Tag: UKGovweb

Key Questions: Local Government and Social Media

What this blog post says.

Ingrid Koehler at the IDeA Srategy Unit poses seven good questions. Here are my thoughts, although they boil don’t to one key answer

Get involved and act like normal people do.

1 What are the greatest areas of potential benefit in councils using social media. These spring from the culture change which social media can help to drive, or rather requires you to adopt. Organisations which are alive to how social media can build trust, strengthen relationships and allow people to collaborate will eventually benefit from being able to work much better with the people they are there to serve. It helps make you a council which learns quickly, acts quickly, collaborates well inside and outside the organisation, is transparent and more trusted.

2 How can councils support individuals in becoming digitally enabled and empowered?  I think the answer is to start with your own staff. Councils employ a goodly proportion of those in work in any area and if they get it then that will reach many others. Give them access to organised yet informal help on how to use social media for their work. Reward those who share what they know and make sure they know they have permission to help the ‘citizen’ to also learn how to use the social web. Why doesn’t a housing repair team use social media to talk about what they do – why can’t they then share these skills with the people they meet in their work? Support would include identifying digital mentors in your teams and offering social media surgeries, some for insiders, some for outsiders and some for both. Don’t underestimate how much people enjoy using the social web and treat that as an opportunity.  Oh, and open up internet access to council staff.

3 How can local and hyper-local social networks increase community cohesion and empowerment.  At it’s simplest these networks help people know each other. That in turn allows them to see what they have in common and to begin to organise around shared problems or opportunties. Don’t imagine that a council run ning for each neighbourhood is the answer though.  Often councils have to go to where networks have begun to spring up. Don’t expect people to come to you. Equaly don’t think of these online very local networks (they could cluster around a blog or series of blogs, perhaps even people on twitter) are separate from you as a local authority. Just be sincerely part of them.

4 How can councillors develop their leader and communication skills using social media?  The key here is not the tools but the habits. If they participate in the conversation as normal human beings they will develop more sophisticated collaborative and conversational communications skills and be more accountable as leaders. If they learn to seek help from their networks and in turn help people within those networks they can build a great deal of social capital – which is core to being a leader. On the other hand,  if they use the tools as a one way broadcast mechanism they won’t gain much benefit from social media.

5 How can councils create the space for community conversations without overpowering them?  Usually it will be wrong for a council to think they can make a space and it will work. (I’d prefer to say always – because the usually could be the excuse for thousands of moribund council created ‘social’ sites). People working in councils have to be granted permission to think and act as part of a network. You wouldn’t blunder into your knitting club and start saying that things are going to a certain way because you are in charge. You would help to negoatiate what’s best.

6 How can social media be used for more effective social marketing, encouraging the behaviour change necessary to achieve complex outcomes? People using social media are already beginning to collaborate on solving complex problems – often with ad hoc networks of expertise attracted to particular issues. So the answer to this question can’t be prescriptive other than to say officers and politicians in local authorities need to begin contributing professionally to other people problem solving. They need to use their skills and reosurces beyond their normal areas or permission. That way they can learn techniques which they can then apply to their own proferssional problems.

7 What’s the “next practice” in social media, including virtual worlds and more?  Virtual worlds are essentially a slightly clutsy toy at the moment (sweepeing genralisation I know – and much of the work being done is valuable) .  There may well be something new about how information internally is processed – internal (perhaps semantic) search offering the right stuff to the right person at the right time. Included in that stuff will be information coming from bloggers as much as newspeprs or academia. So digital media literacy and refined critical skills for information processing will be critical.

More importantly local authorities have not yet particularly begun to ‘get’ current practice in social media. The key is to learn to share openly and generously. Social media practice includes being wiling to give away what you know, help people solve their problems in the knowledge that they in turn will help you solve yours, praise, support, respect people for what they do and know, not their status and relax.  Social media is like government – it’s never finished so don’t behave as if it should be.
See also:

Stuart Bruce, including a very wise “don’t aim too high”.

