How we’re helping make Parliament more ‘friendly’

Here at, we often compile our site users’ thoughts and opinions on key matters for Parliament to consider, but more recently we’ve been involved in its ‘Tea Camp‘ on digital democracy.

It began when we were asked by the Digital Democracy Commission, spearheaded by the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, how best to engage our users in Parliamentary processes. So Parliament Tea Camp (#ParliTeaCamp) was created. See our MSE Forum Team goes to Parliament blog for more on this.

I like this description of what we do from WeNurses founder Teresa Chinn MBE: "It’s where a group of enthusiastic communities including – MoneySavingExpert Forum, Netmums, Our Diabetes, Army Rumour Service, The Environment Agency, Sustrans, Girl Guiding, Defence, and the Digital Democracy Commission, come together with Parliament’s outreach team to discuss and brainstorm how social media can be used to engage people with Parliament." (See Chinn’s blog for more.)

The latest ParliTeaCamp took place last Wednesday, where we found out how the work we’ve been doing and the feedback we and other organisations have given have contributed towards January’s Digital Democracy Report. Here’s what came out of the report:

  1. By 2020 the House of Commons should ensure that everyone can understand what it does.
  2. By 2020 Parliament should be fully interactive and digital.
  3. The 2015 newly elected House of Commons should create immediately a new forum for public participation in its debating function.
  4. By 2020 secure online voting should be an option for all voters.
  5. By 2016 all published information and broadcast footage produced by Parliament should be freely available online in formats suitable for reuse. Hansard should be available as open data by the end of 2015.

What else is happening?

Parliament TV. Parliament TV relaunched its live online video service earlier this month with new features, which include videos being embeddable and shareable. Also, an agenda and information about who’s being featured are next to the video. And there’s an events schedule, so you can browse live and future events.

Archived footage is now fully searchable, short URLs are generated automatically for users to easily share on social media, and the website is now responsive to your device, automatically resizing to fit your screen.

Improved search. Parliament is trialling a new search facility on its website to help improve access to parliamentary documents. Find out more about this on the Parliament website.

More engagement on social media. As part of making Parliament more accessible, we’ve also encouraged it to create infographics, Vines and images for use on social media, and to use plain English. Here’s an example of a great infographic it’s tweeted:

The work doesn’t stop there

The House of Commons has its own board and representative in our forum, regularly posting about what’s going on in Parliament, as well as joining in with other discussions, such as our poll on whether the UK should remain a member of the European Union.

Going forward, we’re planning a Budget Day Forum Q&A with the House of Commons on 8 July on our forum.

We’re also hoping for it to set up a dedicated ParliTeaCamp page on its own website, explaining what it’s about and containing links to participants’ sites. We’d also like to see it updated with ParliTeaCamp minutes and outcomes, links to relevant content and a feed for the #ParliTeaCamp hashtag so that Twitter users can easily follow our tweets.

If you have any ideas for how Parliament can be made more accessible, please let us know using the comments section below and we’ll pass them on to its Digital Outreach Team.