An online conference for online stuff

Here’s my latest wheeze: an entirely online conference to discuss digital government stuff. It’ll be free too.

Here’s how things will run. There will be two sessions per day, three days a week over 2 weeks – so 12 in total. Right now I am thinking this will be between 7th and 18th May.

Topics under discussion will be stuff like:

  • Open data and why it matters for government
  • Making participation convenient for participants
  • Developing a strategy for digital engagement
  • How engaging with communities online can help government
  • Using social media in crisis situations

The sessions will go live at a certain time, and you’ll be able to watch a video or presentation from the speaker, and then discuss the topic using comments afterwards.

Once the session has gone live, you’ll be able to access and comment whenever you feel like it – although the speaker will only be guaranteed to be around for an hour or two after the session initially goes live (they may well choose to check in now and again after that, though!).

There will also be Twitter chat and so on involved too – in fact pulling together as many online resources as possible.

Obviously, it won’t be perfect – you could spend a lot of money developing a fully interactive online conferencing platform. But this will hopefully work well enough using freely available tools and a bit of WordPress hackery.

Any thoughts?

Local by Social: free online conference 3-9 November

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.

Here’s the skinny from the Local by Social blog:

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 (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.

Confirmed speakers

  • 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
  • Mike Thacker, Porism/ esd-toolkit
  • Richard Wallis, Talis
  • David Wilcox

Day 1 of Councillors Connected

The first day of the Councillors Connected online conference was really successful, with some excellent contributions from a whole host of different people. Here are some of my highlights:

A fantastic debate about the meaning of local to different people. Cllr Mike Causey kicked things off, asking

There’s a lot of good aspirations around social networking, the internet, and local government. However – and I write this as a Conservative councillor – even the very good paper from the Conservative party recently, outlining their vision for local government, does not address the fundamental thinking that must exist behind any such proposal – how local is local?

Conrad Taylor added to this theme:

I live in Southwark, but if I need to dispose responsibly of an old video machine and some batteries, my “local” waste disposal centre is in Mercury Way (Lewisham). Transport also shapes what is “local”: it’s easier for me to get to Waterloo than many places “more local” on an as-the-crow-flies basis because it is a single bus journey to Waterloo.

Paul Canning urged local authorities to make use of existing online communities and not to create new online spaces:

I think that anything which is funded and set up needs to firstly engage with this existing local discussion infrastructure and not appear to replace it. Many of these blogs and forums in my town have an audience, a community of interest. For example we have a very active local youth dominated forum mainly about music but also about activism and local issues.

After some more discussion, Mike Causey came back with his considered response:

I want to post how much my thinking is helped by this thread. And, at the risk of being accused of thinking up new jargon, the above ‘word’ might be a way to express the germ of an idea in my head. Especially the concept of local being so individual, and the potential of web and social media innovation to build bridges between this and artificial constructs and areas of our councils.

Excellent stuff, and a great way of showing how online discussions can be used to refine thinking and develop new ideas. I have hardly scratched the surface of this debate though, to see it in all its glory you will need to join the CoP.

Some other great threads on the day:

Today looks like it will be another cracking day, with Hugh Flouch of Harringay Online already posting a great piece on Community Websites: Friend or Foe?

Councillors connected

Over the next three days, a rather special event is taking place online – a virtual conference for council officers and members to learn about the benefits of using social media to engage with communities.

It’s happening on the IDeA Community of Practice platform, which does mean there are a couple of hoops to jump through before you can start posting. But it will be worth it!

Some of those contributing to the debates and discussions are:

  • Councillor Richard Kemp, of Liverpool City Council, Deputy Char of the LGA Executive and Leader of the LGA Liberal Democrat Group
  • Councillor James Cousins, of the London Borough of Wandsworth and co-founder of the Cllr Tweeps site
  • Dominic Campbell of FutureGov Consultancy
  • Shane McCracken of Gallomanor and CivicSurf (blogging mentor project for councillors)
  • Stuart Bruce, Wolfstar PR, former councillor
  • Hugh Flouch of Haringay Online (hyper-local networking site)
  • Simon Wakeman, Head of Marketing at Medway Council

I am helping out by facilitating some of the discussions and adding useful tidbits to the various conversations that will be going on. Hope to see lots of people joining in!