Tag Archives: surrey

Digital Local Government

I just saw my mate Dominic Campbell retweet something interesting from Monmouthshire County Council (yes, really!)

For those who don’t know Dominic, a) you NEED to be following him on Twitter, and b) he’s the great guy behind the consultancy FutureGov which runs a whole swathe of events and projects which are about encouraging and supporting government organisations as they come online. I’m a big fan!

Every time I see something like this, I immediately wonder how my local council is doing. So this evening, I had a quick poke at the Hampshire and Rushmoor websites (hint: Rushmoor, you don’t have to require the ‘www’, you can use a redirect), and followed that up with a look at neighbouring Surrey (I’ve just joined the new Digital Surrey committee, incidentally, and spend a lot of time there, so I have a legitimate interest). What I saw didn’t really encourage me, so I found the contact form on the Rushmoor Borough Council website, and for the sake of transparency on my part if not on theirs, here is what I posted:

Details of your comment/complaint:
Do you provide news or information via any social websites such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, or others? I’ve observed that several councils have begun to share budget information, provide important news alerts etc via these kinds of services and they would fit well with my lifestyle.
(http://twitter.com/#!/monmouthshirecc and http://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/site/scripts/news_article.php?newsID=386)

Are there RSS feeds for news from your site? Do you have any APIs for access to local information and data (http://www.sunderland.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=4112)

Do you have any kind of digital engagement strategy and where can I find it?

What would you like us to do?
Provide better access to local information online and explain the council’s view of how to use new technology to engage with people.

I’ll be interested to read what they send back! I’ve been extremely disappointed with my local MP’s digital engagement (oh look, his Twitter stream abruptly stops about a month after the date of last year’s General Election, hmm!). Still, at least if the local councils need some help, I know a bunch of very good people to put them in touch with…

Echoes of Digital Surrey

Leafy, sunny, and sleepy Surrey… it’s a hub of digital excitement and innovation, don’t you know!

On Thursday evening I spoke at the third Digital Surrey meeting over in Guildford. The venue for all of the meetings of the group so far has been the brilliant Bench bar at the new Surrey Sports Park, and as usual it didn’t disappoint. There was a nice crowd, a little smaller than previous months (not entirely surprising due to the sunshine, holiday period, and sporting excitement), but again there were new faces and the group continues to evolve

What is Digital Surrey all about? Well, it’s not my brainchild (that award goes to the tireless @AbigailH), and it doesn’t have a mission statement as such, but if I was to describe it, I’d say that it’s a group of people interested in online and offline, mostly digital… “stuffs”… Web 2.0, publishing, creativity, new technology, communications, community… all kinds, really. It’s a very diverse crowd – from PR, marketing, journalism, web development, from startups to corporations, musicians, academics, researchers, and those into politics. Quite a fascinating group of people to explore from month to month, and the best part is, it has been growing and changing all the time. It all started last year when some wonderful people from a PR and communications company called thebluedoor, based in Farnham, started a series of irregular tweetups in the area… and it sort of snowballed from there, with the excellent folks from iBundle (home of Raffle.it, SocialSafe, etc) helping to get things off the ground with very generous and much appreciated support. You don’t have to be a Twitter user to take part, nor do you have to be from Surrey… so I sneak across the border on the occasional, uh, reconnaissance mission! 🙂

So, fundamentally, it’s a great mixed up, jumbled group of people that meets once a month. Some willing volunteer gets up to say some stuff for half an hour or so somewhere in the early-to-middle section, and then discussions, chat, and networking go on into the evening. See? Surrey really is a hub of digital excitement and innovation!

My theme was essentially all around how organisations need to be more outward-looking… that by blocking off the outside world and constructing an “echo chamber”, they will stagnate and lose touch. I told the story of how I’ve been successful making myself social inside a large corporation, and then talked about how that use of social tools has extended beyond the firewall. I also said some things about how I’m beginning to thoroughly dislike the term “social media” and I don’t believe in the efforts of marketeers to manufacture “viral”, but those are probably rants for another time and place. We had some brilliant conversations about what challenges companies face in enabling their people to go down these paths and enabling a more trusting culture. There’s a brief write-up on the Digital Surrey site, along with some of the lovely tweets that people posted while I was speaking!

Sound interesting? If you want to get involved, there’s a LinkedIn group where we have ongoing discussions, and the website is in the process of being shiny-fied. Next meeting is on July 22nd and I’m assured that Chris Green will have some great thoughts to share on the importance of content. Can’t wait! 🙂

[oh, and if you’re interested in meetups of this nature, I also have to put in a word for the great Thames Valley Social Media Cafe, aka #tvsmc, aka Reading / Thames Valley Tuttle, aka a nice cup of  coffee or tea and a natter about the latest happenings… it is sometimes partly populated by folks you might also meet at Digital Surrey… It’s twice a month, alternating between Reading, Farnborough, or a.n.other venue, in the daytime, also on a Thursday, under the excellent stewardship of @BenjaminEllis, @caalie and @JimAnning. Take a look!]