Category: Digital Assembly

#AskFirstMin – The Committee for the Scrutiny of the First Minister wants to hear from you

#AskFirstMin – Have your question answered by the First Minister, Carwyn Jones

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The Committee wants to hear from organisations, businesses and from you – more details on how to take part online below.

The Committee for the Scrutiny of the First Minister is meeting in Swansea on October 16 at 10.30 at the National Waterfront Museum. The main topic will be ‘Wales in the Wider World’. Here’s a flavour of the main drivers for discussion:

What is the Welsh Government’s overall strategy for marketing and promoting Wales to the world? What is the Welsh brand? How well are Welsh attractions promoted to tourists? Does the Welsh Government do enough to draw in investors?
Does the Welsh Government do a good job of making Wales seem appealing to tourists from the UK and abroad?  Is Welsh culture visible enough outside of Wales? What markets or products should be prioritised?

COLLAGE

A full agenda will be posted on the Committee’s web page when confirmed. 

The majority of Committees meet weekly to scrutinise the Welsh Government in detail but The Committee for the Scrutiny of the First Minister focuses on broad topics relating to any central strategic vision of the Welsh Government’s programme.

How do I take part online?

You can submit your question, observation or comment to the Committee on the topic of ‘Wales in the Wider World’ any way you like:

Twitter On Twitter – Follow @AssemblyWales on Twitter and reply to any tweets relating to this topic or use the hashtag #AskFirstMin. Also feel free to Direct Message us if you’d like it to be confidential.
 Facebook On Facebook – Like the Assembly’s Facebook Page and leave a comment on a relevant status. If you can’t see a relevant status then leave a comment on the page with the hashtag #AskFirstMin.
 Email E-Mail – You can send your views by e-mail to: FM.Scrutiny@Assembly.Wales
 Youtube On YouTube – Why not film yourself asking your question and then send us the link through any of the channels above?
 Instagram On Instagram – If you can express your views in a creative visual way we’d love to see it. Tag our Senedd Instagram account within your picture or just use the hashtag #AskFirstMin. Alternatively you can leave a comment on any one of our Instagram posts again with the hashtag #AskFirstMin.
 Wordpress Comments – Leave a comment on this blog post right now!

What happens next?

We will collate the responses and hand them over to the Committee’s Chair – David Melding AM. The Chair will then incorporate them into the line of questioning for the First Minister, Carwyn Jones. You can come and watch the meeting in person, online on Senedd.TV or read the transcript. We’ll let you know if your question was answered. The meeting will take place on 16 October, 10.30 in Swansea at the National Waterfront Museum.

We look forward to hearing your views!

 “You can see the extraordinary beauty, the wonderful people and great hospitality, so I’d encourage everybody in the States to come and visit Wales.”
– President Barack Obama

Explore the topic – ‘Wales in the Wider World’

This may seem like a complex topic but sometimes it’s good to take a step back and look at the big picture. We want to hear out of the box ideas, comments from different perspectives and from different walks of life. Continue reading “#AskFirstMin – The Committee for the Scrutiny of the First Minister wants to hear from you”

Trying a new report format: the Finance Committee’s Consideration of Powers: Public Services Ombudsman for Wales report

This year, the Assembly’s Finance Committee looked into the powers of the Public Services Ombudsman in Wales. The Committee published a full-length report with its findings in May 2015.

Official committee reports tend to be quite long and include a large amount of evidence received from stakeholders and the Welsh Government. These reports are published on the relevant Assembly committee’s webpage.

The official version of any report is important as it contains all the evidence and recommendations/findings of the committee and it provides transparency.  

In an attempt to make the findings of reports more accessible to people who might be interested in the Finance Committee’s work, an at-a-glance report on the inquiry into the Ombudsman’s powers was released alongside the official report. This was designed to be read by flicking through it on a tablet or a phone, or scrolling on a desktop computer.

To make the report more accessible the word count was reduced, the language was simplified, images added, and quotes inserted from Committee meetings to provide the reader with an overview of the Committee’s report.

Here are the final versions:

Should the Ombudsman have more powers? Summary report

 

This is the full version of the report: Finance Committee’s Report on Consideration of Powers: Public Services Ombudsman for Wales (PDF, 605KB)

If you have time to read both and compare them, we would welcome any feedback: please send to communications@assembly.wales

 

How well is the Welsh Government doing its job?

