I've just written an article for the New Start blog about 'digital engagement'. The other day I asked a few people who were all likely to have useful things to say on the topic, to offer me comments or responses to a few questions.
One of the things that interested me was on the question of consultation cliques (sometimes unfortunately referred to as ‘usual suspects’). Poorly handled involvement can reinforce the separation of cliques from their supposed constituencies. I was curious as to whether people feel this is more likely or less likely to happen in a digital context.
I had the article more or less sorted last night, when into my mailbox there landed a note from Hugh Flouch, who runs Harringay Online (HoL), offering a characteristically case-based insight:
An example just tonight. About a month ago, one of our cabinet members tweeted about a new local community engagement framework. I hadn’t heard about it till I picked it up from Twitter. I added a post to the forum – robust debate – defence by councillor – offer of a meeting to discuss with HoL members – tonight was the discussion – about community engagement principles. About 75% of those round the table had never been “engaged” before having the digital enabler of HoL (and you can count me as one of those).
So let's just run through that again. Using digital media, the founder of a local online network finds out about a community engagement framework on which local people had not been consulted. By using the network he enables a debate which leads to a f2f meeting about the principles of community engagement, which in fact had been happening more as a result of the online network than for any other reason. And I had this information within an hour or so of the meeting.
The article is here.