Designing Distributed Community Participation: Workshop 01
Dr Marianne McAra
Workshop 01: Reflecting on Practice 12/5/21
The first knowledge exchange workshop kicked off this week for the DDCP project, which brought together a diverse group of practitioners and researchers from across the public and third sectors, education and academia – including NHS 24, Widening Participation at GSA, The Children's and Young People's Centre for Justice, Scottish Care, The Centre for Civic Innovation, Central and West Integration Network, and The Glasgow City council. The aim of the first workshop was to collectively reflect on the last 12 months, share key challenges faced and ways in which these were overcome. To prepare for this, we asked participants to bring with them an insightful moment of community participation that took place either before or during the Covid-19 pandemic and to bring an image or artefact that helps to tell their story.
We began the workshop with a group conversation, which was facilitated through an approach the DDCP team have developed called the ‘conga method’. Instead of a facilitator chairing the discussion, this approach encourages participants to draw connections between and across their experiences themselves by ‘joining the conga’. The participants generously shared their stories as well as reflected back their insights and key learnings to the group, which was captured by the team in real-time on Miro.
Underpinning many of the stories was an ethical sensibility (particularly surrounding participation challenges such as inclusivity, accessibility and digital divides), and an emphasis on the positive legacies can be deduced from the pandemic. We discussed the ways in which both our engagement (methods, tools and techniques) and organisational (in how we communicate, recruit participants, collaborate and connect to audiences) practices have been augmented over the last year. In parallel to this, themes and opportunities for action were synthesised, which included:
the difference in how we dialogue online – broadcasting that can feel mono-directional as opposed to a more dialogical exchange when using platforms such as Zoom or Teams, and feeling comfortable with silences;
designing effective non-verbal communication – reflecting on ways of simplifying this and making it more visual;
ways to support the more informal and organic interactions – being able to follow up on tangents, nuances and picking up on body language, which can be challenging in virtual environments;
the importance of supporting capacity-building and ownership, and in examples of digital upskilling;
recalibrating ways we can provide emotional support and enabling connections;
how we ‘market’ projects in recruitment processes, the importance of story-telling and the role of social media.
Following on from the conga conversation, we used the map to highlight a range of questions to explore in the second workshop – examples of which include how can we recreate tactile, creative activities when we’re not engaging in-person; how do we future-proof hybrid approaches that support a widening of participation as we transition back into in-person and co-located contexts; what is the future of project budgets when freeing up and redirecting what would have previously been spent on travel; and how do we balance ethics with creativity, responsiveness, and perhaps risk taking?
The next knowledge exchange workshop is taking place on Monday 24th May and will be unpacking these questions in more detail as we explore our processes at different stages of engagement.