Wednesday 19 January 2011

#lgovsm - a redux

#lgovsm is a perfect example of why the JFDI approach to life sometimes just doesn't cut it. And I have learnt my lessons well.

Someone once said to me, make a mistake, own up to it, take responsibility for it, learn from it, move on. This is an admission of the first, definitely the second, a step on the path to the third and most definitely the fourth. And this, also, is what blogs are for, because through sharing mistakes, hopefully someone else will learn to, and thus never have to write a similar really rather embarrassing blog post.

The first session involved about 20 people. A similar amount took part in the second session, and it grew a little more by the time the 3rd one came alone. The core attendance tends to stay the same, with people drifting in and out depending on the subject - Councillors and representatives from the voluntary sector have all wondered in and out as well as local government entrepeneurs.

When I first launched it, I anticipated a few people chatting and it take a while to get off the ground. I expected people to be well out of ideas and things to say by the end of the session. I didn't expect journalists and think tank bods to have it on their radar - I wasn't sure anyone would have it on their radar - this is social media and things tend to be unpredictable.

I first realised there was a problem when Ingrid Koehler from the LGID mentioned some people had been pushing for a space to continue discussions generated on #lgovsm throughout the rest of the week. This has now been set up on the Communities of Practice and I am very grateful for this assistance. As an aside, the Communities of Practice is a fantastic resource for local government bods of all disciplines, not just those of us in social media - you will need to sign up for an account to be able to see the content, but I can highly recommend it - it's a brilliant forum to discuss issues and problems but also celebrate successes.

So, last night I did something I should have done right back at the beginning. Firstly, after discussions with @kazwccsocialnet we decided on a topic which should have perhaps been the first one - using social media to support social media evangelists in their organisations'. That right there is going to help enormously, I suspect, because it can be a lonely old place in the face of barrages of 'what exactly do you do for a job again?', blank looks from your mother when you try and explain, glares from colleagues who are facing redundancy, accusations of being peoples pet projects and assorted other rather negative attitudes which it can be difficult to shake off. Add to this that some people are running under the radar of their management in order to even create a Flickr group and the need for this discussion can be plainly seen.

Then between @carlhaggerty, @808kate and @kazwccsocialnet something rather awesome happened. We decided what was wrong with lgovsm, then we decided how to fix it, and then we decided to have lunch on Saturday at UKGovCamp to iron out the details. And suddenly, a bunch of local gov bods have formed a bit of a team, across geographical distances which still boggle me (West Midlands, Devon, Lancashire, London), built entirely over Twitter.

And this is why we bother. This is why I set up lgovsm in the first place. This is what social networking was built for - cross county collaboration between professionals who want to do things better, want to communicate better, want better tools to do better jobs. Twitter is not just a place to chat or network - it's somewhere to sew the seeds of collaboration out in the real world,. which then are applied back again to the digital world. It's where people with similar interests and drives can come together and assist, and build support networks.

If you ask me the value of lgovsm to others, I cannot answer. If you ask me the value of lgovsm to me, I can. It is becoming a professional development learning curve. It is teaching me about the need for planning and for collaboration and learning to stop being independant all the damn time, and to trust in others and ask for help. It's teaching me that geography doesn't matter any more. I am learning about organisation, planning, being agile, moving on swift deadlines and timescales, reacting to problems and solving them, but also on a personal level, I am learning very many things too. Because what we learn on a personal level benefits our professional lives and vice versa. And nowhere is this more true than on social networks.

If the conversations which happened yesterday come to fruition, lgovsm will go from something small and local to something massive and sprawling, but also useful, with interesting outcomes and ideas. There is not necessarily any actions on anyone at the end of these proposed discussions, only greater understanding and little sparks which can be stored to be lit at some future point. Social networking allows us to learn from a very great number of people from all sectors and all interest areas - a great many number of stakeholders.

No matter happens from this point forward, I have learnt, both in the running and hosting as well as in the participation of lgovsm. What makes me more happy than I can say, is that one of the people I originally thought of when setting lgovsm up, is now enabling me to make it more useful, more relevant and of more worth.

Funny how the world turns, isn't it?

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