Monday, 14 September 2015

84. The Local Democracy Publication Stream


Inspired by the recent Local Democracy Maker Day and LocalGovCamp, the suggestion here is that all council ‘democracy’ publications should be provided in a single stream (rather than by individual committee) on the Council website.  Each publication would be tagged and described by a short summary (snippet).  These snippets would provide a source of open data that could be used to build third party websites and apps to connect citizens with the local decision making process.

As Carl Whistlecraft says the Local Democracy Maker Day was something that seemed unlikely even 12 months ago.  Even though I wasn't there it got me thinking - the long distance power of the GovCamp!

It was particularly good to see the interest in one of our Local Democracy Design Challenges; making local democracy more digestible.  In particular people are asking to see local democracy publications being made more accessible via short summaries – or ‘snippets’.   These are issues we started discussing at the notwestminster event last year.

Following that Notwestminster event we have been using short summaries for all of our scrutiny reports, letters and agenda packs here at Swansea Council. These are all published via our scrutiny publications page.  We put the summaries at the top of all of our documents and in the web page that we publish them in.  Each webpage is also tagged so that the single stream list of all of our scrutiny publications can be filtered by the user.

Here are some examples of short summaries from Swansea’s Scrutiny work:
This is an agenda pack for a meeting for the Schools Performance Scrutiny Panel taking place on the 21 September 2015. The main item being discussed relates to the School Improvement Service. 
This is a letter from the Child and Family Services Scrutiny Performance Panel to The Cabinet Member for Services for Children and Young People following the meeting of the Panel on the 10 August 2015. It is about the Child and Family Services performance report. 
This is the report by the Social Care at Home Scrutiny Inquiry panel about support for older people to remain in their own homes. It contains conclusions and recommendations.
I've written about the scrutiny publications page and how it was developed here.

What if all council publications linked to the democratic process were published like this, in a single stream with all the documents tagged and each with a short summary?

Not only would it be easier for people to find things but it would provide a stream of open data that could be used for third party sites and apps.

I like the idea of a democracy dashboard, suggested at the LD Maker Day, to help people navigate the democracy data.

I'm also imagining an Amazon style ‘democracy recommendations for you’ app…

Or a facebook style democracy timeline made of things recommended by friends and councillors..

Or a ‘Medium style’ ‘top democracy stories’ reflecting my chosen tags.

It’s not quite the democracy bytes idea that we've outlined before (I still think that’s the ideal).  But it would be a great step in that direction.

Anyone want to build it?

Photo: https://flic.kr/p/q9h3YZ

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