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.

The act of participating, not the process of managing participation

I was reading an interesting post earlier today ( A Better Way to Manage Knowledge – John Hagel III and John Seely Brown – Harvard Business Review) and it triggered a number of thoughts in my head. Perhaps the act of participating is far more important to get right then the process of managing that participation?

My recent post titled The Governance Ladder attempted to align an organisations view of participation to their governance approaches, well I am now thinking that this is more and more the case.

I don’t think i need to add much more to the quote below really other than to say i think it is fundamental to Governance frameworks that you understand the difference between the “management of people and processes” and “the organisational itself that allows for effective decision making, participation, collaboration and knowledge sharing”

Knowledge management traditionally has focused on capturing knowledge that already exists within the firm — its systems rarely extend beyond the boundaries of the enterprise. Creation spaces instead focus on mobilizing and focusing participants across all institutional boundaries. Sure, there are lots of smart people within your enterprise, but imagine the power of connecting with and engaging a more diverse collection of smart people beyond your enterprise. That is another source of the increasing returns in creation spaces — participation is not limited by the boundaries of the enterprise.

via A Better Way to Manage Knowledge – John Hagel III and John Seely Brown – Harvard Business Review.

How i see this linking is that a traditional view of Governance focuses on managing the people and processes much like knowledge management focused on capturing the knowledge, but that in itself made the process disengaging and often caused the failure of Knowledge Management Projects. I accept that governance does have to do this but it also needs to recognise the act of participating in Governance itself is much like participating in anything else, you need tend to think about “what’s in it for me”. If the process is all about the people and processes and not actually about delivering the right results and priorities then surely it is failing. The creation space aspect for me is about the culture of governance that exists within your Organisation or Enterprise. If this supports an open participative culture then i suspect that your Governance approach would be far less intensive and more Emergent and based on the people within the governance process.  I also posted my thoughts around Emergent Governance on the Devon Enterprise Architects Blog.

They also say in their post:

But for the most part the repositories and directories remained fragmentary and the resources didn’t get used. The folks with the knowledge were often reluctant to put what they knew into the database. The folks seeking the knowledge often had trouble finding what they needed.

I guess i see this as being an analogy to the coordinated Governance approaches that are required across large Enterprises.My thinking is still evolving in this area and the more i read the more fascinated i get as the direct link between participation and governance grows.