Looking back to look forward

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Triggered by a range of experiences recently I thought I would reflect on my learning journey. So over the last few weeks I’ve been dipping in and out of my blog posts from the last 5 years and thinking about how things have or haven’t changed or even if some of the things that I thought would happen are happening.

About 3 years ago I started sharing my thinking around the future of local government from a range of perspectives: what it might look like, how it might operate, how we might address the challenges we are facing now and also how we might help shape services…

This post “The future of local government” from June 2010 seems to reflect and hint at the situation I find myself in now – I wrote:

So we could get to a situation (I am making some big assumptions here but after all I’m only sharing some thinking)  -  I don’t believe it will be that long before we see it – where the only aspect of local government which is truly local is the actual service delivery and decision making. The organisation behind it all could well be a mix of local, regional, national and cloud based services all supporting an individual worker (who may not actually be employed by the council) to deliver a service to someone in a community.

To me this will mean that local government is purely going to be a conceptual layer – with greater transparency and openness, radical approaches to service delivery and support services, this will all mean that the only aspect of local we really need to focus on will be the People in the Community. In my view this will be a great outcome, albeit very painful and a political hot potato in some areas. But this approach in my opinion  would drive out the inefficiencies in local government and offer greater local involvement in service design and creation.

The following week I posted a second post titled – “The future of local government – social enterprise council”  - I wrote:

I do agree that there is a huge assumption that the general public would 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.

These two posts resonate with me right now and reflect a lot of the topics and conversations I have with people

I’ve also previously blogged about the World of GovCraft where reframing some of the conversations and providing connections for people to engage would help trigger a set of responses and actions. I previously wrote:

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.

I think in so many ways the councils Tough Choices programme is starting to address these areas…ok it isn’t in the spirit of a game – as suggested in world of govcraft – but what it does is start to provide a level of urgency, it surfaces connections to existing social fabric, it suggests connections to tools and existing productivity and of course the epic meaning around why we need to come together to collaborate around new models of achieving outcomes.

The real question which remains unanswered is : will it work?

The beauty of blogging and sharing thinking and observation is that we can revisit this post in a couple of months or years and reflect on whether we started to trigger social change and achieve better outcomes.

GartnerSym 20:20 Vision

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My second session on Wednesday was more about the future, which is the kind of session i like as it gets my brain thinking and buzzing around with ideas and opportunities. The Session was called 20:20 vision  and the Gartner Analyst was Steve Prentice.

The format of this session was to look at where we are how we got here and then instead of making forecasts or predictions – Steve was going to suggest some projections.

These notes bounce around a bit as it wasn’t a standard session it was intended to stimulate thought and suggest a potential future.

The life cycle of a revolution

In the 1920s Russian economist Nikolai Kondratiev described 1920s, the regular “S-shaped” cycles of technological innovation (each lasting 50 to 60 years) that drive the world economy – In 2003 Carlota Perez in 2004 produced “Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital” and built upon Kondratiev’s model and introduced 4 stages:

  1. eruption
  2. frenzy
    (1 & 2 are supply side innovation)
  3. synergy
  4. maturity
    (3 & 4 are demand side innovation)

Some key dates of our current revolution:

  • 15th November 1971 – Intel launches 4004 microprocessor
  • 12th August 1981 – IBM introduce the 5150 the IBM PC
  • 6 August 1991 – Web made available to the public
  • 10th January 2001  – wikipedia is created
  • August 2003 – Myspace goes live
  • 4 February 2004  – Facebook goes live
  • August 2004 – Google goes live with expanded offering
  • 23 April 2005 – you tube goes live
  • 21 March 2006 – twitter goes live

Projection – We won’t see any new technologies over the next 15 years – but we will see an increase in applications built upon existing technology that enable people to consume information and engage with stuff better and more efficiently

More stats

  • global ip traffic is doubling every 2 years
  • mobile traffic is doubling every year (games consoles, digital photo frames, tv’s fridges etc)
  • currently 60 billion smart devices

The internet is big and getting bigger – It is very hard to explain to people how big the web is – a trillion web pages – 250 million websites

Projection – It will take 8 years to get the remaining population of the world connected to the internet.  This is SO SIGNIFICANT you need to pause and consider your business model in this new context?