This is a question Assembly Members at the National Assembly ask every day, in committee meetings, or in Plenary meetings, in the main debating chamber of the Senedd, in Cardiff Bay.

If the Welsh Government’s job is to “help improve the lives of people in Wales and make our nation a better place in which to live and work”, then it’s important that the Assembly hears from the wide range of people affected by the decisions that the Welsh Government makes. The National Assembly for Wales is the body tasked with analysing how well the Welsh Government is doing so, after all.

How the Assembly does this has changed significantly over the last few years, particularly when it comes to the work of Assembly committees. People still reply to invitations to write to the Assembly to give evidence. Individuals, organisations and charities still visit the Senedd to be quizzed by AMs in formal meetings, though different approaches are needed to hear from different audiences.

These are pictures of Julie Morgan AM and Jocelyn Davies AM taking part in a web-chat with students on Google Hangouts for the Finance Committee’s inquiry into Higher Education Funding: 

Julie Morgan AM and Jocelyn Davies AM taking part in a web-chat with students on Google Hangout for the Finance Committee’s inquiry into Higher Education Funding Julie Morgan AM and Jocelyn Davies AM taking part in a web-chat with students on Google Hangout for the Finance Committee’s inquiry into Higher Education Funding Screen shot of a web-chat with students on Google Hangout for the Finance Committee’s inquiry into Higher Education Funding

People everywhere lead increasingly busy lives, so making participation in the Assembly’s work as easy and accessible as possible is vital for engaging with the wide variety of people that make up the population of Wales. Increasingly at the Assembly, committees have been using digital channels to encourage people to share their views with us.

We’ve used Google Hangouts to speak with students about STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) Skills and Higher Education Funding, filmed members of the public on an iPad and shown it as evidence at formal committee meetings, and used Twitter to source questions to ask the leader of the Welsh Government, First Minister Carwyn Jones AM.

The following video is a video of Rhun ap Iorwerth AM and Julie James AM being interviewed after taking part in their first web-chat on Google Hangout for the STEM Skills inquiry:

In the last few months we used Loomio for the first time, as part of the Health and Social Care Committee’s inquiry looking into alcohol and substance misuse in Wales. Loomio is a web-application to assist groups with collaborative decision-making processes.

A key part of the inquiry was talking directly with the people affected by these issues, but some people find attending official committee meetings intimidating. Also not all those affected have the capacity to put their thoughts and feelings to the Committee in writing. Loomio allowed the Committee to talk to people, without everyone needing to be in the same room.

Service providers and clients used the online forum to tell us what issues they had experienced, and what they wanted the Welsh Government to should do about it. This is a screenshot showing some of the contributions we had to the discussion:

loomio screenshot

Loomio discussion screen shot

At the end of the evidence-gathering process, once a Committee has considered everything that people have told them, they will usually write to the Welsh Government. This is to explain what steps the Committee would like to see the Welsh Government take to improve people’s lives in Wales, based on the evidence the Committee have heard.

This tends to be in official reports, which can be quite lengthy, but we are looking at different ways of presenting committee reports to make them shorter and easier to understand, at-a-glance.

One of the summary versions is this video, made for people who were filmed for an inquiry looking at youth entrepreneurship:

More recently we have used Adobe Slate to summarise a report on Poverty in Wales: https://slate.adobe.com/a/EN6np

Using digital channels and platforms has allowed us to engage with people more effectively and easily than before.

It’s also meant that more people can help the Assembly scrutinise the Welsh Government’s performance, so the Assembly’s recommendations to the Welsh Government are based on the issues people experience in their everyday lives.

Sharing good practice in scrutiny (3)

Outreach Manager Kevin Davies explains…

Welcome to the third and final blog entry in this series. In my previous blogs I spoke about the challenges of getting a diverse range of people to contribute to committee scrutiny, and then spoke about the different types of things we do at the National Assembly. 

In this entry I’m going to talk about the planning process, which might not be as interesting as the previous blogs, but may be the most important piece in the puzzle. Without proper planning and discussion at an early enough stage, none of what I talked about in the first two blogs would be possible.

