England & Wales Communities and society, HR, workforce and communications, Technology

Websites for Local Democracy


Via http://www.morguefile.com/archive

As you can see, we’ve redesigned our website. While we hope you agree that everything’s prettier, aesthetics weren’t our only aim! We’ve made things easier to navigate, ensuring that all related blogs, briefings and projects are connected. You can see our entire body of work and you and can let us know exactly what you think.

Why the redesign? Well, websites provide a key portal between organisations, their members and their wider audiences. It’s the same case for local authorities and their council constituents, meaning that websites play a direct role in local democracy. However, in their annual Better Connected report on council digital performance, Socitm reveals that 41% of local authority websites failed to list councillors’ details adequately. 41% is alarming, considering that a council website is the first stop for any resident wanting to contact their ward representative. As elections approach, it’s worth asking, if people can’t even find out who their representative is, why on earth vote in the first place? Digital spaces support local democracy.

What is more, councils provide the majority of people’s most direct contact with the UK political system. Councils have the opportunity to listen and react to the public, making effective communication a fundamental aspect of localism. Here, local authorities and policy developers are now beginning to understand the value of digital spaces and many are working for better communication.

But, what constitutes ‘better communication’? There are two objectives. The first is to present ideas with greater clarity. The second is to reach more people. The latter objective is more complex. While reaching greater numbers of councillors and officers is always helpful, it is equally necessary to engage broader audiences. We also need to remember that communication is a two-way process. Engaging with recipients’ responses is as important as transmitting ideas. After all, democracy is about doing things with people, not for people.

The LGiU is hence experimenting. As you may have seen, our Key to Care report garnered extensive coverage. We encouraged conversation on Twitter and set up a Storify page to promote an exchange of perspectives. We also created an infographic to summarise the media coverage, and continue the debate on our blog. We aimed to exploit as many discursive communication techniques as possible.

Our efforts did generate discussion. For example, #Burstowcommission reached 57,610 Twitter accounts. But, we want to do better. After all, the more inclusive discussion we create, the more involved the LGiU becomes in the local democracy exchange. We mustn’t get carried away, creating stand-alone, shiny online presentations. We need to exploit a variety of channels in conjunction with one another. So, we’ve designed our new website specifically to facilitate discussion. It pulls together all related briefings, blogs, publications, infographics, and print, radio, television and social media commentary, complete with space for you to respond. And we’re still busy thinking of new ways to feed your ideas into our policy.

We think a diverse and interactive media exchange will deepen our involvement in local democracy. Do you have any comments?