Tag Archives: local government

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?

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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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Let me put you in the picture…

10 Dec

This is a very brief post reflecting on the images that myself and some of the Councillors I follow share via twitter. I was curious to see what the images we share say about us and our communities.

Here are my campaign photos taken and shared during the by-election:

HEG Campaign photos

Here are some recent photos which demonstrate my blurred identity – at a women’s football match, catching up on campaign news with a colleague in my kitchen, meeting a Special Constable …generally being a mum and in the spirit of the internet being a bit random:

Emma blurred identity

Here are some sets from other Councillors:

This is Councillor Ken from Solihull’s recent photos:

Cllr Ken Photos

I love that Ken shares pictures of his dog and his use of the local area. I think many people would enjoy these photos and it would help his desire to engage with people on subjects they care about.

Here are Councillor Ian Sherwood’s images from Conservative conference…which includes a photo of me and Cllr Alison Hernandez when we had a conversation about Networked Councillor with Ian and others:

Cllr Ian Sherwood

I think they give a good impression of what being at party conference is like and show that Ian is connecting and influencing as well as being influenced.

What do you think the images we share say about what we think, how approachable we are and how well we are representing our parties and electorate?

Solihull – The future council is a social council?

4 Dec

I have been working with officers and community activists in Solihull on projects to implement their vision of a future council which is called The Social Council. It is so interesting to see a Council tackling the uncertainty and complexity of developing a vision and taking practical steps to test it.

The key assumptions that the leadership are making are these:

  • The funding situation is not likely improve so they will be working with less resources (see the Barnet Graph of Doom article in the Guardian)
  • That there is a technological revolution that can be harnessed to transform service delivery
  • And, fundamentally that Web 2.0 or social, interactive media has shifted the public’s expectation of involvement in their services and the decisions made by Councils.

The Social Council is an umbrella term which mostly focuses on the final assumption and these are the objectives as I understand them:

  • To share leadership across the organisation and with the community – to achieve a new normal that they work in a networked rather than hierarchical manner most of the time
  • To actively enable people internally and externally to make best use of social technology to achieve organisational and civic objectives
  • To be ready in both service delivery and democratic arms of the Council to meet the expectations of the public that they can report issues to us, find out about services and engage with all aspects of the organisation via social, mobile technology

Which is cool. And, I am really enjoying supporting this change programme with some project work …not least because the community activists get it, and want it to work very much.
Stop press – just as I finished I saw this tweet which was timely, as this describes the challenges organisations find with these types of change programmes!

Barriers to digital change tweet

Both tweeters well worth a follow btw and the #digileaders tweets worth a look (4/12/13)

Right in to the danger zone?

26 Sep

Looking at the Networked Councillor report again today I was wondering why I have no discomfort working with politicians of other parties to develop thinking and practice about digital engagement with communities where the report suggests that Councillors prefer to develop within parties rather than across parties.

The report talks about Next Generation users of digital tools, i.e. those who access the internet and use social tools using mobile devices rather than just through a PC or laptop at home now becoming Councillors. I wonder if Next Generation Councillors have a shifted view of the world which is a stronger culture than either our party culture or our authority’s culture?

Will this lead to a better democracy?

  • Will our values of openness and expectations around transparency and accessibility of information and people shift politics back into a space that is more relevant?
  • Will our ability to collaborate and work more ‘proportionately’ be improved either by our culture? Or because the public are more likely to create NoC councils? Or both together?

I know that where I keep one principle firmly at the top of my mind – does this improve democratic access? I find it simple and painless to work in partnership with other Councillors to deliver that.

For example I had the idea of creating a surgery within a voluntary sector day service for homeless people to improve their access to democratic structures and hopefully, help obviously. A Councillor from my authority but from a different party asked if he could join me. Of course he can! This is about getting the best access to us so that democracy wins.

Online I notice Councillors from all parties are quite willing to share knowledge and experience in using digital tools effectively as a ward Councillor. Because we want to learn from each other, we are enthusiastic about sharing.

Why more transparency and better skills in using all tools to communicate? I guess because we do care that we win the argument, not win by default. And, when people trust politicians and our structures enough to engage we all benefit from a strong mandate and stronger communities.

I welcome views from all but especially other Councillors 🙂

Can democracy survive politics?

7 Aug

My short answer is I hope so. Though I am not part of the anti-party politics crew, I do feel that party politics has a job to do to reconnect and be meaningful if people are to value democracy. That, along with the economy, should be our top priority for all parties in my opinion.

Why am I even wondering about it? Here are a few things that have been whizzing through my brain and digital timelines the last few days:

i loved this 300 seconds but though brilliant,  it was explaining how to ‘play the game’ according to current rules whereas I think the rules need to change. I have worked for charities as someone who helps people do these line by line type consultations, and yes this is a better way of drafting policy and legislation as experts can help ensure implementation does achieve the spirit and intent.

