Tag: Politicians

Why doesn't government have reservists?

It starts here

The role of government is going to change.  As individuals find it easier to collaborate and solve problems, traditional government structures will need to be reshaped and rewired. So how do we start this change?

The people’s pilot light

I first found myself thinking of the role of government as a “pilot light” at a Department for Communities and Local Government event on digital inclusion. Most government bodies are prone to consider themselves as somehow permanent but what would they be like if they got their collective heads around being only sometimes on? The pilot light on the boiler that hums quietly away, then sparks into life when things get a bit chilly.

That, of course, is very Keynsian and at the moment government is turning itself to full roar and bunging on all 4 rings on the gas cooker in an attempt to get some heat back into the economy.

What is interesting though is how we habitually structure most government on an assumption of permanence.  That means that when we need more government we struggle to find the capacity and when we need less we are clumsy at shrinking, often reluctant to scale it back and put the excess capacity to useful work elsewhere.

32nd Birmingham and District Leisure and Tourism Light Foot (reserve)

This is why I think government needs reservists.  In the good times these people will be working happily in private industry, training a couple of weeks of the year with government oppos, creating links and bridges that wouldn’t otherwise exist, speeding up the modernisation of government by sharing new ideas and ways of working.

Of course social/private firms and the third sector already provide contractual spare capacity for government.  – I’m wondering if it makes sense to create some stronger culture of treating government as something that gets deployed where and when it is needed.

Rehydrate in case of emergency.

We need to create the core notion of government that grows and shrinks depending on the task in hand.  This habit will be key to responding to self organising citizens.  Why clean a street if the people who live there use some of their combined social capital to keep it clean for themselves? Often it’s simply because we planned to clean it, it’s our job – what are they doing cleaning it anyway!

This is not a complete answer, nor a wholly formed thought, so help me here please.  How do we re-structure government to respond to widespread self organising citizens?

(image “It starts here” from Mikey G Ottowa.)

Gartner Research – social networks will partly replace government.

This post from Gartner Research is well worth a good read for anyone interested in large organisations and social media.

Gartner predicts the execution of many government processes in human services, tax and revenue, health care and education will involve individuals who are neither employees nor contractors. Examples include replacement of some human services functions such as online collection of charitable donations to be directed to people in need combined with online ‘time banks’ through which citizens provide time to help others. “The future of government is a very different government and, in some cases, no government at all,” concluded Mr Di Maio.


Gartner points out that the benefits of social computing — when accrued — will rarely occur in the context of government-driven initiatives. For example, governments’ desire to retain ownership and control of the network, through restrictive participation policies, will be detriment to magnetism.

Gartner recommends that governments engage selected employees in finding external social networks relevant to the agency and its domain of government. They should also ensure that the use of social computing inside and between government organisations is based on a clear and compelling purpose – which is likely to be something that they cannot ‘engineer’. “Instead, they should recognise that spontaneity is needed for success,” said Mr Di Maio.

Thanks to Beth Kanter.

What is a Birmingham Blogger doing at the Tory Party Conference?

Tory women in heels

That’s what I kept asking myself, and I wasn’t alone. Other members of the Birmingham bloggers’ group who’d registered to cover the conference were also considering what they might write, if they should right anything. Why were they there?

I know why I was there. Because I was invited.

It a huge occasion and I’m delighted I went. One blogger has described this invitation to local web folk as a charm offensive. Well charmed I have been. Partly by the warm and relaxed welcome from Rishi Saha, the Conservative’s head of social media, but also by the sheer scale and energy of the event. It is the first conference in Birmingham I’ve found with such a huge fringe. Events leach into the rest of the city centre. One massive conversation, much of it in very high heels.

It is also the only conference where it is not just up to us as a city to make a good impression. Sure we need to be our normal hospitable self, but equally the Tories need to make a good impression on us.

I’ve been to Conservative party conferences before as a BBC political reporter. I’ve covered huge events in Birmingham – notably the G8 conference. That was easy. I knew my job was to tell the overall story – the mainstream consensus. If possible I should also find an exclusive something – but that something still had to satisfy a mass audience – or rather the editors who judge what interests that audience. This time it was harder.

Then it dawned on me why a blogger should got to any political party conference: to write about the things they normally write about.

My niche is that curious overlap between active citizenship, citizen journalism, social media, mainstream journalism and local government.

It is a mishmash of a place and any party conference is riddled with material that fits my normal area of interest. Oddly this only occurred to me late this afternoon.

Tis the fringe stupid: Bloggers are perfectly suited to one particular part of a major conference – the fringe. It is there the fit happens, the wider the range of blogging interests present the greater the depth of coverage we will get from these events.

So tomorrow I’ll be back to share a story or two and hopefully they will be the things my normal readers want to to read.

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