Simon Wakeman is very practical in his well throught through answers.

Like me, Carl Haggerty comes at it very much from the perspective of saying culture change is the thing.

Links: Fake websites, Digital Literacy, Deirdre without the Lol and Membership Organisations

Yoosk Birmingham.  Question some of Birmingham’s political figures including Deirdre without the Lol.
Fake websites used to teach real digital skills in a US school.  “Ms. Rosalia, the school librarian at Public School 225, a combined elementary and middle school in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, urged caution. “Don’t answer your questions with the first piece of information that you find,” she warned.”

Mark McDonald at Gartner “The public sector mission is a powerful tool and reflects the best of what it means to be in public service.  Use the mission as a leadership tool, because it’s never been more important than right now.” (Via Devon Enterprise Architects spotted by Carl).

David Wilcox: “Clay Shirky really pins down what any organisation relying on members or supporters for its life must do if it is to stay in business as people increasing network online. That means change for campaigning charities, trade associations, and membership bodies who may have worked in the past through a mix of newsletters, events and perhaps not very special services. If they don’t offer more value, members and supporters will stop paying their subs. I’ve suggested this before, Clay says it much better.” The interview is by Amy Sample Ward.


Finally: Obama’s folk say Twitter is a Gimmick: “The problem is that the new tool on the block tends to distract. It’s easy for a lazy and unimaginative campaign flack to sell story of “politician on twitter!”. Case of shiny object moving to shiny object. For organisations that need to invest in deep relationships, new services like twitter are scattershot and dizzying. They burn political capital. Besides, they don’t talk to the people you want to talk to [case of early adopters not being very useful to political campaigns? I’d still consider Twitter to be an early adopter service – won’t change until it has 60 million users, not just 6 million].”

Director of Digital Engagement – Cabinet Office.

I’ve always thought encouraging the active use of social media in government is a patient game. Culture change takes time and asking people to start listening in new ways, joining new conversations, collaborating with new people is a substantial culture change.  What it can lead to is a step change again.

Fortunately the Cabinet Office is quite impatient to see progress. They are looking for a Director of Digital Engagement (salary £81,000 – £160,000) who will take on “a new role charged with getting Government to work differently.

This will require Government and individual departments to change the way they do business – from consulting citizens to collaborating with them on the development of policy and how public services are delivered to them. It will involve supporting Ministers and senior officials in entering conversations in which Government does not control the message or the dialogue.

Within six months the Head of Digital Engagement will have developed a strategy and implementation plan and be able to show concrete signs of momentum in executing the plan.

Within a year the Head of Digital Engagement should be able to point to two departments whose use of digital engagement are recognised in the digital community as being world class

Within two years the use of world class digital engagement techniques should be embedded in the normal work of Government”

Umh. Is Tom Loosemore really ready to leave 4ip or perhaps Richard Allan wants a change from Cisco?  Steph Gray from Dius has already begun thinking about what this “poor soul” should do first and with uservoice has begun voting on just that problem (No 1 appears to be promote the use of small contracts and contractors for govt IT). Even Jeff  Jarvis noted the job. So there’s some names. Who else do you think ought to be sharpening their pencil?

Update: 1 Dominic Campbell fleshes out the role: “the Digi Director must also avoid becoming embedded in government and spend as much time out and about as possible, out with the policy makers, politicians and social innovators. They will also need uber executive back up from somewhere in government to make the change happen, with experiences such as those of the recently ex-civil servant Jeremy Gould highlighting the distance the government still has to travel before it truly gets the web and is willing to invest appropriate amounts of time and attention in it.”

2 I fear that Dave Briggs coinage of blogging tsar might catch on. Twould be a shame.

3 A campaign, begun to get the job for darrenbbc, as already had cold watered poured on it by Tom Watson. Sheesh – the job applications will be crowd sourced, why not teh job itself!

4 Paul Evans toys with the Robin Williams problem, do ‘they’ really want to be that engaging.