What is a Virtual Consultation Room?
A Virtual Consultation Room is a new online technology to support public access to information and decision-making processes relating to public policy. This technology provides 24-7 access and opportunity for participation at a time that suits the individual. Making public consultation more inclusive and accessible to all and often hard to reach audiences. Because of the reduced need to travel to a consultation venue, this type of public engagement has a lower carbon footprint.
How we live, work, and interact with each other is continually changing, and the pace of this change accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Technology has played a huge role and the move online with remote working and video conferencing has revolutionised how we exchange information and ideas. Equally, anyone with a smartphone, laptop or tablet can get involved in online discussions, groups, training, and consultations.
Why use a Virtual Consultation Room?
The Draft River Basin Management Plan (dRBMP) was published on 27 September 2021 and is open for a six-month public consultation up to 31 March 2022. During the previous consultation, in 2017 LAWPRO facilitated over 120 public meetings across the country to discuss local water quality issues. Those meetings generated enormous interest in the consultation process and an unprecedented number of submissions (c2000).
Because of the Covid-19 pandemic and public health advice, public meetings on the current dRBMP cannot take place. As a result, LAWPRO considered different ways of providing public information and local engagement on the dRBMP. The decision was to utilise all available channels of communication, including digital and social media, local press, and radio.
The Virtual Consultation Room is a solution to facilitate public engagement and participation in this current Draft RBMP public consultation process.
How does it work?
The Local Authority Waters Programme (LAWPRO) has distilled information in the draft river basin management plan and presented it in this innovative online platform. You can access background information on water quality, both nationally and in your county, and find out what’s in the plan. There is mixed media that includes video, PowerPoint, images, and text. And there is an easy-to-use online submission form to submit your views and comments.