Posts Tagged ‘Birmingham’

5 stars of open local democracy?

Posted on 19th June 2014 by

5 star

There’s a conversation going on in South Birmingham – led by Karen Cheney and Austin Rodriguez and others – about how to get more public democratic processes shared more widely.  This builds on various work (including a Cllr in Billesley buying some kit to live stream for the first time their ward ctte meeting).    At a meeting yesterday we talked a bit about equipment and platforms, but also that not all meetings need to be live streamed etc.  So, I wondered, could establish stages of activity for digital open local democracy?  I said I write up my thoughts as a blog post….

What are the principles?

In the mould of Tim Berners-Lee, I’m adapting his 5 stars of open dataI’m know I won’t be the first person to think through these stages, – I’ve searched but not found the 5 stars thing for very local public meetings. If you find it then please share.  Update: this is where I’ve seen something similar before:

This is a summation of some of our experience social reporting over the years and the following list applies to local processes, currently things like police priority setting meetings,  patient forums for GP and CCG’s, council ward committee’s, housing association walkabouts, neighbourhood forum meetings or neighbourhood watch groups.  This is the myriad of daily democracy that we have created over time.

5 stars of  open (hyper)local democracy


1 star:  Be seen and be welcoming.  Putting agenda’s and minutes somewhere where it is very easy to find them and where it is easy for others to share them. Make sure everyone knows they’re invited.  (This could be a blog, just on google docs with a link or creating an eventbrite to invite people to meetings. It can include putting invites through doors and agenda’s and minutes on public noticeboards.)

2 star: Talk about what you’re doing.  This means that you have a #hashtag for your meeting and publicise it and also share what you know (make sure that background information to papers is publicly available). You are open to others live reporting or recording what you are doing.

3 star: Do it live.  You do the above but you also do it during your meeting or event.  This is where you can introduce a livestream of video or audio or live social reporting through twitter, facebook and or a blog. This also means you only hold meetings in places where there is good, publicly usable wi-fi or 3g.

4 star:  Involve people outside the room in the meeting.  This is a step change from being seen to be doing. This values the questions and comments made on the web as being as important to your meeting as the ones made in the room.  They are incorporated though hashtags or services like cover it live, blyve or a facebook q&a as the event unfolds.  This could also mean organising events specifically for talking to people on the web.

5 star:  It’s a permanent conversation. This fifth step recognises that the civic conversation you’re having doesn’t just happen at times and places you decide.  It can happen all the time. It means being responsive in between meetings when, for example a comment appears on a website or a hashtag.


There are other stages I could have added – using open data for example, but I’m trying to envisage stages by which we can help us develop from the familiar “meeting with 1 man and a dog in a draught village hall”.  So perhaps the 5 stars of “more” open local democracy.

Behind all this is another core principle:

Keep it simple:

  • Collaborate.  Don’t do this in silos, have things that involve many services, voluntary or statutory.
  • Use available tools.  make things happen with the mobile phones around you, using livestreaming through google hangout or similar, rather than needing to build a thing.  (there are very fine services used for some formal democratic processes, but they’re not essential here)
  • Use available kit – what can you achieve with a smart phone or two?  How much do you really need to buy, is video right for your sort of event?
  • Go to where people are  If the busiest place to find people is on facebook can you use that for your online conversations.  Sharing live events online through hyperlocal blogs is another example

If you can’t make it work without these then clearly start looking for other ways of doing but start with keep it simple, not with “we need to build a portal for that” .

Thanks also to our very own Steph Clarke for helping me think through this – she’s oodles of experience of encouraging public services to get involved with people online both at work and her volunteer efforts at




Erdington Social Media Surgery: A volunteer helping a volunteer learn from a volunteer…..

Posted on 16th May 2013 by

Rinkoo Barpaga at Erdington Social Media Surgery

This is Rinkoo Barpaga, Rinkoo attended the Erdington Social Media Surgery this afternoon for some help telling the story of a project he’s involved with.

In 2 weeks time he’ll be flying to the states to take part in a series of workshops and training sessions with deaf community groups, theatre groups and comedians to learn how they approach putting on events for the deaf community over there hoping to bring the knowledge back to the UK to make things happen over here.

Not photographed is Rinkoo’s interpreter (who politely declined to be in front of the camera) a volunteer who had come along to act as a sign interpreter so that Rinkoo could sit and learn with me as Rinkoo himself is deaf.

