I have been very lucky over the past year as I have been able to be a part of the Public i – CitizenScape Pilot project in an advisory capacity. To be honest I would say that I gained far more than i contributed from listening and learning from the experiences of the participating councils who were practically rolling out a very exciting product to improve the engagement and participation of citizens and to provide a filter for council employees and councillors to understand what is being said online about their communities and services.
Before I start sharing my views – I want to at this point acknowledge the vision and persistance of Catherine Howe (and many of her hard-working team) to get to this point.
Let me start by explaining what i think CitizenScape offers councils in very few words and then I’ll use the rest of the post to set some additional context as to why i think and believe we should all have CitizenScape or something like it at the very least. You can check out the Public i site directly for the official details.
- It aggregates conversation and creates a single tag cloud across multiple sources of content
- It doesn’t assume all conversations will be in a digital space and can incorporate formal conversations
- It doesn’t have to be on the council website to offer value – the widget approach means it can be embedded on local websites
- It creates a starting point for listening to community conversation online
- It highlights issues that are relevant across all public service providers not just councils – Total Place style
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve seen a few blog posts referring to HyperLocal Websites and their value to the Local Council Websites as part of a wider Digital Strategy. I’ve also been reading with great interest the developments of Camden Council on their redesign and they are blogging some great insights over at the Camden Blog. Anyone interested in developing council websites should really check this site out.
People don’t talk to the council, they talk to each other
The reality is people are the same online as they are offline. In the offline world, they talk to their neighbours, friends, family, at their local church or mosque and etc. In the online world, this concept does not change. People will be more open about their lives and the complexities they deal with in their everyday lives with people and in places they are comfortable doing so.
So the key thing for me here is that this is exactly what the CitizenScape model supports – no need for direct conversation with the council – Providing we know the conversation space exists we don’t require anyone to make extra efforts to inform us of local issues and need. We can simply use the tool to aggregate and consolidate and provide the overview.
If you are thinking about this kind of connection with local or HyperLocal communities then you should really find out about the CitizenScape project and look to see if this is something you can work with and if not, how you will address this gap.