I worked on this project which was pitched for a NESTA innovation grant, and whilst it wasn’t successful in round two, the project really inspired me. This speaks to me about rules of engagement changing. Of the Councillor acting as a part of a ward network rather than viewing Councillors as part of a bureaucratic hierarchy. Of public meetings being ones where the public set the agenda rather than are allowed in to watch the theatre of full council.
Finally a tweet came through my timeline which said something like ‘can democracy survive politics?’ and I now cannot find it, sorry, but if you tweet or leave a comment, will happily credit. Because like all simple questions, there is a really complex answer. And it’s not just about politician’s behaviour…though that’s as a good a place as any to start with!
There is a £4.2million democratic engagement fund to help get people registered to vote – deadlines are quite soon but I hope that a quality project for Brighton and Hove bids successfully.
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Networked councillor – sticks and stones

15 Jul

I have been asked to blog about my experiences as a brand new candidate (and now, brand new Councillor) and finding a way to deal with cyber-attacks. My case was pretty extreme so I won’t dwell too heavily on it as it is atypical. However, discussing this issue at the LGA conference with Councillors from all parties gave me an insight into the common themes and some of the attitudes/ responses that Councillors have taken. This is an emerging area as more and more people use social media to directly contact candidates and Councillors. Probably the most interesting aspect is how not just the target but how the online community responds to the cyber-attacker.

What is a troll or a cyber-bully? Just being challenging is not a reason to label someone this way. People in public life have to be able to respond to challenge. But, it is acceptable to leave a query until the next day if you are tired, dealing with something else or you need to do some research to answer properly. It is always better to think before you answer. Try to answer the content rather than the tone it is expressed in.

Personal attacks, which are a matter of one person’s opinion, or malicious untruths, or intrusive behaviour are cyber-bullying. It is unpleasant. Most Councillors have experienced it to some extent if they are online. Some will say it goes with territory, they are right, but many of you aren’t career politicians groomed from childhood to expect it. Most Councillors, as is the whole point of local government, are ordinary people who want to improve things for their community and it can be quite a shock. Even experienced Councillors who first go online can be surprised at it and put down the social media tools as a result, but please don’t!!

Here are some questions to consider if you experience this behaviour:

  • Who is making the attack?
  • Are they anonymous?
  • Do they influence people’s thoughts and behaviour?
  • What networks do they belong to and how are their networks reacting to their behaviour?
  • Does it reflect it well on them?
  • Do people admire what they are saying and their approach?

All of these questions should tell you how seriously to take what they are doing. If they aren’t influential, if they are anonymous, if their network is not supporting their behaviour then simply block them. If you need help to find out how to ensure they can’t post on various social media platforms, someone in your council or a friend will be able to advise you. Unless you relish this type of thing (I don’t, but I know people who genuinely do enjoy ‘troll baiting’ so it’s up to you) just not reading it will prevent you having energy drained from you that you could more productively use to engage with people who actually do want a discussion.

  • If they are influencers, and you feel you do need to respond, in my opinion it is fine to call out bad or rude behaviour. You are not obliged to engage with people who are being rude or abusive and you are entitled to say so.
  • It can be helpful to have ‘rules of engagement’ stated somewhere, perhaps on your blog for example.
  • You don’t have to respond to every message, if you have answered a question – you don’t have to respond to the critique of the answer.
  • Sometimes the best thing to do is to do nothing. Often the ‘crowd’ will tackle the behaviour for you if they believe someone is abusing the forum or you unfairly. Typically they will jump in, often with humour.
  • If someone within your network or party is behaving badly, consider how it reflects on you and whether or not you should act personally or corporately on the issue. Do you have any guidelines or mechanisms to deal with this?

Every digital Councillor will have a story to tell; talk to each other. There is no one way to respond, but hopefully some of these questions will help you think through how you deal with it.

Ultimately, it is unlikely to affect your campaign unless you allow your time and energy to be sapped engaging with it. In fact it can be measure of the fact others are anxious about how well your campaign is going.

In the conversations I have had with experienced Councillors from around the country and across parties, there is an agreement that women suffer worse abuse online than their male counterparts. There is a growing body of evidence for this sense, and it would be interesting to know why this is, and how to reduce it. Here is the experience of BBCQT Ghost Guest by Martin Belam. See also this article by Ray Filar in Liberal Conspiracy and here is a brilliant article from the Telegraph (20 May 2013) by Dr Brooke Magnanti on How to deal with twitter trolls

“thanks for the pain, you made me raise my game” – Jessie J ‘Who’s laughing now’