The Future of Local Government Part 2 – Social Enterprise Council

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I want to continue on the theme of my last post on the Future of Local Government and look at how this is shaping up and what we can do in government to enable it to happen more dynamically and effectively for the benefit of everyone.

So to recap briefly in my last post I attempted to outline the drivers and impacts of a number of significant pressures facing the public sector as a whole and came to the conclusion albeit not a radical one that Local Government will only be a conceptual layer of government that will only have a key role in decision-making and accountability – the service provision layer will be a mix of joined up public services, private sector, voluntary providers and some of it hosted in the cloud as part of the wider technology infrastructure.

So what I think I am actually saying is that we will be moving to a “Social Enterprise Council” model – this is not really new or even radical as you will learn as you continue reading this post. For the context of this post social enterprise means – those businesses that create products and services that help people in a variety of ways while staying true to certain moral and social principles.

It is important to remember that when I refer to a conceptual layer – what I really mean is that it will become harder to identify a single organisation responsible for delivering public services in a given area. As long as there are clear accountable links to decision makers and funding (where appropriate) local government will in all essence disappear and will just become part of the community and its capability to provide or support services.

I guess the most practical example for illustrative purposes is Lambeth Council in London who in February this year announced that they would become a “John Lewis Council”.  The article in the Guardian outlines the approach and benefits the council believes will be realised – in particular in states:

…Under the plans, being promoted by Tessa Jowell, the Cabinet Office minister, Lambeth could borrow ideas from the way John Lewis is structured as it becomes a “co-operative council”.  While users of services run by the “co-operative” council would not become shareholders, the people of Lambeth will be asked to get involved in the running of all their services along the lines of John Lewis and other “mutuals”, with the possibility of financial recompense further down the line.

…Greenwich Leisure, an employee-owned company, is already running Lambeth’s leisure centres. Two Brixton housing estates are about to join a national grouping of tenant-run estates. Lambeth already has more tenant-run estates than any other London borough.

The Local Government Information Unit’s (LGIU) Blog made some comments on this approach in comparison to the Barnet “Easy” Council model.

I also have some reservations about the John Lewis model. Citizen involvement in prioritising services is absolutely essential and it is clear that user involvement is a key element of this model, but I am yet to be convinced that citizens would want to be involved in the actual delivery of services.

I do agree that there is a huge assumption that the general public wold be willing to take over services, but i do think that currently we don’t engage people well enough to activate any desire they may have.

To foster and encourage this kind of active involvement requires a major shift in how people see public services, it requires everyday people to start thinking less about “public” services and more about “community” services and how they can get involved directly through volunteering or indirectly by sharing their views on what’s important to them.

I think back to a recent post of mine about the World of GovCraft where I comment on a video of  Game designer Jane McGonigal who spoke about harnessing the power of game mechanics to make a better world. In the video she talks about “gamers” and the super powers they have developed and how these super powers can help us solve the worlds problems.

The 4 super powers that gamers have are:

Urgent Optimism – extreme self motivation – a desire to act immediately to tackle an obstacle combined with the belief that we have a reasonable hope of success.
Social Fabric – We like people better when we play games with people – it requires trust that people will play by the same rules, value the same goal – this enables us to create stronger social relationships as a result
Blissful productivity – an average World of Warcraft gamer plays 22 hours a week: We are optimised as humans to work hard and if we could channel that productivity into solving real world problems what could we achieve?
Epic meaning – attached to an awe-inspiring mission.

All this creates Super Empowered Hopeful Individuals – People who are individually capable of changing the world – but currently only online /virtual worlds….

….So some observations:

If people have “Urgent Optimism” then what are we doing to tap into that to help solve and tackle obstacles?

if people have a “Social Fabric” what we are we doing to build trust with them and do we play by the same rules and share the same goals?

If people have “Blissful Productivity” then what are we doing to mobilise and optimise the people around us in our communities to work hard at solving real world problems

If people can be inspired around “Epic Meaning” what meaning are we providing in our engagement  and participation offering?

We should recognise that games are powerful in more ways than we can imagine, we need to think hard and fast about how we can develop the right kinds of games to engage people and to involve people in shaping their future and solving common problems

So let me try to answer these questions now in the light of this post, I’m not saying that the responses are enough but there is something we can build on and develop further to really engage with people.

