Blog by Martin Head, Corsham Institute’s Director of Communities...

Ci's Communities Programme is developing a range of projects that are finding ways to engage people more in civic society and local democracy, as part of our overall mission to promote a fair, inclusive, prosperous and creative society.

As part of our Digital Corsham initiative with our online digital tv platform Corsham TV and our partner community radio station KIK Radio, we cover local and national elections from a local standpoint, as well as regularly holding our MPs and Councillors to account in detailed interviews, addressing local concerns. The resulting engagement is measurable and has real impact.

During the 2015 General Election campaign, we produced video clips of the local hustings event, which resulted in over 1,500 views compared to around 125 people who attended the evening. Over 10 times the engagement in the debate, through digital activity.

Our production partnership with local BBC Radio to deliver an EU Referendum debate attracted over 900 local video views and one of a very few community media co-productions with the BBC nationally.

Coverage of the May 2017 local elections had every candidate in four wards offered a video statement and in a typically low turn-out election over 750 people viewed the results.

We also audio live-stream local Council meetings and the Unitary Authority Area Boards and reach over 500 people a week locally with topical podcasts. For the General Election this year, each candidate in our local constituency has recorded a video message and we’ll be at the overnight count to cover the results and be the first community media to hear from the new MP, whoever they may be!

All the above examples have impact and the potential to re-define the way local communities engage with their politicians and councils and there is an increasing role for community media to serve their communities by shining a light onto the democratic process.

However, the long-term impact of greater local digital engagement in the democratic process is still to be quantified. After the 10-fold level of digital engagement that we saw during our coverage of the General Election in 2015, there is a clear research opportunity to examine connections between levels of engagement and voter turnout.

Digital media can lead to greater engagement and participation in the local democratic process and part of Ci’s ongoing work is to develop examples and partnerships to prove the power of digital community media to engage citizens more widely.