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After the Local Government Association conference: A few thoughts

By June 29, 2012No Comments

Well it’s been a busy and exciting few days for Public-i. I expect that Catherine will want to say something more considered when she has time but I thought it might be worth dashing down a few thoughts on our conference and the LGA in general…

The conversation about the conversation is growing: We’ve come a long way in a very short space of time in terms of the way that local government is now thinking about engagement online. This year we introduced our new product, Connect Social, and were more than pleasantly surprised by the reaction it got. This and the fact that we spoke to so many people throughout the conference about how they needed and were beginning to really think about social media and the social web in general was heartening, exciting and maybe (because we’ve been banging on about it for a bit) a little bit vindicating.

Meeting tough budgets is about creativity and there’s an appetite for it: I didn’t attend last year, but I get the impression that now people are really talking about how, given the cuts to spending, they can do things in very different ways. That appetite for innovation and invention is – despite the very serious worries many people have for the future – rather inspiring. It feeds into some of the conversations that we had, which concentrated on how local authorities can engage their residents in a conversation about spending and priorities that are reflective and empowering.

Police and Crime Commissioners: Sitting in the hall on Thursday hearing three would-be PCCs talk, I started to see how the presence of a new democratic office doesn’t just rewrite the relationship between the police and public, but realigns the whole local-government landscape. I’ve mentioned this on my own blog before, but it seems that there’ll be a lot to work out when PCCs come into office in late November in this regard. In the plenary, we heard that, generally, PCCs have an opportunity to transform the way that communities can take part in and understand policing. Let’s hope that’s what they lead to.

Birmingham is the perfect place for the LGA: I’m sure this has been said before and, I should point out, I’m probably biased about it anyway. But having lived in the city for a while before moving to Brighton I developed something of a soft spot for it. But what makes Birmingham – as Catherine, Nick Booth and I discussed over dinnner on Thursday – is its municipal history. It’s nice talking about local government in a place where it has had such an important role. It also helps that the ICC is in the city centre and enjoys, on a warm night, plenty of places nearby for a drink!

Twitter please: Catherine held a session on Wednesday that I sadly missed but understand it was a great success. More than 40 people attended a half-hour talk that had received very little billing, which we think helps to demonstrate just how much appetite there is for the social network. It was titled ‘Anyone can use Twitter. The question is why should you?’ – and we very much hold to that philosophy. Twitter is a communication tool – one that councillors, because they have a remit to communicate, should in many cases be able to use and benefit from, but perhaps aren’t sure what’s to be gained. I had the chance to help one or two people with social media, including Twitter, and it was really rewarding to see how pleased people were to receive a little assistance. I hope we can do more to help next year and at further conferences later in the year.

The buzz on the stand: Launching a new coporate identity and a new product, Connect Social, at the conference appears to have gone down very well. It was hugely rewarding – and a big filip for those who’ve been involved in the great amount of work in getting all this done. I feel a bit shamed that, because I pranny around on social media, I get to go when others who’ve put in a lot more work don’t. We’ll certainly have more to say about both of these very soon…

I’m sorry I missed: Hannah Rees of Cornwall Council picking up her LGChallenge Award . We’re very lucky to count Cornwall among our clients – and I know Hannah does some great work – so I know she’s a worthy recipient. Well done!

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