Urgent Optimism – The budget cuts in the public sector will mean that some services will no longer be offered or developed – if people (you or I) see these services as important and we want them to continue we will have to start getting involved or risk losing it altogether. The reality of the financial situation will mean that the threat is more real than ever.

Social Fabric – The government has made a big play during the election campaign and since about the Big Society, this is an attempt to unify people to a common agenda and common purpose which previously didn’t really exist in my view.  I do think however we need to go a lot further and start talking and acting more local. 

Blissful Productivity – Social tools are be used albeit sparingly to help mobilise people to get involved and contribute to solving the real world problems we are facing. The government have announced that they want citizens to contribute ideas to how we can save money and which services we should consider reducing funding on.

I think we need to connect the digitally mobile and engaged with the offline folk who traditional get involved to create richer conversations and deeper discussions about how we can shape local services.

Epic Meaning – The mission we have created is to reunite society, reconnect people locally and to provide services which meet the needs of local people. This mission can no longer be just the responsibility of a single local authority.

AS i said earlier the idea of a Social Enterprise Council is not new or radical – The challenge is how we empower people to actually care enough to take direct action, we need to go further and inspire through the 4 areas listed above and dig deeper into peoples motivations.

More importantly we need people to come forward and start asking about managing services -  only then will we really understand what is involved and what the unique local circumstances of each community/social enterprise offers.

Link – FutureGov » Using web 2.0 to safeguard children: an invitation to a round table discussion

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Whether or not you can make this or not, i think this is an excellent opportunity for people to share ideas and opportunities around a very sensitive subject.

I hope that after the roundtable, there is an opportunity to open up discussion perhaps via a network, or community as there will no doubt be many people who are simply unable to get to London on the date.

An extract from the blog post…

To start off with, we are looking to bring together multi-disciplinary group of senior managers and practitioners from childrens social services, teachers, police and health workers with social web technologist, public service designer, funders – or even just people who have a personal passion for this area – to help us design and run a small Safeguarding 2.0 pilot. Nothing big in the first instance, more a proof of concept if you like, but with the potential to transform the way in which professionals and non-professionals alike might better share information and form the kinds of relationships that might prevent future tragedies.

via FutureGov » Features » Using web 2.0 to safeguard children: an invitation to a round table discussion.

Policy analyst – Centre for Children’s Services – LGIU

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I wouldn’t normally do this but considering the work i have been involved with around youth participation and social networking, this post seems like an exciting opportunity for someone to help shape future policy.

The LGIU is looking for a highly motivated self starter who is looking for an opportunity to broaden their outlook, develop their analytical skills and contribute to new and challenging policy that can really make a difference!

LGIU – Action Learning Set – Social Networking and Participation

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Last friday (24th April) i attended the LGIU (Local Government Information Unit) action learning set. I was asked to speak for about 30 minutes on our experiences in Devon and in particular the strategic perspective as opposed to a detailed practitioner level (otherwise Katie would should have gone)

I had planned to blog sooner about the day but it provided some excellent ideas about how social networking can provide a bridge between individual and group engagement. But i still need to think more about this as well as touch base again with Tim Davies who was facilitating the Action Learning Set and Bill Badham from the National Youth Agency.

The session was made up of various people from a youth focused background to a corporate background, so it provided a good mix and balance for discussions.

Tim had asked me to try and focus on where this fit into the wider picture but also practical approaches to taking this forward within local councils, so that is what i tried to do within the 30 minutes.

My slides are here

and i also used the video of my Chief Executive again as it is becoming more and more relevant and more powerful the more i watch it and use it.

The most interesting and more important link that you can make if you are looking to move forward in this area is to link it into the Hear By Right Framework. There is huge potential to at least get wider strategic support for this type of activity if you connect with your colleague in the  youth service and children and young people’s directorates and help make those connections.

I am planning on writing a blog post about how i see the wider framework for the way my councils works in these spaces over the next week or so.

Thoughts on Social Networking and Youth Participation event

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On Friday I attended with some colleagues from Youth Service and Youth participation here in Devon, a great event hosted by the Children’s Services Network in London entitled “Social Networking Sites and Youth Participation”

We were going because we were also invited to speak at the event which was actually a very enjoyable experience.

The programme was actually quite short as it was to be followed by the launch of the National Youth Agency research project where Tim Davies and Pete Cranston went through the findings.

