The #LocalGovDigital – #KHub Consultation Response

Status

It isn’t news that the LGA are considering closing the Knowledge Hub and the consultation comes to a close this week, so I urge people who haven’t yet responded to do so ASAP – All replies need to be sent to info@local.gov.uk – or post your thoughts and comments on the Public Knowledge Hub group.

The LocalGov Digital Steering Group felt it was important to ensure that we registered our views and that those views were published for everyone to see – so we have today published our consultation response.

 

#KHub’s potential closure an analogy for #Localgov

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Like so many of local gov people out there I was surprised to hear the news about the potential closure of the LGA’s Knowledge Hub platform.

The following is in my role as Digital Communications Manager at Devon County Council. Although I strongly believe that the Local Gov Digital Network can play an active and leading role in helping to find a solution – more on that soon.

Better people have written about the background, context and what could happen, links below and I urge you read them all – however I’m going to take a slightly different view:

Initially my reaction was “What the F**K!, how could the LGA be proposing such a decision given all the recent strategic messages around the importance of sector collaboration and digital”.

But since that initial reaction, I went away for a weekend in Cornwall and simply enjoyed time with family and friends with fantastic weather and a few bottles of the wonderful Doom Bar.  Now upon returning I have started to see a slightly different perspective (It doesn’t make the decision any easier of course) but it does for me at least, send out clear signals to the sector and beyond that times are hard, finances are under increasing scrutiny and we all are questioning what we are here to provide and what our purpose is.

I can’t knock the LGA for having a strategic conversations where all things should be questioned and assessed and questions asked around why they should continue to provide the same services in the same way regardless of how these things came about.

After all as a local government community we will all be questioning what on the face of it will be sensible solutions and sensible services but when budgets are being cut your only choice is to completely rethink how the same outcomes can be met.

So with that in mind, I actually think the LGA’s decision to question the continuation of the Knowledge as a centrally funded platform is a sensible one and actually shows real leadership when in the face of everyone else it may not appear a good decision.

I would like to think that more of these types of decisions can start to be made…after all as an analogy this is the kind of thing that FutureGov’s casserole project is counting on and rightly so…we need to question and rethink how meals of wheels are provided and if you maintain the same existing platform it becomes financially challenging so a different model needs to be engaged and this might not be how people originally thought the service should be provided but the same outcomes for a large majority of people would be unaffected.

The one issue I do have with the LGA’s approach with this is that in order to close down the Knowledge Hub, they need to play an active part in the decommissioning of it and allowing something else to emerge in its place so that the sector as a whole doesn’t suffer.

I’m not going to talk directly about the people who are also likely to be at risk, although my thoughts are with them and all those staff across the sector who are struggling with the scale of changes and cuts which are affecting us all. These truly are challenging times and they are only really just beginning. :(

What I think should happen in the next two to three weeks:

  • First and foremost people should respond to the consultation honestly and constructively – according to the Knowledge Hub people need to send thoughts, comments and suggestions to info@local.gov.uk
  • Those people who care about this topic should share their views publicly as well to help build a wider picture of what people believe to be an appropriate way forward. There are many options which could be realistically considered but we shouldn’t over engineer a response and we should ensure that what ever happens meets the needs of not just local government but all those involved in the provision and development of local public services.
  • In parallel people need to start thinking of alternative models across all aspects of what is provided e.g. technology and solution, business and operating model, information and data and also community management.  I will be sharing my thoughts on this as i’m sure many other people will be too.

Personally I think that collaboration across all those involved in providing and developing local public services is a critical component in helping us tackle the very big problems that society has.  The knowledge hub or what comes next has to be seen as a core part of the future for local public services.

How that looks will be up to us all to decide collectively…It will require leadership, courage and persistence and I’m pleased to say that there are enough of those people involved already to give me faith that we can and will solve this challenge.

#LocalGov #Content Strategy Group now live on Knowledge Hub

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Back in January at UKGC12 Sarah Lay and I said we would create an online community space for those interested in Content Strategy for people in and around government.

It has taken some time, for which we make no excuses other than we have been reflecting on which platform to use to best suit the immediate and future needs of the group. We considered a range of options but have settled for the Knowledge Hub.

Please join and sign up if you are interested…Sarah and I will be facilitating the group, but if others wish to help out then let us know in the group itself.

Digital Content Strategy Group

The ‘digital content strategy’ group has been created as a community space to discuss issues around delivering digital in local government and specific practice around web and digital content creation, curation, delivery and governance. This may include issues around web content, user experience design, content across different platforms, search, social media and methods of delivery and governance such as Agile working and devolved authoring.

We need to stop feeling so guilty and the birth of #twitternar

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Yesterday evening I participated in a conversation with @LouLouK @kazwccsocialnet and @808Kate about how the #lgovsm Friday lunchtime discussion session could improve and develop and increase the opportunities for people as well as ensure variety.

Now I’m not going to talk about the future development here in this post as we are also going to chat more at #ukgc11 on Saturday and then more will no doubt be shared etc afterwards. Feel free to join us for a chat about this on Saturday if you are attending – I think we suggested an informal lunchtime chat (even more informal than the open plan aspect) – not sure where just find one of us and join in.

So two interesting things happened during the conversation, the first being the creation of the term #twitternar (by yours truly) – it is like a webinar but supported via twitter and possibly slideshare or a blog posts – the second being the more important one – whether participation in the discussion is considered work.

