Meetup notes: Demonstrating the effectiveness of scrutiny

This meetup was all about how to demonstrate the effectiveness of scrutiny. We tried a new liberating structure called Triz. And we tried using Google Jamboards for the group work for the first time. Both worked really well. Hooray!

We also had a tenuous disaster movie theme. Matt likes to call Triz ‘Twister’, so that kinda works. (As do the ‘biggest scrutiny disasters’ above.)

In the main activity, using Triz, we honed in on the things we are currently doing that prevent us from demonstrating the effectiveness of scrutiny by asking the following question:

What are the practical ways you and your team could ensure that Scrutiny’s successes go completely unnoticed by local residents and the rest of your organisation?

At the end of the process we identified some of the small things we might do that could start to make a big difference.

Here is the full list of ideas:

  • Do a short video about what scrutiny is and how it works. Would be really helpful if the CfGS could do this and make it available for sharing on their website
  • Speak to Comms team about where they think residents could engage better and see if scrutiny can be part of that
  • Make sure officers across the Council understand what scrutiny is or how Council’s work and the different roles elected members have e.g. Cabinet/backbench
  • publicising Scrutiny more the public and to the Council – members and officers (ie over and above the stat min)
  • issue a Scrutiny bulletin on a regular basis – on the website, and other useful (stakeholder) links/sites – tracking O&S Work Plan
  • invite Press to spend time at offices to be taught about Scrutiny function – Officer led
  • train Members on Scrutiny function – operate a league table for them to compete attendance/competence (think brownie badges)
  • general training – We don’t know what we don’t know – Johari – Member Skills Review sessions. If nec, within their Political Groups (saves embarrassment and publicly competing egos)
  • evaluate Decision-Making Risk , eg assumptions that we know what we don’t know!!!
  • Adapt to how residents want to engage. Don’t insist on particular processes
  • Understanding of the situation: let officers get on with the ‘doing’ before scrutinising. Unprecedented situation.
  • Turn processes virtual. The council office isn’t open for good reason.
  • Promote virtual processes, meetings etc.
  • Get language and materials sense checked by people in the organisation with the skill set to do so – and good neighbourhood community connectors with those skills too
  • Give a presentation to managers on how scrutiny could help them and possibly create a feature on the intranet for all staff
  • Set up meeting with senior managers and leader to discuss scrutiny’s role
  • Provide regular update reports
  • Talk to the comms team about social media posts to explain / promote scrutiny

And here are the favourite ideas identified by the participants.

  • Creating a video about what scrutiny is/does
  • Talk to the comms team about explaining / promoting scrutiny to residents
  • Evaluate decision-making risks by asking Members to grade aspects
  • An easy method of getting all officers in the Council to understand what scrutiny is and how it fits into governance – this is resource intensive so would be useful If CfGS could produce this information or have
  • easily available explainers on their website, like a very basic ‘what is scrutiny?’ etc we could direct members to
  • Get language in reports sensed checked – not just for plain english but for relevance to communities
  • Fully engage comms at the beginning/end of the scrutiny review.
  • Adapt to how citizens want to engage
  • Publicizing scrutiny work – press releases
  • Put in place and promote virtual meetings, processes. you can’t pass a note across the table, just say it and be open

We asked participants ‘What was made possible?’ by this approach:

  • This was a good approach. Using the jam boards was helpful.
  • More objective and granular thought process
  • Promotes a different way of thinking and more creative solutions
  • Good to understand that we all have the same problems and challenges
  • Thinking backwards made us more creative
  • Thinking in a different way – approaching a problem from another angle
  • It was fun!
  • Good way to just flip the opposite of your suggestion. It can be easier to think of the negative and what doesn’t work as a starting point.
  • Anti approach helped clarify how to remedy issues

We hen did a quick exercise to draw out some of the things that people are doing well already…

What helps to demonstrate the effectiveness of scrutiny work?

  • Annual report
  • No. of scrutiny referrals to Cabinet (the more the better)
  • Report annually to Full Council which is a public meeting about what scrutiny has done
  • Robust scrutiny recommendations that led to change
  • An annual report.
  • Quality recommendations.
  • Present the annual report in a more engaging way (e.g. Microsoft Sway report)
  • Outcome based annual report

Thanks to everyone that took part and…..

Keep on scrutinising 💃🏾


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