At last Tuesday's Chamber of Commerce meeting, I was robustly questioned on some elements of the Campus, due to my role on the Shadow Community Operations Board. Some of the questions had to be answered with "don't know"; for example, the Chamber meeting was a day before we met with the representatives of the doctor's surgery, the potential of which has come late in the mix - and any answer except "don't know" would have shown us to have preconceived ideas even before we had learned. Other questions were answered with "I agree with you" - for I certainly agree that information could have been passed out better, people kept better informed on some aspect - which is not to say that Wiltshire Council aren't doing a lot better on this one that their previous reputation would suggest - collaboration with the community is new for some of them, and letting the reigns go and letting us (me!) post openly on their blog is one step too far for some!
I was heartened the morning after to be emailed... [i]"Sorry to give you a hard time over the campus. I hope it didn't come over as a criticism of you or SCOB; I think there are a lot of people in town frustrated with Wiltshire Council regarding publicity about the plans. It would be much better if the council kept the town informed about what's going on. It would put people's minds at rest."[/i]
I don't mind a robust discussion - and I welcome the chance to explain to a few more people people who were truly listening about the metrics of what's been going on. The following is me writing personally and not giving the official view or line of anyone.
It's so interesting to note just how hard it is to reach people - to get to the point where it's unusual for people to say "I wasn't told" until their thoughts have moved on to concerns and worries and questions have turned into rumours that spread. There *is* quite a bit more information than people imagine out there but it can be in obscure places / hard to find and typically it's a long way short of the quantity (and with the quality of explanation) that most people would like to see. There are still some information sources who think along the old Yorkshire lines of "If in doubt, say nowt".
Part of the issue is that the information doesn't get put out - I agree and get frustrated at being asked / invited to contribute to the SCOB site, but then find that my view of what's reasonable and useful information may not agree with that of the moderators; one of the reasons I personally don't get involved with political parties with a requirement to follow a specific line. But then they too are having concerns and a parallel email to yours received this morning talks about how we can "help make the information more accessible". My cynical answer might start "first, allow it on the site..." but by going far out left field and saying that, we'll weaken the influence we have and there's a risk that we'll just be treated as the yokels who don't know anything, and WC will steamroller things though with only token local input.
The other part of the issue is actually reaching people. There are opportunities within the campus project and in the wider town - many of them niche and will only fit a handful of people - but how to reach those people? You're a professional and the MIN has just about the best reach, but you're not going to want to clutter with "niche". So the council advertise on line. It gets tweeted, posted on "Our community matters". On the Chamber site if appropriate. Included in a list of such upcoming issues that's posted taken round to 140 businesses in the town centre nearest to where the Campus will be. And that's probably not a complete list. Yet, when I made a reference to it late last night after the meeting, following up a friend on Facebook, a third party still come back with "This is news to me - what's it all about". Now actually that's a success story - the person who may have a (business) interest has been reached, but at times it can be a frustrating, and the Chamber of Commerce and other enabling organisation are noted for their failures to reach everyone, and not these successes.
Finally, I said "I don't know" a lot last night and that may be construed as unhelpful. Ah - but it's honest, and when you think about it, it's sensible. There's a need for the SCOB and any development group like it to research and to canvas opinions, to learn about the various options and concerns (and that's a massive job) before making recommendations. To have answers up front would turn any chance of true consultation and taking the community's views into rubber stamping exercises. Although initial studies were completed, presented and endorsed at the Area Board (a public meeting with over 200 attending), we do also need to explore other event-lead elements that are currently making the news in the local paper, such as the location of the doctors' surgery and the future of the post office counter and see if and how they should effect plans. Until we have explored them - something that is being done - the answer as to what these things will mean to the Campus must be "don't know". If it was anything else, you would have a SCOB and consultations that were just a box-ticking exercise. (written 2013-03-19, updated 2013-03-31)
Associated topics are indexed as below, or enter http://melksh.am/nnnn for individual articlesZ405 - Melksham Campus 
Melksham Campus - what, why, questions, concerns and how you can input - (2011-03-04) 
Melksham Campus - any last minute inputs from Melksham businesses? - (2011-03-26) 
Melksham Campus - a win / win opportunity, but a severely lacking decision process - (2011-03-31) 
Campus - answer to business questions - (2011-04-01) 
Melksham - the way forward. 26th April, Well House Manor - (2011-04-13) 
Between a rock and a hard place. - (2011-05-04) 
Letter to The Editor - (2011-05-06) 
The Olympic Torch, and Melksham House - (2011-06-14) 
Some thoughts in answer to some Melksham Campus questions - (2011-10-14) 
Campus Shadow - a great responsibility - (2011-10-30) 
Melksham House - a community facility - (2011-10-31) 
Melksham House / Melksham Campus - Seniors Input Sought - (2011-11-12) 
Quintessentially English - scenes from our Wiltshire town - (2011-11-14) 
A walk around Melksham this morning. Can you place all of these? - (2012-05-17) 
Abstraction - (2012-05-19) 
Low carbon and other environmental lessons for the Melksham Campus? - (2012-05-23) 
Not everyone has a computer - 9 more ways to learn about the Melksham Campus - (2012-06-03) 
The Melksham News - July 2012 - Part 1, Campus and Chamber of Commerce - (2012-07-22) 
What a difference a year made - Melksham Campus - (2012-10-12) 
How much parking should there be at Melksham Campus? - (2012-10-21) 
Questions from children about Melksham Campus - (2013-05-26) 
Melksham Campus - how is it going - October 2014 - (2014-10-06) 
The Campus in Melksham - name, logo, and livery choice - (2015-01-18) 
Melksham Community Campus - which of these potential signs do you like? - (2015-02-07) 
Campus - about the logos / way marks you have been choosing from - (2015-02-11)
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