Device and Data Proliferation will be significant

15 petabytes of information every day – This is huge, in fact i can’t really imagine what all this data looks like, however some common references say that we produce more information in a day 1500 time greater than the contents of the library of congress which has 32 million books on 650 miles of bookshelves. again we produce more than that every day?

Just to give some context Steve said:

A book is a printed kindle  -  A library is a like a physical media centre

This did put a smile on my face, but also made me think that one day i’m sure we will actually have to explain stuff in this way!!

To get a sense of where we are going we need to understand the drivers:

Social
Simply put we are naturally social creatures:

  • 74% of people visit social networking site and remain on their for an average of 6 hours a month
  • 50% of facebook users logon everyday
  • 22% of online time is in social networks
  • 1 billion users across all social media

Practically no one makes a purchase decision without referencing either google or social networks very pervasive

We can now, as individuals build our own infrastructure online and pretty much for free.

Knowledge
The younger minded people of today (notice i write “minded”) often say “why do i need to know something if i can just ask google”  – however people have a naive assumption that what appears in google is the “truth”. Search results are also available in “klingon”!!

Entertainment and Recreation
Gaming is bigger than the movie industry
Average online gamers are 34 years old and core gamers play 48 hours per week?
Social gaming – farmville has more than 60 million active users – 100 million dollar business

What is interesting about this is almost at the same time i was in this session Gartner analyst Andrea DiMaio tweeted the following:

It is already starting to show in people’s thinking about Government and I’ve already posted some thoughts on gaming and government in my World of Govcraft posts:

Mobile

  • SMS 6.3 billion messages a day
  • 150 million mobile facebook users
  • more than 100% penetration in some countries
  • “to text” is now a verb
  • mobile data traffic is rising
  • for the first time in september 2010 mobile data traffic exceeded mobile voice traffic

Commerce
online transactions are growing
social gaming is a huge industry

is access to the web a basic human right and should it be free?

Net neutrality (wikipedia definition)
the power to control what a user can do on the internet

Interestingly Hollywood and China had shared agendas about controlling the web?

Looking forward – the dark side
The web is full of opinion, not facts
Can you distinguish the fact from fiction (if users are influenced by peers, maybe this will be an important issue to consider)
Do a search of your “company name” and the word “I hate” and see the results?

Looking forward- context and cloud

Taking advantage of location and time
Cloud is inevitable but not without risks

Resistance is futile – you WILL be assimilated, i’ve heard this before, but considering this was a future session, it really will be the future.

Enterprises are losing control – the outside is coming in – the walls are tumbling – consumers have choices and they are bringing them with them…wherever they go.

Questions

  • what new institutions will arise – what does a company look like?
  • what new business models will emerge
  • working practices – what does a career look like? portfolio working
  • social integration or tribalism
  • social innovation or technology innovation – how can we manage this effectively
  • does technology free us or enslave us -  we need downtime and we need to disconnect to get balance  “off the web is off life”
  • what is the role of government?
  • will the internet break apart and become the splinternet

Societal change despite constraints
issues – people, resources, geography
by 2025

  • 2.7 billion will face water shortages
  • 60% live in urban areas
  • 24% is over 65

Question: how will tech best serve a global population that is growing, aging and urbanised to levels never seen before?

People need to understand anthropology, social sciences, behavioural psychology to address the societal changes.

The session ended on a slide which spoke about TRUST,  a number of questions relating to this and how we should be considering these from a personal and business perspective. We all need to think about this question in a future which will clearly be very VERY different to what we see today.


The Big Society isn’t really for everyone

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It’s true the Government does understand the principles of social media and the principles of reuse as Big Society is relaunched yesterday (was the the 3rd time, i personally lost interest and count during the election).

