Content, Stories, Networks, Relationships and Trust

I’ve been thinking and reflecting a lot lately around the future of local government (a recent post here) and the “inevitable doom and gloom” [PDF Warning ] that awaits us all in the coming years. It really isn’t healthy to maintain focus on that future for too long, but It has made me think about what I’m doing and more importantly why I am doing what I do.

I’ve also been thinking and reflecting a lot about content, not just the traditional content you find on local authority websites but compelling content, content that provokes ideas, ideas that are contagious and then become stories, which in turn contributes to changing behaviours and transforms local services.

In my work at Public-i I’ve been thinking and reflecting a lot about networks and networks of networks and the power and potential of networks to help connect and reconnect people online and offline

In various situations I’ve been thinking and reflecting about relationships and the importance of trust. As people and organisations everything we say and do is a representation of who we are and it is only when we create relationships built on this authenticity that we can attract others and foster the bonds that will empower us to achieve truly great things.

In this post I’m going to try to bring this thinking together as it is very much all part of the same picture in my mind…

Content and Stories

Last week whilst in Brighton I spoke to Matt Bond (Cornwall Council) about stories and related things and he pointed me in the direction of Coca Cola’s new content excellence programme and the excellent videos they’ve produced which explain what they mean…

What struck me was the focus on stories, provocative stories as way to affect change. I recommend watching the videos yourself to gain your own insights but I’ve included some of mine below

Part 1

Part 2

Some of the key points for me are below, although the whole thing is very useful in a number of situations…however in the context of this post the following stood out…

  • stories provoke conversations
  • we need to act and react to conversations
  • technology can enable brilliant creativity
  • exploit existing community behaviours
  • story telling is at the heart of families and communities
  • we need provocations that will lead to bigger transformational actions
  • data is key to this and will become the soil of which ideas will grow
So our challenge is to not only transform our content around our services to make it easier for people to interact digitally, but also to transform our content so that we can provoke conversations, connect people with data and trigger bigger transformational action.

Networks

In relation to networks I think about Citizenscape as a platform, it is aiming to address the heart of these issues, in the projects where it is used, it is really about fostering empowerment within communities and networks online and offline. I recently blogged about my views on this here. A particular quote which comes to mind in the context of this post is:

So when you consider this and then what Citizenscape states its value is, the value isn’t directly in the technology itself (although without it, it would be pretty empty) but in the connections, the networks, the communities that are now able to come together and share learning, to reconnect at a civic level to address local issues and problems. The key role for the platform (Citizenscape) is to facilitate those connections, without it those networks may not get the chance to reconnect.

So our challenge is to understand what networks and what networks of networks exist with our areas and to connect them with each other but to also connect them with the content around our services to make it easier for them to interact digitally, but to also connect them with content and stories so that we can provoke conversations, connect people with data and trigger bigger transformational action.

Relationships and Trust

When I focus on relationships and trust, I think about an example that I was fortunate to see last friday at the DCCSMF (Social Media Forum), where a couple of local PCSO’s (Police Community Support Officers) came and shared their learning around connecting with communities. One explained how his use of social technologies as well as physically meeting people face to face helped build a relationship and trust within his community.
Devon Social Media Forum 2012

The another PCSO shared his experience which wasn’t about technology but in understanding where the networks were and simply connecting with them…In his case it was simply going to the local primary school at the beginning and end of each day to connect with the local parents. This approach has started to build relationships and trust.

The reality is and this is really obvious, but it takes time and more importantly effort to build relationships and trust and if we want to seriously address the challenges facing us over the next 8-10 years we need to start building new relationships, networks and fostering trust now to begin to have a chance.

I’ve said it before that it is all about people and that comes through explicitly in this great video by Simon Sinek called if you don’t understand people, you don’t understand business.

So our challenge is to develop those relationships and levels of trust and to connect them to the networks and networks of networks within our areas and to connect them with each other but to also connect them with the content around our services to make it easier for them to interact digitally, but to also connect them with content and stories so that we can provoke conversations, connect people with data and trigger bigger transformational action.

