Collaborative Consumption and Public Services

Over lunch earlier today I starting watching some Ted Videos as I subscribe to their feed in my google reader and I enjoy getting inspired listening to the talks and they create little sparks of thought, most to be honest never make it to a blog post but some do.

The talk I watched featured Rachel Botsman, who is the co-author of the book What’s Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption.

Rachel States:

Collaborative Consumption describes the rapid explosion in swapping, sharing, bartering, trading and renting being reinvented through the latest technologies and peer-to-peer marketplaces in ways and on a scale never possible before. If you’ve used a car sharing service like Zipcar, experienced peer-to-peer travel on Airbnb, given away or found something on Freecycle or lent money through Zopa, you’re already part of the rise of Collaborative Consumption.

Collaborative Consumption is a game-changing opportunity for networked technologies to transform business, public services and the way we live.

I do very much like this concept and the movement that it promotes, however I started thinking that it does seem very similar to the concept of LETS:

A Local Exchange Trading System is a local, non-profit exchange network where all kinds of goods and services can be traded without the need for money, using an interest-free local currency so that direct bartering does not need to be done.

It offers many social as well as economic benefits, through regular core group meetings, trading days and social events. LETS is a truly international movement, although there is no global governing body. There are similar groups in places as diverse as France, Japan, the USA, and Hungary.
Via Exeter LETS Scheme

Considering the new focus on technology enabled collaborative consumption schemes and the existing LETS schemes – are these another key foundation and building block for Big Society and Public Service Delivery.

Then it struck me again that I’d already seen something which pretty much does this and is using technology as well as providing social care services –  Southwark Circle states on its website:

Southwark Circle members get together to enjoy a variety of interests and activities, and to learn new things through the Member Calendar. They can also buy tokens to get help from local, reliable Neighbourhood Helpers. Some members also help out fellow members and can earn tokens for doing so.

So I’d suggest that any public service people thinking about connecting with groups who can help get involved in providing services either formally or through connected networks or strong neighbourhood groups, then I would take a look your local LETS.

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We need to stop feeling so guilty and the birth of #twitternar

Yesterday evening I participated in a conversation with @LouLouK @kazwccsocialnet and @808Kate about how the #lgovsm Friday lunchtime discussion session could improve and develop and increase the opportunities for people as well as ensure variety.

Now I’m not going to talk about the future development here in this post as we are also going to chat more at #ukgc11 on Saturday and then more will no doubt be shared etc afterwards. Feel free to join us for a chat about this on Saturday if you are attending – I think we suggested an informal lunchtime chat (even more informal than the open plan aspect) – not sure where just find one of us and join in.

So two interesting things happened during the conversation, the first being the creation of the term #twitternar (by yours truly) – it is like a webinar but supported via twitter and possibly slideshare or a blog posts – the second being the more important one – whether participation in the discussion is considered work.

The discussion touched on the issue of whether people who participate feel like they can contribute more during a lunch period or whether this just contributes to the perceived view that twitter is merely social. A comment was made that you could perhaps feel guilty if you participated during work time.  I have a few issues with this but can more than understand why this is the case for the majority of people.

1) Would phoning another public sector organisation to ask them what they are doing or to share what you were doing around a particular subject or topic be considered work or something someone would do in their lunch break?

2) Would attending a meeting with another public sector organisation to ask them what they are doing or to share what you were doing around a particular subject or topic be considered work or something someone would do have to schedule during a lunch break?

I think it is fair to say that these are generally considered a core aspect for most people’s jobs – using twitter to do the same thing which is what #lgovsm is really trying to achieve in my view but at a much reduced cost is a great idea. However the benefit is that using twitter means that no one will have to travel, some can participate whilst on the go (mobile) and there is really no limit to who could participate or attend – surely a win – win situation.

This is a new approach and a more cost-effective and efficient method of doing this. The conversation accepted that perhaps twitter might not be the best platform but we also accepted that the #KHub would offer new opportunities on top for increased discussion after the initial #twitternar.

So all I would say to people is Stop feeling so guilty and try to see this as a cost-effective way of doing what you would do anyway.

At the Symposium

I am very lucky to be at Gartner Symposium in Cannes this week – This is just a short post really and an open invite to pose some questions or issues which I can try and find the answers to whilst I’m here.

I do have a very full agenda and need to ensure that I cover particular topics for a set of research reports for Socitm. However there is the gartnersym hash tag to follow and I’ll get chances to ask questions so would be happy to ask some should the opportunity arise.

Post any questions in the comments or via twitter and i’ll see what I can do :o)

What is the future for Public Sector Intranets

Public sector and in particular Local Government Intranets are in my view a bit of a strange thing really – they are supposed to support productivity, knowledge sharing, internal communications and staff engagement to name a few key areas, but most in my experience fail to do a single thing well.

I don’t think we need to ponder the reasons as i think they are pretty easy to point to: lack of dedicated funding – often diverted to the “priority” public website, lack of focus, lack of direction, lack of external review and benchmarking (no Better Connected report for inside the firewall), lack of interaction and a lack of culture around real collaboration (assumed not proven!).

