Archive | January, 2014

UK Gov Camp 2 – imagining the council of 2030

26 Jan

There was a session at the conference I went to yesterday on what the future council might look like. The conversation whilst I was in the session described a change paralysis, funding crisis, and issues with councillors. There are many debates on local council funding and powers and in this post I am not going to touch on those. Not because I don’t have views on those matters but because they tend to get in the way of this conversation which is worth having in its own right.

However where I feel a good place to start on imagining the council of the future is understanding the expectations of 2030 citizens. I believe their expectations will be driven in part by the technological revolution of the social web. So I will focus on those features.

– content creators – I think citizens will expect to create their own answers to issues and be supported by the council. This develops the behaviour in social enterprise and the voluntary sector already there to an extent but which is being driven out or squashed by intense commissioning discussions. More peer to peer support networks, more pop up projects like riots clean up, coats for kids etc will emerge and the future council needs to support and create an environment where these flourish.

– feedback – the culture of trip advisor, eBay, “liking” etc will be important in any service delivery and democratic participation..I think this will drive decision making and conversations and enabling this instantaneous feedback rather than surveys etc will be the new normal.

– direct relationships – I think citizens will have a direct conversation with staff and councillors via digital tools and have a blurred on and offline relationship with them. This challenges the culture of the “invisible” officer working behind the scenes and I can see already an appetite to engage with local councillors.

– wearable and environmental tech – I think that all services will begin to use tech in people’s homes and on their persons to respond to needs or to prevent more expensive crisis prevention. I also think that tech might address environmental issues such as waste management massively, ideas like food waste disposal from sinks, perhaps waste as a asset to be used to 3d print are coming up and I am optimistic that we will have some action by 2030 which has addressed this problem. Already in social care – tech is important in maintaining people in their own homes rather than institutional care.

There is no doubt that like the industrial revolution, the digital revolution is changing our lives and expectations very fast. How do you think the council of 2030 will change to meet the expectations of its citizens by 2030?

UK gov camp 2014

25 Jan

This is just a quick reflections post on my day at this event. It was my first time at the event and I *really* wanted to go. My first two sessions we on increasing voting and getting more young people to vote. I found the sessions really fascinating although I was struck by the overwhelming message that both politics and politicians are the thing that is broken. Obviously, I wanted to know more, sadly the sessions were a little short and very popular to completely develop these conversations today.

Delving deeper, many felt that they should work more openly, more collaboratively, more digitally and in a more networked manner. Good news for the Networked Councillor project I am involved with for Public-I developed with EELGA.

Here are some of the ideas I heard today –

1. More independent councillors at local level – some felt party politics wasn’t relevant at a local level
2. Proportional representation – so all votes count rather than going for the least worst option or spoiling paper
3. That councillors should blog
4. That councillors should work along a community activist method.
5. That councils should work with schools to teach kids about local democracy

I would have liked to see some experimental ideas come out of the sessions and be sketched out that don’t require a constitutional change or “permission” from a statutory sector body to be trialled.

Also, I wonder what we can learn from methods like rock the vote, Speakers Corner projects, City Camps or any projects that have made an effort to increase voter registration and turnout from anywhere.

There wasn’t time to develop some prototype projects today but I look forward to this conversation continuing at UK Vote Camp later in the year.

I also took a UK gov camp selfie with Christine Townsend from Musterpoint because … Why not?

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iSulk or iUnderstand – how leaders respond to social media

9 Jan

I am a huge advocate for leaders networking with their employees, boards, citizens and their peers via social media channels. I am such a keen user, I have become the example of extreme user my colleagues use! (This is with fondness, I am sure). I first started using social media when I was a Member of Sussex Police Authority and had a lead member role for diversity and for Public Order. I was enthusiastic to hear first hand accounts of people’s experiences of policing in their own words, when they wanted to talk about it and without setting the agenda. This informal conversation was hugely useful to triangulate between official surveys, formal meetings with community leaders and official performance data. After all, it’s a well worn phrase but worth repeating: “We may hit the target but miss the point.” I was very pleased to see Sussex Officers grasp the opportunities of social media early on and engage with communities and criticism as well as praise.

So, when I saw the #TimeOnOurHands discussion following this verbal statement from Tom Winsor, I was really concerned:

Winsor quote - Time On Their Hands from Evening Standard 8 Jan 2014

You can see the original piece this is captured from on the Evening Standard 8.1.14 here. Immediately, there was a twitter fury from officers, some politicians, and ACPO at this statement which they felt undermined their efforts to engage and inform and relegated their efforts to time-wasting. Later Tom Winsor sent a statement to ACPO digital engagement lead, DCC Ian Hopkins clarifying this statement which is at apparent odds with HMIC policy:

Tom Winsor clarification

What Tom was referring to was the context online which existed when he was first appointed when there were many anonymous, federation and retired officers criticising his appointment, changes to police terms and conditions recommended in his report and other big changes to leadership and governance such as the new Police and Crime Commissioners. This context has changed but it appears to have remained current in Mr Winsor’s mind. In this, he is not unique.

I have spoken to many politicians who have used social media during campaigns only to abandon it afterwards. Having been in this position myself, I really understand why. Social media can be an unfriendly place when the context is people campaigning against you. I was really taken aback by the change in tone of interactions I had from people I had regular interactions before. I experienced the hideous unfairness of lies and character assassinations. I posted on how to deal with this atmosphere just after that campaign here – Sticks and Stones

However, once the campaign was over, so was that type of interaction. People who had been ‘shouting at me’ with rhetorical questions went back to interacting on a more conversational basis largely. Context shifts. If you are campaigning or bringing in a radical change this context will affect digital interactions and noise. When that change or campaign is done, the conversation moves on. It doesn’t make the people who participated in it, bad or people to avoid. That noise, triangulated with other evidence, in my case from the doorstep, the papers, activists etc has a useful place even if difficult to bear. A modern leader does have to understand that their context shifts online, as it does offline. Context affects tone. And, as Solihull Police Commander, Sally Bourner always says “feedback is a gift”.