The revolution will be televised

12 Aug

So, it’s my last day at Public-i and I thought I would set out what I am taking away from working in a technology company at the cutting edge of digital democracy.

First, the webcasting of public meetings is becoming a norm. It is my personal opinion that those who aren’t doing it on a cost basis have missed the point. Who do those council meetings belong to? Do they belong to the councillors? Not in my opinion and certainly not to the officers. They belong to the electorate and they must be able to access them.

Formal democracy at a local level can, I admit, sometimes look dull. And, I think we can do a lot to improve it and make the language and processes less mysterious and for us, the current and future generations, less intimidating. Having said that, social media and webcasting has already brought a lot more new people into politics whether like me or @rosiecosy in a formal manner, as a Councillor or as a new informal participant. I have a hardcore of twitter and facebook followers who are *ordinary* people who are a highly motivated to engage. Some, have, via that engagement become activists and some are happy to continue to discuss the running of the city at a more chatty level (whether positive or negative).

But, and some people (especially those who call me unconventional), may be surprised to hear that I believe  we should only throw out conventions of formal democracy with great caution. The principles of formal decision making have evolved for good reasons and the public do have some understanding of them and frustration when we circumvent them as politicians: Never hide behind officers for example. And, officers shouldn’t seek to enable this either. Collective responsibility might be difficult to maintain in a digital social environment, but if we discard it too easily, I believe democracy and politics will suffer. Those are clearly values of our system that I see as important but also threatened if we don’t reaffirm them as we make ourselves more transparent.

Many of the principles of democracy need reaffirming with increasingly disaffected citizens who vote less, join parties less and value party politics less. Technology gives us the opportunity we haven’t had in recent decades to reestablish this. In some ways, social technology gives the veneer of deep set individualism and many cry tears over this, but for me evidence of the rise of digial tribes shows a natural wish to act collectively. If we have a different expectation from early 20th centuary citizens it is that we want and can achieve a pop up and informal space alongside the formal democratic one.

I am resolutely optimistic.

In case you couldn’t tell.


Networked Councillor – leading in shifting sands

11 Aug

I was asked to share my notes from my LGA innovation zone presentation on the Networked Councillor programme. I focused very much on the strategic drivers and potential scenarios that the social web (both technologically and sociological changes) are brining for civic leaders. It is natural, to an extent, for local government to focus very much on the ‘austerity’ agenda but if this is the sole focus we risk being driven into a purely transactional relationship with the public taking the corporate model of customer relationships to a logical but ultimately democratically destructive one. This model would involve increased hypothecation and the digital relationship would be focused on service provision and the customer service relationship.

And, this at a time, where there is a huge civic interest in decision making, data, and joint action for place. The Networked Councillor research and delivery to date really shows that there is an appetite for an alternative scenario both from the public and councillors who desire a different future and are actively shaping that now: This is a future where the citizen is more engaged with both democracy and service provision and that taxation only forms part of the relationship. This civic relationship can be driven by social attitudes shifts that sccial technology have either amplified or even arguably prompted.

These options are based on corporate scenario planning which I blogged about when I was at Bluelight Camp (thinking about digital leadership in policing) you can see the short video and blog post  here.

There is a growing public desire and expectation for increased openness (transparency) and as ‘big data’ becomes the new cool kid on the block, leaders will need to be alert to the conversations and decision making that is needed to ensure that opportunities (economic and social) are met for the welfare of their communities and that the risks (misuse by corporates to further disadvantage already marginilised groups) are minimised.
There are emerging strong cultural characterics of a digital society are:

  • Networks – tribes of interest and skills Coproduction – the ability to deliver for ourselves as citizens whilst the politicians move obstacles from our paths and give us support
  • Digital – the new digital default is web 2.o – shareable, interactive and with this comes an expectation that feedback is required and can shape outcomes (the rise of the expert within networks)

So what does this mean for networked councillors:

  • Digital natives – comfortable with social technology and culture – understanding virtual tone and body language, recognising influencers and connectors and very reciprocal
  • Able to use networked power or hierarchical power as appropriate
  • Open – able to think in public and allow people to share their stories and ideas budget)
  • Coproductive – mainly characterised a belief that citizens hold most of the answers and ability and expertise to act for their own communities – this is not necessarily cost saving. It could move costs tho into prevention and engagement if an organisational approach but overall tackling things better

Most of all we see a passion for democracy…and many councillors want to get more people involved, confident and voting who come on the course or get interested in the topic. They see digital tools as an opportunity to improve it.

