Day 1 of Councillors Connected

The first day of the Councillors Connected online conference was really successful, with some excellent contributions from a whole host of different people. Here are some of my highlights:

A fantastic debate about the meaning of local to different people. Cllr Mike Causey kicked things off, asking

There’s a lot of good aspirations around social networking, the internet, and local government. However – and I write this as a Conservative councillor – even the very good paper from the Conservative party recently, outlining their vision for local government, does not address the fundamental thinking that must exist behind any such proposal – how local is local?

Conrad Taylor added to this theme:

I live in Southwark, but if I need to dispose responsibly of an old video machine and some batteries, my “local” waste disposal centre is in Mercury Way (Lewisham). Transport also shapes what is “local”: it’s easier for me to get to Waterloo than many places “more local” on an as-the-crow-flies basis because it is a single bus journey to Waterloo.

Paul Canning urged local authorities to make use of existing online communities and not to create new online spaces:

I think that anything which is funded and set up needs to firstly engage with this existing local discussion infrastructure and not appear to replace it. Many of these blogs and forums in my town have an audience, a community of interest. For example we have a very active local youth dominated forum mainly about music but also about activism and local issues.

After some more discussion, Mike Causey came back with his considered response:

I want to post how much my thinking is helped by this thread. And, at the risk of being accused of thinking up new jargon, the above ‘word’ might be a way to express the germ of an idea in my head. Especially the concept of local being so individual, and the potential of web and social media innovation to build bridges between this and artificial constructs and areas of our councils.

Excellent stuff, and a great way of showing how online discussions can be used to refine thinking and develop new ideas. I have hardly scratched the surface of this debate though, to see it in all its glory you will need to join the CoP.

Some other great threads on the day:

Today looks like it will be another cracking day, with Hugh Flouch of Harringay Online already posting a great piece on Community Websites: Friend or Foe?