Likeminds 2010 – was it really for me?

In my previous post i shared my first thoughts and observations from attending the Likeminds 2010 conference. It was a great day and my thoughts have now started to settle down. If you wish to read other peoples views on the event, check out the likeminds site.

The question i am asking myself now is  – was the event for me?

I work in local government and i know that we can learn from other sectors and other professionals, but i’m starting to think that for a whole day event, i didn’t really come away with anything new  – that is not to say that the quality of presentations weren’t great because they were. I was very impressed with Jon Akwue, Joanne Jacobs and Chris Brogan who was one of the first 10 people i started to follow on twitter – Joanne’s Gartner style hype cycle for Augmented Reality was very interesting.

However it seems to me that we (public sector folk) are actually very advanced in our collective thinking on the potential of social software and social media. I include social software because i believe that we will gain huge advantages implementing this technology internally first before we embark externally on the road to radical transformation. This point was supported by an excellent presentation by Olivier Blanchard on “Operationalising Social Communications” – Ok so the title is a bit too “Communications” friendly for most public sector folk, but to be honest i don’t care what we call it, as long as we actually ALL understand what we are really talking about.

If you are in the public sector and you have heard Dave Briggs talk, or spoken to the following people in and around the public sector : Dominic Campbell, Jeremy Gould, Paul Clarke, Tim Davies, Mary McKenna, Steve Dale, Catherine Howe and Julie Harris to name but a few. All of these people i have heard talk about practical examples of change using social web technologies over the past 2 years. From the IDeA’s Knowledge Hub, eSafeguarding Projects, Youth Participation and Engagement, Learning Organisations, Reboot Britain, Digital Mentors and Virtual Civic Spaces. All of these in my opinion are great examples of the power and potential of social media.

Surely this is about FUNDAMENTAL CHANGE not just in businesses, public sector organisations but in society as a whole.

I appreciate that for many people Likeminds was a place where they learned about new stuff and new approaches, but for me, i have already been on that journey, but it was good to listen to great speakers.

I love likeminds and i love being part of it, but perhaps this time it was just a little to broad for me and not deep enough.

I suspect that the other likeminds offerings would meet my needs but being based in local government, funds are limited if not non existent to enable participation in some of the others.

I think that the main reason for me to feel this way was that it feels like the event was aimed at a more commercial group of people, it was no coincidence that a large number of people attending were agencies and people offering services in this space.

My thoughts continue.

Developing a Social Networking usage policy

I have been getting involved in discussions in my council about the legitimate use of social networking sites for business purposes, the pilot project with our Youth Service is one example of what we are trying to do around exploring the possibilities, but what this has done is raised the issue about staff access to sites during work time and whether or not staff should or should have access.

I am pleased to say that the current thinking in my authority is not to “ban” access altogether, although we did get close to doing that, but to better understand how it can be used and to also provide a policy which protects the council and all of the staff, should something go wrong as well as raise awareness of digital footprint and guidelines for online participation, very much like the one the UK civil service have got.

My personal views are very much of the opinion that we need to start thinking very seriously about how we move this forward because with the increasing take-up of free social media tools, our brand will be talked about even more and unless we understand how this happens and how we can engage we will face an increasingly up hill battle to regain reputation and positive customer feedback

I have now started working with a colleague on researching and pulling together a framework for us to start writing a policy and guidance for staff. What has been interesting is that it has close links with existing work around our current “employee code of conduct” which does not refer to any online participation or engagement activity and is written in such a classic and traditional policy way that is it very hard to read and understand.

It is also in my humble opinion and important part of developing our employer brand for staff. What has complicated this whole area is the push and drives to increase mobile and flexible working patterns and ensure that we are offering a good work/life balance for staff. What this is doing is blurring the lines even more between work and home and this is where online participation in social networking sites becomes a tricky area to manage.

This morning i spoke to Jeremy Gould from the Ministry of Justice, others may know him as “whitehallwebby” about this very subject and he signposted me to some excellent links which the BBC have published on their website. He also signposted the Digital People – Communitities in Practice Group, which also has some good stuff in there around this subject.

What i am starting to realise is that what we really need to do is focus away from the technology and look at how we can better equip our staff to make appropriate decisions in different channels of communications, participation and engagement. This is where the code of conduct comes in and links to employer brand. But this also links with work that Emma Mulqueeny has highlighted around a social media toolkit.

For now i continue the research and i will be developing my understanding further in order to ensure that my council and all the staff have a clear framework and policy which reflects a modern forward thinking council.