When social media reveal IT’s soft belly – "When I was in Canada last week, I visited two provincial government organizations that offered two intriguing examples of how social media are challenging their IT organizations."
Too much money plays against government 2.0 – "Definitely an interesting perspective: transparency is not always a desirable attribute, and government 2.0 is more interesting – and useful – where the are scarce rather than abundant resources."
Local By Social – Series of events around the country by LGID promoting online innovation in local gov.
I’m taking part in an online conference on the LGID Communities of Practice platform (registration required) that’s running between 3 and 9 November.
My bit will be on the 8th, between 1.30 and 3.30pm, and I will be talking about the movement of GovCamps across the UK, where practitioners, suppliers and interested others get together to chew the fat about improving public services.
Local by Social online conference, 3 – 9 November FREE
Citizens and councils are getting online and discovering the power of the Internet to make it easier to access services, feed back for improvement, provide accountability and help people organise themselves for civic action.
The Local by Social online conference will bring together a range of practitioners, thought leaders and social entrepreneurs to look at three areas where the Internet is changing the way localities are governed and services are delivered.
Social media: citizens and councils
Social media: creating and sharing knowledge between practitioners
Open data for accountability and improvement.
This free conference will be hosted on Local Government Improvement and Development’s Communities of Practice platform.
What’s an online conference?
An online conference is just like a conference in the ‘real world’ except there are no long train journeys, no soggy sandwiches and no shame in getting up and walking out if the topic just isn’t your thing.
LG Improvement and Development has hosted many successful online conferences. You’ll hear from invited ‘speakers’ who will share materials through video, presentations or writing about their topic who will then be available to answer questions in the discussion forum. But this is also an opportunity to set your own agenda, start topics or carry on discussions.
How do I sign up?
This free online conference is already open to join. If you’re not already a member, register at www.communities.idea.gov.uk (it’s free). If you are, simply follow this link to sign up. We’ll alert you as activity kicks off and round up the hot topics, so you never miss a thing.
Carrie Bishop and Dominic Campbell, FutureGov
Dave Briggs, Learning Pool
Emer Coleman, GLA/ London DataStore
Gary Colet, KIN
Hugh Flouch, Network Neighbourhoods
Steve Dale, Knowledge Hub
Paul Davidson, CIO Sedgemoor, LeGSB
Brendan Harris, Local Government Improvement and Development
Stuart Harrison, Lichfield District Council
Alison Hook, Coventry Council
Dan Slee, Walsall Council
Hollie Snelson, Kent
Julian Tait, Open Data Manchester/ Future Everything
I wrote up quite a bit of what was said at the Local by Social event yesterday, but didn’t add much in the way of comment or analysis. This post makes up for that. I’ll try and sum up what the themes were for me which really stood out.
1. We probably are moving on from talking about social media
I did think just how far things have moved on in the last few years. I remember conversations had with Steve Dale back in 2006 when it seemed like nobody else in local government was remotely interested. Now it seems like most authorities are at least aware of the developments in the web and how citizens are using it – and are starting to think how they might engage with it.
I think that ‘social media’ as being seen as a distinct element of activity is starting to disappear, with some bits heading into comms, other bits into web teams and so on. Our project with Central Bedfordshire, Let’s Talk Central, was delivered through the consultation team, for example.
In other words, using social media tools is becoming less of a thing, and more just a set of skills for delivering tasks and activity, which is almost certainly the right thing to do.
However, it still seems to be that comms and marketing folk are those most often attracted to events like this, which is a shame as service managers and policy types need to be a part of this conversation too.
2. Rethinking relationships
Much of the discussion at Local by Social was not about using social media but what was made possible by social media – which is a healthy way of looking at things. Much of this is focused on relationships – between government and governed, service designers and users, between individuals living in an area.
If anything local government should be looking to foster relationships and take an active part whenever it can. Reinventing relationships too, where necessary – giving people power to organise stuff for themselves where they want to, only stepping in when needed.
Another relationship to be rethought is between government and supplier, of course. All the presentations from social innovators were from small organisations which may not fit in too well with existing procurement systems and whatnot. To tap into these great ideas and enthusiastic people, process might need to give way.
3. Focus on outcomes
Following on from this, councils must think strategically about what it is they are trying to achieve rather than what is being done and who is doing it. It may well be that patchworks of service delivery models are required – some areas may have residents who can organise themselves, others may not.
It looks like a lot of the discussion around efficiency savings in local government is focusing on reducing staff numbers, restructuring and cutting services. In other words, doing the same things, only cheaper. This means councils could fall into the trap of doing the wrong things righter as opposed to taking the opportunity to really rethink who delivers what and how.
4. Be bold
Another key message from the day was that this is exactly the time for local government to throw off its shackles, rethink approaches to risk, and embrace innovative ways of working. I guess this comes down to attitude – is innovation a costly luxury, or a vital part of meeting demand in a time of cost cuts?
For a forward thinking person, the latter is obviously preferable, but is it likely to be the route taken by most local government managers? I’m not sure. But those that do will find themselves getting ahead of the rest.
Of course, who actually does the innovation is an interesting question. As I have mentioned above, the council’s role in this innovation might just be to pass the work onto someone who can actually do the innovating…
5. Don’t be boring
More and more I’m drawn back to what I posted about 18 months ago – that government should get away from the idea that for something to be useful it has to be very serious and dare I say it, boring. The greatest example of this at Local by Social was from Do the Green Thing, a wonderful campaign about getting people engaged in being a bit more environmentally aware. Take their videos for example, simple, funny and memorable:
Again, this is exactly what Let’s Talk Central is about – we don’t want to force people to read huge documents, or fill in surveys with hundreds of questions, or make them send emails into black holes from which they never get a response. We wanted to get people to talk about what they are interested in, using a medium they are comfortable with, in the space where they like to go.
Communications from councils are too boring. Consultation with councils is too boring. Decision making processes in councils are too boring. Selling to councils is too boring. I’m not talking dumbing down, I’m talking making things attractive to people, to encourage them to get involved.
For me, this is the most important thing to fix, and it’s probably the easiest of them all as well.
Participle take on a new issue a year, so far: ageing, families and youth
People are skipping the “third age” – period when you have retired but are physically healthy and active. This is bad for individuals but also for the state
Invert Maslow’s hierarchy of needs
Southwark Circle – membership org for anyone over age of 50 (tho younger people aren’t prevented from joining) in Southwark. Helpers (some volunteers, some professional) and members. Over 400 members from all parts of society.
People join because they have a practical task that needs to be completed, also for learning purpose.
Tech is a hyperlocal network managed by 3 people. Entirely virtual, no office or community centre.
Members in different periods of their life find value in Southwark Circle. People join wanting to receive help but end up becoming helpers themselves.
Cost is £10 a year to be a member. Token system to pay for help.
Works with various existing services and charities.
Cost savings in 5 years – £2.18m.
Suffolk Circle about to launch, then Hammersmith and Fulham