Stranger in a strange(ly digital) land

Understanding Digital Policy was the title of an unconference I was at this week. (It was at an outpost of the University of Liverpool in central London – hence the title and illustration for this post.)

Although it was billed as covering

  • How is policy shaping the uptake and use of Digital Media and Technologies?
  • How are Digital Media and Technologies shaping policy making and policy implementation?

it went much further than that, into how will and how should policy be shaped, and what research should be done. This was at least in part due to the organiser, Simeon Yates, leading the the ESRC Ways of Being in a Digital Age team, and so being highly influential on research directions.

You can jump straight to my personal reactions if you want, but here’s how the day progressed. Firstly, we found interesting and/or kindred spirits by writing our own ‘about-me’s, looking at each others’ and deciding who we wanted to work with. Continue reading

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Wise words and mega maps

Leah Lockhart, social media advisor and all-round good egg, has been blogging about fears and barriers in public services on LinkedIn. Here are her thoughts on fears people have about being abused online, fears around negotiating online identity, fears digital champions have about inertia generally but especially in hierarchical leadership and finally about fears around BYOD.

Thanks also to ‘Lelil’ for drawing me to Leah’s tale of how to use topical hashtags to draw extra traffic to community council Tweets.

Well worth a read for any CC member (or any other elected member or public servant) involved in digital engagement with their citizens, in my opinion.

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Fairer Scotland event for CCs: questions answered

The Scottish Government has responded to questions raised by CC members at a fairly recent Fairer Scotland event. Click the thumbnail to download the full PDF.

Fairer Scotland - Community Council Event - Q & A Report - Final

If you have any queries about the responses, it would be best to contact Kristoffer Boesen or Lynn Sharp of the Improvement Service (IS). In the meantime, I’m very pleased to see mentions of the work by Peter Cruickshank and me, specifically

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Displaying my bias!

I’m often engaged by articles on the Scottish Community Alliance fortnightly ‘briefings’. It’s easy to link to individual articles. However, I’ve not found a way to link to the introductions. So I shamelessly reproduce the introduction to the most recent briefing: it ticks all the boxes on my pro-hyperlocal democracy bias. While some community councils may not be ready to play fuller roles just now, that is no reason to not aspire to do more. As Angus Hardie puts it…

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The first shall be last, and the last shall be first?

My better half pointed out recently that I described the Scottish Government as the top/first level, and Community Councils as the bottom/third level. This is interesting for two reasons:

  • it omits the UK government entirely
  • I automatically relegate hyperlocal democracy to third place.

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Fairer Scotland event for Community Councils: Introduction

The Scottish Government’s ‘Fairer Scotland’ national discussion has been running for a few months now. As the Scottish Community Alliance put it, this is an attempt to crowdsource policy. There’s a series of events around Scotland, at which the Scottish Government ‘wants to work with a broad mix of people across the country to prioritise practical steps that can be taken to create a fairer Scotland’.

But as well as talking directly with people across Scotland, the SG also wants to work with those who (should) most closely represent communities: community councillors. As Marco Biagi (Minister for Local Government and Community Empowerment) put it, key questions are

  • what issues matter most to you as a community councillor?
  • what do you think needs to be done to help community councils create a fairer Scotland?
  • how can your community council play a role in helping to shape Scotland’s future?

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Fairer Scotland event for Community Councils 1: Context – Marco Biagi MSP

Context for the Fairer Scotland Event – Marco Biagi MSP

Mr Biagi said a lot of things I liked to hear. He quoted the calculation from our 2012 report (PDF – see page 5) that arguably only 4% of Scotland’s electorate could vote in recent CC elections – the others were all uncontested due to lack of candidates. He is clearly interested in better mechanisms for local democracy and social justice (a priority for the SG), and looked forward to delegates’  views. He noted that one had come from Oban (100 miles each way) and appreciated that CC members are volunteers who may well have taken the day off work to attend this event.

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Fairer Scotland event for Community Councils 2: Future challenges and opportunities – Mark McAteer

This presentation was given by Mark McAteer, who stood in for Colin Mair, the IS’ chief executive. (Mr Mair was suddenly unable to attend due for personal reasons.) His main themes seemed to be

  • because public-sector cash is going to get tighter, things will change and CCs will be asked to do more. (I’ve already encountered this when an Edinburgh Council staffer asked Leith Central CC what health and social care information it gathers in its community. It doesn’t – firstly no-one asked it to. Secondly, how can 8 people gather accurate information on 20,000 residents?)
  • CCs need to lead, to take opportunities (not wait to be given them), and earn the right to represent.

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Fairer Scotland event for Community Councils 3: which issues matter the most

Workshop 1 – What are the issues that matter most to you as a community councillor?

This was the start of the fun parts for me. My table had delegates from Argyll & Bute, Fife, West Dunbartonshire, Stirling, and Glasgow. (One asked me not to report her CC, so I’ve omitted CC, delegates’ and the facilitator’s names.) Here’s the issues we came up with. Continue reading

Fairer Scotland event for Community Councils 4: QandAs with Marco Biagi and Mark McAteer

Q&A session with Marco Biagi and Mark McAteer

Delegates were asked to pose questions for this session. Continue reading