The World of GovCraft

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Inspired by the excellent Joanne Jacobs at the recent Likeminds event in Exeter to think more about the role of games and game play in solving problems and creating solutions.

I started to think about how Government in general could be seen as a game so that we could not only engage people in the problems and challenges we all face but actually inspire them to be part of the solution and help make changes happen.  In the lunchtime session that Joanne facilitated she spoke very passionately about the role of games and how we all play games all the time but just don’t realise it.

I kind of hit a blank wall as the big picture of Government is pretty boring, but the individual components that make it are actually interesting. So how do you start to get to a level of engagement and participation that inspires the average person on the street to want to get involved.

I then came across this excellent TED video of Game designer Jane McGonigal who spoke about harnessing the power of game mechanics to make a better world. Surely this is the stuff that Government innovators should be thinking about.

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 what is the chance of Government creating a meaningful game that inspires people to get involved, help change the world around them and contribute positively to the social fabric around them – Hold on a minute, haven’t we got something that is supposed to do this = Democracy? The challenge we have to make engagement and participation more engaging not just to young people but to people in general is to start inviting people into the game and make the game more interesting to start with.

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

The video is 20 minutes but is well worth watching.

Likeminds 2010 – was it really for me?

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In my previous post i shared my first thoughts and observations from attending the Likeminds 2010 conference. It was a great day and my thoughts have now started to settle down. If you wish to read other peoples views on the event, check out the likeminds site.

The question i am asking myself now is  – was the event for me?

I work in local government and i know that we can learn from other sectors and other professionals, but i’m starting to think that for a whole day event, i didn’t really come away with anything new  – that is not to say that the quality of presentations weren’t great because they were. I was very impressed with Jon Akwue, Joanne Jacobs and Chris Brogan who was one of the first 10 people i started to follow on twitter – Joanne’s Gartner style hype cycle for Augmented Reality was very interesting.

However it seems to me that we (public sector folk) are actually very advanced in our collective thinking on the potential of social software and social media. I include social software because i believe that we will gain huge advantages implementing this technology internally first before we embark externally on the road to radical transformation. This point was supported by an excellent presentation by Olivier Blanchard on “Operationalising Social Communications” – Ok so the title is a bit too “Communications” friendly for most public sector folk, but to be honest i don’t care what we call it, as long as we actually ALL understand what we are really talking about.

If you are in the public sector and you have heard Dave Briggs talk, or spoken to the following people in and around the public sector : Dominic Campbell, Jeremy Gould, Paul Clarke, Tim Davies, Mary McKenna, Steve Dale, Catherine Howe and Julie Harris to name but a few. All of these people i have heard talk about practical examples of change using social web technologies over the past 2 years. From the IDeA’s Knowledge Hub, eSafeguarding Projects, Youth Participation and Engagement, Learning Organisations, Reboot Britain, Digital Mentors and Virtual Civic Spaces. All of these in my opinion are great examples of the power and potential of social media.

Surely this is about FUNDAMENTAL CHANGE not just in businesses, public sector organisations but in society as a whole.

I appreciate that for many people Likeminds was a place where they learned about new stuff and new approaches, but for me, i have already been on that journey, but it was good to listen to great speakers.

I love likeminds and i love being part of it, but perhaps this time it was just a little to broad for me and not deep enough.

I suspect that the other likeminds offerings would meet my needs but being based in local government, funds are limited if not non existent to enable participation in some of the others.

I think that the main reason for me to feel this way was that it feels like the event was aimed at a more commercial group of people, it was no coincidence that a large number of people attending were agencies and people offering services in this space.

My thoughts continue.

Likeminds 2010 – First thoughts and reflections

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On Friday i attended the second Likeminds event in Exeter. This post will purely be my first thoughts and reflections as i know from attending the first event last year that many more thoughts will evolve, along with blog posts over the coming weeks.

So here goes with the random thoughts and observations and in no particular order:

Don’t become a friend of a brand, local government knows this all to well a previous post and Dave Briggs will always say this if you hear him speak. Why would you become a friend of a council or local authority

Acknowledgement is key to building connections and valuing people – One of the key take aways from Chris Brogan

Government is one of the hardest places to do social media (Thanks to Olivier Blanchard for acknowledging this), so let’s celebrate those that have done excellent work in the sector.

We need to remember that strategy development is game play and we need to model future scenarios more

Olivier Blanchard‘s talk on operationalising social communications was excellent and very relevant but social communications is too narrow a term for  government at this point in time – what should it be?

Joanne Jacobs is inspirational, Australian and managed not to swear :)

Jonathan Akwue understands the challenge in government and has done real grassroots stuff with netmums around service design.

Chris brogan reminded us that we all want to feel special and that we all want to be noticed – acknowledgement

Where is learning from all sectors being collated and shared?

If local government became social how would comms, PR and marketing deal with the devolution of messages?

