Monday, 21 November 2016

LocalGov Digital rebooted

LocalGov Digital has come a long way in four years. From an idea at LocalGovCamp, to a meeting of council officers at the Local Government Association, to an established group to seeking to improve council web provision, to a network of people creating better, cheaper, local public services, it's been quite a journey.

With next to nothing LocalGov Digital has led the creation of innovations that far better funded organisations have come nowhere near. LocalGov Digital created the Local Government Digital Service Standard (LGDSS) with the help of the Government Digital Service which is being adopted by a growing number of councils. Unmentoring is joining up people across the country and Pipeline is helping councils collaborate and that's just three of many.

But more needs to be done, and faster.

You can only get so far on good will and limited capital through sponsorship, so we're proposing LocalGov Digital becomes a community co-operative that everyone with an interest in thinking, doing and sharing to improve local public service provision can be a part of.

A more formal organisation means you can become part of something real; something tangible. It means the co-operative could bid for funding and it means that whether you work for a council, central government, the private sector, or yourself, you can get involved.

LocalGovCamp could become the co-operative's Annual General Meeting and the network’s regional peer groups would become local membership meetings. The co-operative would ask for a donation of £1 form each individual who wants to be part of the co-operative.

It seems in four years no formal organisation can or will be the change that's needed, so we're proposing LocalGov Digital will.

There are more details here and we need to hear your views, so please do tweet or blog about what you think or let us know through emailing feedback@localgovdigital.info.


Sunday, 13 November 2016

Listening outside of the echo chamber

I've been listening to people outside of my echo chamber and I don't like what I hear.

Wikipedia defines an echo chamber as
A metaphorical description of a situation in which information, ideas, or beliefs are amplified or reinforced by transmission and repetition inside an "enclosed" system, where different or competing views are censored, disallowed, or otherwise underrepresented.
The people I follow and engage with from @philrumens are by and large those that I respect. The people I'm friends with on Facebook I have some real-world connection with. The people I'm connected with through LinkedIn I have some sort of professional link to. I operate in a social media echo chamber.

So I thought I'd start another Twitter account. I thought I'd follow and interact with people I didn't agree with. I thought I'd be prepared for differing opinions. What I found was an undercurrent of hate and intolerance I'd never encountered before.

Initially it's a liberating experience. Unbound by any constraints that might be imposed by one's professional role or reputation you're free to say what you like within the bounds of the law. It's nice being able to be overtly political for example.

As you peer deeper though there's a cauldron of hate. There's a mass of people who hate those who don't agree with them, hate those that are different, hate anything that challenges their narrow view of how thing are. Whether truly believed or done just to troll, the effect is the same.

Once a lie enters an echo chamber it's often amplified until it becomes the unquestioned truth. If enough people you know are saying it, it must be right, right? If this were limited to a few people believing untruths it wouldn't be so bad, but the reverberations in each echo chamber have consequences for us all, and our society.

Traditional media pundits still wonder how Brexit and Trump happened. How they got it wrong again and, then again. I think it's fairly obvious. Millions of people form their opinions based on the "word of mouth" of social media. People trust their network over experts and facts, and if their opinion is being influenced by deliberate lies, hatred and Twitter Bots then we're in trouble.

So what's to be done?

The easiest things we can change are those that we control ourselves, so start by acknowledging your own echo chamber and break out. Become an ambassador for the truth and social cohesion. I know facts aren't in fashion right now but put forward your views based on things that are provably legitimate. Engage with others' echo chambers by questioning hate and lies, not in an adversarial manner, but with a tone of reconciliation.

To borrow a phrase, let's take back control.

This blog is written by Phil Rumens, Vice-Chair of LocalGov Digital, lead for LGMakers and who manages the digital services team at a local authority in England.

The opinions expressed in this weblog are my own personal views and in no way represent any organisation I may have worked for, currently work for, might be thinking of working for, might not be thinking of working for or have never worked for. In fact having said that they, might not even be my views any more as I might have changed my mind so I wouldn't take any of it too seriously.