So – this is going to be a fairly quick one (for me) but here are some links and thoughts from a brilliant day yesterday at Councillor Camp. Firstly – a massive well done to the FutureGov team and in particular Jon Foster for a really well run event with great speakers (hopefully the presentations will be found on the #cllrcamp hashtag) – and more than that fantastic participants. 8 hours in the company of a diverse group of politicians all of whom ‘get’ the need for Local Government and Local Politics to really start to use digital properly is an energising thing. FutureGov create and curate this kind of thing brilliantly and I am very grateful that they do as I think its vital that we gather like minded people together to move the debate along.
I just wanted to capture my three points from the session at the end as my learning from the event and also to follow up on promises I made to provide links to various things. The learning points / observations for me are:
- Skills: We do not have enough of the relevant skills to make the behavioural as well as channel shift to digital either within the member population or the officer population. We either need to start widening our recruitment or thinking very hard about the kind of offer we are making to people – and perhaps both.
- Training and Support: We need to kick it up a gear. Half hearted sessions on how to use Twitter are not enough – we need to completely overhaul member support
- We cannot just create a fantastic collaborative and vibrant online conversation with the public in the way that many of the active Councillors were demonstrating and not think seriously about how we change the process of policy and decision making. We need democratic service redesign.
- We will not be able to really use social media as a democratic tool without breaking it out of the contextual confinement of being treated simply as another communication channel
Yes – there is a great start but there is a long way to go to turn our democratic use of social media from early adopter to mainstream status.
One final thought: I had a really interesting debate with an extremely eloquent and experienced Councillor who felt strongly that it was wrong to set an expectation that all Members should be active online. I thought about it on the way home and I think I have to (respectfully) disagree. I believe we have to clearly set an expectation for members and officers that they will be fluent in not only the technology but the underlying culture of the online world because increasingly this reflects the offline world. We will not get there immediately but I don’t think that should stop us setting the standard. I’d be interested to hear whether or not people agree with me on this.
And now – here are various links to resources from the sessions I suggested (I have not put anything up from the webcasting one but most of the examples I mentioned can be tracked down on the Public-i Website)
First up was a session on the evidence behind the digital channel shift. Most of this can be found referenced from this page I put together in 2011 – it needs updating (in particular with last years Hansard audit) but it has links to all the main stuff. The Oxford Internet Institute report is talked about here and the digital inclusion data (including links to the Helsper stuff which is hugely helpful) is all here.
I wrote a paper for the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners which brings some of this together and might also be of interest as it talks about designing a democratic office for the 21st Century as well as connecting Internet use with demographics (Digital Democracy).
Digital Civic Spaces
This whole blog is really all about these so feel free to poke around but the 5 criteria are below:
- Design Criteria 1: The purpose of a digital civic space to is to provide an environment in which any citizen who chooses to can observe, audit and participate in democratic debate and decision making – it is a Public and open space that is available to any interested Citizen.
- Design Criteria 2: The space should facilitate a co-productive relationship between Citizen and Government. This should extend to the content curation and management of the space
- Design Criteria 3: The geographical reach of the space should be self-defined by users with administrative boundaries being subordinate to ‘natural place’ described by the Civic Creators.
- Design Criteria 4: The space should support the principles of open government with respect to data, process and transparency
- Design Criteria 5: The space should be able to authenticate the identity of participants to a standard which makes their contribution available to consultation and policy making processes.
I found the session really interesting and the two things which I took away to properly think about were:
- The importance of having a clear view of the governance arrangements for the space and the role of the Members in the process
- The need to re-engineer decision making processes to accommodate this more agile and fluid civic debate or public sphere (the point about creating opportunities for the public to set the agenda was part of this
I’m going to (hopefully!) do a session on this at #ukgc13 next week so will blog more on this then
Great discussion about how to support councillors better and there was a general receptiveness to the idea that we need to have better quality information and analysis about social media available as well as a more sophitsicated discussion about digital footprints and identity. A few resources were mentioned which are here:
- The connected councillor report
- I also thought the GDS social Media Guidance might be helpful
- As well as the Tuesday 8:30pm twitter discussion on #lgovsm which is facilitated by @tomsprints
- Finally I think Net Smart by Howard Rheingold does a brilliant job of laying out the ‘soft’ skills needed – review of that here with the key elements
Please shout if I promised you information and haven’t delivered!!
Having been with you in at least one of those CouncillorCamp sessions, Catherine, I can’t disagree with your conclusions on the event or your recommendations. What really struck me during the day, though, was the VAST gulf of knowledge, skills and attitudes between the average Councillor who attended CouncillorCamp and most of those I have worked with over the years.
That’s not to suggest that attendees were social media experts. The practical sessions during the day showed this. What I think marked out the attendees was their open-mindedness about social media and its associated technologies, and their willingness to explore not only ways to exploit these to improve existing things, but their enthusiasm to see whether they gave scope to do new things, too!
All through the day, I kept hearing in my head the words of a very senior councillor from an event I was at not long ago. He asked, in all seriousness, “When will all the fuss about this internet thing die down, so that we can get back to doing things properly?”.
CouncillorCamp has shown me just what a huge job exists just to “level up” skill to a practicable level. I too would disagree with the person to whom you spoke, who wanted to suggest these things ought not be expected of all councillors. There is a modest social media skill set which, if grasped by all, would make a huge difference to participative democracy. The far bigger challenge is about attitudes, however…..