C’llr.10 conference – 4 February 2010

The c’llr.10 event is the first ever major national conference specifically for councillors. Organised by the Local Government Information Unit, producers of Cllr Magazine, in conjunction with Ingenium Strategic Events, Cllr 10 will be held at The Emirates Stadium, London N5 on 4th February 2010.

Learning Pool are among the supporters of the event, as we have two great offerings for local politicians – one around the support we can provide helping them get to grips with the opportunities provided by online tools for communication and collaboration. The other is with our Modern Councillor package of elearning – providing all the training a councillor needs in a format where they can do it whenever it suits them. Learning online has a huge number of advantages for councillors, both in terms of flexibility of access, cost effectiveness, the sheer range of learning available, and of course the fact that it can be completed without needing to leave the house!

Here’s a bit more information about the event:

The conference will provide a unique opportunity to hear at first hand some of the most influential voices in and about local government, and to engage in debate on what is important to local communities. The wide variety of workshops will help you to develop your practical skills as a Councillor and your understanding of what key policy challenges, such as the ageing population or environmental change, will mean for your ward and what you as a Councillor can do to give a lead. During the day there will also be opportunities to network with colleagues from all over the country to share your experiences and ideas. In addition to Councillors, the conference will also be very useful for council officers and others who support or work closely with elected members.

I’m on the agenda to speak to those attending, and I am keen that I keep the content as relevant as possible. My talk is titled “Leadership 2.0: why local authorities need to be learning organisations”. What I will be talking about is that despite all the talk of the online revolution and the growth of social networking, the interesting bit remains the implications of the technology rather than the technology itself. The session will explore the opportunities for improvement and efficiency that the new culture of openness and sharing brings – and how councillors can make sure their councils make the most of them.

Should be fun, then!

There are a bunch of other great sessions on the agenda. For readers of this blog, I suspect “Making social networking work for you”, which features Ingrid Koehler amongst others, will be the most interesting.

Well done to LGIU and partners for arranging a great looking conference.

You can book your place using this link.

Lee Bryant on leadership

I keep returning to this post by Headshift’s Lee Bryant, on leadership in the networked society. It’s big, meaty and good.

My starting point was the myth that leadership is somehow less important in new, networked organisations. Not so. If anything, it is more important than ever, but the focus and practice of leadership is changing; and if we are to engage leaders and involve them in the development of social business structures, then we need to be able to understand and address their challenges and issues using language that resonates with them.

He provides some slides from a talk he recently gave on the topic, which give a nice overview – though I really do recommend you read – and re-read – the whole thing:

Here are Lee’s three starting points for developing the required new forms of leadership:

  1. Identifying and nurturing future leaders
  2. Enable leaders to have presence and intimacy at scale
  3. Give everybody a chance to demonstrate community leadership

Go read the rest.

Social media and local government culture

I had an enjoyable time on Thursday of this week, with the rest of the Learning Pool crew, customers and friends, at the Learning Pool networking event / third birthday party. Some good pals were there, and I got to meet plenty of new people too. Some photos are here.

I did my usual turn, with one or two additions. Here are the slides:

One of the new slides in this deck asks the question “Should local gov be like Apple or Google?”.

When I road tested this question on Twitter, I got a range of responses, some being quite clear cut, others wondering what the hell I was on about. One was particularly clever.

Here’s what I meant.

Apple are closed, switched off from the conversations about them. They keep their customers at a distance and go to remarkable lengths to prevent users from giving them ideas. As far as Apple are concerned, they know all the answers.

Apple’s products are also damn expensive. They charge as much as the market can bear – and sometimes more. So how come they are so popular?

It comes down to the user experience. It’s so awesome, that people like me will put up with all sorted of crap to be able to keep using it. So, an organisation can still succeed, even if it is closed in its culture, if the product is good enough. I think it would be difficult to argue that any level of government’s user experience is up to the same level as Apple’s right now…

Google, on the other hand, take a far more open culture. They have loads of blogs, just about one for every service they operate. They have forums for users to help one another, and to get help from support. An awful lot of Google’s technology is open source, and they run platforms for others to host and share their code, as well.

Google’s pricing model is different to Apples’s, too. Instead of charging as much as the market can bear, Google charges as little as it can bear, as Jeff Jarvis explains in What Would Google Do? Google wants as many people to use its products as possible, because that makes them work better, so they make them free, or as close to free as they can. Google is more a platform, or a network, than just a company that sells stuff.

Local Government needs to be more like Google, than Apple. It needs to listen to its users, and to develop and design services around their needs rather than deciding itself what is best for them. It needs to take the time to explain itself to its users, and set up feedback channels that feed directly into service design. In fact, communications, customer service and service delivery should all be part of one single process, each element constantly updating the others.

So this is all, really, less about technology, and more about organisational culture. What a surprise. I do fear that some local authorities, having set up a Twitter account, or started a blog, will think they have this thing licked. They haven’t – it’s bigger than that, and it goes back to Steph‘s point, that interactive websites need interactive organisations. Sticking some of these web tools on an organisation that doesn’t want to listen or engage will result in car crash.

People have been talking about changing culture in government for a very long time, and not a lot has changed – I’m reminded of Will Perrin’s point, which I often repeat, that government in the UK is trying to solve 21st century problems with 21st century technology through 19th century governance. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth giving a go. I think there is a lot that government at all levels can learn from the culture of organisations like Google, and other tech firms. Take Netflix, for example, a US based DVD rental company. Their culture, as described in this public presentation, is remarkable and one that probably any organisation could learn from:

I’ll be covering some more issues around culture, and leadership, in future posts, as it’s a fascinating (to me!) topic.