Posted tagged ‘social media’

The trouble with experts

May 31, 2012

I don’t know everything.  There, I’ve finally said it – there are things which I simply don’t know.  I don’t know how to perform open heart surgery, I don’t know how to land an aeroplane in an emergency and I don’t know how to make Piers Morgan likeable.

I don’t feel bad about this lack of knowledge though, because for all the things I don’t know (except the latterly mentioned Piers Morgan conundrum) there are other people out there who do know how to do these things.  For each of these problems and for many, many others there are experts who have spent their lives (or at least 10,000 hours) learning about a specific topic and becoming the people who deliver solutions.

And then on the other hand are those people who speak with authority on subjects, yet have little to substantiate their attitudes and opinions.  Admittedly this is more of an immediate issue when faced with heart surgery or a descending 747, but in the less extreme world of local government these individuals have the ability to cause more pain, confusion and blockages than a street bought burrito after a night out.

I will use a recent experience to demonstrate my point here, but please don’t think this is confined to any single field of work; these people and attitudes permeate every service and level of local government. (more…)

Update this?

May 8, 2012

Update this.

For those who don’t know me, here’s a little information about my recent activities. Over the bank holiday weekend I took my family out to the park, went to a museum and also caught the new Avengers movie (for an unrepentant geek like me, it’s a fantastic film). At various points over those three days I found myself checking out Twitter and sometimes posting a short message or two about what I was up to, commenting perhaps on the great sporting events which were on offer or just RTing something random I found interesting or amusing.

Usually this activity was accompanied by a familiar discussion between my husband and I: who on earth is interested in any of that?

My other half has accepted that my online activity is something that professionally I get a lot out of. I am not as prolific a personal tweeter as some, but usually post something up a couple of times a day, and invariably these missives are work related. I have a small but growing network whom I swap thoughts, jokes and links with, and sometimes I also tweet about things in my life which take place outside of te regular 9-5. But should I? Should I be mixing the two in some strange life/work cocktail which results in a sore head and regrets, or should I instead invest in some bricks and mortar to build a bit of a chinese wall between them? (more…)

‘The world hasn’t ended': what happens when you give all staff access to social media

March 7, 2012

Many different ways to bring about the apocalypse

We absolutely love a guest post (two in two days!) and when we get offered a guest post by a fellow officer who we all respect a lot (admittedly from afar) it is impossible to say no. In this case we have also waived our anonymity rule to give full credit to Helen Reynolds (a communications officer tasked with developing social media) and Monmouthshire County Council (who she works for). In this post Helen discusses what happens when you give staff access to social media. Apparently, the world doesn’t end (who knew?). So without further ado and with many thanks to Helen please enjoy today’s post:

In January 2011 we opened social media access to all staff at Monmouthshire County Council and now everyone who uses the internet for work can look at Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs and other social media whenever they want.

This seems to be a rare thing in the public sector, I don’t know another organisation that has done it. People often ask how it’s going and my answer is usually ‘well, the world hasn’t ended’.  In fact, it’s really breathing life into our council and communities at a time when our organisation is going through a lot of change.

As we said in the staff e-zine when we first opened access, one of our values is openness and our staff are trusted to make the most of the networks and conversations possible using social media. Social media is a great way for us to engage more effectively with colleagues, residents and partners so it’s an opportunity that can’t be missed.

We’ll make some errors and we still have work to do on getting better at using these channels but we’ve made a start.

It seems all the issues we debated before and since this happened aren’t about social media at all – they’re about the way we work. Here is some of what we’ve learnt.

(more…)

That was the local government week that was

February 10, 2012

Goodbye to a mild January, hello to a wintry February!  While local government has been working to cope with the snow, other work has not sat still.  Here’s our round-up of some of our favourite blog posts of the week.  If you’ve got others you think we’ve missed, tweet us @welovelocalgov or share it in the comments below.

Coming hot on the heels of our own post looking at local government websites comes this thought provoking post from Ben Welby, in which he talks about the possible implications of the recently launched gov.uk website.  We are cautiously excited about the possible options ahead of us, and Mr Welby puts this across across perfectly.

And it’s all happening in the open. Since before the launch of AlphaGov there has been a steady flow of information covering the wider strategy for how the Government Digital Service imagines the future to look. The code is open source and therefore freely available, fixes are being contributed by the public and the beta is changing on a dailybasis. They’re up front about what’s not there (yet) but they’re equally clear that gaps will be plugged as and when they get there.

If ever you were to believe hype, I’d say this would be the moment.

Some of the WLLG crew have got in trouble in the past for constantly asking ‘why not’ rather than ‘why’ when an idea for a new project comes up; depending on the situation, either question bears asking.  However, the ever inspiring @helreynolds of Monmouthshire fame has popped something on the always interesting comms2point0 blog post asking a different question altogether; ‘what if…’ (more…)

That was the local government week that was

January 13, 2012

A few things to read

It’s the second week back at work after Christmas that is a killer; the workload has slowly ramped up and now it’s full pedal to the metal.

Similarly, it has been a busy week in the world of local government links so without further ado:

Whilst the good people at WLLG towers all make use of our twitter account we’re not all fully paid up social media devotees. For this reason this post by Sarah Lay asking the question: “what would your organisation do if one of the free social media platforms they’ve invested in suddenly required you to pay to use?”

