I find this stuff so that you don’t have to.
- Government Reservists 2 – an idea for the Big Society? | Podnosh – "We do need government to change itself and fast. Might government reservists now be a way for active citizens and government staff to understand each other better, work together more closely and wrought change?"
- Open Data: Challenges & Opportunities « West Midlands Regional Observatory – Interesting event in Brum on 15th July.
- Swansea Scrutiny – Great WordPress based blog site for Scrutiny in Swansea.
- 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."
- Easy Business Finance Software, Simplified Small Business Accounting and Cashflow Planning | inDinero.com – A SaaS accounting package for small businesses. See Kashflow, Freshbooks etc
- How to Build Engaging One-of-Kind Facebook Fan Pages – "Don’t let anyone tell you it is easy to create a successfully engaging Facebook Fan Page. It is not."
- 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."
- 10 Do’s and Don’ts of Opening Up Public Data – 100% Open – "What economic and social value can be generated with all this data? How can we make more innovative products and services for less?"
- Guest Post: A Developers’ Guide to the Linked Data APIs – Jeni Tennison | data.gov.uk – "Linked data offers some great advantages for publishing government data. The approach makes it easy to publish information in a way that allows it to be combined with other sets of data, without an up-front agreement about exactly what information should be published."
You can find all my bookmarks on Delicious. There is also even more stuff on my shared Google Reader page.
You can also see all the videos I think are worth watching at my video scrapbook.
I had a great time last week at the Centre for Public Scrutiny conference last Thursday. I ran a workshop, which involved me talking for a bit, and then a discussion amongst those in the room.
Here are the slides from the talk, just in case they are useful:
(If you can’t access Slideshare, here’s a PDF.)
The discussion bit of the workshop was very simple, but quite illuminating. I simply asked the delegates to have a chat around their tables about what their hopes and fears are for this new way of doing things.
Many of the hopes and (especially) fears were common across the groups. I’ve listed them below, aggregating the similar ones together. Over the next week or so I’m going to be coming up with some possible approaches to tackle some of the fears, and to ensure the hopes become reality, and I will share that here as well as with the CfPS.
- Inform future debate
- Engaging younger people in scrutiny
- Engaging those who cannot attend meetings
- Be able to get good intelligence for enquiries by listening to local forums and other online groups
- Getting members involved in forums, to learn the local view on issues
- Get a better balance of involvement, rather than just those already involved in the scrutiny process
- Use social networking in balance with traditional methods for a blended approach
- People would know what they are contributing to – and not have responses disappear into a black hole
- More open conversation with the public
- A method of getting members themselves more involved
- Culture change in the council not being scared on losing control of comms and messages
- Greater participation will give more weight to decisions and recommendations
- The authority will be more accountable
- Potential savings in time and cost for consultation activity
- Great transparency of process
- Better targetting of engagement and communication to particular service users, for example
- Potential for deliberation between the public and members without it becoming a fight
- Confusion of role between elected members and officers in answering questions etc in online spaces
- Potential for being overwhelmed by responses, or activity being generally too time consuming
- Need to manage expectations of action resulting from engagement activity
- Can councils react spontaneously – can they do “real time”?
- Capacity and knowledge both of officers and members to do this stuff
- Issue of manipulation of process by vocal and active minorities and also using pseudonyms to skew results
- Corporate communications may wish to control messages coming from the council and interfere – or shut down activity entirely
- Nobody wants to get involved!
- Resource implications of moderating and managing websites
- Potential impact on council reputation
- IT access to technology – many of these sites are blocked. Also lack of support from corporate IT
- Need to support members in this activity could be very time consuming
- Fears of negative comments which make the council want to stop its involvement
- Problems of interesting people in the less thrilling aspects of scrutiny work programmes
- Risk averse nature of most councils
- Need to be selective as not all the information can be online.
I like scrutiny – it was one of my first jobs in local government to help the process at a smallish borough council. The CfPS does a great job of supporting good practice in the area, and recently this is taking the form of providing advice and guidance around using online methods to engage people with the process.
Cannot find server: reconnecting public accountability is a recent publication looking into this area. The blurb says:
The Centre for Public Scrutiny has published a critical analysis of what internet communication technologies might mean for public accountability. Cannot find server looks at themes in public engagement, and democracy to establish whether emerging social media are likely to enhance or hinder accountability. In an environment where too few accounts of this subject matter adopt a critical position a balanced analysis of the issue was needed. By looking at examples (both hypothetical and real) this publication helps the reader to build an understanding of where social media should fit within a broader engagement strategy.
It’s well worth a read, and is a free download (PDF warning).