Planning and involving the right people at the right time is really important from the get go. A lot of preparation work can be done in advance to give staff internally time to plan, come up with ideas, speak with external experts and contact Assembly Members/Councillors to make sure they are getting the opportunity to shape the type of engagement activity, and in particular which audiences, they want to hear from. At the Assembly we have something called integrated teams (usually made up of a researcher, a committee clerk, legal advisor and communications staff), which basically means that the officials supporting each committee meet every week to discuss current inquiries and work, alongside what’s coming up in the coming weeks and months. It’s not unusual for these integrated teams  to discuss what is on the horizon in the next five to six months. Proper planning means   more flexibility and options at your disposal when it comes to engaging with different groups, organisations and individuals. It’s important that your Communications people are involved at the earliest stage possible to advise and help shape the work, rather that it being an afterthought, or asking them at the end of the process for support on publicising something they haven’t been able to help shape.

Advanced planning will also mean that those groups and organisations you want to help promote the  activity you are planning (be it  an event, survey, the opportunity to be interviewed etc) will have adequate time to do so. It’s important to use the expertise of external groups and organisations when trying to select the appropriate type of engagement method, based on your target audience.

Councils are in a unique position  as they deliver a wide variety of services to different groups of people, covering health, education, transport and the environment to name a few. The people delivering these services are a valuable source of information, and can help you consider  issues and sensitivities relevant to specific groups of people, based on their age, gender, levels of literacy, ethnic backgrounds and so on.

Case Study: Scrutiny of the Cancer Delivery Plan

The National Assembly’s Health and Social Care Committee recently looked at how well the Welsh Government was implementing its Cancer Delivery Plan. The Committee wanted to hear directly from patients, so focus groups were arranged across Wales with patient groups, who were then invited to an event in Cardiff to discuss their experiences with Assembly Members. Key to this were the early meetings that the integrated team had do discuss ideas, seeking advice from MacMillan who helped us arrange the patient sessions at an early  stage. Without appropriate planning and those early discussions this  not have been possible, and the Committee would not have heard directly from patients throughout the process.

This is a video was shot after an event held as part of the Health and Social Care Committee’s inquiry into the implementation of the Welsh Government’s Cancer Delivery Plan:

At the Assembly we have something called integrated teams (usually made up of a researcher, a committee clerk, legal advisor and communications staff), which means that the officials supporting each committee meet every week to discuss current inquiries and work, alongside what’s coming up in the coming weeks and months.

We usually discuss the following questions:

  • Who do you expect to tell you want they think in writing? (written evidence);
  • Who do you think you will be inviting into speak to the committee in official meetings? (oral evidence);
  • Who do you want to hear from that you don’t think will get in touch, and how can we get to them?

The answer to the third question tends to be the groups we target engagement activity towards. This work should not happen independently of Assembly Members/Councillors, they have to be involved in shaping the work you are undertaking. We have found it useful to have some ideas ready to discuss with them after meeting as an integrated team, and having spoken with people in the sector you would like to hear from. The engagement activity needs to resonate with committee members for it to influence the scrutiny process to its fullest effect.

When trying to find the answer to that third point, we aim to give service users the best opportunity possible to take part. In some cases, such as  the inquiry into the  Cancer Delivery Plan  mentioned above, we wanted to hear from service users – the patients – directly.. The term “service user” will differ depending on the issue you are scrutinising. Another one of the National Assembly’s committees, the Finance Committee, looked at the performance of Finance Wales, and wanted to hear directly from businesses who had worked with them, including  those who had had their applications for investment turned down. These are two very different ”service users” and shows how greatly the answer to the third question can change depending on the issue you are looking into.

Here are some pictures and videos form the event held as part of the Finance Committee’s inquiry into Finance Wales:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/nationalassemblyforwales/sets/72157640037729084/

I hope you’ve found this blog series useful, and please get in touch if you want to talk about any of the things in this series in greater detail.

Sharing good practice in scrutiny (2)

Outreach Manager Kevin Davies explains…

Welcome back! My first blog entry set the scene and explained how and why Swansea Council’s Scrutiny Committee came to visit the National Assembly for Wales to discuss ideas around public engagement in scrutiny.

