The capabilities for digital local public services – participation

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Continuing the development of my thinking around the Framework for Digital Local Public Services and following quickly on from my previous posts about Connectivity, Education, Hardware and Software. This post focuses on participation and some of the opportunities to think differently around this area.

The framework outlines and considers participation as the following:

Participation: Access to and participation with local data and intelligence to help shape decisions in communities.

But I also think this it is about how people participate generally in their communities to help make it better, the data and intelligence should be helping to identify the issues that need solving but are people actually doing things locally!

The challenge here is to provide opportunities for people and places to connect to the underlying data and intelligence about the people and places and at a time and in a form which is usable and meaningful for those consuming it. Nothing too hard then :)

In the commissioning cycle it is absolutely fundamental to ensure that you have evidence and data which helps you understand needs today and those that are likely to be predicted over a period of time, so that preventative measures can be put in place and therefore reduce future demand on services. We are essentially suggesting that the commissioning and the intelligence behind this is opened up to those people in a community who maybe better positioned to actually understand what could be achieved locally.

The underlying issue for me is that the opportunity and practicality of everyday people (like my mum) to engage in intelligence and data about their community is limited and even if you know where and how, it is hard to make sense of it in a wider context.

It needs to be linked with stories as well as raw data so that there are opportunities to understand the impact of what it is saying other than simply looking at perhaps numbers, graphs or charts.

It seems to me that public libraries or community hubs would make logical places where this data could be accessed and made sense of along with people who can help interpret it without bias – they also make logical places where networks and networks of networks can come together physically or virtually through directories.  It makes sense for community hubs to provide access points as they should really be promoting and acting on community needs anyway…maybe i’m over thinking this aspect of it…of course the access point should be the internet but I’m thinking that if say my mum, wanted to gain more understanding she could get that from the hub or library and then be in a position to share her story about what it means for others…

In terms of whether people are participating locally, some of what I want to say here I’ve written before in the following posts:

But to summarise those posts in this context I would have to say the following.

As this series of posts outlines the key capabilities required when collectively delivered create opportunities for a new climate of growth and well-being to emerge, however that climate won’t emerge unless we ensure that people are actively participating in society.

Reflecting back on World of GovCraft where video Game designer Jane McGonigal speaks about harnessing the power of gamers who have super powers as they are actively participating in games and solving problems…

With these new capabilities how do we ensure and create opportunities for individuals, communities, networks, organisations etc to actually harness the possible and potential capacity that Jane eludes to…this very much links across to the Education post as well about opportunities to solve problems.

To recap she suggested that gamers have 4 super powers:

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 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

Expanding on those observations I had before, we need to move to a situation where organisations, communities and individuals can develop relationships and levels of trust to connect them to the networks and “networks of networks” within our local communities and to connect those communities with each other but to also connect them with the problems and narrative around local public services to make it easier for them to interact digitally and create transformational change.

The basic idea

  • We need to change the way we think about data and our connections to it and how we can help each other make sense of it through stories.
  • We need to identify networks and networks of networks and then connect them.
  • We need to create content and share stories which provoke conversations that will lead to bigger transformational actions.

A new view of Corporate Web Management or is it?

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I’ve been currently working on the Strategic Development Plan for the County Councils Web Channel over the last 6-8 weeks and I’m amazed by how much my own thinking has changed since I started thinking about how we move forward our web channel and web presence in the context of Big Society, Channel Migration (encouraging users to use lower cost channels such as the web over face to face), engagement, participation etc – plus the likely move towards a strategic commissioning model.

I do have a tendency to over-think things sometimes and I always value people challenging, correcting and sometimes punching me to see difference viewpoints or the missing pieces of the puzzle :o) – This is one of those areas.

Most web managers  and web professional should know that Socitm are working on a project to define a professional skills framework for people who work on public sector websites that includes:

  • programmers and coders
  • web developers (with technical skills)
  • web designers
  • content managers/editors
  • social networking experts
  • measurement/monitoring specialists
  • web marketers
  • web managers
  • customer service or IT heads with web responsibilities
  • e-communications professionals

My particular concern is around the Web Manager role as my previous post was exactly that (hence the task of writing the strategic development plan).

So if the scenario is that most public sector organisations are moving towards (some are already there of course) a Strategic Commissioning model, which also in theory will contribute to the Big Society agenda, then we actually need two types of Web Manager moving forward in my opinion:

1) A “Strategic” Web Commissioner – This would in effect be the person who wrote the strategy, understood and documented the organisational needs and specified at a high level the requirements by which a commissioning exercise could take place – they would also be responsible for monitoring the value and ensuring it delivered the outputs specified. This role would also need to set and outline the standards as part of the requirements

2) An “Operational” Web Delivery Manager – This would essentially be the person(s)  responsible for the delivery of the platform. In the scenario above this could be an external organisation or a partners ICT department.

