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

Friday, 5 December 2014

Representing In A Digital Age - What I Said to N Yorks Cllrs

N Yorks Council Chamber - Impressive
This week I was lucky enough to be invited to speak to all of the councillors on North Yorkshire Council about the possibilities that digital presents in terms of their varying roles.  Firstly, what a beautiful part of the country, what a magnificent building County Hall is (I'm a civic building nerd) and what lovely hospitality - thank you.

I think it is ok to say that one of the main reasons I was there was to provide a bit of challenge and explore the art of the possible.  Of all of the councillors there only one is a social media user.  It was nice to catch up with @torycannonfoder as he was present back in the day when we did our regional  cllrsocmed sessions.  He's still flying the flag.

My presentation slides are available here but here's a summary of what I said:

  • It's not easy being a councillor - difficult decisions to take, changing and increasing expectations against a backdrop of diminishing resources. AND all of this in a digital age.  Would you want the job?  But does digital provide opportunities?  
  • Opportunities to Inform ..... residents what you are doing for them.  Here's an example 
  • Opportunities to Communicate ..... about whats happening in your patch. @JayneCowan is brilliant at this.
  • Opportunities to Engage ..... with resident and communities about local issues and concerns.  Cllr Nicola Turner uses Facebook effectively in this way.
  • Opportunities to Broadcast ..... Councillor Phil Murphy, Monmouthshire, using You Tube as part of the council's budget consultation.
  • Opportunities to Watch ..... you don't have to take part.  Put your ward into the Twitter search engine and see what's going on.
  • Opportunities to Campaign ..... whilst it might be no substitute for good old fashioned shoe leather there is evidence from the Obama campaign that social media can have a positive impact as part of the campaigning process.
  • Opportunities to Mobilise ..... there are now many examples of the value of social media in supporting mobilisation in terms of crisis and emergency.  As community leaders councillors are often in the frontline when supporting residents in such situations.
  • Opportunities to Notify ..... we're all familiar with the village notice board.  Have a look at what Cllr Darren Fower is doing on Pinterest 
  • Opportunities to Meet ..... these days no digital presentation to councillors would be complete without name checking Cllr David Harrington's Skype Ward Surgeries
  • Opportunities to be Transparent ..... most councils are now web casting or live streaming their meetings.  Why not use parts of that content to communicate and share with your residents?
I tried to make the point that these are all tools that can be added to the elected representatives tool box (thanks to Dan Slee for the tool box image on Creative Commons).  They are tools that may help them do what they do already.  They are not a panacea nor are they a substitute for tried and tested methods (door knocking, leaflets, poster, meetings).  

As is traditional  closed with the issues that usually come up - connectivity, your kit, pressures on time, managing on-line reputation.

I was the slot before lunch so that, in a nutshell, was it.  I'm not sure what effect any of this will have had.  Let's see.

Please feel free to comment on this post and share.

If you want to continue the digital democracy conversation join @LDBytes on Twitter or join the LDBytes Club on KnowledgeHub

If you want to redesign local democracy come to your event: Local Democracy for Everyone - We're Not in Westminster Anymore

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