Cllrsocmed Tour of Yorkshire & Humber: Reflection and Evaluation

With all current sessions of the Cllrsocmed Yorkshire & Humber now completed, it’s time to provide a round up of where things are, what distance we’ve travelled and what additional resources we’ve generated for Cllrs at their request, so we can continue to support their social media education.

In addition to our inaugural Cllrsocmed session in York, at the Local Gov Camp Y&H, four further sessions have taken place across the region, taking in Scunthorpe, Scarborough, Barnsley and Leeds. Over 50 local councillors attended these sessions, representing 15 different local authorities.

The approach of the Cllrsocmed team during the sessions has not been to run them in a traditional training approach. Indeed, it has been very much the opposite. Councillors are a massively diverse group of people, whose experiences and knowledge are shaped by personal and public views, politics and the culture within the local authority they represent. Therefore, to provide a blanket, one size fits all approach on social media, would have been a grave error. Rather, it is an exploratory approach (to the ‘what is social media question’) that provides a more effective education. The expectation that just showing somebody how to set up a Twitter account and that is it, would be a seriously flawed point of view.

What it has been necessary for councillors to explore is what social media means to them, in real terms. Topics raised by them during the sessions, have included: how can I use it for campaigning; what if I say something wrong; case studies; political awareness; it’s just more time I don’t have; how can it be better than email; if the council provided me with the right equipment; the organisation don’t have those websites open to us; blurring of personal/councillor boundaries; we need the right support to develop our skills. Valid topics, all covered through discussion and debate, which is why how the sessions are delivered is very important.

Therefore, a key feature of the sessions’ success has been that the Cllrsocmed team includes a cross party representation of councillors who already use social media; Cllr Tim Cheetham, Labour; Cllr Simon Cooke, Conservative; Cllr David Woodhead, Liberal Democrat; Cllr Andrew Cooper, Green Party. While it has been the officers who have facilitated the organising and running of the sessions, it has not been ‘officers telling councillors what to do’. That role has gone to the councillors in the team, peer to peer exploration; it has a far more meaningful and inherent value. The importance of this should never be ignored.

As the sessions were about exploration and knowledge development, rather than specific mechanics, the most valuable way to evaluate the learning was capturing narrative comments. We recorded how councillors felt at the start of the day, midday and at the close of the session. Here is an indication of councillor progression:

Start: “I wonder how much it costs and how much time it takes”…”a bit nervous as there seems a lot to learn”…”apprehensive”.

Midday: “It is less about the technology, than the political perspective”…”for the first time I have been interested in the blog”…”able to ask questions without feeling ridiculous”…”I was dubious at first, but it’s not that scary really”…”knowledgeable presenters making you feel keen to get started”.

Close: “as an adjunct to more traditional channels of political communication, yes please”…”huge potential for the future”…”increased confidence in this new media stuff”…”has given me ideas about how to use it more effectively”…”definitely worth my while”.

Through listening to the councillors and reflecting on the live blogs, we have taken on board the varying needs of participants. This has resulted in development of numerous tools or insights of the sessions, all of which can be found on the Cllsocmed: Social Media for Councillors blog.

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CllrSocMed:Final Destination…Leeds

@StevenTuck lecturning

Welcome to the last piece in the CllrSocMed tour of the Yorkshire & Humber. This final session comes to you today from Leeds, down at the Carriageworks, Millenium Square. We’re expecting pretty much a full house today, so it’s all hands to the pumps. We’ve also got a lovely view of the Leeds ice rink. Our lead councillors today will be @SimonMagus, Bradford MC, and @ClrAndrewCooper from Kirklees Council. We’ll try and keep you up to date with conversations and debate as they progress throughout the day.

Entry 1: Introductions are underway. Goes without saying that we’re hoping for a good session today. @TimSwift is here from Calderdale Council, Halifax. Fantastic, that’s my home town (rather than my adopted Huddersfield). Also, we have @CarolePattison from our own Kirklees Council. Another brilliant cross section of cllrs is going to make for a really good day.