In it I explained that wanted to explore ways of encouraging more people to take part in committee work, be it to help the Assembly scrutinise the work of the Welsh Government, or to help local council scrutinise the work of council leaders. We share the same challenge…sometimes we don’t hear from the variety of people would like to.
To read my first blog entry click here.

In this blog entry I’ll explain how we at the Assembly try to overcome this issue, and reference examples and case studies.

Consultation toolkit

I was really impressed by Swansea Council’s openness to ideas, and their desire to engage the public in the work they do. I appreciated some of the concerns that they had (that I’m sure every other public sector organisation shares) around having the time, effort and resource to do it properly. As a public sector organisation, this is something we at the Assembly also have to consider, and it shapes the types of activity we can offer and deliver.

A few years ago we produced our consultation toolkit (PDF 5.82MB). The toolkit is a list of engagement methods which have been used by the National Assembly and have been evaluated after use, with strengths, weaknesses suggestions of lead in times, costs and other considerations. It lists the different things the Assembly’s Outreach team can deliver when helping committees find more people to take part in a consultation. The toolkit includes a lot of different options, ways of gathering people’s opinions (evidence) including things like focus groups, events, filming video interviews, web-chats and surveys.

Finding people from different backgrounds, and hearing their perspectives helps Assembly Members understand the issues and the impact they have on people’s lives. Better informed Assembly Members (or councillors for that matter) leads to better scrutiny and better policies, so the value of engaging a broader group of people in this process shouldn’t be undervalued.

This video shows Rhun ap Iorwerth AM and Julie James AM talking about taking part in a web-chat with students on the subject of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Skills in Wales as part of committee scrutiny:

This video shows people who took part in video interviews for the Enterprise and Business Committee’s inquiry into youth entrepreneurship:

You might think that doing these things cost a lot of money. Using Google Hangouts to run web-chats is totally free. If you want to film video interviews with people in your area, an iPad will set you back about £200, which you can use to film people in high definition, and you can use an app called iMovie to edit the footage. A survey can be designed, published and promoted for little cost, using Facebook, Twitter and other channels. We have recently been promoting an inquiry into Supply Teaching in Wales through paid promoted Facebook posts which cost us £50 over the course of two weeks. This post (to date) has been shared 117 times and 39 comments made on the post.

Finding participants

Consider is who you see/work with on a day to day basis through the activities/services your organisations provide day to day. At the National Assembly we have communications staff which sees people coming into the Senedd, going into schools, colleges and youth clubs, and community groups across Wales to explain what the Assembly does and how they can get involved. We have used these interactions, things we do on a day-to-day basis, to explain issues  being discussed at the National Assembly at the moment, and provide people with direct opportunities to have their say on these topics.

When we find people to take part in engagement activity for committee consultations, we regularly contact charities, voluntary organisations, representative bodies and community groups. Local councils deliver a wide variety of services to different groups of people so engaging with these existing groups could be a very quick and easy way for councils to broaden the range of people who could contribute to their scrutiny work. Something we tried for the Human Transplantation Bill inquiry was leaving leaflets at GP surgeries, targeting people with specific needs in a specific area.

Feedback

One of the areas that the crew from Swansea Council were really interested in was how we feedback to people who have contributed throughout the process. We showed some examples of how we’ve done this, such as this  .

Committing to feeding back to participants is really important, or you could undo all the good work done during engagement activity by leaving people without updates on what their involvement lead to. At the Assembly we are currently looking at how we communicate with the public, particularly how we communicate the work of committees. As part of this process we will be considering how we keep people informed about the process of an inquiry they have taken part in, and what platforms (be it by using video, Storify or simply an e-mail) we should use when doing this. Piecing together the customer journey seems to be an area both Swansea Council and the National Assembly are looking at at the moment, and hopefully we can work together in doing this. Watch this space.

That seems like a good place to bring this blog entry to a close. The next entry will look at the planning process, and how this work happens behind the scenes at the Assembly to make all of these engagement opportunities possible.

Sharing good practice in scrutiny (1)

Outreach Manager Kevin Davies explains…

On 12 February 2015 staff and councillors from Swansea Council’s Scrutiny Committee came to the Assembly to discuss how we at the National Assembly for Wales encourage more people to get involved in scrutiny.

