About Me

Full-time husband and dad, Head of Governance and Democratic Services at Kirklees Council. Passionate about democracy, local government, Sheffield United, my mountain bike and punk rock. Views here are my own

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Governance and Councillors - Some Social Media Resources and Ideas

Last week there was a really good Twitter discussion superbly facilitated by @LouLouk as part of the #lgovsm series of Friday get togethers.  If you've not checked them out I suggest you do - 1.00 p.m. - 2.00 p.m. every week.  A priceless opportunity to share your ideas, work and challenges with some brilliant folk who are willing to share.

The theme for the discussion last Friday was Councillors and Social Media.  In advance (at Lou's request) I quickly pulled together a few resources to facilitate the debate.  This post is intended to add to that list and try and put in place the stuff (and people) I've come across so far that might be of use to others.  Some of this will include work I've been involved in at Kirklees, but won't be totally parochial (I promise).  So, in no particular order:

A brilliant and comprehensive account of all matters Councillors / Social Media can be found in the excellent Connected Councillors produced by, what was, the Improvement and Development Agency.  For me this is a brilliant resource that captures all the key issues, benefits and case studies in one place.  For officers and councillors alike it sets out the context in a way that makes the arguments in favour compelling.  My own copy is now dog eared such has been its value to me as a regular reference point.  Good stuff and a good starting point for taking the discussion into your organisation.

No social media session for councillors can ever be complete without a reference to TweetyHall.  Every time we have delivered such sessions we have used TweetyHall to not only explain what Twitter is, but also graft its importance to the representative role by showing politicians in action in the Twittersphere.  It is also a brilliant short cut for councillors who want to follow their councillor colleagues asap - they are all there in one place, brilliant.

Another understandable area to work through is the worries that naturally arise for councillors when contemplating using social media.  I've blogged previously about the "types" of councillor on the social media journey and there are inevitably some who want reassurance as to their role, identity and responsibilities.  I have called these the "curious yet cautious".  There's some good guidance out there to use as a reference point (although in many respects there is no substitute for common sense) e.g. the Blogging Quick Guide and tips on Blogging and Facebook for Councillors.  Personally I like the simple messages - if you wouldn't say it in a public meeting, don't say it on-line.  Seems to get the message across.  If that doesn't do the trick there are some examples out there that show what can go wrong - here's one Dave Briggs blogged about.

When we've run sessions with councillors it's always good to have some cracking first hand examples of the politicians who are using this stuff to good effect.  There are a lot of councillors out there who are using blogs and I only name check the following because I've come across them and thought they reflected diverse examples of the possibilities - Cllr Daisy Benson, Cllr Tim Cheetham, Cllr Simon Cooke, Cllr Andrew Cooper.  All different in their own right and all major political parties covered there - I'm an officer remember.

In terms of some of the learning we've collected as part of working with councillors in the context of social media this has been pulled together as part of Cllrsocmed.  This is basically an ongoing project in Yorkshire and the Humber involving myself @steventuck and @spencerlwilson.  I'm not going to go on at length about this stuff, its all there for anyone who is interested.  In the context of this post I'd suggest looking at the Tips section and the videos that Steve has produced in response to request from councillors at our sessions.  Our learning journey continues and we'll keep posting stuff up there when we get chance.

In terms of work taking place in other authorities I've come across some stuff that I really like and admire.  Anyone wanting to see innovation should look no further than the stuff that Dave McKenna (@Localopolis) and colleagues are doing at Swansea.  Their approach to overview and scrutiny using a social media approach is cutting edge governance activity in my humble opinion.  Similarly, I really like the work that Monmouthshire is doing.  I love their Twitter Q&A work and the councillor fronted budget work they have done using YouTube.  I also note that Blackburn and Darwen (like Kirklees ) are now Tweeting Council meetings and @Tomsprints has plans afoot for Kent.  I would also recommend checking out the work the Michele Ide-Smith is doing in Cambridgeshire which she is meticulously capturing on her blog. I'm sure there are many more, but I haven't found them yet - please let me know.

Turning briefly to Kirklees.  We're rolling our webcasting at a pace now (some real opportunities when used alongside other social media I think), looking at other media for Councillors Annual Reports, have re-designed our councillor profiles on our website to make them more informative and individual to the councillor.  We're using Twitter to promote our meetings, councillor surgeries and overview and scrutiny.  We're currently looking at delivering a different overview and scrutiny offer using social media and are taking an holistic look at the social media opportunities for Governance and Democratic Services as a whole.  I think the opportunities are significant - political group support, decision making processes, support for ward councillors, local government elections, information and intelligence for community leaders, ward surgeries, promoting democracy and democratic engagement..... I could go on.

This has been my own attempt to share what I've come across (I haven't got time right now to share some of the stuff I've found from other countries, that will have to be another post) - please reciprocate, we're all in this together after all.

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