Gather: the gathering

By now I hope you’ve seen the early prototype of the NHS Citizen Gather space, live online now for your ideas. We’ll be using this, and some off-line methods, to make Gather come to life at the NHS expo – this blog post explains how, and what we hope to learn.

Ideas online, ideas offline

People have already put up a dozen or so ideas on the site, and please do go and put your own thoughts, then comment and rate others’. We will be taking all of the ideas that are on the site at the start of the Expo on Monday and writing them on little flags dotted around the Community space, where NHS Citizen will be based.

Participants at the Expo will be able to add new ideas by writing them on flags, and people will still be able to submit ideas online too. By lunchtime on the Monday we hope we will have at least 20 ideas ready for conversation.

Those who have submitted ideas, as well as anyone who wants to join the discussion, will be able to participate in an open Gather discussion at 1:15 on the Monday.

This will take place in the community space at the expo, and will be webcast so you can watch from outside. Those who have put ideas will get a chance to explain them, and those who have the germ of an idea that they want to talk through with people will be able to ask for help in getting it right.

At the end of the discussion, we will ask people which of the ideas they would want to see as the topic for the discussion at the Assembly test run the following day.

What are we trying to find out?

We have a few questions we want to answer in this part of the investigation.

First, how can we make the online and off-line conversations join up? We are trying to do this manually with the flags in the space mirroring the discussion online, but will we get a different sort of conversation in person than online, and will off-line conversation drive people to the website or be a substitute for it?

Second, is the question we are asking people to answer, “What should we be talking about?” specific enough, or too broad?

Finally, how does the online space as it currently exists need to change to become more useful, more accessible, and a better reflection of what we want NHS citizen to be?

How will we decide what goes to the assembly?

One of the questions that we will need to answer about how NHS Citizen works is the route from Gather to discussion at the Assembly (or to an answer in some other way, for things that don’t get to the Assembly).

We only have a small test version of the Gather space, and a small test version of the Assembly, but we will still need to pick one topic from Gather to be discussed with the NHS board members at Assembly the following day.

There is no right and wrong way to do this, but we’re going to try to bring together the online and off-line conversations and make a judgement in the following way:

  • Ideas will qualify for consideration if they meet all the following criteria: they have more upvotes than downvotes on the website; they have at least five upvotes; and they are a topic that is relevant to the NHS board (in other words, not a very local or specific issue)
  • We will publish the group of ideas that fits those criteria once idea submission is paused at 19:00 on Monday.
  • A group will then meet at 19:30 on Monday and will pick one issue out of the list for discussion in the assembly.
  • We will prioritise the issues that have had the most engagement online, or which were picked up by the open gather session as the topics that should be discussed
  • We will also have to bear in mind that we only have one hour in the assembly test run, so that issue will have to be debatable in one hour.
  • We also want to ensure that the assembly discussion is informed and balanced, so we will need to have an issue that has available evidence on both sides, and which we could set up for discussion overnight with a blog post.

The people making the decision will be two of the four project partners, Anthony from Demsoc and Simon from Involve, with Olivia Butterworth from NHS England, and up to three volunteers from people who have not submitted ideas but have been involved in the discussion. If you want to be a volunteer, let us know.

We hope that the decision would be unanimous, but if it isn’t we will decide by majority vote.

The final version of NHS Citizen will need to have a participative and open method for selecting the  agenda for assembly meetings. This isn’t it, but it is a starting point for a consideration of how gather and assembly link, which we will be picking up in the next design phase.


Published by The Demsoc Team

The Democratic Society is an organisation supporting participation, citizenship and better ways of doing government