A return to the “old skool” – Social Media challenges in the Public Sector

I have started to realise much more now (better late than never i always say) is that one of the greatest challenges to the public sector engaging in social spaces is “does society as a whole really want us there?” i suspect on face value the answer is No. But if you look at this from the viewpoint of Public Sector Reform and considering the future budget position Local Government needs to consider this as a matter of priority in my eyes.

The recent post by Paul Clarke over at HonestlyReal talks about changing focus and understanding the real purpose of local government.

There is the opportunity if we allow it to happen for the public sector to consider a completely new model of business. One which enables local people to determine how best public, private, voluntary and community resources should be defined to deliver local services.

Now one of the challenges presented here is the concept of “local” (offline and online) becomes slightly more complex and requires us as service providers to think about and acknowledge the complex lives people lead and the way in which they live them.

What we are really talking about is challenging the way society itself works and how it can be supported to provide leadership to its own communities alongside Public Sector organisations. We are in effect challenging society to develop more fruitful and more meaningful relationships to enable them to support themselves. Social Media has started to enable people to reconnect in more convenient and timely ways.

An interesting article in the Guardian a couple of weeks ago Charles Leadbeater which argues that relationships and mutual self-help rather than the reforms, such as those in Government’s “Building Britain’s Future”, are the key to more effective public expenditure.

There is a project called Southwark Circle that does this kind of thing, a quote about this project on the Particle Website states

This is a social reform challenge, not just a public service reform challenge.  The question is not just “What can public services do to improve quality of life and well-being for older people?” but rather “How can a locality mobilise public, private, voluntary and community resources to help all older people define and create quality of life and well-being for themselves?”

For me this just reminds me of what my Nan and other older people i talk to used to say to me about when they were young:

“Communities helped themselves back in the day, neighbours would support each other and would help each other out, we didn’t have or need the same kind of support you lot have today”

Are we seeing social media facilitating a return to traditional and “old skool” values around community and neighbourhood support.  I see the main difference being the “community” and the “neighbourhood” that people relate to is more complex and far reaching (offline and online) than ever before.

If this is the case, then the Pubic Sector truly has a huge task ahead, not only support itself to transform the way we engage with people and our own staff, but to acknowledge those communities who are already engaged but also nurture communities (offline and online) to become part of the wider public service delivery model.


3 thoughts on “A return to the “old skool” – Social Media challenges in the Public Sector

  1. Two Saturdays ago some friends from church and I were helping a single mum with 5 kids under 10 decorate. It was a serious reality jolt as I left my closed middle class existence.

    But what threw me the most wasn’t the poverty (even in a city like York) but the incredibly strong community within that street.

    If social media is bringing back an old skool of community it’s arguably for those who are wealthy enough to have been able to shut out the world around them and ignore personal relationships. What I saw made me doubt it had left anyone else.

    It might not be genteel but there’s real community among people who aren’t connected to 21st century media. And that makes that meeting of online and offline worlds to which you refer so important, cos it might be from the offline that we learn most…?

  2. Lovely piece. We are entering a phase where it is becoming easier for citizens to act and organise themselves and do thing instead of or sometimes despite government.

    The existing structures can help this process by regarding themselves as first of a all a collection of individuals and then as peers amongst active citizens.

    I’ve seen really simple examples of this in the relationships that develop between friends of parks group and the park wardens gardeners etc. They have a common interest in seeing the park flourish and they very quickly can become one large team, some people being paid others volunteering their energy.

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