I've read some great blogs about the success of Councillor Camp. Indeed, good on Futuregov for forcing the agenda and bringing together in one room possibly the most councillors EVER to talk about the importance of social media and digital in local government.
Now, I was there too and did feel truly inspired. (The hashtag, #cllrcamp, trended at number 1 for a while - amazingly, above #danceoff - so there was clear engagement both inside and outside the room.)
But what I would like to consider here is ... 'what next?'
Local government is facing further funding cuts and we need to get even smarter about service provision. Secondly, with the digital transformation of central government moving apace like a bulldozer, councils need to properly wake up to how this impacts on them and get an informed seat at the table.
This informed seat needs to be occupied by senior officers and elected members. They must drive change through leadership, engage with communities AND know exactly what the impact of those changes will be on residents in their areas. They need to understand what 'digital by default' means and realise that alternatives - eg face-to-face, telephone services etc - may still be necessary for some services and some sections of their community. It's about knowing where to spend the extra time and effort. Spend it in the wrong places and you'll effectively be burning £50 notes.
If we're caught napping, change may be forced upon local government due to the enormous central government digital transformation projects (eg GOV.UK, universal credit, identity assurance etc) which could cause bigger problems in the long term if we allow one important element to be omitted - locality.
Change is inevitable and decisions need to be made. But, who makes them happen on the ground? It's the council digital, communications and service delivery teams working together under a united mandate.
Over the past year these teams have witnessed the Government Digital Service wield their influence, bring central government departments into line and exploit their (seemingly) enviable resources. It's now the turn of council teams, who are ready and waiting, to step up to the task. They need to start collaborating with their senior officers and members to ensure everyone properly 'gets' what digital transformation from all angles, and know what it means for their local areas. Once these tough - but informed - decisions have been made, these delivery teams need the commitment and support from above to practically move things forward.
So, in essence, applying what you learned at Councillor Camp will not only help you fight election campaigns and communicate better with residents, it might also help you save services and bring about one the biggest shake ups in how they are delivered.
The LGA's Improvement and Innovation Board put their support behind these initiatives today so .... bring it on Councillor Camp! Let's hope this is the first of many.
(ps. If you weren't aware already, a group of practitioners called 'LocalGov Digital' is gearing up for these digital transformation challenges, follow @localgovdigital to find out more)
Councillor camp links:
A small selection of the many excellent Councillor Camp blogs:
Lynn Denham (@LynnDenham1) - http://bdolocalgov.wordpress.com/2013/01/14/guest-blog-reflections-on-cllrcamp/
Mark Pack (@markpack) - http://www.markpack.org.uk/38295/councillor-camp-10-questions-to-see-if-your-council-gets-digital/
Anthony Mckeown (@anthonymckeown) - http://www.anthonymckeown.info/2013/01/councillor-camp-2013-cllrcamp/
Bill Chapman - http://surreyheathchapmans.wordpress.com/2013/01/13/councillor-camp-for-social-media/
Kate Butler (@kate_butler) - http://katebutler.net/2013/01/councillor-camp/
Barry Kirby (@Baz_k) - http://www.barrykirby.co.uk/2013/councillor-camp-2013-100-councillors-talking-social-media-cllrcamp/
Nick Barlow (@nickjbarlow) - http://www.nickbarlow.com/blog/?p=2536
Lester Holloway (@brolezholloway) - http://cllrlesterholloway.wordpress.com/2013/01/13/cuts-mean-councils-must-embrace-the-digital-age/