Why be a councillor?

Pretty damning stuff from Cllr Roger Gambba-Jones:

If somebody was to ask me about becoming a councillor nowadays, I’m not sure what I would tell them were the benefits of doing so and I don’t mean to the councillor. Government funding cuts and more and more centralisation of power, hidden behind the facade of Localism, means that getting elected is more likely to become a exercise in frustration and disappointment, than a fulfilling experience in serving the community.

Podcast episode 5 – Anne McCrossan

Here’s my fifth podcast. This is becoming a thing!

I’m joined in this episode by Anne McCrossan, who runs Visceral Business. Anne’s thing is getting organisations perform as genuinely social businesses.

Here’s a link to download the original mp3 file if you would like to do that.

If you would like to subscribe to the podcast in your favourite podcasting app, the feed is http://davebriggs.libsyn.com/rss or you can find the podcast on iTunes.

Show notes and related links (in a slightly jumbled order):

LocalGovCamp 2014 thoughts #5 – tools

I found LocalGovCamp a really refreshing and cheering event this year. I’m going to spend a few quick posts writing up my thoughts.

There’s a kitbag of tools and approaches that can be used to tackle the problems facing us. Not everyone knows about them and this needs fixing.

I’m not necessarily talking about digital tools either – although there are some of those of course.

It’s more than that – it’s some of the emerging practices and processes, and mindset too. They don’t even cost money, most of these things.

Take the example from Carl Haggerty. At Devon they have a meeting room, decked out with fairly random, non-officey furniture, that can’t be booked out. It’s a room for the curious and the collaborative. You can have meetings in there, but be warned that anyone might turn up and join in. Or you could take your laptop in and get on with your day to day work, only sitting next to people who you don’t normally get to meet.

Like organisations acting responsively to their users. Being agile in the way services and products are delivered. Iterating in response to feedback. Co-designing to improve the way things work.

It’s also about a plurality of tools and systems to be used to help fix problems. I know this is a recurring theme of mine at the moment, but one size fits all solutions are dead.

People and organisations have to be flexible enough to be able to deliver different services in different ways to different groups depending on their needs.

This mindset, these tools and practices need to be rolled out to people in ways that will really help them bring about change. I don’t think training courses or online tooklits will cut it, somehow. We need something new.

LocalGovCamp 2014 thoughts #4 – communities

I found LocalGovCamp a really refreshing and cheering event this year. I’m going to spend a few quick posts writing up my thoughts.

Communities always come up a lot, in terms of engagement and also new methods of service delivery.

The trouble is that organisations such as local authorities like scalable, repeatable processes – and communities fit neither of those things.

Communities are messy, unique things. Even ones that sound the same are usually very different, depending on the history, the personalities. In one area, a service that could be delivered by one parish council couldn’t be delivered by another, say. One neighbourhood watch group is likely to be unlike any other.

What’s more – communities, whether formal ones of the type I just mentioned or more informal social groups, are pretty much all facing exactly the same problems that councils are – lacking money, lacking volunteers, facing the sudden need to make dramatic changes to everything they do.

I’m on the board of my local Citizens Advice Bureau and we are facing the fact that our core funding is being reduced, needing to find new sources of income, and needing to help our clients to move towards self service online over face to face interactions, so we can save money and time while still delivering a service. Sound familiar?

So, “community” isn’t a panacea – but it can be part of the solution. It won’t, however, be a simple solution, but one that is based on meeting the needs of the communities you are working with as much as it is those communities meeting yours.

LocalGovCamp 2014 thoughts #3 – collaboration is key

I found LocalGovCamp a really refreshing and cheering event this year. I’m going to spend a few quick posts writing up my thoughts.

Mary McKenna brilliantly facilitated an excellent discussion on collaboration – why it is needed, why it hasn’t worked that well up to now, and how that might be fixed.

Some great input came from FutureGov‘s Dom Campbell, who spoke about the some of the challenges trying to implement their Patchwork tool across multiple agencies.

There was also discussion of the limitations of the traditional approach to partnership working – overly bureaucratic, slow to make decisions, agencies working individually to deliver what should be shared objectives, really boring meetings, and so on.

