Local 2

July 3, 2010

There’s another new paper out on social media and local government. ‘Listen, Participate, Transform, A social media framework for local government‘ is published by the Young Foundation, as a Local 2.0 think-piece. Local 2.0 is funded by the CLG. The report states it is “intended to support those councils interested in using social media, by presenting a simple and practical framework to base social media activity on.”

Within the Social Media Framework for Local Government, displayed on the third page,  I find the third sector the most interesting. This sector, called ‘Transform’ is described as “service redesign, replacing or complimenting existing ways of working and adopting new models of working.” Too often, when discussing social media, reports focus on the medium without employing the outcomes to improve services.

Having said this, the report then drifts on with talk of e-democracy, whilst initially to gain the confidence of citizens social media are probably best employed with a view to service improvement. If citizens believe they are having an affect, they’ll continue with advice, if not they’ll criticize.

According to the report (using data from Socitm) 90% of councils restrict access to social media in some way, in contrast with 20% within the private sector. Unfortunately this fact affected my own research, when council officers couldn’t access my social media based research instruments.

Whilst the report is passionate for councils to employ social media, I personally would recommend a more restrained approach in the current economic environment. Train media staff to understand and garner the new media for criticism and respond to it but take care, too much involvement or investment might bite back from cynical citizens, if change doesn’t occur. The think-piece doesn’t agree and even offers SMS as a ‘digital inclusion’ alternative to social media, although it does recognise the threat from the media-savvy.

I suspect councils need to research their own communities in the process of trialling social media rather than take too much on trust from those already sold on it.