A cold church hall on a Wednesday evening is in itself perhaps not the best starting point to get people engaged with what is happening in their community.
There is Coronation Street, dinner to cook and swimming lessons to collect from, so local decision making – however relevant – drops onto the back burner.
It is clear to see how Community Forums in Warwickshire often only attract small numbers.
So how do we engage with local people? The decisions made by the handfuls of people attending Community Forums can change the lives of entire communities, yet they remain unaware of the potential power they have in their hands.
What if we were to reach into those homes and offer the people the chance to not only see exactly what was going on, but also to partake in the decision making? While never having to leave their sofa.
Warwickshire County Council has piloted its first live streaming Community Forum #shipstonlive.
The #shipstonlive event was the first Community Forum to be streamed live on the internet, interacted with live on Twitter, and a live vote held for both the internet audience and those attending in person at the Community Forum.
The build-up to #shipstonlive was promoted heavily through traditional media, local newspapers, radio and parish magazines; through social media, on various Twitter and Facebook accounts; through the Warwickshire News webpage; through messages to local groups; and posters in the local area.
Partners also promoted the event, including Stratford-on-Avon District Council, Warwickshire Police, Stratford College, Shipston Town Council and Shipston Primary School.
On the evening Stratford College students provided the streaming equipment, which was hosted on a webpage created by Warwickshire County Council, providing a hub for the social media information and live streamed video.
Warwickshire County Council projected a screen featuring all the latest tweets featuring the #shipstonlive hashtag, allowing the chair of the Community Forum to question the agencies attending on any issues raised by the public on Twitter.
A live vote was run on the web page, and a countdown was run, culminating in the vote in the Community Forum, where the results were then announced. This was run in conjunction with Warwickshire Police on their local policing priorities.
The web page was viewed more than 700 times on the day of the live streaming.
Almost 100 people watched the Community Forum live on the internet.
Almost 200 tweets appeared under the #shipstonlive hashtag on the night.
93 people voted in the poll on the website, which when added to the votes in the rooms gave more than 130 votes. The biggest ever participation for Warwickshire Police on local policing priorities in Shipston.
Six comments were posted on the web page during the evening.
“Thank you so much for being brave enough to be the first. I hope many more in the county will follow suit in the future. Well done and thank you Shipston. It was best when people were themselves in the meeting. I don’t think it needs to be professional, it just needs to be real. Once again, well done and thank you.”
A ‘watch again’ version of the video now on the web page has been watched by more than 50 people.
We are now looking at how the #shipstonlive success can be transferred in an ‘easy to deliver’ format, and this has already been tested with iPads with some great results, although we are still looking at the best way to ensure good sound quality.
by Jack Linstead,
Warwickshire County Council