Anyway yesterday the twitterverse was awash with a variety of views on what is and what isn’t Big Society and how risky it could be and whether capacity exists in communities to do what essentially paid employees do now – but for free. Also without any money how will this actually happen, which services, how it will turn government on its head and transform society and bring us all together like one happy family…it really was a fascinating discussion you can check it all out here.

I have thought about this quite a bit since i first heard about Big Society, well actually since i started thinking about digital participation and engagement (to be honest i can’t even remember when now, but it was definitely before yesterday!!) and have wondered how inclusive it really is and who actually will be part of this Big Society.

It is worth saying that i think the concept of the Big Society is a good one, it is afterall already happening in many parts of the country right now. It will be a difficult challenge, but i fear unless we really appreciate the impacts, effort and commitment required we will end up creating poor quality replacements that could put people’s lives at risk. We need to be clear about the risks and mitigate and manage these.

People do this all of the time, but these people are few and far between, the following comments are generally concerned with a wider adoption by society of this and my at time somewhat cynical view. BUT i am trying to be optimistic about this, after all it will happen – we need to shape how good is actually is.

I did like reading Shane McCracken’s post about how he saw the Big Society developing and emerging (even though it isn’t a new idea – just new branding – Shane points to an asset transfer scheme which is almost identical)

One thing that did occur to me though after reading Shane’s post and it joined the dots in my head about this also is that the Big Society isn’t really for everyone.

The Big Society will *really* test people and communities and their tolerances around the quality and variety of services available to them. As Shane points out in his post the Big Society is already here and is well established across communities up and down the country – what the government wants to more of it so that the impact of cutting or stopping services is reduced by the willingness of active and committed people.

I spot Flaw number 1 – Active and Committed people….Hmmm, well when i look around my community now i do see active and committed people, some are only temporarily active and are based on issues but on the whole there is a good few people – notice the use of *few*.

I was also thinking about what type of services people – the active and committed kind – might be tempted to run – well this to me seems like and endless possibility really as there are already groups that exist that manage quite complex services and are accountable (this is a key aspect which we must not lose sight of) an example being School Governors. They really do an excellent job and it isn’t something you would do because you felt like it, you would need to be passionate about the school and the education of the children in it. You would be a committed and active person. This is why not everybody becomes a school governor nor actually wants to – for some it just sounds like *a bit too much like hard work* and for what return? Flaw number 2 – Motivation.

However society isn’t made up of active and committed people – i very much see these people like i see the high value contributors in social media spaces. They generate most of the content and develop the conversations for others to engage in and consume – The sad truth is that the majority of society are in fact *lurkers* and they are happy to consume and participate in a low-cost way – providing it doesn’t take up too much time.  Here comes Flaw Number 3 – *Time* – Now i agree with Shane in that those people who are passionate will find the time, but i suspect that these people are *already busy* and more than likely using all of their available *participation bandwidth* supporting services which the government has already decided not to support or simply wouldn’t exist without their input.

One of the  biggest challenges to Big Society for me is not identifying which services a community might decide is too important to lose but how the community itself – the people in the communities who are already active and committed – can tap into and access the people on the edges, the people with *participation bandwidth* and provide the sustainable connections to maintain the service.

In my post the World of GovCraft it refers to  “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

There are clearly lessons in there about how we can all tackle the issues facing us and how those active and committed people can support a new kind of active citizen, one who has being doing epic problem solving and giving huge amounts of time willingly for the sake of a wider community.

Perhaps the challenge is about defining community and associating stuff to it for people so they see value in helping to keep it alive.

I think i’ll need to blog again on this at some point as there is of course the models by which communities and groups can organise themselves to manage and provide services, which will provide better opportunities to bring communities together – Social Enterprise anyone!!

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.

Moving from Attention to Engagement to Participation – More World of GovCraft

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Continuing my thinking on the World of GovCraft, I’ve started to think about what the real challenge is for government, various comments suggested that Government is so disconnected that it is unlikely that we will start to bridge the gap. But i’m starting to wonder whether this just an illusion and we are only creating this gap and reinforcing it by not doing anything practical about addressing it in ways which will reduce the gap and simply not patch it with sticky tape and string that will break after any sustained use.

