Meetup notes: Virtual inquiries and reviews in a time of Covid

This meetup had a Star Trek theme because, you know, Star Trek. We did three, loosely connected, activities to help participants work through the issues (instructions here) and here are the points they shared in the chat.

Hope it’s useful.

What’s something your organisation has done virtually that has impressed you?

  • We held a virtual conference for 100 people including members of the public
  • Just moving to online meetings is a massive achievement
  • Working remotely!
  • Mayor making ensuring Mayor has his gowns, chains and virtual background of the chamber and signed declaration book on line
  • Picture of Bracknell’s Council Chamber as background for all Councillors to use at live events
  • It’s been great to see how we have moved to online meetings and had meaningful engagement from residents!
  • Embracing virtual meetings so quickly, and the accessibility it brings – aside from tech constraints!
  • Much better attendance (less apologies/subs) at committee meetings
  • How well the organisation coped with the move to remote meetings in such a short space of time.
  • Got our virtual meetings up and running from April, Scrutiny meetings started in May.
  • Ask me anything Yammer sessions with our Director of Public Health for all staff to ask any questions about COVID
  • Councils that have managed the ‘virtual transition’ with no dedicated IT support or with huge numbers of members!
  • Virtual meetings in general
  • Borough Conference
  • Quite simply, our most recent Health and Adult Social Care Scrutiny Committee because it was highly political, and would have been challenging in “normality\3 but we got through it…

What has helped to support the successful elements of inquiries / reviews?

  • Remote meetings mean can bring wider selection of people into inquiry
  • Short and snappy meetings with a clear scope for each one.
  • We heard about the importance of external witnesses, both professional and those with lived experience – this was really helpful to put the review in context
  • Good relationships
  • Reviews are better than sound…
  • Hearing from lots of different sources at the start of the investigation to find out what’s happening so the view of council staff, schools, teachers, parents, carers etc. – identified where the issues were and what to focus on.
  • Members undertaking practical/hands on work is beneficial
  • Engaging people where they are
  • Useful to find out what others do
  • Site visits and good engagement with both Members & stakeholders
  • Expert witnesses
  • Using Scrutiny to bring a creative approach to problem solving
  • A real issue, officer buy-in, an external event that coincided with a report and recommendations, a passionate and knowledgeable chair
  • Wide ranging engagement

15% Solutions: What do we have the freedom and resources to do now?

  • Bring stakeholders together – public, experts, officers and members. Often, they are not aware of each other or the services / activities in the area.
  • More/better preparation
  • Utilise the (active) Youth Council where youth engagement is required
  • See what other Councils have done on the topic and see what recommendations they’ve come up with – use this knowledge to check out whether these things are issues locally or whether it’s different things. But at least you’re seeking assurance that those things are in place.
  • More youth engagement making most of their easy use of social media
  • Getting more engagement from others outside of the Councils.
  • Conduct survey/ consultations
  • Time to better evaluate evidence
  • Adding feasibility considerations into reports
  • Co-opt an expert onto group (but might not want to do it for free)
  • Ask chairman to allocate tasks to members of the group to keep up engagement.
  • Put on the website somewhere that members of the public can input scrutiny ideas forward – check other council websites for examples of this.

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