Ok then – this is the last of this year’s workshop posts as I think the Redbridge session will fall into next year now.
We had an excellent day at Kirklees which also spent some time talking technology and trying to develop the fit with the existing 21st Century Councillor work which is being undertaken. Lots of opportunities there we think which I will detail once we have firmed it up a bit. We also then ran through some detailed project planning and ideas for how we connect the Virtual Town Hall to other agendas which was very useful for me in terms of seeing the project rather than from my socio-techno-evangelist bubble.
We then had a workshop session with officers which was great – they really engaged with the idea and we talked out some of the nuances of the relationship between this work and the way that they are already looking at innovating around the customer relationship. As a group they managed to balance a proper appreciation for exactly how radical this idea potentially with a sense of how to move it forward in a managed risk kind of way. No surprise then that we had an excellent ‘scenarios of doom’ session and we have a first draft of a really manageable risk register for the project – I will do a post of the project risk register once we have got it all agreed with the participants and I check which of the risks they are happy for me to talk about here.
We then met with a few of the members who are part of the 21st Century Councillor project. We had a good debate here as well but I was very rightly pulled up on excessive use of jargon – I must find a way to talk about widgets which makes sense to people who are not into this stuff.
I think this really links to my thoughts after the North Lincs session and is a really timely reminder that we have to think through what this all means for people who are not digitally engaged as well as the people who are. There is no point in a renegotiated citizen / government relationship with only part of the population. It is all very well with a pilot project to look at the people who are already ‘opted in’ but we also need to be clear about the limits and boundaries of this approach in that you cannot expect everyone to want to engage in this way.
More academically I think this links to something that I need to be really careful of in my research work – it’s important that my enthusiasm for this idea and this approach does not effect what should be a neutral assessment of the factual outcomes of the pilot. I need to ensure that I do not introduce bias into this process though my own (strongly held!) opinions. I think this is one of the things which makes it much more difficult to be a practitioner / researcher than to be a more neutral academic – but I also think it can lead to a much richer understanding of the results. I have some driving time this week and I think it will be spent thinking about a bigger picture which encompasses online and offline and starts to look at this as one of the boundaries we are trying to effect along with the move from informal to formal participation.