I ran a workshop at the Enhancing Local Democracy Conference on Friday and wanted to share my slides:

You will be relieved to know that I prepared far more slides than I made people listen to……and we ran the sessions in a fairly loose way – many thanks to Dave Briggs and Tony Bovaird who helped me with this. We really focused firstly on discussing the relevance of social media and how to communicate the urgency of connecting with it to elected members. This really distills down into two messages:

  • What happens in virtual is actually very real to people (and their communities) and you have to accommodate that within our democratic system
  • People are talking – they are just not talking to you.  And as one participant pointed out – they are probably talking about you

Its always good for me to take a step back from my rather technological perch and realise that there are a lot of people who just don’t use this stuff and that we need to keep repeating the basics.  However I also agree with Dave when he says that it is in fact a disgrace at the point in time if an elected representative won’t use email to speak to you – and this is going to be the case for social media for the generation Y folks.

Tony ran an excellent session on co-production and really showed the variety of work that can fit under a co-production banner – really split into two families of design/decision and delivery/management.  Dave has already covered a lot of this on his live blog of the event but here are the main points which I took away:

  • “There has been an outbreak of humility – and we now acknowledge the service users have most of the answers” – loved this quote.  Hopefully it is true and we are now ready not just to try and shove work onto busy volunteers in the community but actually work with them to design something better
  • We don’t understand what is already being done by our communities – we need to listen on this and let it form the big society.  Rather than charge about trying to ‘create’ the big society why don’t we work out what is already being done and connect to that?  Simples
  • We don’t know how outcomes are effected by citizen activity we know it is big – but not really measured – this is an issue for anyone trying to build a business case for increased co-production of services.  We know the costs of delivering a service ourselves but not the costs of supporting someone else doing it – or the savings that that can bring.  How do we bring ‘citizen time’ into the value model in order to calculate this.  This highlights (again) the problem of creating a business case for something that we don’t yet understand.  This is a problem we urgently need a solution to.
  • Research shows that many citizens are willing to do more co-production if its something they are interested in – and this is especially true for young people.  I think this is a big opening for better use of technology to map the opportunities and ideas and connect them to people’s preferences.  It needs us to have a sense of the individual as a citizen and to be able to communicate with them as such which brings with it very interesting issues of identity – but that’s for another post.
  • Own up to risks – and pretend that coproduction and the bigsociety are greater than risks we already take in the public sector.  This links to the first point – we need to be more honest and open with people and acknowledge that not everything will work first time.  This is where I think we start to make a strong case for why the online world is a good place to start this kind of change.  The culture of the social web is oriented towards learning and honest failure and we can build on this mind set.
  • And this links to something else that Tony said – in coproduction tone of voice matters – make your relationships collaborative – and deliver outcomes not services.  This tone of voice point also has strong resonance for social media.
  • And one last thing – evaluation in the stream is going to replace auditing services – real time feedback via services like twitter – this is the point where CRM and engagement need to join up and work together – big challenges here but I don’t disagree

So – very interesting session and hugely useful for me in terms of adding depth to the link between social web / co-production / participation – so more reading to be done here.

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