What’s needed is a more agile, responsive and flexible approach to working in partnership to deliver shared outcomes.

This needs to mean organisations sharing people, resources, systems, data and more – and not just tick-box style partnerships.

What’s also vital to to this working are grown up conversations are needed about who can deliver what with the resources they have. This is no time for pride.

LocalGovCamp 2014 thoughts #2 – don’t panic

I found LocalGovCamp a really refreshing and cheering event this year. I’m going to spend a few quick posts writing up my thoughts.

Another thread of discussion was around – as it often is – how do we engage more people with process x, or y.

Catherine Howe led a very interesting session on local democracy, and forming a more holistic view of what that actually is (clue: think active citizens; not politics, elections and councils). My takeaway was that we shouldn’t panic when something we do doesn’t seem to be important to people any more.

Things change, people move on, stuff dies. Something else replaces it.

It’s fine.

Don’t spend too much time and energy trying to prop up a thing that nobody else wants any more – find out what they do want, and build that – whether you’re talking democracy, services, products, whatever.

LocalGovCamp 2014 thoughts #1- culture

I found LocalGovCamp a really refreshing and cheering event this year. I’m going to spend a few quick posts writing up my thoughts.

Lot and lots of discussion about culture and culture change. This discussion has been going on since forever, and if we are being frank with ourselves, it isn’t going to change dramatically soon.

So what to do? Don’t lets make the culture change discussion stop us from doing things. Have a go, fix what you can right now.

It could be that by having enough people doing this at the same time the culture will look after itself.

Podcasts you might like

As well as making my own podcast, I also love listening to those created by other people.

Here are some of my favourites – maybe you will like them too!

Try Doorbell

Robert Brook and Lloyd Davis chanter on about technology, work, and getting old.

This is the podcast that inspired me to give it a go myself.

Go there now.

This Week in Google

Leo Laporte’s TWIT network is full of great podcasts, but the Google one is my favourite, mostly due to the co-hosts, Gina Trapani and Jeff Jarvis, who really add insight to the weekly discussions about Google,
the cloud, mobile, social media and more.

Go there now.

The New Disruptors

A great podcast featuring weekly interviews with people doing new, creative things in new, creative ways. Hosted by the ace tech journalist Glenn Fleishman.

Go there now.

Cmd+Space

Myke Hurley chats every week to someone interesting who does interesting things. What can I say? I just like interview style podcasts.

Go there now.

In Our Time

Something a bit different – Radio 4′s In Our Time is just wonderful. Taking a different, often rather esoteric, topic every week, Melvyn Bragg teases a bunch of academics and experts for 45 edutaining minutes.

Go there now.

It would be great to hear what you make of these podcasts! Also, any crackers out there I ought to know about?

Problogging

I’m hugely envious of folks like Shawn Blanc and Ben Thompson. Their job is their blogs! How lucky is that?

This year I’ve really got into the content-producing swing of things – dunno if you’ve noticed. With this blog settled down and at home on WordPress.com, my newsletter working nicely thanks to Goodbits, the podcast rumbling along nicely on Libsyn and my Pinboard bookmarks providing even more stuff for people to look at if they need it, the tech and workflow is all slotting together very nicely.

It would be fantastic to be able to just focus on this content creation an curation work. It’s what I really love doing. Figuring a way to make it sustainable though is not easy.

Shawn and Ben both have membership schemes. Their core blogging is available for free, but extra bits – including content via email and podcasts – are members only. Members have to pay a certain amount to get access to it all.

This is a great way of doing things, but you need people willing to pay for your content.

Sponsorship is another way of doing things. John Gruber’s Daring Fireball does this, with the blog’s RSS feed being sponsored every week by a tech company wanting to reach his (many) readers. Gruber charges $9,500 per week for this sponsorship. Wowza!

The other option I guess is what I currently do, which is to use the content creation as a way of promoting my consulting work. The downside of this is that a) the blogging etc is a means rather than an end; and b) that I have to leave the house now and again.

Maybe I should just stop being lazy!