The parish and town council sector may have a certain image, but it’s hard not to be enthused by the likes of Justin Griggs, whose presentation at the recent Open Space South West event (slides here) was an illuminating discussion of a sector growing in importance.
So when Justin asked for some help in generating a debate online about the future of localism, we were only too pleased to!
The What Next for Localism site we have built is a simple one to allow people to give their views and ideas on what needs to happen next to push forward the localism agenda.
This is quite a departure for the usual way of doing things for NALC, and it’s great that a new approach is being taken. Hopefully it wil mean that a new bunch of people will get involved in NALC’s work that normally don’t bother.
I know that the team are hoping to hear from as many people as possible, with innovative and challenging ideas about the future of localism – so please do visit the site and add your views!
A couple of weeks ago I was talking to the national conference of the Society for Local Council Clerks up in Durham. It was a great conference with a group of people who really care about what they do and the communities they help serve.
My talk was on the usual stuff of how the web can help all of this happen. Particularly pertinent for this sector, where over half of Parish, Town or Community Councils don’t have a website. Most of the councillors in this sector don’t use email.
(I do sometimes think that we forget, in all the excitement about the new forms of online tools, just how utterly brilliant the act of simply publishing stuff online is. The fact that it is so easy, and can reach so many people!)
So, to help them out, I produced a ten point manifesto for what to do and where to start with this stuff.
If I’m honest, I threw this together in ten minutes whilst slightly hungover. However, I think there is value in most of it, and it would be interesting if others would pitch in and suggest some improvements.
Here’s the ten points:
Get the basics right
Don’t spend lots of money
Go where people already are
Don’t forget: what you say is permanent and findable
Use the right tool for the right crowd
Promote online stuff with offline stuff
Be open, honest and human
Don’t overburden with process
Make your stuff findable, sharable and reuseable
Think: how does the web change the way we do everything?
Open Source: Give as well as take – "To this end, I will be encouraging all new WCC application development projects to distribute their source code and documentation under an open source license. The first example of this is the application that drives our open data catalogue, developed using Ruby on Rails and hosted on Heroku."
Will the iPhone and iPad finally kill off the Mac? – "Until recently, I would have said that the (open, permissive) Google/Android system would win out over the (closed, tightly controlled) Apple device. But sales of the new iPhone lead one to wonder if it will be Apple, and not Google, which replaces Microsoft as the company we love to hate."
The Big Society #2: Strengthening local leadership – "Whether they’re called community leaders or organisers, local champions, or bastions of grass roots democracy doesn’t really matter; current and future councillors play a big role in supporting the Big Society."
Quite a few events coming up in the next couple of weeks that I should probably let you know about.
Next week I’m attending a few things: on Monday, the Clay Shirky lecture on Cognitive Surplus at the LSE, followed by the Learning Pool steering group meeting on Tuesday. I’ll be talking to the group about our plans for further engagement work along the lines of our Let’s Talk Central project with Central Bedfordshire Council, as well as some updates to our Modern Councillor service, which I hope to be able to tell everyone about real soon.
Then on Thursday I am going to be talking to the Centre for Public Scrutinyconference about engaging with local communities online. I will be particularly looking forward to this as my second job in local government was as a scrutiny officer at a district council.
I’m ending the week in Bristol, at NALC‘s conference celebrating local democracy. I’ll be showing some local council clerks and councillors how they can be spending a little bit of time and no money at all on cool ways of engaging with their communities online.
After a rest – or should I say, chance to catch up on email – over the weekend, I hit the road again, or rather the train, heading down to NESTA’s ‘Digital Disrupters‘ event on Monday 5th.
Then it’s Wednesday at the LGA conference in Bournemouth where I’m facilitating a fringe session, optimistically titled “A thoroughly modern council”. You can sign up for it here.
Finally, on Friday I travel again to the south-west, this time to Cheltenham to the Institute of Local Council Management summer seminar. I’ll be talking about “using social networking technologies for mobilising political and community action”.
Busy times! I shouldn’t complain though, if it were any different I would probably be quite bored.