The Centre for Social Informatics has just published a report on digital engagement for community councils and registered tenant organisations. The report presents findings from the Scottish Government sponsored workshops led in October and November 2015 by my research centre colleagues Peter Cruickshank and Dr Bruce Ryan. In addition, the report includes links to all the workshop presentation and outputs (such as videos, slides and photographs), and to further reading and resources.
With support from the Improvement Service and the Democratic Society, our workshops were hosted by South Ayrshire, Moray, Angus and Scottish Borders Councils. The workshop activities included small group discussions, interspersed with presentations on the Community Empowerment Act and other forms of community support provided by the Scottish Government such as the KnowledgeHub, the national web site for community councils, and digital tools for participatory budgeting (as noted by MSP and Minister for Local Government and Community Empowerment Marco Biagi, who drew attention to the publication of our report yesterday).
Themes discussed at the workshops ranged from the broad challenges to democratic digital engagement at hyperlocal levels to practical advice on aspects of setting up online presences for community councils, and the resources to achieve this. The workshops also provided an excellent opportunity for participants to network and build relationships to enhance knowledge sharing. This, we hope, will address some of the points that Peter and Bruce have identified in earlier research, notably the fragmented nature of democratic digital engagement in Scotland.
We’re pleased that the workshops were a great success, and now Peter, Bruce and I look forward to extending our work in this area. For example, Bruce has already started work on a video that will explain how to set up a basic community council web site using WordPress. We are also interested in undertaking further academic research to explore how individuals keen to improve digital engagement at local levels can further develop their own digital skills. Such work, we hope, will contribute to the formation of policies and strategies on the support and training of elected representatives, and will (ultimately) have a positive impact on democratic engagement at both local and national levels.
To find out more about the workshops, please see the recent post on Bruce’s blog. Bruce also maintains a resources page that provides links to our work on hyperlocal democracy, as well as other useful material. Peter has also written a review of the workshop series on his blog.