Note: i was going to title this post “ride the wave” but thought against it, due to the increasing levels of conversations around google wave, i didn’t want to confuse anyone as to what i might be talking about.
So here goes my retitled post….
The future of local government certainly looks like an interesting place to be over the coming months and years, considering the economic climate and the pressure on councils to explore new ways to deliver services and to release the efficiencies that the national parties are pointing to.
For me this is an opportunity for the whole of the local government sector to stand up and to engage with local residents and to redefine what the “local” social contract is between citizen and public service provider. It should also consider the difficult issues of what services we should be providing and how those services could be provided in the future. We should also consider whether or not we are actually the best people to be providing these services to our local communities.
A recent example in Barnet, albeit small scale, focuses on an unused piece of land that a local community turned into a prize winning garden. This shows exactly the kind of opportunity we in local government ought to be encouraging, promoting and celebrating around citizen provided services. The Leader of the Council sums it perfectly on his blog
A couple of gardeners from the council might, just might, have produced a garden as lovely as the local residents have done here. They would not however, have produced the community spirit, the sense of neighbours, young and old, working together to transform their street.
This type of approach, where communities are coming together and deciding to provide support services for their own communities are far better able to respond and are flexible enough to adapt to local demands. I also believe that the local knowledge and community spirit within these local networks and service based communities are so rich and dynamic that we would struggle to compete even if we had significant funds to spend in these areas.
Nothing in my opinion beats the power of community spirit and social capital.
Another example of this approach is the Southwark Circle
Southwark Circle is a membership organisation whose members stay sorted, connected and lead the lives they want to lead. It does this by introducing members to each other and local, reliable Neighbourhood Helpers
via Southwark Circle
There is so much opportunity in this area and the above examples on are really the tip of the iceberg, however it does require local government to be a bit more ambitious in how it deals with the future and it needs to start allowing communities and groups to take more control locally over some services. This could be the only way forward for really local services. But and to quote a surfer friend of mine “i’d rather be riding this wave then ducking underneath”
Finally I would recommend visiting, buying and or downloading a copy of Social by Social it is a great read and is well worth getting and dropping on some of your colleagues desks or saving into a local shared drive.