The questions ?

All of this brings me back to the future of local government and local public services.

  • Can we create content and share stories which provoke conversations that will lead to bigger transformational actions?
  • Are we actually capable of engaging with the content and stories as consumers and have conversations which trigger bigger transformational action?
  • We need to ask ourselves – even if we can identify networks and networks of networks and we can connect them, as members of those networks ourselves, are we prepared to engage in the challenges and are we capable of acting creatively?
  • As individuals and as professional people we will continue to develop relationships and trust – are we prepared to use it to change and influence the way our communities and networks operate, grow, develop and respond to the challenges facing us over the next few years?

Finally…

This isn’t a political question, this is question for every one of all ages.

I am personally reflecting on what these questions mean to me as an individual, as a parent, a husband, a friend and as a professional person – It isn’t easy, but it isn’t supposed to be, it will be hard, we need to prepare for this and stand up to the challenge.

The alternative simply isn’t worth considering, we must imagine and create a sustainable future.

The 2.0 club, future of local government and white board paper!

On Tuesday I attended a meeting with colleagues at the Met Office and Gov 2.0 radio crew (John Wells and Allison Hornery).

It was a great opportunity to meet John and Allison face to face for the first time as well as have some interesting conversations and discussion. I really enjoyed listening to them and they reminded me of some simple truths as well as enlightening me with some insights.

It was also a great opportunity to meet Michael Saunby from the Met Office (a real geek as well, in a good way) – he was knowledgable, passionate and his enthusiasm was infectious. His attitude inspired me to be that bit more bold, bit more persistent and to continue nudging people across the council.

So what did I take from the session, well more than I expected really, so I’m going to take each thing in turn.

The power of story telling

Now working in communications you’d think story telling was something we did all the time, well I don’t think we tell stories in the way they need to be told in order to really create some social impact…in some cases we do, but on the whole we report council news, release political updates, report policy or issue statements. We are changing this and I’m almost being unfair on what my colleagues do, but I hope that this post will explain why I’m saying this.

Local government is considered the most efficient part of the public sector, it may not feel that way to some working in it, but Its approach to overheads, shared services, senior salaries and procurement put central government’s approach to shame.

It’s also considered the most trusted part of government. It is the most obvious place where genuine and meaningful democratic discussion and debate with citizens and users about how the wider public service offer can best be delivered. But this is in the context of severe budget pressures, modelled up to 2018/2019 where the sector is pretty much going to be in a position to only fund social care!!

One of the key challenges we have in addressing this future is by fundamentally rethinking how we deliver and ensure services are provided where they are needed.

This is where story telling comes in for me, the shift that will take place over he next few years will be radical, rapid and far-reaching and doesn’t just require a change in thinking about responsibilities and services from the public sector but also citizens, communities and individual people need to rethink their role in society. We need to find, share and tell the stories of our communities, of our services, of our people to influence a wider shift in society to even consider being able to address the future challenges.

When John was sharing his insights on story telling and gov2.0 in its broadest sense he reminded me of the 3 components of social impact driven out of the book “the tipping point” by Malcolm Gladwell (The Tipping Point is that magic moment when an idea, trend or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.) John pointed out that you need:

  • knowledge (mavens)
  • story tellers (salesmen)
  • networkers (connectors)

Without these three components (and the book cites many examples of this) effective large-scale social impact isn’t really achievable.

We need to decide what role we play in any given situation, sometimes we will be more than one, but my view is that as a sector we certainly can’t be all three. So we need to ensure that we connect with the right networks, understand where the local knowledge hubs in communities are and who the local story tellers are…So coming back to my comment about whether I’m being unfair on my colleagues, I know that they understand this wider context and challenge and we are changing the way we work so we can start to contribute to telling these stories. So it isn’t unfair, more of a healthy reminder to us all.

