Ninging up York

January 31, 2012

With all the recent debate about e-participation, tools to do it, along with the why’s and wherefore’s of whether it can actually work, it’s a coincidence that the local authority where I live has implemented Ning to do some consultation. In the sites own words “GeniUSYork is our chance to generate and develop lots of ideas around about how to make York a better place. Many brains generate more ideas.” The project is part of a nationwide project funded by NESTA, and the City of York was one of 17 councils to get to this stage. If they make it to stage 2 in April they receive support and funding to roll the best ideas out nationally.

I hope something comes of it. It’s not the only Ning community I’m a member of but like many such places they have a tendency to become talking shops with little practical resulting. It’s OK if you wish to spend your time looking into a computer rather than delivering practical change or if the suggestions made actually are implemented in some fashion, but how many times does that happen?

The operators, implementors or whatever need to consider the suggestions that were made following the discussions earlier about participating in a democracy i.e. for a start, how will the outcomes be measured, implemented or reported?

According to Heather Niven who is one of those behind it, the “main criteria are sustainable, scale able to other places, good for everyone involved, viable with resources we’ve got. Pilot length can be as long as it needs to be but a range of short-long term solutions would be good. We are flexible and open to all ideas and our forum section has a section on all things innovative. For other suggestions if people want to raise other ideas. Outcomes we want are 1. A culture change in the way the city solves its problems and develops/evolves through introducing a channel to communicate and develop relationships with the motivated creative problem solvers in our world who want to make a difference. 2. To use a series of challenges to focus our efforts and show ourselves how much better we can change things through working together and to try the process out. 3. To record and share the whole project including what didn’t work for others to learn from. All of that will be shared here too.”

My personal challenge to them is to rationalise the dark magic that is government bean-counting – if we could do away with all this cross-charging, recharging, offcharging and focus on customers, particularly where they aren’t able to deal with such bureaucracy the better! Avaunt thee CIPFA and all thy complications…