Entry 2: @StevenTuck starts by doing his ‘what the internet is’ explanation. You can never get bored of the simplicity of the explanation, of his history of the internet, and how it has gone from geekery to an all inclusive medium so people can communicate via twitter, blog etc etc. You don’t have to be Rupert Murdoch to publish your opinion or view point to the world!!

“There is no point of a communications tool being difficult to use” – @StevenTuck. And this, “there is more computing power in this *waves phone* than there was when they sent the first sattelite into space”.

Entry 3: @ClrAndrewCooper, talking about blogging – “As cllrs we’re expected to have opinions. Blogging is a way of getting them out there”. Is also touching on how he has grown with the technology, how he now can do and link to more things and use more tools, that make his presence more accessible.

Entry 4: What do you do about comments posted on your blog? Well, you can set a blog to moderate, so the comments have to come via you first before releasing. However, you’re not necessarily going to get thousands of comments there! And anyway, people who comment more than likely have an interest in the subject matter. Really important for cllrs to make sure they moderate some comments, because if they are ‘unnacceptable’ – in language, abuse, racist – you could labelled as endorsing those! There is a big BUT though – do not refuse release of a comment, just because it disagrees with your opinion as a cllr. It is important to repsond where necessary. What is the point of having a blog if you’re not going to engage with people who have taken the time  to comment? People want to be engaged with!!

Entry 5: You can use your blog to try and just push your political message or view out there – but the social can be just as, if not more, powerful. Expressing the human side of who you are, and what you do,  as a person away from politics, whether that be reading, rock climbing, or work, or where you go with the family…difficulties of parenthood, worklife balance….an endless list…balloon modelling!

Entry 6: A morning dominated by blogging, covering the ins and outs of the whole affair. The interest and focus has been around content of a blog, political and social, and we’ve touched on how easy and/or difficult it is. Conclusion is pretty much that it is as easy or difficult as YOU make it. You can set up a blog that is as simple as sending an email, or develop one to include pictures, photos, video, link to posts or websites. It’s really about exploring – you can’t break the internet!

Our lead and attending cllrs have stepped back a moment from there discussion, while @StevenTuck responds to the question,  what is RSS? This is pretty much how you can grab the link from a webpage or blog and pull it into your own web space.

We’ve sort of come full circle this morning. Early on we touched on ‘blog comments’ and interest, concern and exploration of how you can deal with comments, and our lead cllrs are helping put that into context – “don’t worry about it” is pretty much what they’re saying! Lets also remind ourselves, that in terms of social media, a lot of the discussion we have had is not about the technology and tools, it has been the social interaction or communities that exist!

A brilliant, place to start for cllrs wanting to find cllrs is @TweetyHall!

Entry 7: Moved onto twitter – micro blogging. In context with other social media tools, like flikr, blogging, youtube – all these things rely on you to communicate with people, in order to generate interest. You’re not going to attract anybody to any part of your online presence if you don’t actually  present yourself. The magic power that gravitates people towards you, is you and your interaction with them! Twitter opens up a wide range of opportunities to open up a broad dialogue, through posting links to your blog, photos, other websties and documents.

Entry 8: We’re back, after what was a very nice lunch. So, with appetites satisfied, we’re now straight into creating a blog with our attending cllrs – surgery time! When setting up a new blog, don’t set your password as password – just saying!

Entry 9: That process of setting up a blog is really easy. It took about 10 minutes, which did of course include questions, answers and discussion. Using an application like Blogger.com, which we have just used, well once you’ve gone through the set-up process it is just about as simple as sending an email. No, really, just as easy as sending an email!! Of course, there are other simple blogging tools out there too. Now, from the question being raised of how you drive traffic to your blog (otherwise nobody will know it’s there), the cllrs in the room are asking how you might link your blog to say, Facebook? Observation: We reached this point in last weeks visit to Barnsley, but via a slightly different route, the point being that the natural inquisitive nautre of cllrs exploring the ins and outs of a topic, probably through council meetings and studying agendas and reports, they absolutely know which questions to ask to get to the answers they need – they are…quite…relentless! This is one reason why cllrs are key to driving social media within local authorities 🙂

Entry 10: Local campaigning, use facebook! About you and what you’ve been doing, create a blog! For networking, researching your local area or specific topics, Twitter can be great! They are all social tools, which can be used to push information out, pull information  in, and gather local intelliegence, and which develop greater interaction via human input.

