The public sector collects and stores massive amounts of information. Some is stored physically and some electronically. Meeting related documents and artefacts once kept on paper, now are digitized as digital transformation is taking place across both private and public sectors.
This transformation is accelerating the demand from the public to have greater access to how decisions are made. And how you store and allow access to information determines your level of transparency.
Transparency and accessibility are on the minds of administrators, clerks, elected officials and anyone serving on a public-sector board. To encourage wider public or stakeholder participation, some meeting management providers are offering video streaming of meetings and digital voting. Organizations can post videos on their website fully indexed with agendas, minutes and supporting materials, both as a live broadcast and also for later access 24 hours a day on any device.
Even social media platforms are being used to connect to live streams, encourage engagement and provide updates on all types of meetings.
Communication is a two-way street. The same applies for website interactions. The above describes communication from your organization’s point of view, but what about your website visitors?
What Your Visitors Expect
Despite common sense, many still miss the importance of the user experience – that is, whether your website meets the expectations and needs of the visitor. Put yourself in their shoes. What kind of meeting information would you look for from, say, your government or your child’s school board site? Is all the essential meeting information readily available and easy to understand?
When dealing with Board/Council functions, ensure agendas, minutes, videos, and any requests are readily visible online and through website searches. Council meetings should record start and finish times, roll call attendance, minutes, and presentations online. You’ll also want to make available delegation requests, as well as submission of questions or correspondence.
You can further demonstrate transparency by making use of live video streaming over the internet. By presenting information out in the open as it happens, a higher level of trust and accountability is formed. Which also encourages the public to engage with your organisation.
What You Should Expect from Your Website
While it seems common sense (as we’ve mentioned above) how your website should work, here are some of our tips when it comes to using your website as a transparency tool.
1. Consider Website Search and User Interface
Your public information should be visible including video(s), related documents, and metadata. Archived meetings should be available by web site searches. Not everyone can attend every meeting and may need to reference information later.
Make sure the information is easy to locate. Is the path to obtaining a copy of the agenda rational and easy? Does it take 2 clicks to get it or 8? (Hint: the fewer, the better.) Make navigation as easy as possible. Remember: minimal effort.
Here’s a sample of what you don’t want your pages to look like. If this looks familiar to you, you might want to consider upgrading/updating to enhance your visitor’s experience, and to encourage re-visits.
On the other hand, using Strathcona County as an example, finding the agenda of any past meetings is a breeze. The user-friendly search bar helps avoid unnecessary clicks, and the layout of the pages are easy to navigate with a modern look.
2. Responsive Layout
Who, today, doesn’t have a smartphone? With that in mind, you will need to consider whether your website has a responsive layout so it displays properly on any device (desktops, tablets, phones and browsers). You can do this check easily yourself. If you find it hard to navigate on your phone, you know you have an issue to be dealt with ASAP.
3. Accessible Content
There are many meeting-related documents, most created in Word. They generally get converted to PDF and uploaded to your site.
Done? Not quite.
PDF agenda packages by nature are “digitized”, though not necessarily made accessible. The best way to achieve accessibility compliance is to provide an HTML version of the document. Check with your meeting management solution provider to ensure they provide this service, and you’ll be well-equipped for all your future meetings.
4. Appropriate Security Where Needed
While it is encouraged to be transparent, that doesn’t mean putting EVERYTHING out on the web.
Closed meetings may be a requirement from time to time. Some information may be protected for legal or identity reasons. Always make sure any closed session video does not go on the organization web site, even by accident. Be sure to check with your meeting management solution provider that they can guarantee this.
With increased pressure on public sector organizations to be more transparent and accountable, seek out the meeting management solutions provider (like eSCRIBE) who can help guide you when it comes to providing access to information stakeholders require through your website.