So, the most obvious early effect is disintermediation – this means people addressing you directly in real time rather than going through a process first. So it could be “why hasn’t my rubbish been collected?” or “What is your opinion on fracking?”

You may have always had those questions but now all can see your conversation officers, other residents, other parties, unions etc. rather than overhear the conversation on the bus or in the corridor. This changes the skill set of leadership as your leadership is more observed and your need to be consistent with all stakeholders means that living your values all day every day is more important than ever. No more will councillors be semi-anonymous people quoted in the paper. But, rather, the person that is bumped into frequently online. A bit like the impact digital has had on the police where the village green informal conversations and relationship have reemerged, the public now get the chance to have that opportunity to bump into us again and mostly, that gives local councillors a chance to show their value and reestablish their informal connection to communities that hasn’t been possible (especially for urban councillors) for a generation at least.

If you are interested in the research and the learning and development programme please see the Public-i blog here or contact @curiousc via twitter to express interest. You can also email for more information.


Policing digital streets

25 Jun

This week as I looked forward to the start of the Policing Social Citizens conference in Manchester tomorrow (26th and 27th June) the BBC reported that nearly 1/2 of the crime that frontline cops are dealing with is online including abuse, threats and ASB. You can see the full story here at

As we have blurred social networks online and offline, feeling safe in both spaces feels important to us. Those of us with a reasonable experience of using social networks will appreciate when something is a genuine threat such as the Caroline Criado Perez incidents but can pretty much manage general anti- social behaviour using the the tools provided by the social networks themselves such as blocking or muting and reporting. The same as in physical streets, we use our experience to decide on keeping ourselves and others safe.

Quick list of the obvious stuff this throws up-

1 Visibility – many services are increasing a regular presence on our social media virtual streets and are increasingly adept at using social networks to work with blurred on and offline networks

2 Clarity on what constitutes online ASB – this term is difficult enough to agree on with offline communities…online, it becomes a nightmare. People are allowed to be cross online and unpleasant online.

3 Understanding the online community – the various digital spaces/ networks within their “patch” and their ability to feed them with the resources they need to prevent issues/ and self service in terms of online safety and perception. Without replicating the lonely officer sitting in a church hall engagement motif!

In Brighton several charities including a domestic abuse charity, a money advice charity and an LGBT mental health charity are delivering services digitally …so this presents an opportunity – but how connected and supported are they in the digital neighbourhood beat? (Note – they probably are as Sussex police do tend to engage well) but how many people can they reach etc… How effectively does the civic network function?

Anyway, this is super rough and ready…you tell me where it’s wrong or point me at better posts!

Policing Under Pressure

25 Jun

Watching policing under pressure was so interesting I took a lot away from the BBC programme aired this week and I spotted a lot of twitter chatter on the programme. Cautious remarks from serving officers and leaders and anger from the public.

Typically, a lot of the anger on my fairly left leaning twitter stream was to blame the government for cuts for the situation that the cops and communities in the programme found themselves in. I, certainly, think to a degree that is fair. There does come a tipping point when service funding which is at least 80% staff is cut where the service just cannot reorganise to do the same for less and faces the choice between doing different or less or combining those options which I suspect is where many are at. Certainly my experience in the voluntary sector and working with councillors from all parties looking at local government budgets is the mixed approach. None of these options come without pain for staff and communities in implementation. The best outcome is that beyond the pain comes some good results as different approaches achieve better outcomes.

I was left with various conversations that I would be interested in hearing the delegates at Policing Social Citizens discuss either physically or virtually-

1. Under what circumstances do targets become useful? I know people complain about perverse outcomes but surely there are examples of targets being used effectively
2. Do we need to move away from the language of ASB? It seems to hinder rather than help clear conversation between communities and police
3. Do the police have the skills to utilise the community assets within areas of tension and if not, would these be more effective than powers on AsB and curfews?

NHS Open Door (Leicester) Feedback on Personal Health Budgets

17 Jun

There was a really powerful presentation and video on Personal Health Budgets

The feedback was intensive and its fair to say the delegates here were very concerned about the agenda and implementation of this programme:


1. Concerns about pushing healthcare into the community – feeling that this is because of cuts not to make things better. “Could this be a care in the community fiasco?”

