ICELE Press Release

It’s a bit like picking a scab, this – kinda painful but at the same time irresistable. Anyway, seeing as this blog has become semi-official place for ICELE-related news, I thought it only reasonable to provide the latest in the saga – this time in the form of a  press release from ICELE:

Cllr Matthew Ellis, Chairman of the International Centre of Excellence for Local eDemocracy, said:”Whilst it has been made clear that Lichfield DC would not be seeking to take ICELE forwards in the future, we have been calling for a formal decision to be made by the Minister for some time. It takes considerable time and money to create a trusted and recognised brand, which ICELE has now become, not just in the UK, but in Europe. It would be unfortunate if the Centre was closed down before a useful and sustainable home for both its products and its brand can be secured.”

He continued: “The Centre now has partners across the UK and Europe, having been successful in securing, with others, future funding for specific areas of work. We believe it would be unfortunate if ICELE, as a focal point for sharing information and best practice, and some of the projects were simply abandoned. I’m hopeful that the talks we are now having with CLG will ensure that a thorough review is undertaken to find a sustainable future for areas of potentially ongoing work.”

Although ICELE will cease operations at the end of June, with the interim funding recently agreed with CLG it could provide resources for work to be undertaken to secure a future for VOICE and other aspects of the Centre’s work.

I’m not sure what to say, really, which makes a change. I am, however, started to put things in place for a community driven way forward on this stuff. If you’re interested, email me or leave a comment.

Local government on Twitter!

I’m delighted to note that Stratford-on-Avon District Council has its own account on Twitter. What is even better is that they display the badge on their homepage!

This is just the sort of intiative that we’re looking for in various places, like the Social Media CoP, for example. Fine, there are arguments about Twitter, in terms of how many folk actually use it, its notorious flakiness, etc etc… but sometime you just have to give things a go. And it’s great that someone in local government is doing just that.

Social media & local government

Have come across some interesting bits and pieces recently on the topic of how local government should be using the social web to better communicate and collaborate – exactly the sort of thing we are trying to promote on the Community of Practice.

First up is a presentation by Simon Wakeman, who is Head of Marketing and PR at Medway Council in Kent. Simon’s slides include some interesting research results, plus some details of how Medway have used podcasts to reach out to younger people:

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Second is some slides from Dominic Campbell, who was lucky enough to be appointed Social Media Manager at Barnet Council recently. Dominic discusses how web 2.0 can help Barnet implement their Communications and Engagement Strategy.

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Another tip from Dominic led me to Barnet’s YouTube page (yes! They have one!) which feature some great clips of Charles Leadbeater – he of We-Think fame – talking to the Council about the future shape of local government and local governance in the UK.

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There are some great initiatives going on out there in local government where forward-thinking folk are making the most of web technology to bring councils closer to the people they serve. As with the eDemocracy debate though – is this stuff too fragmented? How can we bring everyone together?

Further ICELE debate

Steven Clift rightly points folk to the discussions going on at the UK & Ireland eDemocracy exchange about the demise of ICELE, in the comments to my previous post on the topic.

Here’s a sample of what folk are saying – the archive is public if you want to see more.

Ella Taylor-Smith:

I think there is room for an organisation to -like ICELE – to be a central contact/info point for e-democracy in the UK (I’ve widened it there from local). Where they’ve collected data and case studies on a specific topic (like e-petitions) I’ve found it useful.

Paul Canning:

This just highlights for me the absence of any national central point of reference for egov. It’s splintered all over the place, so no one actually working in the area has ‘heard of’ most of the worthy stuff…

It just pains me that the Australian state of Victoria and other governments like Hong Kong and New Zealand have managed ‘one stop shop’ portals to egov for practitioners but all Downing St has led with is endless, endless different initiatives with different websites whilst at the same time preaching to the rest of us about ‘just’ directgov and businesslink.

Andy Williamson:

Our role now as advocates for eDemocracy is not to reduce the pressure but to increase it and argue strongly for a centralised, properly resourced and commissioned eDemocracy agency.

Mick Pythian:

I think perhaps first of all we need to know what the great British public expect of e-Democracy or even Democracy and attempt to champion that…

Rather than assumptions, I’d like to see more evidence from this country (cultures and systems vary, along with connectivity). This includes more ‘measured’ pilots.

Now, if I were to try and draw folk together to provide a post-ICELE way forward, these are all people who I would insist have to be involved – people who have a genuine interest in making things better, who have a clear idea of what eDemocracy might mean. To this dream team, I’d add others, like Shane McCracken, Steve Dale, Ingrid Koehler, Steve Hilton and Dominic Campbell.

It would be fascinating to see what could be achieved just by bringing people together, dispensing with titles and the other paraphernalia of traditional government working groups, and non-organising our way into Getting Something Done.