The role of councillors is challenged in a social organisational structure – More to come on this subject over the comin weeks along with some thoughts and reflections on the Virtual Town Hall Pilot Project.

Will government be left behind because of all these challenges or will the change be forced and be even more painful for those who haven’t engaged?

Internal comms is dead, internal community management is now critical to organisations. Managing internal information and knowledge flow is critical for managing external social media usage. You can’t effectively deliver external engagement without solving internal communications an offering a social hub to support the knowledge sharing across silos.

We need to start really exploring the wider business impacts of adopting social media in local government and sharing the thinking around this subject.

Social media should plug in and add value and not your brand or org plugged into social media missing the point

What really is a conversation in this space and can orgsanisation be part of that – no – but the people in organisations can be part of that.

Still a huge challenge for some people around the issue of  personal vs business profiles.

Young employees might understand the tools but may not understand the business – critical to connect people internally.

Paul Clarke is a great photographer – you can see his likeminds photos as well as many others here

Tweet-Ups, Meet-ups, Barcamps, YamJams, Clubs and Cafes

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I’ve started to notice a huge increase in hashtags in twitter later, it seems everyday there is an interesting conference or gathering of “experts” talking about various topics related to web 2.0, gov 2.0, democracy 2.0, participation 2.0, enterprise 2.0 , leadership 2.0 – i think you get the trend here. There is also an increase in the many smaller gatherings on a more local basis based around the traditional ( i say that reluctantly) tweetup format. Most of the time, i’m wishing i was there with everyone else, but instead generally settle for the twitter stream.

After a recent Exeter event #tags which essentially built upon the existing Exeter tweet-up – but wasn’t a tweet-up in itself, more of a informal “experience sharing” (i must confess i’ve never actually attended one – shame on me i know).  It was after the event that some interesting discussion started on twitter – it wasn’t making any waves (not the google kind) and it wasn’t particularly controversial, but it did get me thinking.  How do the many different types of meeting title differ in reality, or are they all just the same but “branded” to position it as something “different”.

Why am i even posting on this subject, well, for me it is about managing expectations and in a more socially connected world we can share or expectations and we can also report when something fails us or doesn’t deliver what it promised. I also think that the fact that these kinds of meetings have evolved out of these connections is something that needs to be maintained and if new opportunities for connections are identified then we need to be clear about what the focus is and what is expected of the people attending.

Another reason why i think it is important is that we need to be clear that anyone can initiate a meeting, based on their network, so you can have more than one type of tweet up in a locality, obviously it could benefit people to connect those tweet ups but it may not, groups may have a particular reason for coming together. I am assuming here that if people interested in a particular topic, lets say “eLearning” want to connect in a tweet up format then that is perfectly normal. If i’m not interested in elearning then i wouldn’t attend, or if it was related to a particular music band, again unless i’m interested i wouldn’t attend.

So i guess i’m kind of arguing for some consistency in how events are communicated (i say that instead of marketed for a reason as they should be inclusive and participative) and not “sold” to me as must attend event. After all social media puts you and me in control – we have the power to choose and more importantly influence.

OR this could all be worthless as i have asked myself “does it really matter what its called?” as long as it delivers value.

Ok lets starts: NB, this is not an exhaustive list and is only meant to stimulate conversation, if you disagree, comment, if you know of others, comment, either way don’t stay silent if you have something to say :o)

Tweet-up

As every good researcher  does nowadays – I did a search on google for “what is a tweet-up” and found an excellent definition, which for me sums up exactly what a tweetup is supposed to be about, so i won’t try and reinvent the wheel here, but the thing to remember i believe is that it is about meeting up with people because they are on twitter – hence tweet-up – obvious but still needs to be said.

A tweetup is an event where people who Twitter come together to meet in person. Normally we connect with our friends online after we have met them. At a tweetup you meet the people you might only otherwise know virtually. Like finally putting a name to a face, a tweetup is a great opportunity to really connect with the people in your network and share just a little more than 140 characters at a time.

Via Socialhat.com

I’m assuming that this is only related to twitter and that if you were a Yammer user you might well attend something called a “YamJam” or something like that. But i could be wrong, i don’t use Yammer, so i’m only guessing, but i definitely like the sound of a “YamJam”.

Twestival

The best explanation comes from the twestival website itself.

A Twestival or Twitter-Festival is a global series of events organized by volunteers around the world under short timescales, which bring people offline for a great cause.  Twestival is run 100% by volunteers and independently from any not-for-profit; although the organizing teams do work closely to outline an achievable and measurable fundraising target.  Twestival also sets out to identify key skills of volunteers and match these with the needs of the cause; particularly communications strategy, tech integration and social media training.

