How can we best support public engagement in scrutiny at the time of Covid-19? Scrutiny zoom notes #4

At this zoom meet up 30 participants worked on the question How can we best support public engagement in scrutiny at the time of Covid-19? using ‘appreciative interviews’.

Thank you so much to everyone for their time and their contributions.

We had had over 60 ideas and I’ve organised them into 9 answers in no particular order. I hope I’ve done the discussion justice.

How can we best support public engagement in scrutiny at the time of Covid-19?

  • Work flexibly
  • Communicate well
  • Address what matters right now
  • Work effectively with councillors
  • Develop our digital presence
  • Use our networks
  • Start with the end in mind
  • Respect the public
  • Get the basics right

Here are all of the ideas in full:

Work flexibly

  • Relax the rules – not so rigid 
  • Informal opportunities for public to engage
  • Small informal groups like Task and Finish rather than formal meetings
  • Accessibility!  this means online as well as in person – it means being aware of time frames and doing things more quickly if needed and not being so concerned about meeting protocols
  • Oh and flexibility
  • Use task and finish groups 
  • Less rigid/more informal to encourage participation

Communicate well

  • Being honest with what scrutiny can or can’t do
  • Keeping the Local Democracy Reporter informed about the democratic process
  • Openly and widely informing the public of meetings 
  • Scrutiny access to comms – social media
  • Clear guidance to give confidence to people attending – giving evidence
  • Provide information
  • Be clear about why we are trying to engage people 
  • Good comms
  • Being honest about things which didn’t go well, so residents feel like they have a full picture
  • Explain up front any ‘rules’ that cant be  broken , eg procurement and due diligence
  • When recommendations from the public haven’t been adopted, share reasoning.

Address what matters right now

  • Relevance and leadership
  • Provide leadership, reassurance and local answers to the things that matter at this time
  • We need to ask relevant questions, where the answers will actually make a difference to residents
  • Right topic and right time (makes it easier to get engagement) 
  • Prioritising work
  • Having a subject that the public are passionate about
  • Be willing to invest the time to find out what’s relevant to the individual
  • Ask people what they are worried about

Work effectively with councillors

  • Ensure that member engagement is reset
  • Members bought into benefits of public engagement and what to do with the feedback
  • Briefing members so that they are well informed and able to ask challenging questions
  • Greater use of the member communication platform
  • Engage with members better first to enable them to engage with the public better
  • Informal networks utilising Members -e.g. asset based community development (ABCD)
  • Get members to think like users, make the issue really understandable
  • Councillors provide individuals who are stakeholders or people who care about an issue that’s relevant to them

Develop our digital presence

  • Involve people in online meetings – people have got used to doing Zoom/Teams meetings so you may be able to access people you haven’t done before
  • Maximising use of social media
  • Social media to reach out (being mindful of digital exclusion as restrictions lift)
  • Right virtual environment (safe space)
  • Buy in virtual experts
  • Stop hiding the scrutiny page on the website
  • Continually asking: “who cannot access this?” to ensure no one is being digitally excluded in this increasingly digital-reliant time  
  • Engage with social media and try to incentivise
  • Web access and availability, relevant topics
  • Think about how virtual enables us to reach the disengaged or those who can’t work out how the authority website works
  • Use non online methods

Use our networks

  • Using existing networks
  • Use existing networks
  • Use healthwatch

Start with the end in mind

  • Be clear about the role and impact of scrutiny
  • Outcomes required to ensure public engagement is useful
  • Managing expectations – have realistic outcomes for people who get involved

Respect the public

  • Respect the public
  • Trust, accessibility, expectations, awareness raising, feedback
  • Resources required for public engagement but this is being taken up with organising virtual meetings
  • Making sure people get feedback after the event – what actually happened as a result of their engagement!

Get the basics right

  • Right environment
  • Good prep
  • Establish clear ground rules for online focus groups
  • Right witnesses
  • Need to ensure public gives sufficient evidence to back up concerns
  • Tempting people in
  • Consider offering incentives to engage in consultation – prize draw? relevant merchandising 
  • What contact details do participants have to provide to take part in a focus group

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