Avoiding the deep end

Tomorrow sees Tim Davies arriving at work to help steer and challenge our thinking around the use of social networking platforms to engage with young people. In particular we are hoping that Tim can offer us some guidance and advice on risk assessment policies. He has also agreed to help with challenge and consultation at our Youth Service organised Youth Festival called Kongamana later this year.

The project lead has also started a blog on this topic and project called Youth Culture. Check it out if you get a chance.

On other topics I am also looking at how we can remove the internal barriers for staff accessing social networking sites. I am supporting our internal audit team on pulling together a report which will be discussed at our ICT governance group (Including Senior Managers and Elected Members). I am very positive that we will open up to this and break down some of the cultural issues associated with such sites.

One issue which is bugging me, is that people always ask the question “How do we stop staff abusing such sites?” My view is that like most technologies they can be abused, but we need to ensure we have a culture which encourages and supports managers in managing outputs and not recording time spent in the office. The issue becomes even more complex when we are encouraging staff to work from home or remotely, so how do we equip managers to monitor usage in these scenarios? We don’t we give them the ability to manage performance by outputs and acknowledge that social networking is the fabric by which work gets done….. It also requires us to take a leap of faith, like we did when we first opened up email to all staff and internet access…

I am also encouraged that other councils who attended the web 2 workshop last week have already started to implement some basic features – twitter on homepage, flickr photo directory. All great stuff i think you will agree. If you want to read the list of possible actions we can do visit Ewan Mcintosh’s blog.

My word of caution, don’t try everything at once.

I had a meeting earlier with a colleague who wanted to use powerful emotional video content to promote road safety messages. The content included victims of drink driving through to someone who was convicted of drink driving and had killed someone. Powerful and emotional stuff to watch.

Now we have like most authorities struggled when it comes to video content, who hosts, how much and how can we deliver added value. Well in light of last weeks event, I explored blip.tv, which provides a really good twist on hosting as you can create branded players and playlists to group content together and remove advertising altogether…. So that is what we are looking at doing over the next few months.

On a seperate note and if you are aware of this type of thing. I am keen to know if any local authorities are using open office? please comment or signpost me to anywhere where this information might be accessible?


Daddy Day

A short round-up of the day……The plan for a BBQ was postponed due to rain, but that didn’t stop us enjoying the day. We made a scarecrow for our allotment to protect our sweetcorn, it is only a small scarecrow and is wearing a pair of Ewan’s old jeans and an even older waterproof jacket, don’t want him to get too wet!!

Being father’s day I received some excellent drawings from Ewan who had even managed to write “To Daddy, Love Ewan” in the father’s day card he made me. Finley painted lots of cats on the front of his card, not sure of the relationship to father’s day but still it looked great.

Sharon and i were dreaming about Australia earlier and i started to go a bit over the top…I was thinking about what things could be like if we had won some money on the lottery. I would like a large bit of land that had a apple orchard, so i could make cider, a vineyard for wine, large allotment plot, tree house for kids and a huge garage/workshop for the campervan and doing odds and sods. Sharon wanted a garden nursery space and a shed for making pottery… It was a nice thought, however unlikely…..

Well my only thought for today is, if you think about something hard enough do you end up getting it or driving it further away?

Evening Sun

Today has been a very relaxing day, spent most of it with the kids and Sharon, just doing stuff and playing.

I am now sat with the dog (Charm) with the evening sun just chilling and reflecting on the whole week.

Last weekend i was planning the trip to Coventry which i was looking forward to as i had heard from a colleague Tim Davies that the chair/facilitator for the day Ewan Mcintosh was inspiring and was great at opening eyes around web 2 and social media. So my expectation was quite high considering most of the time my expectation is quite low for any event i go to as they tend to tell me what i already know. But I was not let down, i found myself inspired and i actually learnt new things which was great and i now find myself a week later with a Twitter account and writing a blog about, well just about anything.

Whilst i enjoy, what seems like the last bit of sunshine before the rain comes, to be honest i don’t mind as the garden needs it and as Billy Connolly once said “there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes“. I find myself thinking back to when i was in a band (Redi).

I played the guitar (rhythm not lead), not great but with the rest of the band we collectively sounded good, well i thought so. We wrote a song called Evening Sun and it was one of my favourites and sat here right now i can actually remember the first timed we played it at a gig and this is the type of night that for me it was dedicated to….

The reason i am no longer in the band is that when we had our second child, we started to think about what our next goals would be. We contemplated a number of things, working and paying off the mortgage, studying, or emigrating. After some time we both felt very passionate about emigrating. There was only really one location for us although we had also considered Ireland as we had been there a number of times and just found it a wonderful place to be. But our eventual choice was Australia.

Now i have never been to Oz but was already reading every book i could get my hand on, visiting websites about all types of places and checking out property prices and dreaming about great locations close to excellent surfing beaches. Within 4 weeks of deciding we also realised that studying was also something we should do between now and when we hope to go (2-3 years) depending on application timetables.

But that meant that the band would become very difficult to manage alongside the additional study, so made the very difficult decision to quit, it was even harder than it should have been because we had just recorded our first album and were all positive about what could happen. But there were also a number of other issues which i am not going to go into detail about which also caused friction between us all and also distracted our attentions from making the most out of what we had just achieved. But that is now a different time and a different place.

