Half Baked Idea – Citizen Data Transfer Protocol – cdtp://carlhaggerty

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I make no apologies but this post is most certainly one of those half-baked ideas :)

For a while now I’ve been thinking about what civic architecture means, what it might look like, how it might be built and who might actually do that as well as why would we actually require something else.

Below are a few of the posts and thinking which has led me to where I am now

Martin Howitt’s Overview of the Localgov platform

Catherine Howe’s two posts on Civic Architecture

A post i wrote whilst working at Public-i called Playing games with local participation

A couple of my previous posts on this blog

So let me begin by saying that I personally believe that the internet itself is the platform for the digital civic architecture and that pretty much all of the components that are required are already there, but perhaps just not distributed evenly.

So for me after a conversation with Martin over lunch on Monday, I finally found a bit of clarity and realised that in order for a civic architecture to manifest, it needs a protocol to ensure that appropriate data and content related to civic conversations, decisions, people etc is able to be transferred across the internet.

Some people may well argue that this happens already but I’d like to suggest that what we need to create is a Citizen Data Transfer Protocol (CDTP)which facilitates the civic content and maintains key components along the way including identify.

In the same way that “http” facilitates the internet – see definition from wikipedia:

The Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) is an application protocol for distributed, collaborative, hypermedia information systems. HTTP is the foundation of data communication for the World Wide Web.

Hypertext is a multi-linear set of objects, building a network by using logical links (the so-called hyperlinks) between the nodes (e.g. text or words). HTTP is the protocol to exchange or transfer hypertext.

I’d go as far to suggest that the CDTP would be a protocol for distributed, collaborative, hyperlocal people, networks and communities. This has the potential to be the foundation worldwide civic architecture, which builds upon the internet.

This clearly requires a lot more thinking and development, especially the data model that would sit behind it.  Also the request methods would need to be defined, however this requires a wider conversation about how we would want a civic society to operate and therefore which methods would be included (to give an example using http the methods include get, post, put, delete etc).

It is also likely that a mark-up language might need to be adapted in order to ensure specific civic data or content is presented consistently. We might require a CDPL (Citizen Data Presentation Language), but this isn’t really in my thinking right now.

Another key element is how the CDTP would interact, connect and integrate with standard http sites and content. My thinking at this point in time is that it would use thinking and standards around linked data to help create and facilitate the environment.

So what would it actually do?

You may have noticed in the title that I included an address cdtp://carlhaggerty – my thinking here is that this address is my civic persona and identity.

This address allows me to create a civic presence away from my general social presence which is often confusing and pretty much about general stuff, my family and sometimes utter nonsense. It most certainly isn’t a civic persona.

What I imagine is this containing a living history of my civic involvement, contributions and actions. Coupled with some kind of gamification  layer that shows and displays my civic actions and persona within my neighbourhood, community, town/village, city, county and beyond. As well as my communities or networks of interest.

For me a key element to any civic architecture is that it isn’t a social network itself but is a platform that connect people – for some time I struggled to see how this could have been achieved but for me the CDTP allows this to happen and it can be open to everyone.

Like all my half-baked ideas, this is about as far I have come with my thinking right now, although it has certainly provided some much-needed focus to my future thinking.

Content, Stories, Networks, Relationships and Trust

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I’ve been thinking and reflecting a lot lately around the future of local government (a recent post here) and the “inevitable doom and gloom” [PDF Warning ] that awaits us all in the coming years. It really isn’t healthy to maintain focus on that future for too long, but It has made me think about what I’m doing and more importantly why I am doing what I do.

I’ve also been thinking and reflecting a lot about content, not just the traditional content you find on local authority websites but compelling content, content that provokes ideas, ideas that are contagious and then become stories, which in turn contributes to changing behaviours and transforms local services.

In my work at Public-i I’ve been thinking and reflecting a lot about networks and networks of networks and the power and potential of networks to help connect and reconnect people online and offline

In various situations I’ve been thinking and reflecting about relationships and the importance of trust. As people and organisations everything we say and do is a representation of who we are and it is only when we create relationships built on this authenticity that we can attract others and foster the bonds that will empower us to achieve truly great things.

