hold regional participation networks three times each year which are suitable for anyone working in the field of participation and citizen engagement. Attendees come from a range of different organisations in the public and third sector that focus on a variety of issues. These events are suitable for anyone from any level within an organisation that has an interest in practical participatory work, including consultation officers, trustees, volunteers, development workers and managers.

Each network event has a general theme and the theme of our events in February was Public involvement in scrutiny. The weather was against us but we were very pleased with the variety of organisations who were able to attend the events

We always begin each session with an icebreaker exercise which was a ‘graffiti wall’ on this occasion. We asked participants to think of as many definitions for the word scrutiny as they could think of, or examples of when they’ve seen scrutiny take place on television or the media. And this is what it looked like after the last of the 3 events:

Scrutiny Graffiti Wall
The most common definitions were accountability, checking and asking questions. Some interesting meanings also came up! “Newsnight”, “boring” and “sexy” also appear up there if you look closely! None of these answers are right or wrong and it’s clear that scrutiny, in itself is a very loaded word.

National Assembly for WalesAfter the icebreaker, a representative from the National Assembly for Wales outreach team gave a presentation about their scrutiny work and how they hold the Welsh Government to account. We also looked at some video evidence they produced as part of the Youth Entrepreneurship Inquiry. You can download their presentation here. Participants found the National Assembly’s presentation very informative, interesting and relevant as it outlined recent examples of inquiries carried out by Assembly committees and ways in which they’d involved the public in these inquiries. We particularly liked the use of info-graphics for presenting information in an accessible way (the Inquiry into Public Libraries in Wales is a particularly pretty example) and using ‘vignettes’ – an evidence gathering technique which we will feature in the next Participation Cymru newsletter.

We also heard from local scrutiny experts, David Lloyd from TPAS Cymru (North Wales), Rebecca David-Knight from the Centre for Public Scrutiny (South West Wales) and Hazel Ilet from Monmouthshire County Council (South East Wales).

In North Wales, David had a boxful of various items, all of these items represent scrutiny in some way, can you guess how…?!

  • A tie
  • A magnifying glass
  • A ping-pong ball
  • Goal posts

In South West Wales, Rebecca emphasised that public engagement is scrutiny and being able to challenge decisions is empowering. Scrutiny closes the gap in democratic accountability and good quality engagement is needed in order for a service to be successful, as services are reliant on its users and not the other way around!

In South East Wales, Hazel shared some case study examples including a call-in at a scrutiny committee meeting about Allocation of land for a travellers’ site where this scrutiny process identified flaws in the evidence supporting a decision that had been recently made. As a result of the public forum discussion, the decision was referred to the full council so this demonstrates the power that the public have in the scrutiny process. Monmouthshire also have a public open forum on the agenda of every scrutiny committee meeting.

Group discussion

We always end our participation network events with a group discussion followed by a participatory evaluation technique. We used ‘hearts, bodies and minds’ and a summary of the evaluations can be found here:

We are very grateful to Caryl, Lowri and Rhys from the National Assembly for Wales’ outreach team and our other speakers for their valuable input into these events.

The next round of participation networks are in May 2014 and the theme will be co-production in public services. For more information or to book a space please visit our website. Please be aware that these events are free to attend so do fill up very quickly!

–          Sarah