April 4, 2011 1 Comment
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.
- Cllr Mike Jordan Talks Cllrsocmed (cllrsocmed.wordpress.com)
- So what is a blog? (Steve Tuck explains in two minutes) (cllrsocmed.wordpress.com)
- Cllrs and Twitter (Some Alternative Case Studies) (cllrsocmed.wordpress.com)