Discussing this in more detail she puts the question as such:

But, my mind idly wondered, would councils be so keen to pursue the channel if they had to pay? Indeed, would they be able to pursue it, regardless of desire, in these cash-strapped times? Although we’re all thinking of digital by default (aren’t we?), would a fairly new online channel such as this win out against a traditional channel if there’s only so much money to go around.

It’s a good debate and one that is definitely worth considering, if only so we will properly consider the costs and considerable benefits of these social media platforms.

We’ve become large fans of the excellent Comms2point0 blog in recent weeks and although I think I’ve read it before somewhere this piece from Adrian Short is rather excellent.

(more…)

That was the local government week that was

January 6, 2012

New year and yet the same old picture

As we enter the New Year the people in WLLG towers are filled with optimism. The first week of the New Year has provided it’s usual mixed bunch of headlines and despite everything we are determined not to let it get us down and to follow the lead of the excellent Guardian Local Government Network and be more positive in 2012.

So, starting with the heavy stuff (that we shall not let get us down) the Daily Mail kicked off 2012 with a story about local government pay (quel surprise). This one was about local government pay increments, a topic we have discussed in the past. Here, the Mail ‘discovered’ that:

The survey of 188 councils shows that a shocking 72 per cent use annual increments to reward staff.

It means many Government employees are given more money on the basis of experience rather than performance.

These increments, known as ‘time served’ payments, are usually awarded either in April at the end of the tax year, or on the anniversary of the employee joining their council.

Local authority pay rates published by Unison, the public services union, show there are 49 distinct salary increments for staff earning between £12,145 and £41,616, no matter how well they are doing their job.

It’s hard to get as upset as the Daily Mail did about this but it does raise a pretty serious issue for local government. Are we serious about pay cuts and pay freezes including those for people with less than four years in a particular role with the understanding that this is fairer than just freezing the salary of those with long service?

And secondly do we believe that paying increments based on service time is better than putting in increments based on performance? I favour the latter but I think it is part of a fundamental decision that local government still needs to make.

(more…)

Let’s talk about snow!

October 6, 2011

Slip up now and we'll slip up later

As the hot, summer sun beat down over the weekend just gone, with a cool beer in my hand and covered in factor 50, I began to think about snow.

That’s right, snow. Despite basking in record breaking temperatures and ending up with sunburnt feet, it was all I could do not to keep remembering that it was October, despite appearances, and if predictions are to be believed it is only a matter of weeks before our ice creams stop melting and the snow starts to fall.

‘Nonsense,’ I hear you cry, ‘tis months away and we have plenty of time to prepare. In fact, as it’s so warm now it’ll probably be a mild winter anyway and the gritters can stay in the garage.’ It is then that I remind you of the fable of the ant and the grasshopper.

Essentially, it boils down to the five ‘Ps’: Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance. Now is exactly the time for councils up and down the country to be doling out the grit, which is precisely what some have begun to do. Plymouth and Sutton amongst others have already got on the case by preparing the snow ploughs and offering free grit to residents, with more hopefully following soon with plans of their own.  But is it worth doing yet? (more…)

Listen to what’s inside

September 13, 2011

Can local officers help with translation?

Last week we took a look at how Council’s respond (or not) to social media.  Our argument was that generally we don’t, and the comments received pretty much back that up.  This got us thinking about other simple ways in which local authorities could make better use of their organisational ears in order to take the local pulse.

Usually when officers want to find out what local people are saying they will run some form of engagement or consultation exercise.  The quality and usefulness of these activities is a topic for another day, but in essence they involve officers going out into the community in some way to find groups of residents and other stakeholders to ask them what they think about something.  This often takes some time to do and can cost a significant amount to organise, although arguably this money is very well spent and can save that same authority ten times as much by ensuring the services delivered better meet local needs.

However, this still involves reaching out to local people and hoping or expecting them to get in touch; how about turning this around and reaching inwards for a change?

Those readers who currently work in local government (and at a guess, most of our readers do) will be able to conduct their own quick field test by looking around their office and seeing just how many of their colleagues live outside of the borough in which they work.  A solid mixture is normal, but generally speaking a decent percentage of any workforce lives locally.  In fact, in many places schemes are set up to promote precisely this, with positive discrimination offering opportunities for positions and additional training for locals.  If schools are included in the mix, it would not be unusual to see anything up to 40% of council employees having less than a thirty minute commute, which adds up to a significant number of opinions to gather. (more…)

Fingers in our ears

September 7, 2011

Constructive criticism isn't found in the sand

We’ve all heard people criticising the council before. Whether it’s been through corporate complaints and members enquiries, through standing behind someone in a queue at a Council office or even just sitting at home listening to a friend or family member maon about the potholes in the road; criticism is everywhere.

This also isn’t restricted to ‘real world’ settings. Increasingly people are criticising councils digitally, through e-mails, Facebook postings and groups, Twitter, forums and other online spaces, people more than ever are telling us and the rest of the world what they think.

So what do we do with all this valuable feedback? Do we thank them for this information, even if it’s usually negative, and go about righting wrongs where possible and explaining our positions when not? Do we collect it all and analyse it in a darkened room, adding it to reams of resident survey findings and referring to it in reports?

Or do we pointedly ignore it, refusing to do anything unless prompted to directly and making sure that no online space provided by us has anything other than positive news on it?

I’ll give you one guess.

The overwhelming majority of councils in the experience of this blogger sadly seem to be making the final option presented there their preffered MO. Whilst individual officers may go out of their way to search out and collect this information in the full knowledge of how useful it may be, collectively as organisations we tend to take the ostrich approach instead. (more…)


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