Tag: inquiries

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.

Activity instructions for Meetup #10 – Nine minute networking, appreciative interviews, 15% solutions

Here are the instructions for Meetup #10 – all adapted from Liberating Structures.

Nine Minute Networking (20 mins)

Two rounds of nine minutes in threes (or fours)

Talking points:

  • What’s something you’ve done virtually this year that you are pleased about?
  • What’s something your organisation has done virtually that has impressed you?


Appreciative Interviews (40 mins)

  1. Everyone invited to think of any scrutiny inquiry or review that you were involved in, that went reasonably well (real or virtual)
  2. In groups of 3 (or 4) allocate three roles: 
    • Interviewer – asks appreciative questions to learn about what helped
    • Interviewee – answers the questions, focussing on the practical
    • Note taker / time keeper – jots down the most interesting ideas and points about ‘what helped’ – keeps the group on time
  3. Each interview takes 7 mins
    • Interviewer asks questions, interviewee answers (5 mins)
    • Note taker feeds back the main points of ’what helped’ without response from the other group members (2 minutes) 
    • Rotate the roles around the group
  4. After three rounds the group uses the remaining time to discuss what stood out.
  5. Return to the main room and put the best answers in the chat

Interview script

  1. Tell me about an inquiry that went reasonably well
  2. What helped to make it go well? 
  3. What did you do?
  4. What else helped?
  5. What else?
  6. What else?


15% Solutions: What do we have the freedom and resources to do now? (20 mins)

  1. Alone, generate a list of 15% solutions (3 mins)
  2. In small groups briefly share your list, up to 3 mins per person, one at a time
  3. Staying in your group ask each other clarifying questions and build on suggestions using “yes…and” (10 mins or whatever is left)
  4. Return to the main room and share your favourite suggestions in the chat


Book now for Meetup # 10: It’s an inquiry Jim but not as we know it.

Sponsored by


ScrutinyMeetup #10: It’s an inquiry Jim, but not as we know it.

14.00- 16.00, Thursday 8th October 2020

There’s lots of experience of great scrutiny inquiries but how do they work in a time of Covid? We’ll be giving you the chance to mull over exactly that question with fellow scrutineers at this fabulous meetup.

It will go something like this (probably):


Some very brief basics and hellos.

Part One: Nine Minute Networking

A popular aspect of the meetups – we invite you to spend nine minutes in the company of two random scrutineers in two rounds. We suggest a couple of conversation topics but it’s up to you really.

Part Two: How to make our inquiries work virtually

Well, we haven’t exactly worked this one out yet but it will be interactive and hopefully helpful.


We just like to chill for the last 15 minutes – a chance to ask anything or just chat.


Some practical points

Just so you know, we will close bookings the day before and then send out joining details by the night before to everyone signed up. Watch your junk folder – we will send out a separate email to say we have sent the first!

In the mean time, as we will be using Zoom, you might want to sign up / install the app if you can (if you haven’t already) although you can still access through a browser. Details about Zoom here: https://zoom.us

You can find more details and the notes from previous meet ups here: https://www.publicgov.co.uk/sc…

By the way, there are 72 spaces this time.

Hope to se you there!

Dave Mckenna @DrDaveMckenna

Matt Clack @M_ttclack