Networking networked councillors

This is another blogpost in place of an email and reflects my observations of the second networked councillor workshop. You can read the first blogpost here. We have now run the workshop in Suffolk and West Sussex and the experience has actually been fairly consistent which is good!

The focus of this workshop is around networks, finding them, connecting to them and starting to strategically manage them.

Things that worked:

  • The networking mapping exercise was really helpful – its a nice visual way to help people understand their network layers building up offline, online and aspirational networks and see how they intersect. That being said we probably need a slightly more structured planning sheet and I can’t wait to see how the online network mapping tool can improve this process. The one tweak we made between the two sessions was to offer people multiple points of entry to the process. In Suffolk we guided people towards local maps but in West Sussex we suggested local, issue or campaign based maps as a starting point. Interestingly one of the most useful insights people had from this process was in understanding how they can make their current offline network more efficient using social media.
  • It was useful to show people what viral means on different platforms as a way of helping people appreciate the differences between Twitter and Facebook for example. I think we really helped people to understand the difference between simple counting of likes and real reach and how they can work effectively with key influencers. This is a critical concept so really pleased that this went well.

Things that worked less well – or that we shall have to wait and see

  • Its clear that we need to think a bit more about the support model in a bit more detail. In some cases the officer support is working brilliantly and actually most participants have had really useful meetings. As a small admin point we need to find some way of picking up when these meetings are not happening. The more substantive issue is that we need to find out how to provide skills backup when more expert knowledge is needed. This is often still within the council (and often within the officer mentor group) but we need to be able not only match members and officers but also provide access to those expert skills for the whole cohort.  What is happening at the moment is that member experience is a little patchy as some mentors have stronger skills in specific areas than others – we just need to even this out a bit
  • The pacing is not quite right and we probably need to be more prescriptive around what needs to be completed by the end of sprint one in order to get best use of the sprint two materials. For Cambridgeshire we are going to trial using a more structured planning sheet to help members work through their digital footprint – this should serve to set some expectations but also provide clearer guidance to mentors as to what help is needed with set up.
  • I think there is still a question as to how we help people both identify and find active citizens online. Finding is a fairly simple business of a structured search aimed at informal civic activity in the area but the identification is about members deciding whether or not this is someone that they want in their network. We tried a number of methods with this in the two sessions and so will need to evaluate which works best

We now need to get going on gathering some evaluation data on these two sprints. The anecdotal evidence that this is working is very strong – but we are keen to also make sure that we can evidence it. I put some ideas for evaluation in the last blogpost – but now its time to crack on and do this.

We have also been trialling a slightly different format in Cardiff where we have split sprint one into two different workshops.  the first session when well (and the participants were really interesting as there was a high level of social media take up already) but we’ll blog the overall effect of splitting that session up after the next one (which is not until next week).

Planning note for the team: The next sprint is much more about co-production and actually using the presence and networks which participants have been creating – I think this means we have to do some kind of sense-check on whether or not participants have this foundation in advance of the session.  Need to think about how we do this!

If you are one of the participants reading this then please let me know if this doesn’t reflect your experience!


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