networkedcllr: First comments and feedback

Many thanks to everyone who has made comments so far – as a lot have come in directly over email this post is a round up of these.  I have written it assuming that you have read the report – or at least this summary.

The overall findings seem to have hit a chord with many people and the feedback has been very constructive (including some comments about accessibility of the actual design which we will sort in the final version – thank you).  If this is not your response to the report then please let us know!

I have been struck by the enthusiastic reception we have had with democratic services officers as a way of understanding their potential role with respect to a more digital future.

In particular the distinction between first and next generation internet use has been useful to people and connects into ongoing discussions in many councils about equipping people with tablets in order to cut costs in terms of printing – the potential for behaviour change from cost saving is a useful connection.

Toby Blume has recommended some related work carried out with the urban forum which is also very much in sync with the thinking in the Networked Councillor report:

He also pointed out the links between the Lambeth work on the Cooperative Council and the ambition for a more co-productive relationship with the public and I am hoping we can draw this thought out more in the planned workshops/discussions.

A number of people have commented on the suggestions around a change in the approach to member training, and I am hoping that we can develop some shared work in this area after the LGA Annual conference when we would hope to publish the final version of the report.

The difference in officer and councillor perceptions has also been commented on a number of times – usually with an acknowledgement of the fact that it would be more productive to have this discussion in a shared space – something we hope to be able to do in the events.  However there has also been some caution in this with experienced officers voicing their concerns over the willingness of councillors to accept help and support from officers in this area – this is definitely something that needs further debate.

Within this concern was a feeling that many members do not feel the need to be more connected to their electorate between elections.  If the analysis is correct that we need more networked councillors in order to encourage greater levels of participation (which we are taking as a good thing!), then it will be useful to understand how representative this is of members as a whole – this might be something that the LGA can help with.

There also seems to be an acknowledgement of the fact that political parties have a role to play in all this and this would perhaps be a useful focus for a workshop at some point.  It’s perhaps even more important as we see more NOC councils or significant splits in the main parties, and this may mean that they are open to these kinds of ideas.

We have also had some interesting comments about how a more networked councillor could interact with more networked communities – looking at examples of hyperlocal blogs or community websites – and this links back to Toby’s point about a more co-productive relationship.  The question of ‘knowing who you are talking to’ came up in this context as well.

In addition to event planning we will also be sitting down with Carl Whistlecraft as part of his role on the local digital steering group to make sure that this work fits into what they are doing – the results of this will be talked about at the LGA Annual conference.

So – this is a real whistle-stop tour of discussions to date, so if it sounds off beam then please comment.  If you are a networked councillor – or work with one – then you may want to point them towards the events:

  • Cambridge:  Networked Councillor beta meeting – 17th June – this is an expert group meeting to look at the research and refine the final version of the report
  • LGA Annual Conference:
    • ‘Skills for the Networked Councillor’ session 5.50-6.20pm Tues 2nd July – this will be a practical session run by Public-i with help from actual networked councillors
    • ‘East of England LGA & Public-i – The Networked Councillor’ 8-9am Thurs 4th July – this will be an overview and discussion of the research report
    • Innovation Zone 12-12.45pm Thurs 4th July – this is a chance to discuss ‘what next’ for the networked councilor

We are keen to try and connect some like-minded people together as part of this work so if you want to come to one of these events then please let us know either here or on eventbrite.

And finally – as we think about the final version of the report and next steps then let us know if you are interested in getting involved – will blog about plans here soon!



Filed under The Networked Councillor

5 responses to “networkedcllr: First comments and feedback

  1. Small point, but the LGA Conference dates here say “June”. Should refer to 2 and 4 July.

  2. Just read this, and the report, for the first time after seeing the article in the current LGA ‘first’ magazine. Much of it accords with my own impressions. I am a 60+ district councillor who is reasonably computer-literate and retired. I follow Facebook but rarely post because the vast majority of comments I see are not worth commenting on. I have around 100 LinkedIn contacts, a mixture of former work colleagues and those relevant to the Council. I run a blog on behalf of the three ward Councillors but it rarely attracts any comments other than spam so there is no incentive to post regularly.
    I have considered Twitter but have not so far taken the plunge although I know some of our Councillors, including the Leader, use it fairly regularly. The technical aspects should not be a problem because I have a son who is a user. My concerns revolve around uncertainty as to the time commitment involved in monitoring and posting sufficiently frequently (and taking care to avoid the pitfalls of inappropriate posts) and the discipline needed to make it worthwhile. One aspect that has not been mentioned is security: if one broadcasts to an unknown collection of followers from, say, a Council meeting or a conference, does that not show that your home is currently unoccupied and vulnerable to potential villains? I know it may be possible sometimes to deduce the information from published committee information but that is not the same as actively telling people. I wonder if any research has been done on this?
    So whilst I accept that there may be ways to communicate with some sectors of the electorate that are an improvement on how I do so at present, I am still to be convinced that greater use of social media will be of sufficient use to justify the time and effort involved, judging by the uninspiring response I have had from my admittedly limited experience so far.

    • Hi Cameron,
      Thank you so much for taking the time to respond to this post – and sorry for our relatively tardy reply. There’s been a lot going on but I was really keen to get back to you as you raise some really interesting points.

      I am glad that the report accorded with so many of your own impressions. We don’t think that any research has been carried out around the specific security issues you raise. To our knowledge (I work for Public-i, the leading provider of webcasting to local authorities) we haven’t heard of any instance when a councillor or officer has had their home broken into as a result of being spotted on a webcast. But the broader point you make is important: We know greater transparency can on occasion give those with unscrupulous intentions an opportunity that they might not otherwise be afforded. We’d hope that this is at least balanced (even tipped) by the greater opportunities this transparency can afford us all to engage in local democracy.

      However, I guess this presents a challenge to us and others: to provide more evidence of those benefits. With that in mind I wondered if there were other specific things (like the research) that might help to convince you to go further with social media?

  3. Pingback: People care – don’t they? | Simon's Blog

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