I’ve just finished writing the first draft of this blog, which I wanted to keep as short and as concise as possible. I’ve failed miserably, so  I’ve decided to publish it as a 3 part series instead. In part one (this one) I’ll set the scene, talk about some of the challenges, and show you what we talked about with the crew from Swansea Council.

Setting the scene

The remit  of the National Assembly’s committees are very similar to those of local council’s scrutiny committees, to:

  •  look at different issues and subjects that the Welsh Government is responsible for, and at the end of the process …  make recommendations to the Welsh Government to put into action.

Here’s footage of one of the Health and Social Care Committee’s meetings for their inquiry looking at how the Welsh Government has implemented its Cancer Delivery Plan:

http://www.senedd.tv/Meeting/Index/e5ceef9b-454b-41f0-b2c8-2838228ec357

This process can be a lengthy one. National Assembly committees scrutinising (looking at, analysing, and suggesting improvements to ideas) laws the Welsh Government has put forward can take a number of months from start to finish.

Scrutiny for the National Assembly means:

  • making sure the Welsh Government is spending money in an effective way;
  • making sure the laws the Welsh Government want to introduce are good ones, and;
  • reviewing the Welsh Government’s policies.

The National Assembly wants to make sure the Welsh Government is doing its job properly, acting like a watchdog. This is exactly what council scrutiny committees do, but rather than looking at things on a Wales-wide basis as our committees do, your local council’s scrutiny committees look at the decisions made, and the money spent by council leaders in your local area.

This is a video of Eluned Parrott AM explaining the work of the National Assembly’s Enterprise and Business Committee:

Challenges

If you’re a council or a National Assembly scrutiny committee, you rely on the information you receive during the consultation period, which can come from individuals, groups and/or organisations, but sometimes we don’t hear from the variety of people we would like to. This could be because the information we put out is technical and people don’t understand the jargon used, because they don’t access information through  the National Assembly or council websites, twitter accounts, Facebook page, newsletters or any other means by which we try to communicate with our audiences. They don’t know that they have  opportunities to take part, or they don’t feel comfortable in taking part by writing to a committee.

Way back in 2013, the Wales Audit Office held their Scrutiny in the Spotlight event at the SWALEC stadium in Cardiff, September 2014 saw the first GovCamp Cymru event, and in November last year Dave McKenna (Swansea Council’s Scrutiny Manager) held a Twitter chat using  #scrusm. Both our  committees and Swansea Council’s Scrutiny Committee face the challenge of encouraging more people to take part in scrutiny activities, so Dave, Dyfrig (Wales Audit Office’ Good Practice Exchange) and I, having taken part in  the sessions mentioned above, decided to arrange a get together to talk about how we can try and tackle the issue.

Dave and I set an agenda which was split into two parts. The first was to discuss public engagement in scrutiny and more specifically:

  • how the National Assembly does it;
  • how the National Assembly plans it; and
  • what effect does it have?

The second part was based around talking about how we use online tools, apps, and other channels to communicate with the public.

Peter Black AM and Mike Hedges AM, both local Swansea Assembly Members, came along during the day to talk about their experiences in taking part in engagement activities for committee inquiries, how it influenced the scrutiny process and the recommendations committees make to Welsh Government ministers.

In the next blog entries I’ll talk in detail about the things we spoke about, and some of the examples cited during the day.

The Outreach Team launches its own Twitter Account!

This week we launched the Twitter account for the National Assembly for Wales’ Outreach Team to provide the public with an insight into the work we do every day to support Assembly business and engage with the people of Wales.

From the @SeneddOutreach account we’ll be Tweeting about our work going out into communities across Wales to engage with groups and inform them about the work of the Assembly and how they can get involved through our Understanding and Engaging workshops. We’ll be Tweeting about the groups and organisations we’ve visited as well as some of the great ideas we’ve heard from citizens across Wales.

twitter activity

Our Understanding and Engaging workshops are borne from our belief in the importance of citizens truly understanding who represents them and the decisions that are made on their behalf. We want to fuel debate that’s based on real knowledge and understanding and allow the public to ensure that their voices are heard in the decision-making process. Ensuring a better voice for citizens can only positively impact decisions made by the National Assembly for Wales that in turn affect us all.

