GoogleLocalGov tomorrow

Google

The GoogleLocalGov event is taking place tomorrow, and by the sound of things it is going to be packed to the rafters with attendees and great content.

Here is what topics will be being discussed by Google’s team of experts:

  • Google Adwords
  • Site Conversion & Analytics
  • Google Adsense
  • Enterprise Solutions
  • YouTube & Creative Options
  • OpenSocial
  • Android
  • Google Maps

There is also a nice little site leading local gov folk through what Google can offer, which is well worth a look.

If you can’t make the event tomorrow, fear not, you’ll be able to follow it all on our friend Twitter – just keep an eye on the #googlelocalgov tag.

Edit: another bit of fun will be carrying on after the event for drinks and more nattering in a boozer near Kings Cross, McGlynns to be precise. If you want to come to the drinks but aren’t at GoogleLocalGov it is probably best to aim for 5.30-6ish as that is when the Googlers will be arriving. Thanks to Dan for organising.

LocalGovCamp a sell out

I’m delighted to be able to say that all the tickets for next month’s LocalGovCamp have been claimed. This is remarkable: all gone in just over a week! Many thanks for the enthusiasm so many people have shown.

If you haven’t got a ticket but would like one, just email me and I will add you to the reserve list. I’m hopeful that we will be able to get everyone that wants to come into the building!

The focus now shifts to making sure we have stuff to talk about on the day. I’m delighted that we have had a couple of suggestions already on the blog: one from Steve Dale about the Local Gov Knowledge Hub project he is working on; and one about strategy by Alan Colson from Solihull MBC.

Keep the ideas flowing, people!

Finally, the support from potential sponsors has been outstanding. You can find the latest on the Supporters page. There is more to come.

Simon Wakeman: Local gov shoudn’t be on Facebook

Simon Wakeman has a thought-provoking post on whether Councils should maintain corporate presences in social networking sites like Facebook at all:

People using social networks befriend (or fan, whatever the appropriate phrase is) organisations, movements, clubs etc on Facebook and other social networks because they have an emotional bond of some description with that entity.

They might be fans in the muscial or film sense (eg by signing up to a band’s page), be replicating membership of an offline group (eg by signing up to a sports club’s page) or be part of a shared interest movement (eg by signing up to a campaign or political group’s page).

All of these conscious choices by individuals using social networks are done because they have some empathetic or emotional relationship with the entity to which the page belongs. They become a fan because they want to and because they care in some way.

How does this sit with a local council? In the real world I’m not convinced people have such a bond with their council as a corporate body – yes, they have that emotional or empathetic reaction about many of the services that their local council provides them, but not about the council as a whole. There’s no real world basis for the creation of an online community.

As Liz’s research shows, one can see where Simon is coming from. Councils, at the moment, are not fairing terribly well on social networks.

I’d agree, as I have noted before, that making people become friends or fans of public bodies probably isn’t going to work. I commented on Simon’s piece:

However, there is a convincing argument for me that public bodies should be providing information to people in a format and in a location that suits them. There are many people who wouldn’t ever dream of visiting a council website who none-the-less might find the information available there useful. The trick is to present that information where they are likely to find it.

I think I’ve identified a way in which local authority, indeed any government organisation, can approach Facebook presence in a way that won’t embarrass those that use it. More soon.

Do councils need a website at all?

Simon Wakeman poses a potentially controversial question on his blog:

One idea that’s been playing on my mind for the past few days is whether a council needs a website at all.

Initially this might seem like complete heresy. Surely a public sector body providing services to local residents needs a website to help them communicate and provide online services to their residents?

But do they need a website in the sense that we might see a traditional “destination” website – a place where people go to find out information and do council stuff online?

One of the things that is making me challenge some assumptions is the increasing focus on place in local public services. For the uninitiated this means that there’s much less focus on the organisation providing particular local services (eg council, police, primary care trust…) and more on the organisations working together to provide services in a coherent way that suits residents and businesses, not service providers.

So why a council website alongside a police website alongside a primary care trust website?

He goes on to make some further really interesting points. Well worth a read.

I’m also thinking I need to add Simon to the Public Sector Bloggers list…

Stratford Bin Calendar

Not the most enticing of titles, possibly, but Stratford-on-Avon Council have launched a neat new service allowing people to easily look up when their bins should be collected (strikes permitting, of course) without the need for scanning long tables of towns, roads and dates. They announced it on their twitter feed.

You simple tell the system whereabouts in the district you live, and it tells you when your waste is collected. Easy.

Councils respond to Communities in Control

The Local Government Association has responded to the white paper Communities in Control on behalf of local authorities across the country. They are clearly anxious about finances:

Councils will work with the Government to ensure that any additional responsibilities that councils have as a result of these proposals are properly funded.

and are keen that not too much power goes to the people:

It is through representative democracy that elected councillors make tough decisions based on the interests of residents and this should remain the lynchpin of involving people locally.

Worth reading in full – thanks to Dominic for the link.

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?