A group of public sector organisations have been pulling together guidance for local authorities on how to run virtual meetings.
The Local Digital Team at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), the Local Government Associaton (LGA) and the London Office of Technology and Innovation (LOTI) have published resources to help councils choose technology and manage the processes successfully for internal and external meetings.
The effort comes in response to the pressures of social distancing and the Government’s relaxation of requirements for physical meetings of full councils and committees during the coronavirus pandemic.
The MHCLG document outlines a number of technology options, including Zoom, Google Hangouts and others with lower public profiles, along with guidance coming from various sources in local government.
These currently include Hangouts Meet tips and a practical guide to running remote workshops from Hackney Council, a practical guide to remote working from Adur and Worthing and tips on the same subject from Camden.
It also directs users to the resources from the LGA and LOTI, the former of which runs through the technical requirements and pros and cons of 15 options including Microsoft Teams, Skype for Business and WhatsApp. The LGA emphasises that the list is not exhaustive and does not imply an endorsement for any of the solutions.
No 'one size fits all'
“We recognise that one solution will not fit all and what will be suitable for one council will not necessarily work for another,” it says, adding that it is important to take into account guidance from the National Cyber Security Centre.
The LOTI guidance is focused specifically on products from Microsoft – Teams and Live Events – and Google – Hangouts and YouTube Livestream – saying that Adur and Worthing is creating a similar resource for Zoom.
It involves step-by-step guides created with Microsoft and Google, and goes through the requirements and appropriate procedures for virtual meetings. Among the key elements are the ability to display documents and speak over them, for an audience to ask questions, the appropriate sharing of documents and the enablement of voting.
LOTI also provides guidance for the chair and clerk of the committee, and how to take presentations and questions from members of the public.
Image by Steve Bowbrick, CC BY 2.0