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.

Likeminds 2010 – First thoughts and reflections

On Friday i attended the second Likeminds event in Exeter. This post will purely be my first thoughts and reflections as i know from attending the first event last year that many more thoughts will evolve, along with blog posts over the coming weeks.

So here goes with the random thoughts and observations and in no particular order:

Don’t become a friend of a brand, local government knows this all to well a previous post and Dave Briggs will always say this if you hear him speak. Why would you become a friend of a council or local authority

Acknowledgement is key to building connections and valuing people – One of the key take aways from Chris Brogan

Government is one of the hardest places to do social media (Thanks to Olivier Blanchard for acknowledging this), so let’s celebrate those that have done excellent work in the sector.

We need to remember that strategy development is game play and we need to model future scenarios more

Olivier Blanchard‘s talk on operationalising social communications was excellent and very relevant but social communications is too narrow a term for  government at this point in time – what should it be?

Joanne Jacobs is inspirational, Australian and managed not to swear 🙂

Jonathan Akwue understands the challenge in government and has done real grassroots stuff with netmums around service design.

Chris brogan reminded us that we all want to feel special and that we all want to be noticed – acknowledgement

Where is learning from all sectors being collated and shared?

If local government became social how would comms, PR and marketing deal with the devolution of messages?

The role of councillors is challenged in a social organisational structure – More to come on this subject over the comin weeks along with some thoughts and reflections on the Virtual Town Hall Pilot Project.

Will government be left behind because of all these challenges or will the change be forced and be even more painful for those who haven’t engaged?

Internal comms is dead, internal community management is now critical to organisations. Managing internal information and knowledge flow is critical for managing external social media usage. You can’t effectively deliver external engagement without solving internal communications an offering a social hub to support the knowledge sharing across silos.

We need to start really exploring the wider business impacts of adopting social media in local government and sharing the thinking around this subject.

Social media should plug in and add value and not your brand or org plugged into social media missing the point

What really is a conversation in this space and can orgsanisation be part of that – no – but the people in organisations can be part of that.

Still a huge challenge for some people around the issue of  personal vs business profiles.

Young employees might understand the tools but may not understand the business – critical to connect people internally.

Paul Clarke is a great photographer – you can see his likeminds photos as well as many others here

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.

And if you really wanted to transform local government? – Honestlyreal

An excellent post via Paul Clarke at Honestlyreal about how local government could be transformed based on going back to basics. I think that Paul has made an excellent point and it it well worth reading if you are interested in local government transformation..

My assumption is that people in local government do remain very focused on services and that is partly down to targets and indicators, but there is something empowering and innovative about asking ourselves why do we exist? That is the fundamental question that the public would want to understand and i think this quote from Paul’s post really sums up where we should be…

“we’re not here just to run the services; we, with you, are here to serve this community as best we possibly can”

I wonder how we would approach strategies, business planning and performance management if we took the focus away from services and on to the community itself. Paul writes…

Imagine instead that the services are the secondary consideration. And that the primary function becomes “to serve the needs of the local community”. Suddenly we’ve opened up a wealth of new possibilities. Yes, this can mean alternative delivery models, through partnerships and so on, which is hardly radical thinking. But we’re getting away from just focusing on services here, remember?

Local Government has a duty around community leadership and this would essentially drive that from the perspective of the community. Do the public really think about local government services, my personal view is NO, but what people do focus on is place and location. If we changed our focus to the same level of understanding as the public and we worked with them and even empowered them to develop their own relationships and partnerships to solve local problems that would do more for local empowerment then a single service transforming the way it delivers.

What is most interesting about this post is that it moves toward a transformational agenda which is about “changing focus” and “understanding purpose” instead of  investing in systems and or solutions. Once we understand what our new role is and what that future looks like we can develop programmes to get us there.

For me this is such an important thing to consider as my role is about Enterprise Architecture and that is basically about understanding the future, modelling it and guiding the organisation toward that desired change. But we also have a role to challenge the future state based on what is best for the organisation and based on it’s core purpose.