Anyway, the Australia choice starting gaining momentum and we were using the web to decide on a likely destination when we “hopefully” emigrate. It was also coincidence that on the BBC at that time they were showing a programme called “Wanted Down Under” where they sent families from the UK to Oz for a week to make a final choice about whether or not they would make the decision to emigrate, to say i was hooked on all things Australian was an under statement.

We first looked at the surrounding areas of Sydney, but found house prices and job opportunities, all be it a few years in advance off putting, so we then started to focus on Melbourne and its surrounding areas. We then found a superb place, which i decided to even take a virtual tour in google earth, a place called Geelong. It is the state of Victoria’s 2nd largest city and is also very close to the Great Ocean Road and the famous surfing location of Bells Beach and surf coast.

So whilst i sit here chilling and reflecting on what has happened, my mind ponders the future and all the opportunities that could bring.

Navigating the future

I had a very interesting day today. I was at a Leadership workshop at Exeter University. It was facilitated by Liselotte Lyngsø from a company called Future Navigator. On the whole i thought the day was great, i watched and participated with people learning how to juggle with 3 balls and talking about larger toilet seats for the well endowed man…and these do really exist!!!

During one part of the morning Liselotte held up a sign which stated “quiet exams in progress”, which she had taken from the door, she raised the question, would this still be appropriate in the future , if young people are learning by collaboration and are sharing knowledge to get things done. If the expectation is that learning is partly a collective journey then how can you measure an individual. This also mirrors a culture difference between the West (United States of Me) and Asia (a collective approach). We need to start to think about this as leaders now as these are the workers and consumers of the future (i’m not talking hundreds of years i’m talking maybe 3-5 years) and it will be there expectations we will be aiming to exceed…

All i can say is that in some areas of my work rapid change will be required to embrace and support a new cultural co worker who will drive collaboration and knowledge sharing to new heights.

The workshop raised a lot of questions for self reflection which i will need to digest and no doubt use this blog to share some of those thoughts and reflections. One reflection i think i can share now is that i need to listen and hear what my kids are really saying to me more. They are only 2 and 4 years old but already offer insights and simple observations which are great to pull you out your normal frame of mind and get you thinking out of the box.

Now the weekend is upon us and i suppose many people will be waiting in line for petrol in response and in fear of a fuel crisis. Another point from today, how much of our lives are driven by our fears and not our hopes and dreams. For me at present it was slightly higher in the fear column then dreams, which is something i am now going to work on.

The question you need to ask yourself if you want to do the same thing is “why are you living?” This is something which is obvious when you turn up at events like today, but each moment of our lives should, in theory that is, be lived to the maximum, but the reality is that we are all struggling to balance the “wishful thinking approach to life” with the reality that actually happens. For most this may mean, putting things off for another day or week and for others it may mean skipping the gym and getting a pizza on the way home and not having time to spend with the family or friends.

All obvious stuff i think you will agree, but how many of us actually get the balance right?

Changing the subject we managed to get about another 15 strawberries from the allotment yesterday and each and everyone i managed to eat (the kids ate the most) tasted superb, fresh, juicy and so sweet.


The difficulty i guess in writing a blog is knowing what not to write, but as i said i will use this as a opportunity to share my thoughts and stuff.

So on we go – We own a 1972 Westfalia VW Campervan (called Tidgy) and he is a pride and joy, but for the last 4 years it has been sat in a garage partly restored, well to be honest in a very rusty state.

We bought it before we got married (to sharon) and we paid for it with our savings for our wedding. The plan once we bought it was to honeymoon around Europe for 6 weeks over the summer and see what happens. We ended up only doing France and then getting an 18 hour ferry to Ireland.

Sharon, Me and Tidgy (Dublin camp site)

I include a picture of what he looked like before we sent him for restoration:

But last weekend it came home, not complete but it came home none the less. We have been getting help this week on the jobs that need finishing: engine, brakes plus some basic internal cosmetic stuff. But it will soon be back on the road.

Now we have 2 children (Ewan and Finley) and they have never experienced any time in Tidgy, but on Sunday we spent nearly 8 hours cleaning him, eating a small picnic in him and the boys played with their trains in him. It was such a joyful experience to see our children being able to have fun in Tidgy (Although he was parked on our Driveway!!)

The interesting thing about all of this is that the company who we had paid money too, went bust, so we were almost for a long period of time facing the possibility of losing him to the scrap yard, the money which was significant but not as important was also lost! But to cut a long story short, we managed to negotiate some additional work to be done at no cost…..

Now many friends have wondered why we bothered waiting and have often said “why don’t you buy a new van” “why is it taking so long”. Frankly even when we told them the whole story they still didn’t understand.

We have been through a great deal of stress trying to get to this point where he can come home, i was never going to give up hope that he would be able to come back. Tidgy is like our 3rd child, the sentimental cost is incalculable. I am reminded of a certain credit card advert. Cost of a new van £8000+, Cost of Tidgy to us PRICELESS

This is a picture of how he looks now without his new protective raincoat, we are very pleased with what we have and are grateful that he didn’t end up on teh scrap yard like many other customers vans.

Tidgy partly finished in our driveway

We are even planning on taken him to Australia (if we can emigrate in the next few years – more on this in future thoughts) so he will face a better climate and rust will be a thing of the past 🙂

Now i guess my question for today is can you ever really quantify sentimental value?

I’m sure insurance companies will have a view, but in our experience losing Tidgy would be like losing a member of our family.