Empowerment packs from the gov’t

The Department for Communities and Local Government have released something called a ‘Community Power Pack‘:

The Community Power Pack has been created to help local groups to organise and facilitate discussions on the topic of empowerment. The pack contains suggestions for the format of the meeting, advice for facilitators and organisers as well as detailed information about key empowerment issues. Your feedback will be used by Communities and Local Government to inform and shape empowerment activities, including the Empowerment White Paper.

It’s been created with Involve, and looks interesting. So what does it look like?

Well, first of all there is a 57 page PDF file. The introduction claims that it is published under a creative commons licence, but it doesn’t look like a CC licence I have ever seen before:

This publication, excluding logos, may be reproduced free of charge in any format or medium for research, private study or for internal circulation within an organisation. This is subject to it being reproduced accurately  and not used in a misleading context. The material must be acknowledged as Crown copyright and the title  of the publication specified.

But never mind. It’s actually quite a nice idea, trying to get people to discuss issues around empowerment through their existing groups. The idea is that the results of the discussions will be a part of the eventual white paper on empowerment, and the power pack itself will be updated as feedback on the process itself is returned.

I do wonder why this wasn’t just done as a website, rather than a document, in the first place. For example, the method for returning views is a ‘Recording Sheet’ (in Word format, for goodness’ sake, what’s so hard about saving stuff in RTF?) which could have been simpler by just sticking in online. And if the power pack itself is going to change, why not just keep the most recent content live as a website? Would be much easier for everyone. To be fair, there is an opportunity for individuals to give their feedback at the DCLG forums but why not make an online response – through something other than a forum, preferably – the default?

The main content in the pack is a list of different activities can can be run at a get together to produce some answers as a group. It’s good stuff and nicely presented with plenty of supporting information.

I do just wonder how many people are actually going to be using these things, though! It does just seem an awful lot of work for folk to do. But at least it is an attempt, apparently, of the government trying to listen to people’s views – it just feels a bit controlling and overly processy to me.

5 thoughts on “Empowerment packs from the gov’t”

  1. Hi Dave,

    As someone who wrote parts of the Power Pack I’d like to say thanks for your feedback. I’ll make sure that the lack of clarity around the copyright issue is resolved.

    I think you’re right to point out that having the document in a web format has many benefits. I also think that for some people a large sprawling website can feel overwhelming and for them a PDF or Word document feels easier to manage. Some people feel the complete opposite so I guess it’s a case of horses for courses.

    I’ll try to get an online response form up so that people have as many ways of contributing as possible. If you have any more thoughts do let me know and I’ll see if we can’t take them onboard!

    Edward Andersson

  2. Done well these sorts of tools can make a big difference to the quantity and quality of consultation / engagement exercise responses:

    E.g. http://www.timdavies.org.uk/2008/03/11/philosophical-consultation-independent-asylum-commission

    Delivering as PDF / Print Outs does work in terms of starting from where many people are (not used to navigating a side – want to print it out and read it) – although in the case of the Power Pack – 50+ pages doesn’t quite start from where most people are – and I would perhaps have thought about splitting it up into two or three ‘flavours’ (small meeting, big meeting etc.) to make it more accessible from the start.

    Of course, adding complementary pre-prepared powerpoint slides (on Slideshare) or quick video as an option in place of the ‘introduction to the white paper’ text-based content may well be worth exploring also….

  3. @ Edward, thanks for stopping by and responding so positively and openly! The word format thing is a real issue for me – there are many people without the software necessary to edit .doc files, so using a more open format like .rtf is a good idea accessibility-wise.

    @ Tim, interesting stuff! Hopefully Edward and his colleagues will look into your suggestions too!

  4. Followed the links to ‘people and participation’ and it’s telling me this ..

    ‘However blogs that are branded for particular organisations and that rely on paid staff to update them can cost several thousand pounds to run annually.’

    run away, run away … !

  5. Paul – that’s disappointing. I noticed there is a wiki as well, but you have to be invited to take part. I might send DCLG my copy of Here Comes Everybody when I am done with it!

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