Community Planning is a process which helps public agencies to work together with the community to plan and deliver better services which make a real difference to people’s lives.
The aims of Community Planning in Scotland are:
1. making sure people and communities are genuinely engaged in the decisions made on public services which affect them; allied to
2. a commitment from organisations to work together, not apart, in providing better public services.
There are two further key principles in addition to the two main aims outlined above:
3. Community Planning as the key over-arching partnership framework helping to co-ordinate other initiatives and partnerships and where necessary acting to rationalise and simplify a cluttered landscape;
4. the ability of Community Planning to improve the connection between national priorities and those at regional, local and neighbourhood levels.
As we discussed the potential of weblogs it became apparent that this might just be a vehicle which could be of some real use. If we could encourage key figures and other members of a local community to keep a weblog where they would reflect upon local issues and stimulate a dialogue within a community, the likelihood of planners and public services to take account of these opinions would be greatly enhanced. The old ways of questionnaires, focus groups, community conferences, canvassing do not enable a substantive, two way, on-going dialogue to take place where ideas can be shaped and developed over a period of time.
I know how I am being influenced by being able to read the weblogs of teachers, parents and children – surely this has some possibility for community engagement?
So how might such a scheme work? Let’s take a community like Tranent. If we established an area where the weblogs of of the community could be accessed and new members could participate we would begin to build up a very rich picture of the strengths, opportunities and needs within the community. Officers and elected members could engage with this dialogue and perhaps even have their own weblogs to make the decision making process even more transparent and interactive.
I know some people might feel very threatened by such a suggestion, as it appears to almost encourage anarchy by handing over the “airwaves” to the public – yet surely that is what community planning is about? – a transparent enagagement with the local community to the point where people eventually (it would take some time) begin to believe that they do have a voice and that it is listened to. Even more importantly those who do make the decisions can explain the thought process and reasoning behind decisions – even those decisions which are unpopular (see example).
- A councillor recently described how no one had attended any of their surgeries in the last four weeks.
- Another councillor described how few people had attended their surgeries over a three year period.
- East Lothian Council have started to hold some council meetings in the evening to be more available to the public – very few (less than 10 have attended in any one evening) .
Perhaps it really is time to explore alternative vehicles for community interaction?