Entry 11: Tagging has been raised and so we respond! It is a way of labelling posts, descriptive words that help your post to be identified. #hash tags are the twitter equivelant to tagging a blog – afterall, twitter is just a micro-blog, so it works the same way. Tagging can be in someways likened to having a filing system, or at least creating one. Tag your posts with a number of descriptors and the potential for them to be picked up by other people increases; for instance, tag them with a place name, your name, subject matter, organisation, geographic location, but also a building name or name of a person.

Entry 12: Well what another blooming interesting day. So much so that we’ve not actually wrapped up yet. Supposed to finish at 3pm and it’s now 3.20pm! These cllrs, I told you they were relentless – you’ve got to love it; the pursuit of knowledge, information and how they can use it. Brilliant! An amazing day and a fitting way to end our tour of Yorkshire & Humber.

Half-time reflections on progress

‘21st Century Councillor’ Using Social Media to Support Local Leadership – So, we have now completed half of our scheduled sessions for this small tour of the Yorkshire & Humber Region. With two more to go, we thought it a good idea to provide a flavour of what we have learned and map any progress made so far. Read on…

The two sessions held so far, in Scunthorpe and Scarborough, have been attended by 26 councillors. A further 19 are booked onto the Leeds session, and currently 12 for Barnsley. So, we’re at the half way point, and below outlines progress to date.

We did a live blog as to how the sessions were going and what topics they covered, as it was happening. This provides a real feel for how participative and open the sessions were, and how the councillors directed the content, searching out what using social media meant to them. The links to those two blog entries are here: Scunthorpe 2010 and Scarborough 2010.

Councillor involvement guided us to produce a number of learning materials of relevance to them, not something we just thrust upon them:  How to set up a blog; Add a new post and insert an image; Some tips on twitter.

The events have deliberately not been ‘traditional training’ sessions. The sessions have been primarily guided by the councillors attending, not ‘officers telling councillors what to do’. To this end, traditional evaluation of the course becomes less important. What is best measured is the ‘distance travelled’ element of individual councillors. As there are so many different variations of skill, attitude, understanding and, yes, enthusiasm, we have generated a predominantly narrative/qualitative measurement. This was done by a ‘3 question’ approach, of ‘start’, ‘middle’ and ‘end’. Of course, more specific analysis of the feedback will be conducted, and learning taken forward to future sessions.

’21st Century Councillor’ Using Social Media to Support Local Leadership: Barnsley

This event has now been rescheduled from the 4th November 2010 to Friday 21st January 2011


Barnsley

Friday 21st January 2011

Digital Media Centremap

register for this event

some tips on twitter

Cllrsocmed Tour Diary – rehearsal?

Cllrsocmed Tour Diary – @gr8governqnce @steventuck @spencerlwilson

Carl and Steve

Well, it’s getting pretty close now. The first date of the tour is approaching so we decided to get together and decide what we were going to do.

You might think that we just throw all this together at the last minute, but fuelled by beer and coffee we have tried to develop and rehearse our set.

Not wishing to give too much away, but we’re hoping to make the sessions councillor-led, with a bit of a structure. Not free-form jazz, more loose jamming.

We met tonight and worked through how we make the sessions interesting, interactive, challenging and most importantly how we make the most of these unique opportunities. Potentillay we have the chance to work with 80 councillors across the region – it’s a real

chance to make a difference, begin to understand the barriers, opportunites and create a new network of like minded people. No pressure then.

We’ll be using all the tools, that was the easy bit. We are hoping to develop something exciting, plant a few seeds of interest and innovation – get a dialogue going. Wish us luck for the first date at Barnsley on the 4th. We’ll keep you updated as part of our tour diary.

tour plan

coffee, paper, pens and phones = a plan

making anti-plans