The discussion touched on the issue of whether people who participate feel like they can contribute more during a lunch period or whether this just contributes to the perceived view that twitter is merely social. A comment was made that you could perhaps feel guilty if you participated during work time.  I have a few issues with this but can more than understand why this is the case for the majority of people.

1) Would phoning another public sector organisation to ask them what they are doing or to share what you were doing around a particular subject or topic be considered work or something someone would do in their lunch break?

2) Would attending a meeting with another public sector organisation to ask them what they are doing or to share what you were doing around a particular subject or topic be considered work or something someone would do have to schedule during a lunch break?

I think it is fair to say that these are generally considered a core aspect for most people’s jobs – using twitter to do the same thing which is what #lgovsm is really trying to achieve in my view but at a much reduced cost is a great idea. However the benefit is that using twitter means that no one will have to travel, some can participate whilst on the go (mobile) and there is really no limit to who could participate or attend – surely a win – win situation.

This is a new approach and a more cost-effective and efficient method of doing this. The conversation accepted that perhaps twitter might not be the best platform but we also accepted that the #KHub would offer new opportunities on top for increased discussion after the initial #twitternar.

So all I would say to people is Stop feeling so guilty and try to see this as a cost-effective way of doing what you would do anyway.

Unblock Access – ‘Social’ is Key to Improving Performance

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The issue of whether an organisation blocks or bans access to social media platforms has always been an interesting area. When speaking to colleagues in other councils who are not able to access, a common reason why access is blocked is due to a perceived fear that staff will simply waste time “messing about” or “chatting online”. It has been a personal desire to look for an approach which directly links the success of an organisation to the use of or at least access to social tools.

Without having any direct evidence – I’ve had to look to theoretical models and frameworks which help to explain the relationships between an organisations performance and the ability of staff to use and engage with social software, social media, enterprise 2.0, social business or whatever the current trend is for naming the variety of tools available.

Last week however a key part of the puzzle presented itself, in the form of a set of slides which I linked to in my previous post by Richard Veryard.

This is my current view is the all public sectors organisations need to unblock access to all social tools (external), and promote the use of social tools (internally) otherwise they restrict and reduce the chance for the organisation to improve its performance.

Given the current financial and organisational pressures facing the whole public sector, improving performance would be a key priority. The very least we would all agree that reducing barriers to improving performance should be a priority. This is where I now firmly believe that Social is the key to improving organisational performance.

I’ll try to give some context to my thinking by referring to some of the slides that Richard posted. I apologise in advance for some of the complexity in the following paragraphs  – believe me I have tried to keep it as simple as possible without losing the meaning :)

In “Modelling Intelligence in Complex Organizations”, my observations and interpretation of some of his slides are as follows:

Slide 5 – Cognition only makes sense for individuals
As individuals we seek out data/information, in doing this activity we essentially bring a meaning to that data/information and in turn provide the interpretation  and therefore we create and often share an understanding.
Organisations can not perform the same tasks, as organisations can only aggregates the collective view of all people within the organisation by bringing together  – perception, knowledge, learning and intelligence. This in the past has been restricted either to formal systems which require facts and statistics and would not include people’s views and opinions. The social element to an organisation would be in the informal social networks facilitated by water coolers and coffee machines.

Slide 7 – The illusion of individual performance
Individuals perform tasks which are supported by a variety of systems, the slide highlights 3 examples, but in a public sector context, this is even more relevant. For example an individual local government officer has a complex system environment, which could include Peers, Press and Media, local demographic, local political influence, national political influence, training, policy framework etc.

Essentially an individuals performance is the result of the ‘systems’ own restrictions and ability to achieve and facilitate outcomes.

So what I’m thinking in relation to this is that when an organisation restricts the “social” element within it, it actually restricts the ability of the system and the individual to achieve better outcomes. By providing “social” tools the organisation gains access to a greater organisational intelligence. I believe that the Knowledge Hub would in fact allow the public sector organisational intelligence to grow and in turn help facilitate better outcomes across the whole sector.

Slide 20 – Intelligence Strategy
In my post Move aside Intranet, here comes the super powered Extranet I share the vision for my authorities intranet/extranet and considering this new viewpoint, what that is contributing to is in fact the organisations Intelligence Strategy. The main benefit of integrating the Knowledge Hub into the core infrastructure of the council is the increased connections that it provides for each individual member of staff. It will provide them with a larger organisational intelligence system and my conclusion would be that this contributes directly to better outcomes for citizens and improved services.

In the second set of slides “How Can IT Fix the Problems of Stupid Organizations?” – I have thought about the wider linkages to a range of core business activities and capabilities which are and will become more critical in public sector environments even if they choose to adopt a commissioning agenda.

Slide 23 – Tools for organisational intelligence
The key challenge for publica sector organisations are not related to individual issues such as business intelligence, social networking, knowledge management and even customer relationship management (CRM), but are in fact how you plan and architect the links between these kinds of tools to achieve and facilitate organisational intelligence.

So the main takeaway for me is that ICT can directly improve the performance and intelligence of an organisation – however an organisations architecture needs to be designed with this outcome in mind otherwise you will fail to deliver the benefits.

Conclusion

I would recommend that any public sector organisation who is blocking access rethink that decision and consider how there organisation facilitates organisational intelligence and improved performance.

On a practical level, staff who abuse access should still be subject to existing policies around employee code of conduct – but the potential for a whole organisation to improve its performance and increase its intelligence far outweighs the risk of one individual mis-using an internet connection, which they can also do via their personal mobile phone.