We underestimate the role of citizens and education in shaping the future of public services

I’m not one for staying focused on the doom and gloom of the future – where some may see a dire situation, I see opportunity.
I hear lots from people across the public sector referring to engaging with citizens, co-designing services and all of the other collaborative methods – but we don’t hear much about citizens designing services with themselves at the core of the delivery – I know there are many examples but the overall focus still seems to put local government and other public sector organisations in a default position as service provider – but with a new redesigned view of it.

Looking ahead however that simply isn’t going to cut it, local government can’t be considered the default service provider – citizens, communities and individuals will need to think long and hard about the real needs they have and how these can be met. Even commissioning isn’t going to go far enough in my view…the future will be very, VERY different.

The reason I also refer to education (schools) is that as a father of two young children, I started to think about what opportunities there were in education to create and foster a new level of social awareness and responsibility – I mean beyond the basic citizenship stuff you hear about – I mean developing core competences such as resilience, responsiveness, creativity and social entrepreneurial skills. I also have to think long and hard about my role as a parent and what behaviours I model. As Spiderman said “with great power comes great responsibility” :).

About 12 years ago I used to work as a sustainable development project officer and the majority of what people were saying then is what we should already be doing (the difference now is technology really isn’t a barrier any more), I just hope that as a society we actually make the right choices over the coming years and look at our own impact not just in environment terms but what impact we have in and on our communities.

A lick of paint simply isn’t enough

So two things have happened recently that have really confirmed this view in my eyes.

1) We recently put some white board paper up in the office as we weren’t allowed a white board…that single act of creating a visually creative space changed the way I viewed our space at work and has already reaped benefits which simply weren’t there before…there is something about having space to draw, doodle, share ideas and sometimes technology isn’t the answer as there are lots of online tools that could have done this for us.

2) During my trip to the met office we got to visit the Think Space room which basically was a boring meeting room refurbished into a truly creative space, comfy chairs, white boards, flip charts, mini pool table…the kind of place that invite and stimulate conversation, which it did, we only went to view, but spent nearly an hour having a reflective conversation as well as a really good discussion about innovation and change.
My point here is that we need to do more than simply paint an office – we need to also create the right environment to allow people to be creative, innovative and think differently. This is a challenge when the current thinking is we need to get as many people into our offices as possible to help us reduce the amount of properties we operate from, therefore saving money!!

As a school governor of a primary school I’ve been lucky enough to experience a school where each class has a role play area, not just the young kids (key stage 1) but throughout the whole school. The benefit of this is that children learn best through play, acting out experiences and making sense of the world around them. It truly is a wonderful thing to see and to hear about.

My point is that the physical environment is a key part of this and we shouldn’t underestimate the role this has in enabling people to discover and imagine a new future.

This also goes for our community spaces, not just the offices we work in…I sometimes wonder whether we have lost our natural desire to be explorers, innovators and community driven people. But maybe people simply feel disconnected to those things by the sterile nature of our streets, towns, villages and office spaces.

In a previous post I referred to a video of John Tolver (CTO of the City of Chicago) and the difference in his role where he takes a truly enterprise wide view of technology…it goes beyond his organisational barriers and into the wider community. His role and the people who created it, realise that fostering a new society as well as transforming the council go hand in hand.

 

My post might go but my job lives on

Earlier today myself and Martin Howitt (Co-collaborator and all round good egg) posted about how the future of the Enterprise Architecture function here at the council (which we are part of)  could be sustained, but without assuming we would have to be employed to actually do it. Now if only we could ensure we got paid as well :)…

We both feel the same way about this which is that Enterprise Architecture is even more critical to do in the current economic climate and in our opinion without adopting EA approaches etc the organisation could be at risk of not maximising value from its activities.

One outcome of the process could be that we actually architect ourselves out of a job. But in this climate it is personally more important to ensure the organisation is capable of succeeding then whether or not I can justify my job.

Anyway, the posts are very focused on the function of Enterprise Architecture, but it occurred to me that the public sector needs to adopt an approach which allows for the main streaming of a number of core disciplines moving forward,  so you may find some shareable lessons in here for your own area of work

Have a read and if you can post a comment

We are also going to be posting about the process and approach we are following too, so look out for that.

