CivicSurf Evaluation Report

CivicSurf Evaluation Report
CivicSurf Evaluation Report

Running a project has lots of high points: coming up with a brilliant idea; getting the funding in place; starting the actual production; seeing the bits coming together; getting feedback; publishing the evaluation report.

“publishing the evaluation report”.  A high point?  It’s not exactly an adrenaline rush and if I’m being perfectly honest it isn’t exactly fun.  But we, at Gallomanor, do recognise the importance of fairly evaluating the work we do.  Of working out where the mistakes were made, figuring what the real strengths of a project are and deciding what we’ll do better next time.

As part of the funding from the Ministry of Justice for CivicSurf we were obliged to write an evaluation report and in the interests of openness they’re going to publish it and are happy for us to publish it here.  Click on CivicSurf Evaluation Report to view it [PDF, 60k.]

I can’t claim it is a masterpiece of evaluation, but on the plus side it only runs to five pages.

For those who don’t want to open the pdf the key learning points are below the fold.

Before you go there though, a few things:

  1. The report could be read as being critical of the councillors from Norfolk and in general.  This is not intended.  We appreciate the workload for which councillors volunteer and we appreciate that amognst all the calls on their time participating in a “project” might not be that high on their list of priorities.  So let it be said again.  The councillors from Norfolk, Tony, Jenny and Peter, are brilliant.  They were generous with their time and feedback and they have persevered with their blogs and, I hope, still finding them useful tools for doing their “jobs” as councillors.
  2. A few thank yous are needed.  Tim Anderson, Griff Wigley, Gavin Ricketts, Andrew Brown, Dave Briggs, Mary Reid, Tom Watson, Richard Brunstrom, Andrew North, Steve Webb and the MoJ team who supported us.  Thank you.
  3. This isn’t the end of project.  The site will continue and expand.  We want CivicSurf to be a place for councillors, civic leaders and officers to come to for advice and resources on becoming an effective civic leader blogger.  We’ll continue to support any organisations that want to arrange a viewing of the documentary.  We still have copies of the DVD and booklet.  And we’ve produced a blog coaching programme that is proven to help civic leaders become more effective leaders through blogging.

Key Learning Points

  1. Timings – when dealing with councillors work out the worst possible scenario on timings and then double it. Councillors are volunteers. They volunteer for lots of things and find themselves very short of time which means things tend to move more slowly. It was always optimistic to complete this project in twelve months, but we are determined to continue the project through the website.
  2. Events – we were too optimistic in our proposal about the willingness of council officers to involve their members through organising events. Although many want copies of the DVD few are willing to commit to an organised viewing.
  3. Barriers to blogging:
    1. Legal considerations – council legal departments are still very cautious about what support can be given to councillors to set up a blog. Some officers report issues about the legality of councillors using council provided PCs to post articles on their blogs. Others worry about what sort of link can be provided from council pages to councillor blogs. The new DCLG White Paper includes a section on the Code of recommended practice on local authority publicity and they have just launched a consultation on it. We will be responding as the CivicSurf project in the New Year.
    2. Councillor inertia – a common barrier is the claim that Councillors think they don’t have anything to write about. In general we find this incredulous considering the workload and job they do, but more specifically we have found some very inviting opportunities pass large groups of councillors by. One recent example was the Greater Manchester Area “Congestion Zone” vote. We spoke with one council affected. As a council they were very much in favour of the initiative and lamented the well-funded No campaign. However as a council running the vote they were unable to officially support a Yes campaign. Their councillors were almost all in favour of the scheme too, but felt constrained by the neutrality of the council and were not able to campaign effectively. If ever there was situation for large numbers of councillors to be blogging that was it – an issue that affected virtually all members of your community that you couldn’t use council resources to campaign on.
      We intend counteracting this with ongoing examples of good blogging from councillors and through targeting councils with issues similar to the Manchester scheme where councillors are unable to campaign.
    3. Councillor workload – the usual story of councillor’s not having time has arisen time and time again. We will continue to post advice and tips on the CivicSurf site and build pages of resources that can save members time.