Monday, 20 June 2011

Goodbye gimmicks, hello day-to-day...

I attended LocalGovCamp on Saturday and since then I've been thinking about how I can share my thoughts and what I learnt. As my brain is currently a big plate of ideas spaghetti, I thought it would be more coherent if I broke them into smaller blog posts based on the sessions I attended.

The first session was 'Twitter 24'. It was about what local authorities and other organisations have got out of events such as GMP24, Walsall24, Freebridge24 (which I blogged about here) and Shrop360.

The general consensus in the room was that these events generate media coverage, demonstrate the range of work the organisation carries out and crucially, wins over a hesitant internal audience.

Now I love a PR stunt as much as the next gal but something about these type of events make me feel slightly uneasy. I can't help but think, 'ok, but what about the day after that?' If we're going to move from social media being shiny and new to something that actually transforms services and therefore, people's lives, then surely we have to think about what happens the next day?

It's something I've been thinking a lot about at Wolverhampton Homes because, after 18 months of persistence, we've got to a point where social media is working for us reasonably effectively as a (two-way) communications channel, but it isn't yet transforming services.

These events do generate media coverage (though perhaps not for much longer given they're losing their novelty status) and do, to some extent, show the work of the organisation (albeit in a largely 'broadcast' sense). But my worry is about trying to win over an internal audience with something that is essentially a gimmick, misses the point of what social media can do. It feels a bit like we're dumbing down.

When I think about where I would like Wolverhampton Homes' use of social media to go, the utopian ideal I'm aiming for is where social media genuinely empowers customers and staff to cut through all the crap and get things done.

I'm imagining geo-tagged estate evaluations, communities that feel safe in and proud of their neighbourhood, twitpics of estate improvements, genuine consultation, easier reporting of hate crime - so it can be tackled and further incidents prevented, open data so customers can judge our performance and be given genuine service choices, an empowered silent majority and less antisocial behaviour because people know and feel able to speak to their neighbours.

I'm trying to work backwards from that picture and think what needs to happen to get to that point. I think the key is about up-skilling tenants and staff so they see the possibilities. It's something we're already doing with Homes on the Net and Networked Neighbourhoods, but I know we need to do more of it, now I've got to figure out how. That's the thing about LocalGovCamp, it can give you a head full of ideas but the important thing is putting them into action.

Photo reproduced under Creative Commons licence by kind permission of Andreas Nilsson.

4 comments:

  1. Hi Kate,

    Totally agree that there needs to be some consideration about how these events benefit day to day services.

    However I think that you've missed an important function these type of events/projects provide. They encourage behaviour change, which is extremely useful when trying to improve communication/engagement with the public digitally.

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  2. Hi Russ

    Thanks for your comment. I think you're right that they encourage behaviour change to some extent, but what I'm interested in is *sustained* behaviour change. We get people (staff as well as customers) excited by an intensive 24hr or week long effort, and then what? It's not to say these events aren't worth doing but surely the point we want to get to is that instead of holding events like this, that's just the way we do business: public, constant, two-way communication and engagement with customers so they receive a better service. One day! :)

    Kate

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  3. Hi Kate,

    Interesting insights and something which i feel is now emerging as a theme across a range of blogs i've read today....It isn't that localgovcamp doesn't work or isn't valuebale but in fact it doesn't allow enough time and space to really worth through the problems and challenges.

    it would be great if we could re-pitch new session ideas for teh afternoon, as you raise some great points about sustained change and perhaps could have said "I want to run a session on sustained behaviour change", I know i would have come, because that is what i'm interested. Ensuring the new behaviours are sustained and drive anew culture which improves services because people are thinking differently about how things can happen.

    However saying all of this, the fact that we are now having this conversation is exactly why it does work as well....problem is i'd prefer to have some of these conversations face to face with people as that is often more productive...

    The approach of things like twitter24 for me are ways in which you as an internal member of staff can raise the profile, open the eyes, change hearts and minds around the possibility of social stuff....So whilst it maybe a gimmick, it may lead to an internal conversation which does have sustained change and eventually transformation.

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  4. Hi Carl

    Thanks for the comment. LocalGovCamp was massively valuable for me - the ideas and energy were fantastic. You're right though, it's not long enough to really work through challenges. Love your idea about re-pitching for the afternoon session.

    It's true that these events can open the eyes of staff and enthuse them but I think you can do that in other ways as well and it may have more value to them if you choose a meaningful way to do it. Would love to chat to you about it more! :)

    Kate

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