GartnerSym 20:20 Vision

My second session on Wednesday was more about the future, which is the kind of session i like as it gets my brain thinking and buzzing around with ideas and opportunities. The Session was called 20:20 vision  and the Gartner Analyst was Steve Prentice.

The format of this session was to look at where we are how we got here and then instead of making forecasts or predictions – Steve was going to suggest some projections.

These notes bounce around a bit as it wasn’t a standard session it was intended to stimulate thought and suggest a potential future.

The life cycle of a revolution

In the 1920s Russian economist Nikolai Kondratiev described 1920s, the regular “S-shaped” cycles of technological innovation (each lasting 50 to 60 years) that drive the world economy – In 2003 Carlota Perez in 2004 produced “Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital” and built upon Kondratiev’s model and introduced 4 stages:

  1. eruption
  2. frenzy
    (1 & 2 are supply side innovation)
  3. synergy
  4. maturity
    (3 & 4 are demand side innovation)

Some key dates of our current revolution:

  • 15th November 1971 – Intel launches 4004 microprocessor
  • 12th August 1981 – IBM introduce the 5150 the IBM PC
  • 6 August 1991 – Web made available to the public
  • 10th January 2001  – wikipedia is created
  • August 2003 – Myspace goes live
  • 4 February 2004  – Facebook goes live
  • August 2004 – Google goes live with expanded offering
  • 23 April 2005 – you tube goes live
  • 21 March 2006 – twitter goes live

Projection – We won’t see any new technologies over the next 15 years – but we will see an increase in applications built upon existing technology that enable people to consume information and engage with stuff better and more efficiently

More stats

  • global ip traffic is doubling every 2 years
  • mobile traffic is doubling every year (games consoles, digital photo frames, tv’s fridges etc)
  • currently 60 billion smart devices

The internet is big and getting bigger – It is very hard to explain to people how big the web is – a trillion web pages – 250 million websites

Projection – It will take 8 years to get the remaining population of the world connected to the internet.  This is SO SIGNIFICANT you need to pause and consider your business model in this new context?

Device and Data Proliferation will be significant

15 petabytes of information every day – This is huge, in fact i can’t really imagine what all this data looks like, however some common references say that we produce more information in a day 1500 time greater than the contents of the library of congress which has 32 million books on 650 miles of bookshelves. again we produce more than that every day?

Just to give some context Steve said:

A book is a printed kindle  –  A library is a like a physical media centre

This did put a smile on my face, but also made me think that one day i’m sure we will actually have to explain stuff in this way!!

To get a sense of where we are going we need to understand the drivers:

Social
Simply put we are naturally social creatures:

  • 74% of people visit social networking site and remain on their for an average of 6 hours a month
  • 50% of facebook users logon everyday
  • 22% of online time is in social networks
  • 1 billion users across all social media

Practically no one makes a purchase decision without referencing either google or social networks very pervasive

We can now, as individuals build our own infrastructure online and pretty much for free.

Knowledge
The younger minded people of today (notice i write “minded”) often say “why do i need to know something if i can just ask google”  – however people have a naive assumption that what appears in google is the “truth”. Search results are also available in “klingon”!!

Entertainment and Recreation
Gaming is bigger than the movie industry
Average online gamers are 34 years old and core gamers play 48 hours per week?
Social gaming – farmville has more than 60 million active users – 100 million dollar business

What is interesting about this is almost at the same time i was in this session Gartner analyst Andrea DiMaio tweeted the following:

http://twitter.com/#!/AndreaDiMaio/status/2304046811578370

It is already starting to show in people’s thinking about Government and I’ve already posted some thoughts on gaming and government in my World of Govcraft posts:

Mobile

  • SMS 6.3 billion messages a day
  • 150 million mobile facebook users
  • more than 100% penetration in some countries
  • “to text” is now a verb
  • mobile data traffic is rising
  • for the first time in september 2010 mobile data traffic exceeded mobile voice traffic

Commerce
online transactions are growing
social gaming is a huge industry

is access to the web a basic human right and should it be free?

