Social media and local government – practical?

Today I met with a person in Haringey Council who is, among other things, responsible for the marketing of the HALS courses. It was a very interesting meeting for me, as we soon established that both of our sons had today started secondary school, so we interacted more as mothers, members of the community, than the council worker and the prospective consultant/trainer in social networking.

She soon mentioned that she did not take part in any social networking, since her opinion of it had been very much coloured by mainstream media coverage of Jonathan Ross‘ famous “I’m going to the toilet now” tweet. She perceived it as self-indulgent rubbish and wasn’t sure how if at all the council would use it.

My strategy for introducing social media in my local government (as with everything else in life) is very much to start small and grow organically. So I’ve submitted a proposal to get the libraries onto social networking, to start building a community around the cultural life of the council, and after a few months to revisit and involve other areas. HALS as an adult education non-profit is very closely related to the libraries, so a first approach is to use this as an additional course marketing channel.

I then talked her through some of what I feel social networking has changed in my life – because we were already speaking about community and social responsibility, we soon talked about gov2.0 – how everyone, by using these new tools, can make their voice heard.

She soon picked up on the importance of this, and we talked about providing training for parents who would like to understand more about social networking so they can feel their children are safe.

We also spoke about the importance of digital inclusion, as of course, if the local government adapts to people using online tools to becoming more socially responsible, it will be good for everyone if more people can be equipped with the skills to use these tools.

It was great for me to see subjects we talk about every day from the perspective of somebody who’s in local government and sees the usefulness of Social Networking, when introduced to it properly. Next steps for me now will be to develop training tools and projects that will introduce key people in existing communities to these online community involvement tools.

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