When I hear people talking about using social software or social media to connect to communities or networks, there is often a focus on “grabbing attention” and “starting a conversation” and “building relationships”. These are all good things to focus on but we also need to actually figure out what we really want to get from these relationships and conversations. It simply isn’t good enough to just grab someones attention in these spaces, we actually need to have a plan on how we will encourage them to engage and participate.

It comes back to a recent post of mine where i started to question whether we actually focus enough on outcomes and creating value instead of thinking that Twitter or Facebook are cool and or sexy to use.

Jane McGonigal who is now a big influence on my thinking published back in 2008 Engagement Economy by the Institute of the Future, this publication – recommended reading by the way – states in the introduction:

The inability to turn members into active contributors is an important signal of a new kind of challenge facing any organization that seeks to reap the benefits of crowdsourcing, collective intelligence, massively scaled collaboration, or social networking. For these groups, they must do more than merely “grab eyeballs,” register members, or collect ratings. To effectively harness the wisdom of the crowds, and to successfully leverage the participation of the many, organizations will need to become effective players in an emerging economy of engagement.

In the economy of engagement, it is less and less important to compete for attention, and more and more important to compete for things like brain cycles and interactive bandwidth. Crowd-dependent projects must capture the mental energy and the active effort it takes to make individual contributions to a larger whole.

But how, exactly, do you turn attention into engagement? How do you convert a member of the crowd into a member of your team? To answer these questions, innovative organizations will have to grapple with the new challenge of harnessing “participation bandwidth.”

There will inevitably be increasing pressures to balance the amount of time someone has available with the number of “requests” someone might receive to “take action”. Clay Shirky mentions in Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations, “With many more possible groups competing for the average individual’s time, the speed with which a group can become unglued has also increased.”

The World of GovCraft idea is about tapping into the gaming culture and in creating elements of “fun” when participating and engaging with Government.  A question we really need to ask is how serious are we about bridging this gap and are we prepared to engage people outside of the government sector to help put the fun into Government. In the publication Jane states:

…organizations should look to hire researchers and interactive designers with backgrounds in online gaming and playful social network design. Any mass collab project, whether internal or public-facing, will require the strategic input of experienced “fun engineers” and “fun economists.” Whether as permanent IT staff or in key consulting positions, these individuals can help ensure that resources are being invested in projects that have a high likelihood of engaging crowds.

Organizational leaders should find out what kinds of communities are drawing the participation bandwidth of members, and create conversations about what employees get from their “fun work” that they may not get at their “real work.” This dialogue can provide valuable lessons about introducing fun flows into the organization’s primary business practices.

There are huge lessons here for Community Engagement, Internal Communications and Employee Engagement professionals in understanding the motives of people and how game design could help inform and shape engagement and participation activities.

The UK needs to start making progress and look at how we can involve people who are really passionate about social change, but also have knowledge of gaming. In the USA they have something called the Serious Games Initiative. It’s goal is:

to help usher in a new series of policy education, exploration, and management tools utilizing state of the art computer game designs, technologies, and development skills.

As part of that goal the Serious Games Initiative also plays a greater role in helping to organize and accelerate the adoption of computer games for a variety of challenges facing the world today.

Why do we not have something like this in the UK? Or do we? Who would actually drive this forward – Could Martha Lane Fox and the new Digital Public Services Unit play a role in creating or supporting this kind of initiative?

One comment made to me was that the game series “Sim City” is one example of a game where people make similar kinds of decisions to Government. However, I’m thinking we want to go further then just the traditional “Education” approach to what Government does to actually creating solutions that improve peoples lives directly.

Moving away from gaming, we need to also understand what presence we are creating and how this approach and decision will contribute to the overall outcomes we want to achieve, this should also be considered when thinking about whether you simply want to grab attention or want to develop and build a level of engagement or participation with people.

Scott Gould, has posted an excellent presentation about Social Media Presences which i think can help inform people who want to move from simply attention grabbing to engagement to full participation.