It was a productive session which as always was adapted to best suit the person learning but in this instance involved a 3 way conversation and a lot of pointing but  there was something really lovely about how it came together, a volunteer helping a volunteer come and learn from, had it been someone else other than me teaching him, another volunteer.


Community Lovers Tour of Birmingham: Nick Booth – Social Media Surgeries

Posted on 30th April 2013 by

The third and final stop with our guests was at the Central Birmingham Social Media Surgery.

The surgery was in full swing by the time they arrived so Nick took them out onto the terrace to tell them about how the Social Media Surgery Movement started while I got on with managing the surgery…

Community Lovers Tour Of Birmingham

Community Lovers Tour Of Birmingham

Central Birmingham Social Media Surgery

Central Birmingham Social Media Surgery

You can read Nick’s chapter in the Community Lovers Guide about it here:

Community Lovers Tour Of Birmingham: Emma Woolf – Friends Of Cotteridge Park

Posted on 30th April 2013 by

Cotteridge Park is the second stop with our guests from Holland and it was a beautiful day for a walk in Park, and weren’t the only ones to think so.

We arrived to find Emma Woolf of Friends of Cotteridge Park elbow deep in wood chippings in the Forest School with a group of girls from a nearby school.
Cotteridge Park

The Forest school is just one feature the group have introduced since they became involved with the park – You can read about that in their chapter here:

But essentially, Emma tells us, It’s all about forging partnerships with volunteers, local schools and the local community. Today in the forest school, Year 9 field volunteers have helped create a path around the area using wood chippings from the railway that runs alongside the site, Contractors were there over the weekend cutting back and chipping  the trees from over the tracks, “Can you chuck that over here?” Emma asked them, so they did and now it’s been put to good use.

Cotteridge Park

They’ve also been cutting back the willow to make archways along the paths. The girls, Emma notes, like the craftier stuff and the boys, who usually come along to help Sunday mornings, like the heavier work like turning compost. Wendy, one of the other volunteers at the park, remarked of the paths the group were creating, the girls do curved lines the boys would have done straight ones.

Cotteridge Park

Working Together

We run the park in partnership with the local authority. They own it and they deal with the day to day upkeep so we can innovate. For instance one project is around outdoor excersize. Adults and children working out together in the park … this works on all levels but most of all because there is no funding for pretty green spaces but there is for health. Parks are outdoor gyms, we can keep people healthy and make our groups sustainable by applying for grants for things like walking groups, running groups etc…

Cotteridge Park

We have 20 volunteers who help out regularly, but in addition to that we have 700 on our email list and different people get involved at different times. They are more likely to come along if it’s something they’re interested in and that’s ok. We’d rather they come an do a bit of something they like, be that weeding or building, than feel obliged to do something the don’t like and not want to come back again. in addition to these volunteers and our daily visitors, 5000 come annually to COCOMAD and we make the whole event free as far as possible.

Involved community

Cotteridge Park
Not everyone likes what we do, Some people think us working here brings people in and in turn causes anti social behaviour, but we think the opposite is true. Having people here using the park deters ASB and on the whole the community are proud of the park as they’ve done it themselves.

Even the kids get involved with things like litter picking and we hold regular spray paint workshops that they attend, decorating the park for themselves so we have very little problems with graffiti.

The pride the community have in their park really showed when we had our Green flag judging – the place had never looked so tidy, everyone was out in force picking up rubbish and making sure we looked our best.


(Paraphrased from the questions and answers with the visitors)

How does the partnership work out?

A. It’s been nothing but positive, we have a really good relationship with our park manager. We have a good understanding of their position, they’re restricted by funding so can’t do it all, but we can get them to support us. We can fund-raise and apply for funding to make things happen where they can’t and that works for all of us.

For instance the land for the Forest school we bought for £7000, £4000 raised by collections. £3000 donated. We bought it and then handed over the ownership to the local authority for the people of Cotteridge.

What do you fund-raise for?

A. Everything needs funds, be it the tennis courts need relaying, or for new the benches. Then there’s the festival we apply for grants, ask local business and have buckets in the park.

Is this your full time job?

A. No I’m a volunteer, it takes up time  – but it’s a break away from my day job and I enjoy it. I get to play outside all day, in my wellies. I probably spend up to 2 days time working on the park, but I’ve now become involved in a city wide network “Birmingham Open Spaces Forum” which involves and supports other groups and that takes up some more of my time too.

Cotteridge Park