Monthly Archives: July 2013

Networked Councillor: Where have we got to?

This post is an attempt to capture some of the feedback we have had on the research over the last few (busy!) weeks and outlines the main changes we will be making to the beta version of the report. It also starts to describe the Autumn programme that we are starting to put together.

Firstly – it has been notable as to how positively the work has been received – there seems to be a real appetite for a more substantive conversations about how we support elected representatives in a more digital and networked society. At conversations at the LGA Annual conference there was an emphasis on the need to strengthen relationships with the public but also a recognition of the need to refresh and adapt the relationship with the public as well.

However there was also serious challenge to some of the thinking and that needs to be reflected in the final report. The main challenges were:

  • We need to make it clear that the speed of adoption/adaption is mixed across different places. There is a a perceived urban/rural split and there is also a ‘long tail’ of adoption with members in most councils. The nuance on this will be in balancing the positioning of the report in terms of outlining the need for networked councillors with a realistic view of the pace of change
  • In terms of the pace of change the future work needs to ensure that it is constantly adapting to the changing context – I live in fear of creating a ‘toolkit’ as these things have a tendency to get set in stone and to stop the process of creation/adaption.
  • It is impossible to consider the networked councillor in isolation from the back office and process changes which will be brought about by a change in member behaviour. We will need to address this alongside the programme in the Autumn.
  • We need to throw the emphasis onto the networked rather than the digital behaviours – channel matters less than the way in which it is used and it is possible to be a networked councillor and largely operate offline. There are challenges to this in terms of accessibility and transparency but the principle is very much the same.

This  point about the support and process is a significant one – its very difficult to update skills and support in the back office (across democratic services / consultation / communications) without also considering changes to democratic process but this is a very difficult area to start to effect change in and one where the speed of change is very much at odds with the pace of technology. The point of entry for this may be around things like the scrutiny process and we will pick this up as as separate thread on the blog after the report is published.

In terms of the Autumn programme we are looking to address two areas (or three if you include work with officers and process):

  • Social Skills – for example how to manage your digital presence, decide what you want to be public/private, how to integrate into your workflow, how to deal with ‘trolls’ and negative responses
  • Basic skills – including analysis and monitoring not just the content creation skills

The point about workflow is where the social and basic skills intersect and where there is a need to do some more research before we convene the programme. At the LGA Conference a number of the networked councillors we spoke to had some tips and tools for this and we need to bring this into one place so that we can pass it one effectively. This is also the area where the officer support might intersect and need some changes.

We are currently exploring options of single authority / shared authority programmes and would be interested in people’s views on this as one of the findings was a preference towards peer support from outside your own authority and so it may be the best solution is single authority plus the peer support network that has been suggested.

So – lots to do and lots more to learn but its good to feel that we have a pathway towards helping more members to become networked councillors!

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Networked Councillor in NLGN research paper

The New Local Government Network think tank has just published an excellent research paper called Future Councillors: Where Next For Local Politics?

The publication, which you can download from this page on NLGN’s website in PDF, aims to map out the future role for local councillors. Contrbutors to the paper include Sir Steve Bullock, the mayor of Lewisham Borough Council, Cllr Peter Fleming, the leader of Sevenoaks District Council, and our very own Catherine Howe, who has written about Networked Councillor to offer a perspective on the implications the Internet has for future councillors.

In his introduction to the paper, Simon Parker says that the NLGN wants to start a new discussion about the future role of elected members – which it thinks is the one part of the debate over the future of local government that has so far been missing. Catherine’s piece concentrates on the implications of the Internet for the role of councillors – and how it necessitates an awareness among politicians and councils of networked power.

Please have a read and keep the conversation going on Twitter (with the hashtag #NetworkedCllr or here on the blog).

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Learning how to deal with online bullies and the question of time

There’s been more activity in the world of Networked Councillor this week, with two blog posts appearing in our Twitter streams. Here at Public-i, newly elected councillor Emma Daniel has written about dealing with online bullying.

This is no small matter – and she starts by saying that there’s a very clear distinction between those who are ‘challenging’ and those who are genuinely bullying. Those that are should not be taken lightly – even if old hands might be able to bat off unpleasant behaviour. Emma says: “Most councillors, as is the whole point of local government, are ordinary people who want to improve things for their community and it can be quite a shock. Even experienced councillors who first go online can be surprised at it and put down the social media tools as a result, but please don’t!!”

Emma goes on to draw out some important lessons. She recommends including ‘rules of engagement’ somewhere online and says that it’s important to consider who is doing the bullying and how harmful it can be. This, she says, can help you to understand what strategy you require to deal with it.