2. There was clarification about these budgets that someone might get the money direct or for some people a third party may hold the budget but to spend in agreement with the individual for health benefits

3. We heard a detailed story of a person who had a bad experience of private care provision (social care) and how the person who was responsible for his just not responding to calls and failed to organise care over the Christmas period. He also expressed frustration and anxiety about accessing health care:

“I can’t have chiropody or physiotherapy – why should this go through a personal budget…I just want this service not complications. I don’t want to buy it from a gym.”

4. Experience vs Research point on who can most benefit –

“I did work with Turning Point with areas of high need. We found issues with literacy, addictions etc. They can’t remember if they have taken the drugs or not…they end up in A&E. These people are not capable to deal with all these things. They can’t cope with it.” –

Response from Luke O’Shea was that studies showed that the most disadvantaged benefitted most so long as they get support and advocacy.

5. Some passion – maybe driven by headlines today on cuts to district nursing: “I think the way to improve everything is to bring back District Nurses and lots of them – they know what is needed” – Luke O’Shea – “Its a powerful point but it might be that the voluntary sector might deliver. Being able to be where people are comfortable in their own homes can make a big difference”

So lots of concerns about this in spite of user stories and research.


Patient Online feedback from Leicester NHSOpenHouse

17 Jun

Following the presentation at the #NHSOpenHouse event on Patients Online, the event participants (patients, public and voluntary sector) considered what their comments were on more digital access to GP surgeries to make appointments and access records. In addition, there was a discussion about e-consultations. Here is a very rough live type up of the comments made. You can find out more here.

So the thoughts were:

Accessing your medical records online –

“The need to raise health literacy of patients and for GP’s to refine what they write in them – being aware of audience!

“Accessing your medical records might be a language from another side of the world if not in accessible language!

“Coercion to access your records from family members could be an issue for some communities  and encouraging people to take or not take medication”

“Lack of clarity about exactly what patients would see on their records”

“Test results could be a shock if read without support”

Booking appointments and repeat presciptions

“Could this system be hacked into – how good is security?”

“Could a computer be set up in the surgery to help people to learn how. And maybe younger people could support their relatives to use”

“Even though we have the technology it won’t increase appointments available which is the main problem with appointments”

“Concern about non-clinical access to data”


“How could this open more options and choice and how they relate to health professionals and GPs. It must be patient choice and face to face should be guaranteed if this is preferred”

“The opportunities for carers being able to have appointments from home would be a benefit – not having to take the person all the way to the surgery”

“Good for community teams especially in palliative care”

“We thought it was a very good idea – the opportunity for patients and GPs to negotiate the options.”

“What is the timeline to make this happen?”

“Gets people thinking about their health and planning for their health by making appointments!


What assets does experience of poor mental health bring?

16 Jun

So one of my leadership heroines Lisa Rodrigues, CEO of a Sussex Mental Health trust is open about her battles with depression. She asked twitter what asset approach could employers in NHS consider about physical and mental health issues rather than managing as deficit?

Well I am going to focus on mental health and think about this in terms of any organisation. Depression and anxiety are hugely common. I am open about having experienced them. The downsides are physical lethargy and pain. I sometimes have stomach pain that is agony due it. Some people get headaches. The really physical symptoms are often the reason people seek help actually. Things like poor concentration, disorganisation and a sense of small things being overwhelming often creep up unnoticed.

The assets as I see them?

1. Empathy and humanity – you don’t have to have been ill to acquire but I have observed that these qualities tend to be higher amongst people who have experienced depression or anxiety.
2. Stamina – to have performed reasonably well when you have the mental equivalent of someone tugging on your sleeve or the sensation of being on top of a roller coaster going on all day or all week builds a special kind of strength of purpose.
3. Ethics – the sense of vulnerability often can extend to a more ethical approach to people who aren’t able to keep themselves safe and a determination to involve yourself in improving their safety
4. Humility – I notice that leaders I admire who have experienced ill health have an ability to value others strengths and views and experiences knowing they are not infallible. Sometimes this can look like issues with self confidence when ill but when well it is brilliant.self-doubt in moderation is healthy I believe.
5. Determination – often a drive to achieve in spite of the black dog can help drive a values based determination to prevail

It’s a short and pretty quick reflection of the value of people with lived experience of mental health. It isn’t scientific. It’s just based on my experiences and the people I admire.