More on our Understanding and Engaging workshops.

Housing Bill workshop

Through this account we’ll also keep followers updated on the work we do through our partnerships. Having worked closely with groups such as Scouts Wales, Women Making a Difference and the Stroke Association, the Outreach Team has developed close ties with organisations which have been mutually beneficial by drawing on knowledge of how to take part in the work of the National Assembly for Wales, for example, our work in developing resources for the Democracy Challenge Badge with ScoutsWales.

More on our Democracy Challenge Badge resources.

Keep up with our activities by following our new Twitter feed: @SeneddOutreach. Alternatively you can keep up to date with our work through the Outreach pages on the Assembly website.

Social media and digital engagement event 25 September 2014

By Julian Price, National Assembly for Wales Social Media Manager.

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On Thursday 25 September, we invited a couple of speakers to come and talk to Assembly staff about social media and digital engagement. It was the first time we’ve had this kind of event here at the Assembly, and it focussed heavily on social media during the day.

Three speakers with very different approaches to social media were invited to speak at the event: Wynne Keenan who is External Marketing and Digital Communications Manager at the DVLA; Dr Tom Crick who is a senior lecturer in Computing Science at Cardiff Met University; and Emma Meese, Media and Training Development Manager at Cardiff University’s Centre for Community Journalism.

The afternoon session was originally put together as an event for internal staff, as an opportunity to learn more about the application of social media and to share best practice. Several external organisations became aware of the event and asked if they could attend. In the end, we welcomed colleagues from Cyfle, CIPR Cymru, Dyfed-Powys Police, NHS Wales, Wales Audit Office and the Welsh Government to join in our discussions.

Wynne provided a great insight to the digital revolution that is taking place at the DVLA. Some key metrics included that DVLA has nearly 5,000 employees, manages 175 million transactions a year, and answers 25 million calls annually. In comparison with the private sector, its revenue now exceeds Tesco Online and is not far behind Amazon (£3.2bn and £3.3bn respectively).

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DVLA have done a lot of work internally to digitally engage. This has been achieved through the use of blogs, webchats, and with social networking site Yammer. Externally, blogs, Twitter and Youtube are a key driver for pushing out content and educating about the taxation laws in the UK.

The DVLA has removed the restriction on staff using social media at the organisation in an effort to increase advocacy.

Wynne explained that his department will work with various business areas in the organisation to show how social media can help them, and to demonstrate a clear business benefit. He suggested finding a sponsor, and grabbing every opportunity to talk about your work.

Dr Tom Crick spoke about the digital landscape and how people are now connecting. He suggested you should not tweet/post anything that you wouldn’t shout out loud in a room. He believed social media should be local, natural, and a priority. He explained how social media has destroyed barriers that previously stopped people communicating with organisations, and he encouraged more people in the room to blog about their experiences and passion.

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However, he qualified this use of blogging and social media with the question: what is your motivation for doing it?

He moved on to discuss everyone having a digital agenda and about how to engage with citizens. He noted how there was a generational shift in expectations of digital communication, and organisations need to adapt to this.

Emma Meese was the last speaker of the day. She currently works for Cardiff University but has previously worked with BBC Wales and BBC Radio Wales. Emma was able to illustrate everyday application of social media and shared some success stories.

Emma explained that social media is your shop window to the world, therefore you need to know your message and more importantly know your audience. She pointed out that your Twitter bio is searchable and so it is important to structure this correctly, using every word to full advantage. Inserting a link to your website or blog is good practice, and if you’re bilingual, adding in a word in your other tongue, to show that you can communicate in different languages.

Emma used an analogy of standing in a queue with strangers to encourage engagement. In simple terms, would you talk just about yourself to someone if you were queuing next to them? Probably not, as the other person would switch off. You’d engage in a conversation, asking as well as telling.

Like Dr Crick, Emma highlighted that everyone or every organisation should have a goal on social media.

Goal > Target > Success

Think about using someone else’s voice i.e. retweeting of others. This follows on from the previous presentations of encouraging advocacy.

