I’ve started blogging over at The Satori Lab

Here is an excerpt of my first post and a link to the rest of the article:

A few months ago, listening to BBC Radio 4, I heard a government minister use a word, or one of its derivatives, well over 48 times in a four minute segment. Well, I only started counting after I had heard it half a dozen times and I stopped counting at 48, but the barrage continued. The word in question: innovation. The problem was, not one of the instances where the word was used had anything to do with real innovation. The word was being loosely employed to denote some aspiration for newness or a mild departure from previous practice.

We have a habit of doing this with brilliant meaningful words and phrases. Casually employing them inappropriately with the effect that we drift from their true meaning and devalue them over time. Take public consultations for example. A beautiful idea in principle, that we should engage in a meaningful discussion between state and the citizenry before some policy suggestion becomes a reality for said citizens. Yet what we get is 180 page documents written in some impenetrable language that is only accessible to lobbyists and their lawyers. And then we scratch our heads wondering where the trust between the citizen and her government has gone…

Read the rest of this post.

Networks and Collaboration II

I’ve just presented my annual lecture on networks and collaboration at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. The presentation has been updated from last year with some new thinking around peer based modes of production.

Public servants are humans too

The following article is a piece I wrote for Monmouthshire County Council‘s internal staff e-zine and republished here with the permission of Helen Reynolds. I thought I would share it beyond those original walls as I have had comments that suggested the piece would be useful to other public servants trying to make sense of the value of engaging with social media.

Esko Reinikainen

“I am Spartacus!

If we are to believe Daily Mail commentator Quentin Letts, public servants ought to be faceless automatons. As the privileged recipients of the public coin, we should be expected to function as efficient machines, have no personality, and demonstrate no human emotion. Mr Letts took it upon himself to crucify a Department of Transport employee, Sarah Baskerville, for the heinous crime of demonstrating via her Twitter feed that she is a human, with a personality, and in her own time likes to relax and have a drink. Following this ordeal, a chorus of support from public servants across the UK invaded the social media sphere with labels like #welovebaskers and #iamspartacus.

I spent some time with Sarah Baskerville recently, and I can report that she is a fiercely intelligent woman, a valuable asset to any public organisation, very fun company, and a thoroughly decent human. And that last point is the key, her crime was to reveal that public servants are also real humans, with all that entails.

Now consider the default perception of ‘the council’ by citizens. It is often negative, and we regularly have to overcome some false assumptions or lack of trust before we can engage in constructive dialogue with citizens. Why is that? Is it maybe that we have subconsciously projected ourselves as the faceless automatons Mr Letts requires us to be, just because our wages come out of the public purse? And why am I banging on about this in the social media edition of Team Spirit?

First off, if you are still one of those people who dismiss social media on principle, then you can count yourself among those who, in the 1960’s with the phone, and in the 90’s with email, failed to recognise that what could have passed as a fad has in fact become completely mainstream. The consequences of not accepting that a communications shift has already happened are a potentially crippling competitive disadvantage. It’s also why your kids look at you funny.

The thing with social media is that it is a very human medium. It requires honesty, dialogue, openness; all these things come naturally to us among our social peers, yet are not how most people would characterise relationships between ‘the council’ and citizens. Culturally we face a big challenge, because what social media asks is for us to reframe how we project our personality. As individuals and as an organisation. Or in other words, it has created an expectation that when we promote one of our corporate values as ‘openness’, we will truly live that value. And we will engage with people on the platforms of their choosing, in a manner expected and defined by those contexts.

We are public servants, and the public now has choice. If they don’t get value from a controlled broadcast channel, they will go somewhere else to have the discussions we have a duty to be involved with. And if we can’t engage as an organisation of open and honest humans, it won’t be long before we have to question our relevance… “

Beyond Social Media: Towards Open Public Services in the Network Society

I’ve been invited to address the CIPR Local Services Annual Conference during the social media masterclass.  Here is the presentation I delivered. As always with my presentations, the visual candy is only an accompaniment, the main meat of the message is spoken. If they record the session I will add a link to it here later.

Open Data in Local Government

Instance linkages within the Linking Open Data...
Image via Wikipedia

A few weeks ago I saw Chris Taggart of Openly Local talking about open data at OpenTech2010.  In recent days I’ve found myself with the opportunity to inform the thinking, of senior managers in a Local Authority context, about open data.  I am particularly taken by the way that Chris approaches the issue of risk aversion by managing to to frame the public sector taboo of failure as an opportunity to progress through failing forward.

I will certainly be using this presentation, with a view to that opening the door for us to get Chris himself, to articulate the opportunities that open data  present to a reform minded public body.

Open Data & The Rewards of Failure

View more presentations from countculture.
In aid of my ammunition gathering mission, if you have any thoughts on this subject, or indeed any ideas for further resources I might call on, please make use of the comments below, or contact me directly.

Government 2.0

Last week I made a presentation to the Welsh members of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations – CIPR about government 2.0 and the implications for Local Government communications.

The presentation was specifically made for an audience of PR professionals in Welsh public authorities, so for example the analysis of twitter usage is limited to Welsh Local Authorities, but I think there may be some wider interest in the presentation as a whole.

I have had several requests for the presentation so I am embedding it here for easy access. Do let me know what you think about it in the comments below.

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