Social Council getting its groove

I had a great couple of days in Solihull this week with the Social Council team and others and while I have a huge pile of notes and actions to write up I wanted to capture my immediate reflections/observations using the famous @danslee 20 point blog post method (yes – I know there are 22 points but its a guide only!!).

It is working?

  1. Its great to see the project taking on its own energy – while it is still very open and clearly still being shaped participants are asking for more structure and also have a desire to pick up the pace. As someone who is usually very impatient its useful personal learning about giving things space to take on their own identity like this.
  2. We have to make sure that we make this all much more accessible than these early stages have been – both internally and externally. This is always a personal challenge for me so I am very grateful that the team at the Canteen and at Public-i consistently challenge the project on this point
  3. It is a HUGE asset to be able to work closely with two public services – the Council and the Police – and its an education in itself to see the way in which real collaboration is already in place to make this work
  4. One of things that is inhibiting communication is a lack of confidence around the technology – we need to address this (probably via the Cafe)
  5. We have three clear strands in terms of work with members, work with communities and then work with officers on process and systems. This is a good balance to have as we look at whole system change.
  6. We are still in brainstorming mode – it’s still too intangible – but as we do better communications about the specific strands this should shift into a delivery mode for those three strands – at least for the next few months before we stop and reflect
  7. There is an important balance between too much and too little – too much and we end up creating a ‘grand theory of everything’ and we won’t make progress. Too little and we risk not actually making change happen
  8. At the heart of a lot of this is tension between coproduction and sharing vision – we may never resolve this!!

We need more structure

  1. We need to ‘land’ the point that discipline and rigour doesn’t necessarily mean command and structure
  2. We need to make better use of the Social Media Cafe’s and we will have a plan in place for this in the next month
  3. What are the actual projects
  4. Interesting to see the idea of the skills audit becoming central as we start to investigate the skills we have and those we will need going forward – also echoed in the conversation with @solpolcommander and @CIphilhealy
  5. Other projects are:
  • #Soliday – a heritage led day in the life project
  • Citizenscape pilot – looking at working differently with communities online and offline
  • Networked Councillor work – but ‘customised’ to reflect Solihull’s culture and values
  • Contact Centre BPR type thinking alongside the Social Media channel shift
  • Independent Living
  • Exploration of Internal/External and shared online spaces – a bit of the work which does not yet have a name!

What do we need to do next?

  1. We need to weave in a conversation about open data and open practice more explicitly – what are the cultural symbols of being ‘open by default’
  2. I am going to enjoy trying to help figure out how we blend old and new process/system – and ensure that the back office systems evolve in the way in which we need. Once a systems analyst, always a systems analyst
  3. This links to a question about how we will manage the formal alongside the informal and the networked alongside the hierarchical. Very good to have met with the CLT this time to start to work on how we will do this over time
  4. We will have a risk register but not as you know it!
  5. Before the next trip we need to have mapped the points of connection between Social Council and other groups and projects – for example Safer Solihull and the Health and Wellbeing Board.
  6. We need to come up with some structured comms around the process – this will be based on the descriptions that Social Canteen participants will be emailing me over the next week or so (hint hint)

What might the future look like?

  1. Lots of discussion about how we set the right kind of tone online – one which is constructive and respectful without being bureaucratic and irrelevant
  2. How do we create a culture of safety where people look after each other online?
  3. The networked structure of the Canteen is already helping to make connections between different projects and ideas within the Council – we need to amplify this to turn it into a different way of working overall

Next post will be on measurement as we now have a plan for the data collection and I want to start making this a bit more real (this is the point about discipline not needing too much structure).  I will also be digging into some of these points in more detail in other blogposts so please comment if you have questions and I will do my best to answer – or point you at one of the other #socialcouncil folks.

So – there is lots in here but hopefully it gives you a flavour of where we are.


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  2. Mark Rogers

    October 20, 2013 at 8:00 pm

    A five point plan:
    1. Improve understanding (speak, blog, tweet etc)
    2. Increase pace (JFDI?)
    3. Assume “open by default” (something totemic)
    4. Up the comms (individuals and corporate)
    5. CLT to lead by example (talk about it, sponsor a project, etc)

    • curiouscatherine

      October 20, 2013 at 8:05 pm

      Much more succinct than my 22 points! Will translate it into a plan…with charts…in fact with JFDI it myself and provoke some of the symbolic stuff that came up last week

  3. Ken Hawkins

    January 27, 2014 at 4:24 pm

    Very sorry for late response Catherine. I am like British Rail but I do get there in the end.

    The Social Council has had a good start in Solihull and the momentum has increased; the café we held last week was extremely well attended and is evidence of the over riding support from officers, partner agencies, the general public and members (yes, two new members signed on).

    Like a lot of these projects it is import to give a little concentration on communication so that the project is not seen as being for the nerds or social media elite.


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