Yesterday, after having the app for a few weeks, I actually used Periscope for the first time. I’d been sat watching and reading all about it and it’s competitor Meerkat but decided not to take the plunge until I fully understood what it was about. I wanted to make my first use of the app worthwhile but also to give me an understanding of how I could use it in my community engagement work.

Worthwhile or not my first attempt was showing the world the on pitch half time entertainment at the Adelaide Oval during an AFL game as well as 180 degree panoramic of the stadium. I think at the time I got 15 viewers and a few of those heart things during my 3 minute or so broadcast. I also got a few comments, mainly hello’s but one commented on the stadiums size and another asked how big the place was.

This got me thinking. As a tool this has great potential for live and empowered participation. Of course these are opportunities that don’t stand alone but provide participation that is mirrored by both other on and offline opportunities as part of your community engagement plan. So on my walk home from the game to home I started to think how I could use this in my work to benefit the outcomes of engaging the community. Here are 5 ways I thought these apps could be used.

1. Live Q and A with a Councillor, Mayor or other decision maker

Pretty simple really. Pick a topic, go live and get the audience to send in questions. The questions can be read out directly to the participant and filtered live if not related to the discussion at hand. For example – A local government Finance Director takes questions on the planning for this year’s annual budget.

2. Live talk and tour around a particular site that is up for renewal/reuse

Having worked in local government a few times issues like this come up a lot. An old reserve or community centre are earmarked for renewal or reuse and you have to go out and consult the community about what they would like to see. Using these apps you can walk around the site describing what you see and receive feedback from the audience. Questions can be asked by staff on the tour such as should we plant trees here and see what the reaction is. The benefit of this is that the community can walk with you on and offline.

3. Guide staff to issues and watch the repair/solution happen live

Imagine reporting a broken paving stone that’s causing a tripping hazard to your local council using a report it style app as you walk to work, say 8.30am. Then at 9am the council ring you up and ask if you have time to guide their street maintenance team directly to the issue using Periscope/Meerkat. They give you time to log on and then find the live feed of the crew in the street you marked as having the issue. Then using the comments you guide the staff member to the exact broken paver who whilst you watch repairs it. When they are finished they give the screen the thumbs up and you log off happy with your participation and the councils response.

4. Collaborate in design opportunities

So your State Government announce they want to redesign a local transport hub. A live feed starts a 6pm showing a board which maps the space with building blocks, toy buses and trams and other amenities depicted by symbol cards. For the next hour people viewing listen to a discussion by planners and architects whilst commenting on how and where this new transport hub could look. Comments made are recorded and put into play on the board in real time. Someone viewing comments that there should be toilets near the entrance and so a symbol  of a toilet is place on the board there but 3 people disagree via comments and one person says they don’t want the first thing they experience as they alight the bus in to the city being toilets, many more agree. So the symbol is moved to another suggested location.

5. Feedback

This idea came from my wife, Mariya, and she is spot on. All levels of government are pretty poor at feedback. You may see an article in a newspaper or local newsletter if you lucky when a project is finished or if you’re even luckier a new facility might have an official launch to which ‘some’ members of the community will be invited. With these two live video apps you can give feedback in a variety of ways. An organisation can show and discuss what it has done, how it has met the objectives and incorporated the community’s input but the community can also be empowered to give its own feedback on what they think and invite the decision makers to watch. Imagine at a council meeting on a big screen community members using one of these apps walk around a new leisure centre giving their express and instant feedback on what has and hasn’t worked and how happy or not they are with the way their rates have been invested. All as the Councillors look on. Councillors of course can comment and ask why or what other opportunities there could be for the centre.

Final thoughts

Of course these are just thoughts for now and there is a lot of detail missing and obvious barriers that arise for example the apps allow anyone in the world to watch and comment and is it fair to allow someone from London to ask a question and have a say on how a Council/State budget is going to be used in Adelaide when they don’t even pay the local rates. Could Periscope or Meerkat introduce subscribed live channels or feeds for people within a geographic location? Or does this have potential money spinning opportunities where councils pay for exclusive time slots with special pin codes for on their residents or electorates to log in and participate?

I will certainly be watching with interest to see who is the first local council or State government agency to take the plunge and especially how they manage a worldwide audience. Would be great to hear if you have had any other ideas or if you have or are planning to use very soon… so I can watch and learn.

Also check out Matt Murray’s excellent blog Up Periscope! Thoughts on a new streaming video app.

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