Read Emma’s post here.

We’d also like to thank Colin Noble for another lovely mention of Networked Councillor. In his latest post, he says that the project is run by the ‘excellent Public-i’. Thanks Colin! The work has been carried out for the equally excellent LGA, whom we shouldn’t forget as well.

Colin’s post is really about a social media training session that he attended for Forest Heath District Council. He makes some very interesting points – in particular about time. As Colin notes, there are two very common complaints from councillors who are new to social media – getting decent technology to use and the time that it takes to update SM accounts. With regards to the former, Colin says that it’s important for councillors to be accessible – and technology can and should help this. And on the latter point, he says: “With regards the time social media takes, frankly it simply has to come out of some other activity area and it’s about balance.”

You can read Colin’s post here.

One last thing: We’re now – as I’m sure most of you are aware – very close to the final report being finalised. We’ll be in touch with more news on this as soon as we can.

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More blogging about Networked Councillor

I just thought I should write a quick post to tell you about some of the activities around Networked Councillor in the last week or so…

Obviously, we’re still trying to recover from the terrific (and energy-sapping) time we had at the LGA Conference last week. It is worth saying that Catherine (the busy bee that she is) is currently out dealing with other stuff, but I hope she’ll be back blogging here soon with some update on the feedback to the report.

So here are a few things…

  • There’s been more blogging related to the project, with Leah Lockhart up in Edinburgh talking about the report to councillors in social media sessions she’s been running. As she says “What is now very clear to me are the issues around identity and permission are big for elected members. There is a desire or need for a space that is safe to experiment and practical training to be provided by a neutral body or group.” Read her post here.
  • I missed referring to an earlier post from Colin Noble’s thoughts from the Networked Councillor roundtable event that he attended. He says: “I for one believe that what it’s actually about is being accessible, going to places where people gather and working with your community to get the best out of the system whatever that may be.” Please read Colin’s post here.
  • We’ve set up a Twitter account, in case you haven’t seen it, here. Unsurprisingly, we’ve called it NetworkedCllr – and that councillor’s moniker is Cllr Bloggs. Credit for the joke has to go to Emma Daniel, aka @huxley06.

I’m sure there’ll be more to tell you soon, but until then…

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Collating the conversation at the LGA

Yesterday I said I’d have a go at collating the tweets about #NetworkedCllr into a Storify. I’ve had a go at this and you  can see the result below.

First thing I’d say about this is that it made me realise just how many different chats can go on in one conversation – if that makes sense! Lots of things happened yesterday and in the days before related to #NetworkedCllr and, frankly, it’s quite hard to keep up. For that reason, the Storify is a work in progress. I’ll need to spend more time picking through the tweets to make a really good job of what happened.

Anyway, please have a look – and tell me if there’s stuff that I’ve missed!!!

[View the story “#NetworkedCllr at the LGA” on Storify]

Sorry – I can’t embed this here as Storify isn’t whitelisted for WordPress.com blogs. I’m going to host a similar post over at the Public-i blog, too, which can accommodate it.

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Filed under Project update, The Networked Councillor

A big thanks for taking part in Networked Councillor at the LGA Conference

I’m just writing to thank everyone who came along, tweeted, talked and generally got involved in the Networked Councillor sessions (and the ensuing debate) at the LGA Conference.

It was a fantastic few days of conversation – with some very significant learning, and we hope not just for us! As Catherine said on Thursday morning at the breakfast session, this was the last face-to-face opportunity to feed back on the beta version of the report – which will soon be finalised – so it was absolutely great to see such enthusiasm for the #NetworkedCllr concept.

While I wasn’t personally able to attend all the sessions myself (as I was working with the LGA team covering the conference) I noticed that there was great interest in the report and, more generally, in the issue: what does it mean to be a councillor given the technological changes that we’ve seen?

It’s not for me to feed back on the feedback gained (if you’ll forgive that expression) that I’ll leave for Catherine, but for now here are a few things I noticed…

  • Rowan Draper shared the blog post he’s written about Networked Councillor, here: http://t.co/Fi20EyMzbZ
  • You can play the quiz ‘How Networked Are You?‘ on the Public-i website to get a quick introduction to the Networked Councillor concept.
  • Carl Haggerty produced a fantastic sketch of the session, which you see here: http://t.co/gqXSn4s0jC
  • There were also some great observations made on Twitter… I’ll put a storify together to capture some of these ASAP!!

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Filed under Beta Report, Project update, The Networked Councillor