Hello 2013

I usually spend the first week of the New Year hibernating and this year was no different.  I like to spend the time at home doing various forms of domestic organisation and getting projects started and ready for the year.  This year I have been spending most of the time of the edits of the final version of my thesis as I seem to be nearly ready to submit it (whoop!) which I can hardly believe.  In fact I won’t until it’s done so no more of that.

As part of my mental spring cleaning I have been thinking about some of the things I want to help make happen this year and this sort of leads into thoughts about UKGovCamp  and also Councillor Camp  – both of which I’m looking forward to being in the next few weeks.  It also feeds into the prep for the Master of Networks event   I’m off to with @Demsoc and some folks from GDS later in the month.

There are four main themes that are buzzing around in my head at the moment:

  • Collaborating as the new normal – not just when its easy:  I touched on this with the post I wrote before Christmas (Networks and Culture Change) but I want to spend some energy thinking about how both internal and external collaboration can work better.  Part of this is the old chestnut of breaking down silos – but I think we need to understand this in terms of dismantling and amending mental models and changing people’s relationships with their colleagues – not just blowing up the storm shelter.  We also need to think of this in terms of mutual respect.  If we are moving to an asset based model for community engagement then we need to do the same with colleagues and respect what people do know rather than criticising them from the POV of our own expertise – we need to be open.  Is also involves having the ability to be both single minded at the same time as being authentically open and inclusive.  Tricky.
  • Being clear that we do expect our politicians to be effective online:  I also want to spend time developing the work we are doing in the east of England researching what a networked councillor might look like and how we can better support them.  It ties in with the councillor camp event next week but also with the work we have been doing on PCCs (I’m off to catch up with some of the new PCCs in the next couple of months so I will report back!).  I think we have to be more demanding of our democratic relationships but that means supporting them more effectively.
  • Using networks to effect behaviour change:  I am fascinated by the work we are doing with Leicestershire Police and others to look at how we move social media from a communication to a more operational basis within the force and I can’t wait to get into some of the ideas that we came up with the workshop before Christmas and also to see how these might translate for other parts of government.  Once you have started to use network effects then looking at their ability to influence behaviour is the next step as long as we remember that that influence has to be two way – we have to be open to being influenced.
  • Digital as culture change: These all link to a bigger theme which is the framing of the digital channel shift as a cultural rather than simply a technological one.  We’ve just started a couple of projects which I think get right to the heart of this so more on that later this month.

Digital Civic Spaces

I’m really excited about the fact that we have been making huge progress with Citizenscape over the last few months and we have some exciting things planned to push this further.  I also want to circulate my research findings around Digital Civic Spaces a bit more (now they are finished!) and start to connect this to some of the conversations we see happening about Smart Cities – I want to make sure we are building a social element into this thinking.  And more generally research wise – once I actually push the submit button and start stressing about my viva – I want to look at two different areas.  One is to pick up on some of the thinking about digital identity and to poke how ‘fit for purpose’ some of the thinking/doing is when we consider democratic not just transactional needs.  Happily we are part of an EU research project on this so lots of opportunity to get into this.  Secondly I want to expand some of the network theory work I have started in the thesis and see if it can be operationalised more systematically   This connects both to the @Leicspolice work but also to the Master of Networks event where we are going to be looking at how you model content ingress from multiple civic sources.
So – interested in hearing if other people think these themes resonate with them as well – and also if anyone thinks these look like a #ukgov13 session – or not!

Happy New Year folks

PS  Re-reading this is seems like a set of New Year’s Resolutions – we’ll have to see how that goes!

  1. tomsprints

    January 10, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    Happy New Year to you, Catherine. I’m working as a dogsbody at CouncillorCamp, but hope I’ll get a chance to hear or see how some of this pans out.

    Your comments on collaboration are very interesting, and chime with a discussion I had with a former colleague earlier this week. I’ve always felt very secure in my skin, and I’m collaborative by nature. I also worked in local gov long enough to know that threats to jobs were constant and commonplace. However, it often seemed to me that I had colleagues who didn’t “get” collaboration and who were, at the same time, insecure and giving the impression of fighting constantly to stay in work.

    The two go hand in hand, of course. If you think the guy on the next desk will steal your job, you tend not to collaborate with him. People and organisations tend to find it hard to collaborate with those they think are “out to get them”. If you are, say, a District Council, and think the County Council has its eyes on unitary status (or vice versa), you’re unlikely to put your reputation to the test in a collaborative venture. Very few local authorities I’ve worked with have ever been happy about sharing credit for success. I’ll wager you’ve seen the same.

    Therefore, I float the thought your way that making collaboration work depends a lot on a sense of security on the part of all parties involved.

    See you soon.

    • curiouscatherine

      January 10, 2013 at 6:41 pm

      Happy New Year! Will be fab to see you on Saturday (have still not made it to Kent but now have date – will check with you when I see you)

      I think you make a really good point here and its a real leadership challenge – how do you give your team the confidence they need to collaborate when they are in fear of losing their jobs? I think it comes down to how we reward to collaboration as well as making sure that people are skilled up to do it.

      There is no easy answer but I think we have to look outside to the future of work debate to look at the fact that in the future many people will be working in a much more fragmented way and relying on their skills rather than their embedded position – Government is no different.


  2. Jo Ivens (@jo_ivens)

    January 10, 2013 at 5:07 pm

    I’m very interested in the ‘internal collaboration’ bit that you mention too. It’s becoming more and more critical to our survival, let alone to success and growth. And, I think it’s something that we struggle with more than perhaps is acknowledged and it’s often the case that when one person or group is ready to collaborate, the other is not.

    I’m trying to create a more collaborative culture in our workplace, where the instinctive reaction is ‘how can we look at what we do on this together’ rather than ‘we do it like *this* and are ambivalent about any alternatives’.

    I haven’t really thought about it in depth beyond modelling that behaviour myself, trying to remove any practical barrier to collaboration and celebrating and rewarding collaboration where it does occur. Any thoughts or suggestions on how to make the change, as small and as incremental as that may be, would be extremely welcome!


    • curiouscatherine

      January 10, 2013 at 7:10 pm

      Agree! Again there is a leadership thing here for me – is the most powerful (not always the most important) person setting the pace correctly? And are collaborative behaviours rather than collaborative outcomes being rewarded – for example are you (generically – not specifically you) thanking people publicly for sharing information? Are you recognizing someones skill and knowledge in connecting people together?

      I think – and this is a bit brutal – that where an organisation might be shrinking – we also have to ‘sell’ collaboration as being a skill for any future job – not just this one

      Will be asking for more thoughts as I am out and about – will blog!


  3. martinhowitt

    January 10, 2013 at 7:41 pm

    Hi Catherine

    I definitely thing the digital civic spaces thing is a UKGC13 session and I’ve started thinking more about that agenda. We just need to cut a deal to propose the session 🙂

    Happy New Year!

    • curiouscatherine

      January 10, 2013 at 8:30 pm

      I’ll meet you on the queue for pitching!! Actually though – when are you coming up? Am in London on the Friday as well so could plot then……

      • tomsprints

        January 10, 2013 at 8:55 pm

        Count me in for that session at ukgc13!

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