Net neutrality (wikipedia definition)
the power to control what a user can do on the internet

Interestingly Hollywood and China had shared agendas about controlling the web?

Looking forward – the dark side
The web is full of opinion, not facts
Can you distinguish the fact from fiction (if users are influenced by peers, maybe this will be an important issue to consider)
Do a search of your “company name” and the word “I hate” and see the results?

Looking forward- context and cloud

Taking advantage of location and time
Cloud is inevitable but not without risks

Resistance is futile – you WILL be assimilated, i’ve heard this before, but considering this was a future session, it really will be the future.

Enterprises are losing control – the outside is coming in – the walls are tumbling – consumers have choices and they are bringing them with them…wherever they go.

Questions

  • what new institutions will arise – what does a company look like?
  • what new business models will emerge
  • working practices – what does a career look like? portfolio working
  • social integration or tribalism
  • social innovation or technology innovation – how can we manage this effectively
  • does technology free us or enslave us –  we need downtime and we need to disconnect to get balance  “off the web is off life”
  • what is the role of government?
  • will the internet break apart and become the splinternet

Societal change despite constraints
issues – people, resources, geography
by 2025

  • 2.7 billion will face water shortages
  • 60% live in urban areas
  • 24% is over 65

Question: how will tech best serve a global population that is growing, aging and urbanised to levels never seen before?

People need to understand anthropology, social sciences, behavioural psychology to address the societal changes.

The session ended on a slide which spoke about TRUST,  a number of questions relating to this and how we should be considering these from a personal and business perspective. We all need to think about this question in a future which will clearly be very VERY different to what we see today.


A return to the “old skool” – Social Media challenges in the Public Sector

I have started to realise much more now (better late than never i always say) is that one of the greatest challenges to the public sector engaging in social spaces is “does society as a whole really want us there?” i suspect on face value the answer is No. But if you look at this from the viewpoint of Public Sector Reform and considering the future budget position Local Government needs to consider this as a matter of priority in my eyes.

The recent post by Paul Clarke over at HonestlyReal talks about changing focus and understanding the real purpose of local government.

There is the opportunity if we allow it to happen for the public sector to consider a completely new model of business. One which enables local people to determine how best public, private, voluntary and community resources should be defined to deliver local services.

Now one of the challenges presented here is the concept of “local” (offline and online) becomes slightly more complex and requires us as service providers to think about and acknowledge the complex lives people lead and the way in which they live them.

What we are really talking about is challenging the way society itself works and how it can be supported to provide leadership to its own communities alongside Public Sector organisations. We are in effect challenging society to develop more fruitful and more meaningful relationships to enable them to support themselves. Social Media has started to enable people to reconnect in more convenient and timely ways.

An interesting article in the Guardian a couple of weeks ago Charles Leadbeater which argues that relationships and mutual self-help rather than the reforms, such as those in Government’s “Building Britain’s Future”, are the key to more effective public expenditure.

There is a project called Southwark Circle that does this kind of thing, a quote about this project on the Particle Website states

This is a social reform challenge, not just a public service reform challenge.  The question is not just “What can public services do to improve quality of life and well-being for older people?” but rather “How can a locality mobilise public, private, voluntary and community resources to help all older people define and create quality of life and well-being for themselves?”

For me this just reminds me of what my Nan and other older people i talk to used to say to me about when they were young:

“Communities helped themselves back in the day, neighbours would support each other and would help each other out, we didn’t have or need the same kind of support you lot have today”

Are we seeing social media facilitating a return to traditional and “old skool” values around community and neighbourhood support.  I see the main difference being the “community” and the “neighbourhood” that people relate to is more complex and far reaching (offline and online) than ever before.

If this is the case, then the Pubic Sector truly has a huge task ahead, not only support itself to transform the way we engage with people and our own staff, but to acknowledge those communities who are already engaged but also nurture communities (offline and online) to become part of the wider public service delivery model.