What the Networked Councillor is all about

We have been working with East of England LGA on a project for the last couple of months looking at what local politicians might need in terms of skills and support in the future.

The project was born out of two things:

  • If we are going to have more networked and digital citizens we are going to need politicians with the right skills – we will need networked councillors but we have not yet really explored what that means
  • Just showing people how to use twitter doesn’t solve the problem

This question of what the networked councillor will look like has been bugging me for some time.   I am often asked to do sessions on social media for all kinds of people including Members, and a while ago I stopped making these about practical skills and started pitching them at some of the strategic challenges that a more networked world brings.  My reasoning for this is twofold.  Firstly that the skills are so simple that anyone doing one of these roles will be able to learn them for themselves if they have the right motivation for doing so, and secondly that we have to start creating a baseline for these skills which clearly states that our politicians need to be able to communicate effectively online.

The research was fascinating to do and really focused our minds on a few different issues:

  • If we want local politicians to be accessible online then we need to support them – for example how many councils provide social media monitoring metrics to Members based on their ward?
  • We need to be much more strategic in providing training to Members – they need help with their political voice online and their digital footprint as well as help with the basics.
  • Much of this is tribal – politicians prefer to learn from other politicians – ideally of the same party.  Are we challenging the political parties adequately as to how they are supporting their Members?

This work supports some of the other things we have been doing with respect to creating more co-productive citizen relationships and also finding and cultivating relationships with active citizens.  This probably needs to come together into a single conversation at some point as we cannot coherently discuss democratic engagement in once place and more co-productive citizen relationships in another – we have to orientate this discussion around the citizen and not the council’s structures.

The report is now being published and you can read it here:

Rather than create a final report at this stage we are publishing this in ‘beta’ form.  Like a software beta version we think it’s ready for public view but we expect a wider audience to have more comments on it.  The objective is to end up with a final report which will have been genuinely scrutinised and evolved by people outside of the research team.  We’ll be doing this here on the project blog, which is open for guest blogs and contributions and while we’ll be nagging people about this please do also let us know if you’d like to contribute a guest post.  Alternatively you can contact me directly by email or Twitter (@curiousc) with any thoughts and comments, which will also feed back into the whole shared picture as it develops.  Once the discussion really gets under way, we’ll be hosting a couple of different events to further explore, agree on revisions and hopefully some next steps.  We’ll tell you more about those in due course – for now we really look forward to lots of lively and challenging debate around what you all think of the Networked Councillor.

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11 Comments

Filed under Beta Report, Project update, The Networked Councillor

11 responses to “What the Networked Councillor is all about

  1. Pingback: Networked Councillors: The report is here - Public-i

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  5. Going bananas over networks and co-production of democracy: see my blog a little while ago on the Networked Councillor research http://www.cfps.org.uk/blog?result=success&offset=0&item=9&itemoffset=3

  6. Pingback: networkedcllr: First comments and feedback | The Networked Councillor

  7. Part of the problem, speaking as a local Councillor who has a local blog with a fairly good readership, who tweets and facebooks about local matters, is the readership is those who are already engaged.

    We also produce a six weekly newsletter Focus that is distributed to very household. We know that some of these newsletters go from mailbox to bin, but nearly everyone at least reads the headlines. We do test this, by face to face interviews too.

    In the newsletter we do promote the blog and twitter account heavily http://peterharris.mycouncillor.org.uk/latest-focus/ but still have a fairly small readership and/or reach. Of the 3300 households in my small rural town and villages we only have 750 signed up readers [some of which are from the same household, but different readers].

    It is interesting to compare Councillors’ approach with commercial organisations. Judging by the amount of newsletters and adverts I get through my door mailbox, there is still the need to ‘push’ readership, rather than rely on active searches or registration. If we rely on new methodology we are getting to a defined, and in my view, small audience.

    Added to this is the time which is taken to engage on an individual basis, my time is more usefully engaged in getting out delivering my newsletter than one-to-one conversations on line, with those who are already politically involved! I speak and engage with many more residents when walking the streets and lanes than I do on-line. I agree the latter is increasing but it is still a small percentage of my useful time, even after nearly three years of activity. Certainly a smaller percentage of time/residents than is evident.

    Despite this, I will continue to deliver both traditional and social media messages. It may be that the latter will become very significant for all my residents, however, it is clear from the evidence that I have at the moment that this is far from the case in this middle England rural small town environment now!

    Peter Harris
    Southwell Notts

    • akismet-b94ba7855aa5203f8a6048a15e743e63

      Interesting Peter – thanks for taking the time to comment

      Do you think there is a larger social media audience in your area that you are not able to find/connect to or do you think the audience is not there yet? The evidence suggest the former but I wanted to check if this was your experience.
      Thanks again

      C

      • Difficult to judge – but I think that it is the former. We have been fairly active trying to identify local audience members, by key word search and followers. However, getting a local id is difficult [as location is not unsurprisingly anonymous in Profiles], and the audience is often quite young too ][so not on the Electoral Register], and I do have a significant number of <18yr olds who are studying politics at the local school.

        Furthermore, I am not interested in getting a large number of followers/subscribers with no local allegiance, I want to engage with fellow residents, and this is proving very slow on generic issues. However, when we have a local campaign things progress very rapidly; many of whom stay in touch. [cf a local campaign to re-open an important walking route http://peterharris.mycouncillor.org.uk/2013/03/17/racecourse-road-barred-to-cyclists-and-walkers/ ]

        Peter

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