The first set of Virtual Town Hall are hovering on the bring of launch – the development is all live but we are tweaking content and design – but they should be out in the wild later this week.  In the meantime I wanted to get moving on the community ambassador work. This has evolved a great deal in the course of the project to date and this post is about how we actually go live and proceed with these.

The initial view of the community ambassadors was that we were looking for people from the community to provide, to a greater or lesser extent, the interface between the social web and the Council. Their role would be as representatives of the process out on the wider social web and they would be asked to both encourage and moderate content from other participants. The advantages of this approach is twofold:

  • Moderation is being done by the community instead of to the community
  • Its a much more sustainable for the Council who are not going to be able to resource a huge moderation requirement

However – as we talked more and tested the idea with actual people it was clear that there are some flaws in this approach (quelle suprise). These centre both around practicalities and also around the overall approach. The light bulb moment was really when we realised that we were coming to be whole proposition as “The Council” rather than from the point of view of the participants. They don’t want to be pigeon holed into a job description of our choosing and really don’t want to be pinned down with a prescriptive todo list. As I type this really seems very obvious – and I am sure there are a lot of community activists and hyperlocal site owners who will put the do into doh on this one – but clearly it wasn’t obvious to us initially. Revelations over we decided what we need to do is to deconstruct the community ambassdor role into its discrete tasks – and then ask people which of these they want to take part in. the list below is not meant to be final – but it gets us started.

What I have tried to do is to relate the tasks to the stage of the process as per the informal / formal model I have been building. This also helps to guide things like the degree of risk/exposure that might be perceived. Risk is something I will need to come back to at some point – and I want to draw a strong distinction between actual risk and perceived risk as the latter is clearly greater than the former – and this can be evidenced by the general skittishness of most local authorities as they start to engage with social media – but this is for another post.

So – below is the break down of tasks as organised into the groupings which I am using to describe stages of behaviour (this relates to a much bigger descriptive picture which relates to engagement ladders etc – but this is enough to describe work for the community ambassadors I think)

Arena Participation Democratic participation
Rule of law: Spaces and processes which have legal and constitutional standing Formal Democracy: Participation in the actual decision making process or in setting the agenda
  • Attend a formal meeting
  • Start a petition
  • Interact with a member
  • Stand for election
Formal Consultation: Contributing to the information gathering stage of decision making
  • Respond to a consultation
  • Sign up to attend an event
  • Comment on the discussion board (within VTH)
  • Sign a petition
Wild West: the Wider social web, outside of spaces owned or managed by government Informal Civic Participation: Expressing and acting on an interest in local issues
  • Comment on a blog (outside VTH)
  • Comment on the discussion board (outside VTH)
  • Comment on a blog (within VTH)
  • Comment on webcast
  • Sign up for alerts
  • Rate a comment on a discussion board (within VTH)
  • Rate a comment on a blog (within VTH)
  • Watch a webcast event
  • Tweet VTH topics
Informal Social Participation: Connecting to other people in the area or around a specific topic
  • Rate a comment on a discussion board (outside VTH)
  • Rate a comment on a blog (outside VTH)
  • Rate a YouTube clip
  • Rate a webcast
  • Comment on YouTube clip
  • Create a user profile
  • Save something to your user profile
  • Share something from the Virtual Town Hall with someone else

This obviously all needs to be written up more formally but basically is a way of interpreting the following actions and putting them within an analytic framework – and I am trying to involve online and offline actions – not just social media stuff. List of actions that we will be measuring / influencing are (in no particular order):

  • Respond to a consultation
  • Sign up to attend an event
  • Comment on the discussion board (within VTH)
  • Sign a petition
  • Rate a comment on a discussion board (outside VTH)
  • Rate a comment on a blog (outside VTH)
  • Rate a YouTube clip
  • Rate a webcast
  • Comment on YouTube clip
  • Create a user profile
  • Save something to your user profile
  • Share something from the Virtual Town Hall with someone else
  • Comment on a blog (within VTH)
  • Comment on webcast
  • Sign up for alerts
  • Rate a comment on a discussion board (within VTH)
  • Rate a comment on a blog (within VTH)
  • Watch a webcast event
  • Tweet VTH topics
  • Comment on a blog (outside VTH)
  • Comment on the discussion board (outside VTH)
  • Attend a formal meeting
  • Start a petition
  • Interact with a member
  • Stand for election

I would be really interested in people’s views on this initial list as it is obviiously going to be a big part of the data collection. I would also be interested how/if people would weight this list.

One of the big improvements with this change from a formal role to a collection of tasks that people pick and choose is that it is much more compatible / complementary to the role of the elected representatives.  One of the things I want to do is to focus specifically with the team at Kirklees on how we expand this list to included the work of members as well so that we can represent some kind of composite picture.

Will take this all away and think more – there may be a tidier post lurking in this sprawl.

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