As a practical tip, Emma also suggested scaling back the number of Facebook pages an organisation may have, making your refined online presence busier with content.

It was a great event and we are deeply grateful to our guest speakers who covered a wide range of content within the digital landscape.

It was pleasing to see many external organisations attend the seminar and talk so positively about the event on Twitter. We hope this will be the first of many social media events at the National Assembly for Wales – details of the next one will be posted soon.

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The Assembly at GovCamp Cymru

On Saturday 25 September, Helia Phoenix (Web Editor) and Kevin Davies (Outreach Manager) went to the Parade in Roath for Wales’s first GovCamp (GovCamp Cymru). By way of explanation, GovCamp is a gathering of people who work in the public sector to ‘discuss, create and innovate – looking at how technology, new thinking and public services can improve society’. A large remit for a day-long event.

GovCamp is also what’s described as an ‘unconference’ – which means there’s no agenda set beforehand, and no keynote speakers – people turn up and pitch what they’d like to talk about for a session, and then the sessions are assigned to different rooms, and you can go from room to room taking part in whatever sessions take your fancy.

Although the terminology used around ‘unconferences’ might put you off and make you think it’s very web based / nerdy / tech focused, actually the conversations are about very broad topics (on Saturday, they covered things like engagement, scrutiny, use of language (Welsh and plain), education, etc).

In the morning, we attended a session on ‘online democracy’ which was run by Dave McKenna, a Scrutiny Manager for Swansea Council. In Dave’s words, the session was about ‘the minutes, agendas, reports etc etc that local, devolved and national government make available through their websites. The idea was simply to start a conversation about how this stuff could be improved, who uses it, what they want and so on’.

Dave wrote up his notes about the session and came up with ‘Seven questions for government’ (but obviously they all apply to work we do at the Assembly as well).

The second session Helia went to was about ‘March Madness’, which was about budgeting and better planning of spending throughout the financial year. Helia wrote something on that session for the Wales Audit Office’s Good Practice Team’s blog about the day:

If you work in a busy, high-tempo team like I do, you’re often very busy ‘doing the job’. Budgeting for the year ahead should be one of the main focuses of your work, and you should revisit that plan throughout the year, making amendments to it as you go along. But some people don’t manage it as well as they might be able to. The session was attended by individuals from local authorities and housing associations, and we discussed how money is extremely tight in the public sector at the moment, so it’s more important than ever to be pragmatic with your budgeting. The group shared some best-practice examples of how you could manage your budget.

There were two great examples that I came away with; one very simple, that anyone could achieve in their own team, and one a lot more elaborate that would require the support of your senior management.

1 – the simple solution. This came from Torfaen Council. Throughout the course of the year, this team operate by spending on business critical things, but they’ll also make a list of things they’d do if they come in with any cash at the end of the year (so upgrading their technology, perhaps buying new software, etc). Then, in February, if they find themselves with an underspend, they can use the money in that way. So they still fit into the ‘March Madness’ spending pattern, but they do it in a structured way that ensures they are using their money in the best way they can.

2 – the complex solution. Monmouth Council has a central pot of money that is used as an innovation fund. Departments that manage to save money and have an underspend at the end of the year put the money into that pot. Half is used for paying off debts, but the other half is made available for departments to pitch for. They put in ideas of projects that they wanted to run, and senior management would decide how the money was given out for those projects. This rewarded departments for good financial management, and also permitted them some freedom to try different ways of delivering their services that they might not otherwise have been able to try.

You might not be likely to persuade anyone in your organisation to do Solution 2, but Solution 1 is a really easy way of structuring spending so money is being used in the best possible way, and it’s really very easy to do. Anyone can do it.

After lunch Helia held a session posing the question ‘what’s the point of websites?’. This was a slight continuation on the session on online democracy that happened in the morning: when you’ve got a website that’s just about informing the public, do you even need a website? Can you just make do with using Facebook to communicate with your readers and then some kind of online document store (maybe like Google Documents, which is basically just an online document library)? Lots of interesting points were raised from attendees, who were from housing associations, local councils, GDS in London and also from the corporate communications team at the Welsh Government. The notes from the session are available here.