The day started well, we had already begun to network with people, what was great about the event, was that the topic was specific enough to encourage good networking with people from all over the public sector.

Here are my thoughts and notes – they may not reflect accurately what people said, this is my interpretation along with additional thoughts that occurred at the time.

Andy Sawford – Chief Executive of the LGIU welcomed everyone.

  • Highlighted key challenges
  • Breadth – can we use such tools to reach far enough out to also include the vulnerable and those who might be excluded
  • Depth – can we engage deep enough that we are affecting change and contributing and participating on real issues.
  • What works – we need to continually evaluate and learn from what people are doing.

Ian Johnson – Secretariat of the Youth Citizenship Commission

  • Gave some personal experiences of dealing and interacting with Social Networking
  • Posed some questions to stimulate debate and discussion throughout the day
  • Tried to get everyone to think differently and outside of their normal “box” by not assuming what we know is correct in these online spaces

Tim DaviesPractical Participation and convenor of UKYOuthOnline.org

  • Tim gave a great “intro to Social networking sites” for anyone who hadn’t actually seen or understood what they can do
  • asked people what words came into their minds when he said the word “participation”
    • change
    • dialogue
    • influence
    • involvement
  • SNS and participation, what can it do?
    • messenging
    • rating services or consultation – developing a continual feedback cycle
    • embed other media and quick to publish functions
    • spread activities through networks, viral nature of SNS
  • Transformation
    • traditional structures still exist, but this is a direct challenge to that approach
    • moving towards a networked structure organisation

Liam Webber and Therri Brown – Young Advisors to the Young Mayor of Lewisham

  • It was great to hear directly from young people and there talk was perhaps quite controversial because they stated “we don’t think engaging with facebook etc will work because they are personal spaces”
  • This caused a great Q&A session and stimulated some great thought and responses from Liam and Therri.
  • the main reason for there views was that in my opinion, they didn’t want “the government” or even “the council” to become a friend as it would find out a lot more about them and they were not happy with that.
  • They did raise issues of exclusion which were valid
  • My view is that Social networking sites are only an additional method in the toolbox and if youth workers can use it then they can. The key is to build on existing contacts to manage the participation and not open up SNS to all staff to engage with anyone.
  • A young person still has a choice to refuse contact just like they would in face to face youth work.

Dr Julia Glidden – Managing Director 21c Consultancy

  • This was a great presentation and although it was by far broader than the previous speakers for me it gave an excellent overview and context to what we are all trying to do which is “try and keep up with society as best possible”
  • She raised some excellent points about we are on the edge, pushing boundaries. We need to be supported to enable this initial work to succeed for others to follow.
  • on the whole a very inspiring presentation.

Tom Gaskin – Norfolk BlurbNorfolk County Council

  • Tom was accompanied by a young person from Norfolk but i didn’t seem to make a note of her name.
  • A practical demo of how they use social networking with some deliberate mistakes for audience participation. this was good and made the points perfectly about not using personal profiles when engaging
  • Some Q&A which was great and followed the days questions perfectly.
  • Finished with some do’s and don’ts

Then came our presentation.

  • here is our presentation via slideshow – the video clip will be included as a separate post to follow this one.

Jasmine Ali – Head of Children’s Services Network

  • feedback from a survey on “how many local authorities are using SNS? – why and why not?
  • launched a facebook group to develop the ideas and work done through the day and to facilitate collaboration.

This was in effect the end of the main day. There was a short break, which was taken up with some great conversations with people who are keen to do similar things but need some extra support.

Then came the NYA research launch…… But that is another post.

On the Saturday there was a unconference called “UK Youth Online -= Towards Youth Work 2.0“, if you get a chance to read about it i recommend it, i was unable to attend but kept up to speed via twitter and the various comments/blogs.

We also did some post event networking, whilst enjoying a refreshment in a local pub, I always find this is where the best connection are made after events and some of the best conversations.

One particular conversation focused on the benefits of Youth Workers in SNS and i suggested that the presence of Youth Workers in SNS may actually reassure some parents about the perceived dangers that are reported. Youth Work could make a real positive contribution to the way in which SNS is looked upon. How this will be received by young people will be interesting, however there is no difference between a youth worker trying to make contact on a street or in a SNS.

Finally I do hope that we can start to hear some really positive stories about SNS and in particular youth work being done successfully in these new spaces as well. It is a valuable service and one which i have developed more respect for since doing this project.