So I asked myself what is the future for Public Sector Intranets?

I actually find this quite an interesting area to talk about – I know i need to get out more – but there is a convergence happening around corporate desktops and Intranets which has to be considered and recognised if organisations want to move forward. They aren’t the same but the capabilities of each do overlap, depending on how you define your intranet of course.

Then there is the IDeA’s Knowledge Hub Project which in my view offers huge opportunities – Any public sector body considering replacing or rebuilding there current intranet ought to at least find out more about this project as i believe it will transform the way the public sector collaborates and could in my view become a public sector intranet – It almost has to, if it wants to deliver some of the benefits it talks about. This model also becomes even more relevant considering the impending cuts across the sector and the drive to move shared services and a reduction in duplication. Intranets seem a likely if not obvious target in my opinion.

The future for intranets may in fact be that we no longer need them at all. If we are being driven to publish data online to service areas such as FOI, being encouraged to collaborate across the sector to reduce duplication and share best practice and learning, increase staff and employee productivity, work in partnership and across the public sector and ensure a skills transfer and knowledge base. Then how can any single public sector organisation justify or even consider developing there own – well at least until they can prove they need one on there own?

Whatever the future for Intranets, one thing I can say with certainty is that they can no longer continue being static, boring, un-engaging, repositories of out of date information.

Do you think there is a need for an organisation to have its own intranet?

The Three Business Opportunities of Social Media/Software

I’ve been attending the Gartner Symposium Event in Cannes this week and my brain has been bombarded with so much information on so many topics and I won’t be using this post to share all I learnt but instead i’ll share some snippets around social media and in particular the Business Use of Social Media/Software.

It wasn’t a surprise to me to hear so much about the benefits of social media at a technology event, but what did surprise me was that there wasn’t many people there who actually used it.  There was a symposium tweet-up arranged via twitter for the Wednesday and only 6 people attended  –  yes i was one of them, so a lot of work to do in terms of awareness and understanding if anyone thinks this stuff will impact the business model. You can follow or catch up on the tweets from the Gartner Symposium events on twitter.

So on that note i thought it would be a good idea to start to bring the issue of business use into some context for people based on a number of Gartner sessions i attended and one in particular facilitated by a very good analyst Ed Thompson, who as it happened gave another excellent presentation on Customer Experience (more to follow on this one in a separate post).

Gartner highlight three separate and logical areas to guide thinking and implementation approaches to these tools and technologies within organisations.

I’m going to share my perspective on these areas:

1) Internal –  “your people, your place”
Essentially this area is about looking at the internal opportunities that are there for you. This is an area which I personally feel will deliver great benefits not just around the learning but in supporting a wide range of internal business issues.

It is important to remember that unless your organisation has articulated business issues you will struggle to get buy in or support.
Some potential business issues you might hear which you could link to these tools are as follows: NB this list is an example and is not comprehensive. It also doesn’t imply any particular approach.

– people finder or skills finder (internal staff directory)
– project spaces and business collaboration
– real-time or near real-time internal communications (yes email is an option but that isn’t always collaborative)
– learning communities and peer support groups

2) External – “your people, other people, your place”

The second area that Gartner referred to was external but a platform that was managed by the organisation. An example of this would be where you host a community function for people to discuss and or support each other like a helpdesk community support function. In local government terms this is a challenge as we need to be careful about trying to create communities that we intend to be organic. So the difference here is that we are clear and open about what we would expect such a community to do or what broad outcomes we would expect.
Again some potential business issues you might here to link to would be as follows:

–  service improvement function
– service user support community
– shared communities of practice
– project spaces and collaboration with partners and other organisations

3) Public – “your people, other people, their place”

This aspect is the area that to be honest most people focus on, it includes facebook environments, twitter, youtube etc. This is where stuff (for most social media people) get interesting. However this is also where most fear resides and organisations are low in awareness around the possibilities, case studies, return on investment figures. BUT this is where the MOST VALUE will be gained to all.

Again some possible business issues (not comprehensive) you might come across which could be linked into these solutions or approaches – however i stress and i say this all the time now. Don’t focus on a single technology, do your homework, work out what will actually deliver the value in any given circumstance.

– connecting and engaging with communities
– civic debate and discussion
– trend spotting, listening to the social web community or as Gartner refer to it “the collective” can provide insights into what might be the next big opportunity or next big issue developing.
– people to people connections
– building relationships

All of the above requires a different viewpoint on the traditional way of looking at things. The social space is ALL about the relationships between people and the benefits that spin-off from those interactions. We are now moving into a more focused look at people to people relationships (P2P) – In these difficult times, the potential to interact with people becomes even more important, for all of the issues i have given as examples.

What is interesting about this is that it has always been about P2P but dressed up and disguised as business to business or business to consumer – what drives those agenda = People.

The challenge for anyone wanting to explore the world of social media and social software is to learn more about how people interact and the connections and networks people have. I for one am very excited by this prospect and look forward to learning more over the coming months and years.