That session over ran considerably, but we did catch the last minutes of a group of people talking about the possibility of setting up an organisation like GDS in Wales. Notes from that session here

Overall, it was great to meet so many people who work in public engagement in some form (many were actually from England and had come over to see how things were done in Wales). It was also great to share best practice and see examples of work in other places that we could borrow from in improving things here.

If you’re interested you can see a full list of all the sessions that were held here on Google Docs.

 

Assembly Summer events: my first Royal Welsh Show

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By Julian Price, Social Media Manager

Now that the annual summer events at the National Assembly for Wales have come to an end, what better time to reflect on my experience at this year’s Royal Welsh Show in Builth Wells.

It was the first time I’ve been to the Royal Welsh, and the weather was beautiful. It was very warm with temperatures rising into the mid-twenties the entire time we were there, so drinking plenty of water was a must. It was HOT!

Being part of the communications team, I remember discussing the event in early spring to arrange who would be travelling to the show and how we could promote our attendance on social media.

I volunteered to travel with my colleagues to Builth Wells. I was still in primary school when I lasted visited the showground when Adam Ant and the Human League were riding high in the charts! Yep, that’s how long ago it was.

We arrived on the Sunday to prepare the stand for the following day. The building looked amazing. I was really proud of the work the Communications team had done in promoting our presence on social media. (See photo)

We ensured all literature, chairs, tables and refreshments were to hand for the opening day. We were anticipating taking photographs of visiting Assembly Members and Ministers during the event; however, nothing could have prepared us for the first photo.

Monday morning and we had just opened the doors of the stand to the public. My colleague Rhian called over to me to urgently grab the camera and run outside.

“Quick” she said, “I think the Prime Minister is coming!”

I duly ran outside and sure enough Prime Minister David Cameron, with the newly appointed Secretary of State for Wales Stephen Crabbe, was passing our doorway. I briskly walked ahead to gain a ‘head-on’ image.

I was rather nervous as the Prime Minister’s security had clearly taking an interest in me. Thankfully I was wearing a fully branded National Assembly for Wales t-shirt with an official pass.

I managed to capture a photo of the Prime Minister and it was only after reviewing the images that I realised he had looked straight into the camera. We tweeted the image on our @AssemblyWales Twitter account, and I believe we were the first organisation or individual to do so. As you may know he is the first serving Prime Minister to visit the Royal Show. History in the making!

My only regret was not inviting him onto the Assembly stand and this is something I really wish I had done.

After returning to the Assembly stand, I spoke with the former Mayor of Neath Port Talbot, Marian Lewis, at some length about the proposed closure of Junction 41 of the M4, the new Swansea University campus on Fabian Way and the film studios that are located at the old Ford/Visteon factory.

It was an insightful conversation and I learned a lot in such a small space of time about some of the ongoing issues in that region.

Throughout Monday and Tuesday several Assembly Members visited the Assembly stand and it was a great opportunity to discuss promoting the work of the Assembly on social media. I took the opportunity to capture a photo of all visiting AMs holding their constituency map cards and we later posted these images on social media.

On my last day at the Royal Welsh Show, the Assembly, in partnership with Nominet, held an event to raise the profile of the upcoming (.Wales and .Cymru) web domain names. The Assembly will be a founder user of (.Wales) and is very proud to be using this new profile.

The event was held at the S4C building at the Main Ring and I used this opportunity to take some photos of our Presiding Officer Dame Rosemary Butler speak about the upcoming launch. It was a great event with people from all around Wales attending the function. Ieuan Evans was the host and he spoke passionately about being Welsh and what it meant to him.

For more information about the .Wales and .Cymru launch, please click here.

RosemaryButler

The Royal Welsh Show upheld its reputation as the biggest and best-attended event of its kind in Britain. I am already looking forward to attending next year’s event and will ensure our social media coverage will be bigger and more varied than ever before.

Thank you Llanelwedd.

Julian Price is the Social Media Manager at the National Assembly for Wales. He has managed the increase in our online activity over the last twelve months, using social media to promote the work of the Assembly. The Royal Welsh Show is a great example of online and offline collaboration between teams to promote our presence at an event.

For more information about the Assembly on social media, please see our webpage:

http://www.assemblywales.org/en/help/Pages/Social-media.aspx