Dave Briggs has done an excellent job of tracking the pending demise of the Lichfield based ICELE: the International Centre of Excellence for Local eDemocracy.
A while ago I wrote about frustrations with organisations who wanted to get people blogging (great) yeh) but always on constrained platforms of their own making (which of course are likely to get switched off when the funding runs out). This included frustrations with ICELE’s VOICE platform. As a model this is not as sustainable as encouraging people to self publish using readily available web tools. Yes blogger could go bump or wordpress run out of steam, typepad might find itself in six stages of separation from a viable business model – but all of them at once?
Dave has done really well to find himself with a full statement as a comment on his blog post from Dylan Jeffrey who’s overseen ICELE for Communities and Local Government. Go here to read the whole thing. Let me quote a key bit.
I recognise that ICELE has taken forward the work of several
components of the local e-Government programme including the Local
e-Democracy National Project and disseminated these through your award
winning website. In addition, ICELE has won some European funding to
enhance understanding and good practice around eParticipation and
ensured that assistance to local authorities has been available on the
complex issue of local e-democracy when required.
However when ICELE was established, CLG gave a commitment of funding
up to 31 March 2008 with a key objective for the Centre to “build a
model for long-term sustainability beyond the programme life-span”.
Regrettably, sustainability has not been demonstrated despite the
successful bids for EU grants.
My Department remains committed to encouraging the use of ICT for
empowerment in partnership with others to facilitate and enhance local
democracy. As part of the Government’s work on the forthcoming
Community Empowerment White Paper, we are actively considering how best
to utilize new technologies to support community empowerment. ICELE has
been very active in responding to recent consultations on a number of
issues linked to the forthcoming White Paper and these have been
gratefully received. However, in looking at this broad agenda, we have
to assess the value, sustainability and potential benefits that other
organisations could also offer in taking forward the work in this area.
So the real criticism of ICELE in the statement is that the model was not sustainable. Paul Canning is cross partly because he thinks closing ICELE is a waste of money already invested:
How many millions has been wasted? On this and countless other now dead and buried ‘resources’?
As I have commented ad nauseum, it’s not like there aren’t numerous overseas models ready to copy.
What next for the web and Community Empowerment?
That process of figuring other ways to use the social web to strengthen communities and strengthen local democracy is already underway. On Thursday a number of us (including Paul Bradshaw, David Wilcox, Dave Briggs, Dominic Campbell and Steve Bridger) are getting together with Simon Berry as part of his secondment to Communities and Local Government to see what steps we think should come next and what that might mean for this summers Community Empowerment White Paper.
So what do you reckon?
- Think 5 years ahead. What tools will be most easily available and how will be people use them to empower themselves, shape their communities, shape the public services in their neighbourhoods?
- What will this mean for government, how can government (mostly local) influence this process, take part in it, encourage it.
- What habits will stifle it and can they be stopped?