This post was written by Dyfrig just before he left Participation Cymru.
We always try and practice what we preach – that participation helps to delivered services that better meet people’s needs. February’s networks gave us a lot of scope to consider how to take our participation networks forwards. Participants told us they wanted the opportunity to learn more innovative participatory methods and also the chance to reflect on case studies, as these meant people could see what’s working in other areas or fields.
Each network began with an icebreaker, which was chosen by and put into practice by Sarah Ball (who was unfortunately unavailable for the North Wales network as she was assisting members of the Citizen’s Panel for Social Services in Wales to give evidence at the Senedd), who will be taking my role and facilitating future networks.
The icebreaker was Human Bingo, where people had to network to find other participants who had the characteristics listed on the bingo sheet we gave them. The first one to find someone who matched each one of the characteristics won a prize! A pack of Milky Way Magic Stars, which were highly sought after! We then had a bit of a discussion about it – I had initially been a bit skeptical about some of the more specific and outlandish points (such as someone who spoke a language that wasn’t English or Welsh), but it was generally felt that these more unusual points helped to get conversations started.
Our associate trainer Justine Scorrer then led a session on participative techniques. We started with some icebreakers such as Put Your Distraction in the Corner and Lucky Dip. We then put some methods into practice such as Roman Voting, Building Teams, 12 Brains are Better than 1, and Yes and……..Yes, before asking people What Do You Really Think? Justine then asked participants to reflect on their learning through Train it Forward, which was used to evaluate this part of the session.
After a short break, we looked at specific case studies. Kath Cook gave a great case study in Gorseinon about how NPT Homes had involved young people. After our featured presenter dropped out last minute, Justine Scorrer stepped into the breach in North Wales to talk about another project NPT Homes where they had engaged with tenants to set outcomes for the housing service, and in the South East we heard from Brecon Beacons National Park
We then broke up into small groups to hear from participants about work that they are undertaking, good practice they have encountered or issues they are having. I heard about innovative work across the three networks, including how City and County of Swansea had involved young people in procurement, how Hywel Dda Health Board used podcasts in their engagement, and Menter Iaith Conwy engaging with people on a community centre in the county.
Last but not least, we evaluated the network. We used a technique called Evaluation Dice to do this, where people rolled a dice and they fed back on an aspect of the network, depending on the number the dice landed on.
To go back to the opening paragraph, we always try and put feedback into action. After the first network we were told that the dice we were using was too small. Fortunately in the interim we had ordered a large, novelty inflatable dice, which made the exercise easier and probably more fun too!
The next regional networks will take place in October and the theme is accessible information. Although I will have left Participation Cymru by then, I hope to attend them to share good practice in my next role with the Wales Audit Office’s Good Practice Exchange, so I hope to see you then!