The benefits of holding paperless meetings to bring your Council into the digital age are clear to see:
- you can reduce your carbon footprint;
- improve access to data at any time;
- improve security; and
- save valuable time and resources.
It’s a major and convenient upgrade from paper-based meetings. Many Councils have already gone down this path successfully using modern.gov’s simple apps, but what were the challenges they faced and how did they overcome these?
In January 2015, with support from ADSO, Paperless committee meetings were brought into light as part of the then Secretary of State’s #AskPickles sessions. As a result, new legislation was introduced meaning that Councils are now be able to hold entirely paperless committee meetings, lawfully and without any workarounds.
Going with paperless meetings is a cultural change that will have a much better chance of success if you have both political and officer leadership engaged and championing the cause. Work with senior Members and officers to get their buy in at an early stage. The benefits to Members in allowing them to more effectively and efficiently undertake their duties needs to be at heart of the message.
A guillotine approach or a journey?
Some Councils have gone for a strict implementation of paperless meetings with an instant move to paperless on a set date. This approach has worked in some areas but may not work for all. For most it is more of a journey and a gradual, staged approach. Consider running a pilot and then a phased meeting by meeting approach. Initially, for maybe a couple of meetings you could try “dual running” allowing Members to have a paper copy of the agenda pack alongside their electronic copy to build confidence. The next step could then be “paper light” allowing just an agenda front sheet with the electronic copy, eventually leading to a paperless outcome. Each organisation is different so you will need to tailor your approach. Learn from others. You aren’t reinventing the wheel so ask around. What have others done or experienced?
It is important to recognise that some Members will travel quicker than others on the journey, therefore the level of support that we provide them is vital.
Support for Members
Training and support for Members is a key element of success. Although using the app is not complicated, a small investment of time with Members early in the process, either on an individual or group drop in basis is a sound investment of our time. The training does not have to take long. A group session on the app with familiar faces from Democratic Services should not take no more than an hour or two. Sessions with smaller groups of new Members should only take 20 or 30 minutes. This is time well spent. Some Members will need more support than others and ongoing drop in sessions prior to key meetings are a good way to deliver high quality support for Members. However, for most Members once they have been shown the app they will be up and running with little support needed.
Do you have some Members that are a bit of a whiz with IT or are maybe already designated digital champions? It may help to identify these key Members and use them to help support and encourage their colleagues. Sometimes actually getting some of the more “resistant” Members on board at an early stage can be a real help in encouraging others “If Councillor X can go paperless then I can!”
An additional by-product of the move to paperless is the upskilling of some Members’ IT skills. Going paperless gives them a reason to use new technologies and at a time when most Councils are adopting a “Digital First” approach for their communities it can only help having Members who are more skilled and have an understanding of technology and how it can transform service delivery.
A few practical points to consider – Do you have power points or extension leads available for when someone forgets to charge their device? What about if they forget their charger – do you have a spare? You may want to think about having a couple of spare hard copies of the agenda for when someone forgets their device.
Improving Business Processes across the Council
So you have got your Members and senior officers using their tablets for paperless meetings – what about the huge number of other internal meetings in the Council: Senior Management Team, Departmental Management Teams, briefings, workshops, working groups etc.? Why not use the tools available to improve the business processes of departments across the Council?
Promoting the paperless council
The electronic Council papers become an important means of communication with the public and the media. Think about a press release to explain what it is, why, emphasise the savings to the Council. After all, this is a good news story.
Modern Mindset was established almost eighteen years ago, working to support methods of paperless communication within the Local Authority sector. We have been helping Councils hold paperless meetings for over 5 years through our easy to use modern.gov apps with reported annual savings in excess of £50,000. The app ensures that you always have the latest meeting papers for the committees you are interested in and allows you to highlight sections of the pack and make annotations just as you would with a paper copy. Document navigation is made quick and simple via bookmarking and intuitive controls. Site wide licensing means you can roll the app out throughout the Council with no additional cost. Find out more details here – modern.gov Paperless Meetings
modern.gov Training Discount – Did you know that modern.gov offer a 20% discount on training to ADSO members? Any ADSO member booking training will receive a 20% discount. If you have any training needs on the modern.gov system please contact email@example.com or tel. 01730 895 777 and quote “ADSO20” to receive your discount.
modern.Gov will soon be introducing a programme of scheduled training sessions which will consider new features, topical issues and frequently queried areas of the system. Customers will be able to book places onto the one day sessions which will take place once a month. The sessions will take place at venues located in the North, South and Midland regions of the UK and will be just £50 per attendee. Register your interest by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.