Some time ago before the “you know what” happened, the Research and Citizen Insight team were asked to take part and present at the Delib user group at Transport for London’s headquarters in Stratford, just a stone’s throw away from Queen Elizabeth Olympic park.
We were asked to showcase all the good work ECC have done around consultations since moving from our old platform (Essex Insight) to our new platform called Citizen Space.
Our plan was to let other members of the user group (mainly south of England representatives spanning from Bristol to East Sussex) know about how we procured the system, the purpose of the system, how it influences change and how feedback on our new system has shown a greater end-to-end user experience for our customers, in particular when it comes to published reports and transparency.
Then the pandemic came along and suddenly our world changed and our presentation as well, as the user group was cancelled.
However, Natalie our account manager at Delib (and overall lovely person) said “we are going to try to rearrange and create a virtual user group”. Now at the time I was sceptical and wondered if this could be done with the number of representatives that were registered to attend in person first time around.
Our team has been involved in numerous projects since the outbreak and so we have been slightly preoccupied for thoughts towards user groups. However before I knew it an email dropped in my inbox and it was an invite for the first Delib virtual user group with Sean Marks from ECC stated as a key speaker…cue panic! A mad rush to update a PowerPoint slide with updated figures and even more examples of how we have used the system during the COVID-19 outbreak.
So the day came and it was only after I had ironed a shirt (first time in a long time) and signed in to the registered streaming platform that I started to notice people within the group were not just from the south of England, they were from different countries and double the numbers of the original representatives…cue even more nerves.
However once my spluttering introduction was over and got out of flow of saying eerrrmmmm, I realised actually the success of the system spoke for itself, and highlighting the examples just magnified how much the system does for us.
Outlining our use from a public and private consultation perspective, discussing examples of “train the trainer” and the Elected Members training delivered in partnership with our Legal Services, showed the high quality work we have done since the system has been implemented.
Now there was no bow, standing ovation (maybe but you can’t hear or see on Zoom if cameras and mics are turned off) and virtual flowers were not thrown at me but the feedback from the attendees was positive and the amount of “thank you’s” was enough to make my day.
We were even included in a tweet as part of the running commentary of the event on Delib’s Twitter feed (@DelibThinks) and to be part of something collective during this period of sole working was invigorating and rewarding in the same sense.
So next time I get asked to talk at the Delib user group or any other group for that matter, I will stick my hand up straight away as like I said before…the success of our system spoke for itself.
If you would like to see the consultation portal for Essex County council, visit: https://consultations.essex.gov.uk
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