The World of GovCraft

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

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.

Consumers vs Citizens – Democratic Society, Four rules for councils’ democratisation work

I’ve just seen an excellent presentation by the Democratic Society on “Four rules for councils’ democratisation work”. It has got me thinking about a few things so i’m going to share some random comments and observations:

First and foremost, we need to remove these “titles” (Consumer, Customer Citizen, Service User etc) and start to focus on PEOPLE. We can use the titles only to help guide us in our method and approach, but we should stop referring to People in those ways as it only confuses us and the people we engage with.

In Local Government we need to recognise (and most of us do) that People have different roles when interacting or engaging with us. They can be either be a consumer of services via websites or contact centres, face to face etc OR they can be citizens who we need to involve  in the design and shaping of what those services look like and feel like in the first place.

Organisations need to refocus to ensure that People to People connections and relationships are understood. This will inevitably have a huge transformational impact on the way we structure our services and how we involve people as well as the internal structures and networks that exist, not just in a single organisation but across the public sector as a whole.

Ok, random thoughts over – check out the presentation and see what you think?

 

 

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.