In this post I’m going to try to bring this thinking together as it is very much all part of the same picture in my mind…

Content and Stories

Last week whilst in Brighton I spoke to Matt Bond (Cornwall Council) about stories and related things and he pointed me in the direction of Coca Cola’s new content excellence programme and the excellent videos they’ve produced which explain what they mean…

What struck me was the focus on stories, provocative stories as way to affect change. I recommend watching the videos yourself to gain your own insights but I’ve included some of mine below

Part 1

Part 2

Some of the key points for me are below, although the whole thing is very useful in a number of situations…however in the context of this post the following stood out…

  • stories provoke conversations
  • we need to act and react to conversations
  • technology can enable brilliant creativity
  • exploit existing community behaviours
  • story telling is at the heart of families and communities
  • we need provocations that will lead to bigger transformational actions
  • data is key to this and will become the soil of which ideas will grow
So our challenge is to not only transform our content around our services to make it easier for people to interact digitally, but also to transform our content so that we can provoke conversations, connect people with data and trigger bigger transformational action.

Networks

In relation to networks I think about Citizenscape as a platform, it is aiming to address the heart of these issues, in the projects where it is used, it is really about fostering empowerment within communities and networks online and offline. I recently blogged about my views on this here. A particular quote which comes to mind in the context of this post is:

So when you consider this and then what Citizenscape states its value is, the value isn’t directly in the technology itself (although without it, it would be pretty empty) but in the connections, the networks, the communities that are now able to come together and share learning, to reconnect at a civic level to address local issues and problems. The key role for the platform (Citizenscape) is to facilitate those connections, without it those networks may not get the chance to reconnect.

So our challenge is to understand what networks and what networks of networks exist with our areas and to connect them with each other but to also connect them with the content around our services to make it easier for them to interact digitally, but to also connect them with content and stories so that we can provoke conversations, connect people with data and trigger bigger transformational action.

Relationships and Trust

When I focus on relationships and trust, I think about an example that I was fortunate to see last friday at the DCCSMF (Social Media Forum), where a couple of local PCSO’s (Police Community Support Officers) came and shared their learning around connecting with communities. One explained how his use of social technologies as well as physically meeting people face to face helped build a relationship and trust within his community.
Devon Social Media Forum 2012

The another PCSO shared his experience which wasn’t about technology but in understanding where the networks were and simply connecting with them…In his case it was simply going to the local primary school at the beginning and end of each day to connect with the local parents. This approach has started to build relationships and trust.

The reality is and this is really obvious, but it takes time and more importantly effort to build relationships and trust and if we want to seriously address the challenges facing us over the next 8-10 years we need to start building new relationships, networks and fostering trust now to begin to have a chance.

I’ve said it before that it is all about people and that comes through explicitly in this great video by Simon Sinek called if you don’t understand people, you don’t understand business.

So our challenge is to develop those relationships and levels of trust and to connect them to the networks and networks of networks within our areas and to connect them with each other but to also connect them with the content around our services to make it easier for them to interact digitally, but to also connect them with content and stories so that we can provoke conversations, connect people with data and trigger bigger transformational action.

The questions ?

All of this brings me back to the future of local government and local public services.

  • Can we create content and share stories which provoke conversations that will lead to bigger transformational actions?
  • Are we actually capable of engaging with the content and stories as consumers and have conversations which trigger bigger transformational action?
  • We need to ask ourselves – even if we can identify networks and networks of networks and we can connect them, as members of those networks ourselves, are we prepared to engage in the challenges and are we capable of acting creatively?
  • As individuals and as professional people we will continue to develop relationships and trust – are we prepared to use it to change and influence the way our communities and networks operate, grow, develop and respond to the challenges facing us over the next few years?

Finally…

This isn’t a political question, this is question for every one of all ages.

I am personally reflecting on what these questions mean to me as an individual, as a parent, a husband, a friend and as a professional person – It isn’t easy, but it isn’t supposed to be, it will be hard, we need to prepare for this and stand up to the challenge.

The alternative simply isn’t worth considering, we must imagine and create a sustainable future.