This blog is mainly about the governance and future of policing and crime services. (Police & Crime Commissioners feature quite a lot.) But there are also posts about the wider justice system. And because I am town councillor and political activist, local & national issues are covered a little, as well.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Digital democracy & community engagement

Yesterday I was alerted to a new report written by Public-i about how PCCs have the opportunity to grab with both hands the possibilities of social media and Web 2.0 to tap into the needs / wishes / wants of the communities they serve. (The report was commissioned by the APCC and published by them here in full). I have only read the summary of the report, but I commend the whole report to you.

Without doubt, in my opinion, the boldest and the best PCCs will be actively seeking ways of reaching out to their hundreds of thousands (and millions in some cases) of constituents to listen to what they think are the key policing priorities, among other communication objectives. In other words they will be seeking to build dialogues with their communities. There will be PCCs who will only be seeing the web as a means to transmit messages and thus missing huge opportunities to engage and learn. (I hope there will be no PCCs who will ignore the web altogether...)

But also, let us not forget, that PCCs will still need to be out there and meeting people in the flesh. How they meet people will be critical to the success of these new positions, in my opinion...

Yesterday I attended a meeting which was billed as a consultation. Many people (approximately 80 I reckon) had given up their own time to be there: to listen, learn and be listened to. A good array of sandwiches was put on and then at about 12.30, the chair of the event announced the start of the event.

We were then talked at for over 80 minutes solid, leaving less than 10 minutes (within the formal allocated time) for 'Q&A'. I was not the only one who a) highlighted that this was not a consultation meeting and b) it was a real & palpable lost opportunity. (I am being oblique here as I do not wish to name the organisation in question. But essentially a way forward was being described and the very people who could help with the implementation of that strategy were in the room but were not given the chance to offer their ideas.)

I was immensely frustrated! As were many others, I believe.

How many other meetings or events or conferences are just like this one? We are in the middle of a severe economic crisis in the UK and beyond into the world. If I am being bold, I regard it as immoral that meetings can still be organised to tackle some aspect of this crisis but the process of the meeting inhibits full debate, suppresses creativity and/or fails to harness the brainpower, expertise & commitment in the room. It is quite simply wrong, dammit!

Now I do not accuse the conveners of these meetings to be so wrapped up in their power & egos that they are malevolently constructing meetings to force their views of the world on to other people.

Instead I prefer to consider that people just do not know that there are a 1000+ ways to make meetings more productive for all concerned. However, they just slip into the usual way of doing things, usually with good intent. But we all know that if you always do what you have always done you will always get what you have always got...

And so I appeal again (yes I have written about this before - here for example), please if you are convening a meeting of any kind... if you think that:
  • the world is a scary, complex and fast changing place that needs new ways of organising / allowing more of the 'right' things to happen...
  • most meetings, events and conferences set up to find those 'right' things and take them forward just don't do it very well...
  • somebody's 'platform power' often means that many others lose power and voice, but that it doesn't have to be this way..
  • there is often so much attention paid to inputs/outputs that lasting outcomes (and the imagination to take us there) hardly get a look in...
  • you would like to find out more: learn, share and support other people who think like you....
... then contact me or a 1000 other good facilitators around the world who can help you make a real difference to your meetings. Please!

I sincerely hope that PCCs will use their power to ensure that the public engagement meetings that they are involved with are full of innovation, conversation and, indeed, palpitation! Good meetings excite people with dynamic ideas!

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