Does twitter work for community engagement?

The ACT Executive have held two community cabinets via twitter over the past two months so now comes the time to analyse whether or not it is an effective way for government, or in this case the executive arm of government to connect, consult and respond to issues across the community.

The first twitter cabinet meeting, held in July this year, had a fair bit of publicity in the lead up to the meeting and was held during the lunch hour.  We had over 200 unique users join us during this meeting and over 400 tweets sent to and fro.

For the second meeting a change to the time was made (based on feedback from first meeting) and was held out of hours at 7pm on a Tuesday night. This meeting felt just as busy from my point of view but we had less participants (about 100) however we still saw about 400 tweets sent within the hour.

For a complete list of tweets and areas of interests go to the Time to Talk website www.timetotalk.act.gov.au for a full run down. There you will find all the tweets and some interesting pie charts of the main subject areas that came up.

From my point of view, and I don’t think my cabinet colleagues will think differently,  I  have enjoyed using twitter as a new way to engage with the people I seek to represent.  As Members of the Assembly we all take part in face to face electorate activity, morning teas, open days, shopping centre stalls and adding a new way of interacting is novel and, due to the level of interest that we have seen in the first two meetings, very satisfying.

I have also been surprised by just how much information and feedback can be provided so succinctly in 140 characters. Many of the questions asked could be responded to on the night but those that weren’t will be followed up and answered. From a time point of view this forum presents enormous opportunity for time poor people who may not engage in other ways of speaking with their local government.

I think the major drawbacks from this forum would be keeping track of the answers to questions and it does get hard to follow any conversation threads. Also the anonymity that some  choose to use makes it difficult to know who you are speaking with.

So over to you, what do you think? Did you take part in the meetings? Should we do it again? Should we refine and restrict it to particular topics or should we continue with the open meetings style as the best way to keep going? What time would suit best?

Katy G

(as an aside I should use this opportunity to let you know we are holding a community forum “morning tea with ministers” at the new Namadgi school in Kambah on the 17th September 2011 from 10.30am-12.00pm for anyone interested in more traditional ways to speak with the cabinet!)