The other roles within the skills framework above don’t seem to be impacted in the same way as all in my view with the exception of the Strategic Web Manager could be “commissioned” or more bluntly put “outsourced” – yes even content authors, although less likely!

The model is, in a simplistic way, very similar to how Web Managers operate now, they are usually outside of the delivery unit (ICT) and are often located in the business (Communications or Customer Services) and essentially commission internally developments and projects which meet a set of outcomes – well we hope they do?

However the main difference is that we will see a new relationship emerging and a logical development of the role into a more strategic context, one which in my view has to understand the commissioning process and inform and influence the direction of the channel.

To put it more simply, you are either specifying what it does, where it goes and what it looks like OR you are part of the delivery of it! Some of us will need to decide what side of that fence we want to sit, some of us of course won’t get a choice…

When it comes to Social Media, I think this adds a different dimension and will inject a much-needed strategic context for social outputs which currently  Web Managers are just grappling with. In my view this shift will provide an opportunity to get “social” into the wider organisation. This simply adds layers to collaboration, knowledge sharing, learning, communication, engagement, participation as we all already know.

To come back to the present day for a minute, I don’t see an immediate transition to this model, but I do suspect that over the next year we will start to see the Strategic Web Commissioner type role emerging and starting to inform and influence the commissioning of web services at a more senior level in councils than has previously happened.

Some people may say that this isn’t really a significant change, but something tells me that this is a big step change from how we work now and we need to work out what it means before someone else does.

As I said at the start, I’d value challenge, comments and an occasional virtual punch to either get me back on track or to make some observations that I simply haven’t considered or acknowledged here.

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.

A challenge to Open Democracy – Bloggers excluded from council’s Twitter accreditation

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I have read with great interest an article and supporting posts about Tameside Councils decision to accredit professional journalists and allow them to tweet live within council meetings and in effect ban anyone else from doing so.

A council in the north of England has taken the unusual step of accrediting professional journalists to report from meetings using Twitter in a move that in effect bans local bloggers.

The decision by Tameside council means that local bloggers, members of the public and even their own councillors are not permitted to tweet because they are not members of the press as defined in law by the Local Government Act of 1972.

via Bloggers excluded from council’s Twitter accreditation | Media | guardian.co.uk.

Now I’m guessing here that Tameside Council may have taken a different view if they were webcasting their meetings live like Devon County Council and many others do.

The use of the Local Government Act 1972 to in effect reduce the ability of even the councillors themselves from tweeting from within the meeting seems a step too far. Details of the Councils Official response can be found here.

Any council who is currently webcasting their meetings would find the same decision impossible to impose, unless they stop webcasting their meetings to the public. The challenge of course in this scenario is that anyone from around the world can effectively tweet live whilst watching the “live” webcast or even comment after the event via the archive.

So I guess my question related to this is:  Are we really using the act to manage the supposed abuse of twitter? Or are Tameside Council trying to solve another problem relating to individuals and what they say?

Either way, I am concerned about the longer term implications should other councils see this as a way to “control the message” and restrict the opportunities to engage and participate in local politics and decision-making.

This feels like we are going back to a “behind closed doors” approach which is in my opinion “anti social” and not very “democratic”.

The challenge here is that we need to support councils and more importantly reach the staff working inside to better understand the potential of these tools to increase participation and involvement in local politics and decision making.   We also need to have an effective discussion in the wider public sector about the role social tools can play in shaping public services.

Why do you participate with Social Media?

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I came across an interesting presentation on why people participate in social media. Do you agree with it?

I’ll share my reasons on the different tools i use.

My reason for blogging was explicit from day one, to capture my thoughts and to share my learning. If others benefit as well then great, hopefully you might contribute your thoughts as well. I recently got an iphone and the wordpress application is useful in allowing me to capture my thoughts and save as local drafts. I’ve also started to use evernote for a similar purpose online and via the iphone.

My reason for using twitter was initially to receive insights from others, but i quickly found that it allowed me to connect with people in a simple way. I still use it for information filtering and to ask broad questions. I believe your experience of twitter with vary on your network. I tend to keep twitter stuff to work related stuff as very few of my “out of work friends” are on twitter.

I use facebook because it allows me to connect with friends and colleagues. I changed my approach to Facebook as soon as i started to connect to people at work and those i work with, i stopped posting nonsense (well others may take a different view :o) ). I do still tend to use it for more casual life events and for posting photos etc.

I use Linked-in simply as a more formal version of Facebook, with a particular focus on building work related networks and connections.

I use flickr to store my family photos, i upgraded to a pro account and find it an excellent way to store and filter my photos. It also allows me to share among friends and family.

All of the above can be used via the iPhone which means that i can continually participate with these networks regardless of where i am and for me that adds to the value of the network.

I don’t see any problem connecting with people on any of the networks or tools above providing that it fits with my purpose for using that tool.

Here is the presentation, why do you use social media? What do you use?