Via Twestival.com

Social Media Cafe or Social Media Club

Again a search or two later on google and it seems the consensus is that a Social Media Cafe is a place for ALL people interested in social media to gather, get acquainted, and to plot, scheme, and share.. emphasis on open and interesting conversation!

There are some great examples of Social Media Cafes around the country Birmingham, Manchester and of course London, which in fact calls itself the “Tuttle Club“.  If you want to know a bit more about  Social Media Cafe’s and the Tuttle Club then check out this video by Lloyd Davis.

Closer to home Cornwall has a Social Media Cafe as does Devon, But again i’ve not attended either,  this is mainly due to the fact it has been in Plymouth, and my view is that they should be locally based. Devon is just too big or a county to easily get around to organise a Devon wide Social Media Cafe – perhaps we need to consider a sub set e.g.  Exeter, East Devon,  Torbay, North Devon and of course Plymouth, but that has to be a crowd driven process. by posting this , I have now just made my contribution to the discussion.

Barcamp

Slightly more formal and an informal way then the events above (< does that even make sense!!).  Anyway the definition of a barcamp is a user generated conference (or unconference), which is open and participatory. It also relies on the participants to provide the content.

I’ve attended 2 barcamp events (UKGovWeb and LocalGovCamp) and they were both excellent, in my view this is the best type of event to attend for learning and exploration around particular issues. It doesn’t rely on any key-note session or “expert” analysis. It simply relies on the collective knowledge of those participants who have attended and the willingness to share the knowledge and learning they have.  The key aspect of both of these events were that they were free to attend (funded by sponsorship and volunteers) and they were on a Saturday. This in my opinion made sure that those who attended had a real interest and willingness to share and connect with others. That for me is a true test, would you connect even if your work weren’t paying you?

In my opinion it is the most inclusive and interactive of this style of event. But i would say that as i used to work in the Local Agenda 21 arena (from 1998-2003 ) and Open Space Technology was very much part of the community consensus building process.  It assumes that the community or participants are best placed to resolve and answer their own issues and questions. If not then action is devolved to people to find out and report back.  Why i think it works so effectively now is the tools for collaboration are easy to access and the sharing of information pre and post event is easier.

Local variations have now started to appear in the form of LocalGovCamp Lincoln and i hope this continues and develops across different sectors. Perhaps we should pull together and organise and BarCampDevon and look to the voluntary, public and private sector to collaborate on improving services for all. If you are interested let me know via the comments section, as i’d be keen to explore the practicalities of taking this forward.

Likeminds

Ok, not strictly an event format or style as such, but i can’t write this post without at least referencing the recent likeminds event in Exeter. What was interesting about this event was that it was organised, promoted, marketed and pretty much run on occasion did sneak into the more traditional formats of having key-note speakers and panelists (i was even one them!!). It did go to the next step however and integrated social media into the event itself using twitterfall for audience feedback,  and ustream for live broadcast (over 550 people watched live). As much as i enjoyed the event, i met some great people, connected dfaces with twitter ID’s and it is rare such as well attended event happens in Exeter – it didn’t provide me with the same opportunities that a BarCamp style event would have.

It did however generate huge twitter interest and even within hours of being raised during the event, started promoting t-shirts – surely that demonstrates the power of these tools.

So what?

Like i said earlier, why do i really care bout this, well for me, the type of event will determine whether or not i will attend (shallow i know but i’m pretty busy like most and if i don’t think i’ll gain from something i won’t attend). My preference of course as a participant is the inclusive barcamp style and i’m convinced that any participant of a barcamp style event will probably say the same. I have and will attend an event regardless of format, just to meet people – after all it is in those connections that i learn the most. I’ve also (recently in fact) sat through nearly 30 hours or death by powerpoint and i did learn, but i didn’t feel like i participated in an event, i felt like i was talked at and too most of the time…took me back to my school days.

So what about all the new events that are popping up, well for me, they are starting to take some of the “open” and “inclusive” principles away and are reverting back to more traditional styles of conference delivery. It may well be that this is what people are seeking and i have nothing against this approach. But i just don’t think it is in keeping with the ethos of the social web as a whole, which is inclusive, equal and participative, knowledge is shared and is not considered as “power”.

These are only my views and my opinions and on that note – Enough said. :0

Overcoming the Obstacles To Social Business – Conversation Starter – HarvardBusiness.org

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An interesting post on the HBR website, about the organisational challenges and some ways to overcome them around social media and building a more social business.

The 3 areas are:

  1. Culture Shock
  2. Legal Treadmill
  3. Riskphobia

They suggest there are many more, but this is a great start on sharing some useful stuff around making progress.

I will post again soon on some of the learning and challenges here in due course, so will contribute to the conversation, but for now i’ll leave you with one example in the culture shock section:

Find the change agents within your organization who are passionate about making your company better and harness their passion for the benefit of your business.

via Overcoming the Obstacles To Social Business – Conversation Starter – HarvardBusiness.org.