This week is all about the recent report on Networked Councillors by Public-i and Improvement East. I am hoping to stand for council in 2015, so obviously as I read it I have been reflecting on what the implications are for me.
Social media is the new normal, most people have access to it, most people use it. Yes, some older people will never use it by choice and, digital exclusion is a very real problem which we must continue to work on and see it as an indicator of poverty. However, back to ‘most people have access to it’! and they certainly will by 2015. And anyway, I do, so I might as well use those skills and knowledge to help me. Just like I did when a member of Sussex Police Authority, just as I did to help with my Policy role at the local CVA, in my current job at Public-i and even, with mothering my 4 year old!
But, I do need to skill up in using Tumblr and, even dun dun dun (that’s meant to be music of dread) Facebook! I can make short films, write blogs – even if for a tragically niche market (thank you niche market) so I can create content which is a key skill for doing social.
But being networked goes deeper than being able to broadcast using social media, it is about listening, about supporting the ideas and actions that others do, if you are the kind of person who likes to join in and to support others offline, online enables you to connect in a more spontaneous way, see the Riots Clean Up as the most high profile example. To illustrate this point I would point to being able to get to Brighton Breastfeeding Flashmob thanks to the tweets of @contentedmummy and join in with a cause I believe in. The Brighton & Hove Coats for Kids project was set up spontaneously last November via twitter and here I was one of the founders, our city responded to our community call for action on child poverty. I find social media just helps me to get to the things I would want to support like the global One Billion Rising event (here is Brighton and Hove’s contribution) and, for people who are put off by committees and formality the ability to just get together and act is amazing. This is why the word networked is important, because networks, especially complex ones, where lots of people have direct contact with lots of other people in the network are far more powerful than hierarchies. There are situations where networks are a lot more effective than hierarchies and formal systems. I want to ensure that the Council and group I work within is using the right tool for the right job and allows the city’s networks to decide and act to improve our communities and to solve problems. That we help and support, but that we don’t take over or spoil the activity.
I think it is essential to know what people in the city care about, both on an individual level and at community level, newspapers help, attending meetings is useful but on the doorstep, will someone show me all the photos of their new baby so that I can express how beautiful they are? Will I see their hopes and worries. Some relevant to me as a human being, some relevant to a councillor..what is their housing like? Are they struggling with bills, are they worried about schools? Are they having trouble accessing services because of changes to bus routes. Is it useful that this person can see I share these concerns, that I am affected by some of the same things. That I not only sympathise, often I empathise.
I want to use digital tools to reach more people, make my campaign more successful and relevant. I want to use it to learn from others around the country. And, I am not tribal about learning…happy to share and learn about digital and networked working from all.
I want to use digital tools to create a digital doorstep to complement the work done offline, and to let people know what we hear or experience on the offline doorstep. I want to run Skype surgeries…like the pioneers. I want people to argue, support and tell me stuff they want me to sort out, however they prefer. If via a twitter DM, fine. If by sharing a photo on facebook, great. If they want to post a letter, awesome. I don’t care how they get here…so long as people believe and grow faith in local government politicians to really connect with them.