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Wide-Ning Engagement

February 2, 2010

We came across some interesting things last week through various discussions with different councils. In a Neighbourhood Futures meeting last week Bristol City Council gave an impressive presentation. They have been doing e-petitions for a while now, as well as using social media like YouTube to communicate with local people. They have also tried to crowd source ideas for changes to the city centre – by putting up early designs and asking people to comment. They have a few local forums, supported by e-democracy.org, and they webcast council meetings as well.

If you were to give me a choice out of the least successful option from above, I would have gone for the webcasting of council meetings. Oh how wrong I would have been.

Did you know that for one of Bristol’s webcasts they had over 5600 people watch live?! It was to do with a planning issue – Bristol City’s stadium decision I believe. A similar discussion about Bristol Rovers was watched by 3422 people, and a debate about climate change 3509 residents. Impressive figures and worth the £20,000 a year investment I think.

Another interesting example came from a discussion with officers from Wiltshire County Council. They have set up 18 Community Area Boards to bring decision making closer to local people. Knowing that these will only attract a minority of local people, they decided to set up a series of Nings to accompany them.

This is one of the first examples of this I have heard of in local government and something we want to explore in Local 2.0: an online forum explicitly weaved into a local governance structure. They have already had 10,000 residents provide email addresses and indicate they would like to sign up.

The council is currently taking a breath and properly considering how the Nings will interact with local boards. We’ll update as we find out more. In the meantime, here is an example of one of the Nings

Also – Media Trust’s Community Voices now open for applications more here.

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