Dumfries and Galloway Council places high importance on improving participation and engagement. Its Council Plan, agreed in 2017, has ‘Be an inclusive Council’ as one of its five priorities, and its strategy and good practice guidance were developed with stakeholders over the following year. The council was named UK Council of the Year’ by tCI Connect (The Consultation Institute) in 2019 for its commitment to training.
Community councils play a crucial role in community engagement, both in encouraging the participation of local citizens in the work of the community council and local issues, and in responding to other organisations or consultations in their role as community representatives. Dumfries and Galloway Council has an ongoing commitment to support community councils, so arranged a series of free online training sessions on ‘the importance of effective and meaningful community engagement’.
Dumfries and Galloway Council created the training programme in partnership with The Consultation Institute. It was designed to highlight the statutory role of community councils and provide them with a greater understanding of their role as a consultee and a consultor, in order to give them more confidence in designing, delivering, and responding to consultations at local level.
The programme included a course introduction and overview session which allowed participants the opportunity to ask questions and sign up for the following two sessions, and culminated in a feedback and Q&A session.
Fifty community councillors from across Dumfries and Galloway attended five online sessions, which were held in the afternoon and evening, and lasted for up to two hours. Every participant had the opportunity to interact in discussion and to look at methods of engagement, including use of the engagement tool Mentimeter, many for the first time.
The recent online training was designed to support community councils to deliver local consultations as well as how to respond to consultations. This will enhance the reputation and effectiveness of community councils as listening and engaging organisations in their local communities.
Impact and benefits
Twenty-seven attendees submitted feedback online and were unanimous in recording that the sessions were very useful and raised awareness of their role in the consultation process. The introduction to useful tools such as Mentimeter, the Consultation Mandate and use of Microsoft Teams were all received positively.
The main areas of concern focussed on the need for further training in their role as a community councillor and specifically for support in the use of IT and online tools to support consultation.
Councillor Andy Ferguson, Chair of the Communities Committee said: "Our council recognises the importance of best practice in consultation and engagement at all levels of government. Embedding good practice and building the confidence and competencies of our community councils will have a big effect because we have almost 90 of them across our region and are a key partner."
Councillor John Martin, Vice Chair of the Communities Committee said: "The recent online training was designed to support community councils to deliver local consultations as well as how to respond to consultations. This will enhance the reputation and effectiveness of community councils as listening and engaging organisations in their local communities."
Dumfries and Galloway Council offers support to community councils that includes induction training for new community councillors and office bearers, and is working with the Scottish Tech Army to develop a bespoke training programme designed at getting more community councils online.
Free online Open University courses are also promoted and there’s relevant and updated information via the Community Council webpage as well as through a dedicated Community Council Enquiry Service (CCES).
Dumfries and Galloway Council's training for community councillors.