It’s just shows that patience and persistence pays off and something we find all the time: that the skills you help someone develop today can turn into fruitful activity much later. Bravo Cllr Alex Buchanan for taht persistence.
What I haven’t said yet is that we’ve been working on a second phase of the surgeries with him.
Austin has been doing a great thing empowering the people he works with to use social media to talk to each other, to improve where they live and to build a stronger communities and with him we’ve continued to build on the momentum from phase one of the project.
In February we were holding a surgery in Bartley Green that Alex Buchanan – Ward Councillor of Billesley – attended. He came along with Austin with the idea that he’d like to trial live streaming his ward committee meeting . Birmingham City Council have been live streaming their meetings from the council house and he wanted to see how he could make that work locally.
Out in the community centres and church halls where community meetings are usually held there isn’t the infrastructure the council have – there isn’t high speed Wi-Fi or high definition webcams and high quality controlled audio. Nor is there a bespoke website to send the feed to, so we had to look at what was available.
Councillor Buchanan had invested in a laptop with a webcam and a decent microphone so we decided Google Hangouts would be the way to go, using the On Air function to stream to Youtube, which also meant it could be shared via other platforms and embedded into blogs – We spent about an hour looking at how this could work for them and then on the 20th February they put it into action.
Some observations – Be brave.
You can see in the video above that while the camera was positioned in such a way that the whole top table could be seen – the microphone struggled to pick everyone up. As the people farthest away from the set up took their turn to speak at times the audio wasn’t very clear at all but then they weren’t using a multi-directional mic that can pick everyone up like at the council house. What they had was a small mic plugged into a laptop – but it could have been moved to pick up more voices.
This seems obvious watching it back but again it comes back to the fact this was a trial and a learning experience. What it needs next is just a bit of bravery, Bravery to do it again and to take what they’ve learned doing this and apply it. If during the meeting they were willing to pause proceedings by just a few seconds to re-position the mic before people took their turn to talk this would greatly improve the quality of the audio, make better use of the technology they have available and improve the experience for the community watching.
In saying that though it is fantastic that Councillors are looking at ways to open up the local democratic process to more people, and live streaming of meetings is definitely a good way to go. The fact that Councillor Buchanan was willing to even consider giving this a try is fantastic and who knows what could be next? What other public conversations could take place in – well – public?
This is the fourth in our series of blogposts on the C&binet conference in London which took place last week. Following on from the first session on the state of newspapers and value of news, the issue of council reporting was raised in discussion.
With the decline of regional news coverage are we in danger of losing reports which hold the local council to account. Someone asked how much council reporting was actually going on anyway – are we seeing local reporting though rose-tinted glasses and not realising how little is done by regional media. Some councils actively try to stamp out probing news coverage by refusing journalists access to certain meetings and councillors.
Councils need to be open to bloggers and hyperlocal reporters and treat them like other news organisations (which is by no means an ideal relationship either) – by being given access to council meetings and documents and councillors themselves. Read more
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