The Networked Councillor – The next steps

Late last week I went along to the East of England Local Government Association Strategic Leaders Meeting at the fine offices of South Cambridgeshire District Council in that impressive new town just outside Cambridge called Camborne. I was there to represent Suffolk County Council, and to present one of the Agenda items – the Networked Councillor Report, commissioned by the East of England LGA and written by Public-I; and to talk about the launch of its next steps – the Networked Councillor programme, which aims to tackle the challenges and opportunities that face elected members operating in an increasingly networked and digital society.

As I have previously blogged the report lays out the evidence to support the idea that we need all our elected representatives to be comfortable and effective in the online space and recommends the need to develop new models of training, mentoring and support to help councillors be effective in a digital and networked world.

Essentially to make sure it’s not just another one of those reports that get read and then popped on a shelf to gather dust, the team are now in the process of implementing the report’s findings and are looking to identify two pilot areas to trial an action learning programme. The pilot will be funded by the East of England LGA and pilot areas should encompass a whole county area, including representation from both tiers (where applicable).

Of course while many of the skills and issues are common, councils will approach this process differently and with a different idea of how they, as councillors, want to achieve online and the type of relationship they want to have with the public. This programme is designed in order to provide the opportunity for each council to shape its own response to this new landscape and not simply learn by rote.

All of us involved in this work are focused that the programme will introduce the concept of a Networked Councillor and encourage a discussion about the kind of relationship they will have with the public in the future, based on the scale of communicative to co-productive that formed the central thrust of the report. The key will be that the approach will revolve around practical examples and will model the practice of leading councils and already prolific social media members.

At the end of the programme hopefully a member should have an understanding and considered digital footprint and network which reflects their needs.  Underpinning all of this will be a series of supporting materials that will develop practical technical skills

Suffolk will be the first place its rolled out and the programme will work with a cohort of around 20 members and run over 3 workshop days each concentrating on a different theme: ‘Understand your digital footprint and current network’, ‘Develop skills to shape that network and manage debates online’ and then ‘Develop skills to influence your network and lead effectively in this context’.

Broadly the sessions will cover issues such as:

How will you manage your privacy – what do you want to share?

Which channels suit your communicate style and how do you reach them?

Who do you need to influence?

Understand your own reach and closing the gaps

Crisis management – compare how messages go out with current and ideal reach

Maintenance of networks

So by the end of the programme it’s hoped that participants are, able to integrate social media into their workflow, be able to measure and understand their digital footprint and have made informed choices about the tools that they are using, actively influencing others online, actively managing their online networks and reach. The further to this a peer mentoring programme will be created in order to provide access for participants to more experienced social media using politicians.

If you know nothing about the tools not a problem as there will be a  programme of technical skills training opportunities supporting these workshops so you can get started with things like Twitter, Facebook, blogging, web sites and understanding your metrics.

So if you are a Councillor and want to get involved look out for the email coming soon to be a part of the first group.

About askcolinnoble
I'm a Conservative politician-lite, I dabble a bit in Party Politics with my main focus of working hard and being a strong voice for my community making sure local government delivers quality services and fellow residents get value for money for their hard earned money they pay in Council tax | Where this Gravatar appears and I am expressing my views or liking something I do so in a personal capacity and does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of Suffolk County Council, Forest Heath District Council, the Conservative Party or come to think of it anyone else | But having said the above at an election time and to stay legal anything I write is promoted by Kerry Buist on behalf of Colin Noble, both at West Suffolk Conservative Association, Unit 8, Swan Lane Business Park, Exning, Newmarket, Suffolk CB8 7FN

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