Local e-petitions

Headstar reported the other day about the progress of the piece of legislation that will mandate local authorities to set up systems allowing residents to create e-petitions, and to respond to such petitions.

Under the ‘Local democracy, economic development and construction Bill’ (http://bit.ly/1nEC4Z), councils will be obliged to provide an e-petition facility and publish schemes for both electronic and traditional petitions, to acknowledge any petition to its organiser, and to offer a response, all of which should be published online.

I’ve got quite a bit of interest in e-petitions, not least as a result of spending time helping moderate them for Number 10 during my time there. I’ve seen how these things can work, and how they can be frustrating.

Learning Pool have been keeping an eye on the development of the need for e-petitioning by councils, and already have an e-petitions platform in development which we will soon be looking to engage local authorities in testing. As always with Learning Pool’s stuff, it will be based on open source technology and will be easy to use and very cost effective. If you’re interested, please do get in touch.

In a related development, Andy Gibson is going to be working with Dominic and Fraser to develop a data standard for e-petitions.

From next year, it’s probable that all local councils will be required to provide electronic petitioning tools to their citizens, and we want to make sure they all do it the right way, and in a form that means they can all talk to each other.

I’ve put my name down to get involved, and will ensure that Learning Pool’s e-petitions system fits in with any agreed open standards.


Just a quick post as I am on my phone, but I am waiting at my gate at Stansted so I can get on a plane to Edinburgh, for the Socitm conference.

I’m not speaking, which will mean I get to spend my time there finding interesting people to talk to, and spreading the good news about how Learning Pool can help local government engage effectively online.

Liz Azyan will be doing some social reporting at the event on the official event blog, which looks like it was Vicky Sargant’s doing. Nice one, both.

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.

Upcoming events

I’ve got a few speaking engagements coming up, as well as other events that look like fun…

1. Developing Public Sector Communications through Social Media, 15th September, London

This is an LGC event, spending the whole day talking about how local authorities can be using social media.

My spot is part of a panel session alongside luminaries Dominic Campbell and Carl Haggerty. I’m talking blogs and podcasts.

2. Knowledge Hub Advisory Group, 17th September, London

The IDeA‘s Knowledge Hub is a game-changing project – an attempt to provide local government with some of the focus that central gov has through the Power of Information process. The Advisory Group will act as a sounding board for the project, which should be fun.

3. Learning Pool Summer Party, 23rd September, London

The annual Learning Pool summer bash will be my first, and I’m looking forward to it! If you fancy coming along, the details and the ticket thing is here. Just stick in the comments that you saw the event on here, and all will be well, I’m sure.

4. ProjectCamp, 26th September, Cheltenham

A LocalGovCamp with a project management flavour, as organised by Jon Hyde. All the details are on the dedicated online community, and signup in on a good old Google form.

5. LocalGovCamp Lincoln, 23rd October

Andrew Beekan has organised a LocalGovCamp for Lincoln in tandem with the local university, which should be wicked. Learning Pool are sponsoring this one!

6. Policing 2.0 – the Citizen and Social Media, 22 October, Ryton-on-Dunsmore, Coventry

The NPIA‘s Nick Keane has invited me to this event, to give an introductory overview to what this social media thing is, and why it might matter to the police. It should be fun, also speaking will be Sarah Drummond from MyPolice.

Free Local Gov E-Learning Event in Ripley

Learning Pool

Learning Pool are running a free breakfast meeting for local authorities in the East and West Midlands.

This meeting will give you the chance to see and hear what your neighboring local authorities are doing with E-Learning, hear how you can create efficiency savings using e-learning as well as give you an opportunity to share your own thoughts and ideas.

It takes place in Ripley, Derbyshire on 3 September between 9.30 and 12.30.

You can find out more and book yourself a place by visiting the Learning Pool website.

You’d be daft to miss it.

Dave @ Learning Pool

Learning Pool

I am rather pleased to be able to let everyone know that I’m starting work for Learning Pool this month.

For those that don’t know, Learning Pool provide e-learning services to the public sector, with a focus on local government. Subscribers to the service get access to a whole library of e-learning materials, and can also buy a system known as a dynamic learning environment to run their training on.

But it’s more interesting than that, because the notion of community is at the heart of what Learning Pool do. So, any training designed and developed by a subcriber to the service can be uploaded to the pool for any other members to use, edit and reshare. Awesome!

What’s more, Learning Pool have also started to use their experience of this kind of collaborative working to great effect in building knowledge sharing networks, with one particularly successful one running in the south-east of England with several councils involved.

I’m going to be helping Learning Pool in a number of ways:

  1. Developing a thriving online community for e-learning at learningpool.com, for anyone with an interest, whether a customer or not, to chat with like minded folk about e-learning and related issues
  2. Making the most of the various social media channels to enable Learning Pool’s messages to be disseminated in a conversational style
  3. Developing some e-learning for the public sector on social media: the background, the tools and their application
  4. Special projects – where councils or other organisations need some help on a social media type project, I and the Learning Pool crew can offer a great mix of enthusiasm, inspiration and innovation as well as organisation and reliability

It’s going to be a blast. If you want to know any more, just drop me an email.

Fresh ideas for tomorrow’s people

I had the good fortune to finally meet Mary McKenna at the PSF event last week. Mary is the MD of Learning Pool, e-learning providers at large to the public sector. She is also on Twitter, and therefore must be a good egg.

Mary and her team have been jolly supportive of LocalGovCamp, and a delegation from Northern Ireland will be making their way to Birmingham next month. I therefore thought it only reasonable to point DavePressers to Learning Pool’s own event, which takes place later on this month.

Called Fresh ideas for tomorrow’s people, the event promises to

benefit smart organisations who want to find out how to use new media to create efficiencies and service improvements.

Having a well trained and motivated workforce is the key for the future. This interactive, fun and unstuffy conference featuring speakers, interactive showcases and masterclasses exploring new media, will generate practical ideas to help make this happen.

You can find out more on Learning Pool’s blog, and book your place on the event page.