As a keen user of social media I was asked to join officers from Solihull Council to look at how the council can adapt social media to improve services, indeed to become a ‘Great’ Council. The group meets under the title ‘The Social Canteen’ – to tie in with the Social Cafe – a more casual group which meets every week in the library café. The original purpose of the group is to examine four main threads:
Independent Living – creating a network or community of users to help share experience and understanding, so as to enjoy better and more independent lives.
Life in a Day – Getting a sense of what the borough is all about, we plan to produce a series of days in which people in the borough post photos of what they are up to. At work, school, leisure or just visiting. Our Library’s heritage department will collate the images and digitally publish them – telling the story of life in a day in Solihull.
Good old Twitter – Our contact service will be building on its work to actively listen to our customers on social media channels, particularly Twitter. As well as individual accounts, we officially tweet on @solihullcouncil and on @solihullconnect and we’ll be working out more about these two voices.
Networked Councillors – Developing the opportunities for Members to engage with local communities on digital channels, enhancing their leadership roles, will be something we will be working on with public-i.
The work of the group has moved on since its start-up (last Autumn) and #soliday was the first of our public projects for ‘A day in the Life’ of the borough in November. There has also been a growth in the number of departments within the council that are now adopting twitter and/or Facebook with a view to greater and more effective public engagement. An excellent blog introducing the Social Canteen from an SMBC officer perspective is provided by Steve Halliday, Head of ICT at Solihull: http://stevehallidaycio.wordpress.com/2013/08/13/social-council-canteen-green-lights-at-solihull/
We are blessed to have Catherine Howe from Public-i as our ‘mentor/facilitator’. Catherine has provided a number of posts on her blog under ‘the Social Council’. These can be found via this link: http://www.curiouscatherine.info/category/social-council/ .
Assisting Catherine is Emma Huxley, who is also a Councillor at Brighton and Hove. Emma succinctly explains the Solihull objectives in as being;
- To share leadership across the organisation and with the community – to achieve a new normal that they work in a networked rather than hierarchical manner most of the time
- To actively enable people internally and externally to make best use of social technology to achieve organisational and civic objectives
- To be ready in both service delivery and democratic arms of the Council to meet the expectations of the public that they can report issues to us, find out about services and engage with all aspects of the organisation via social, mobile technology.
More can be found from Emma in her blog via: http://huxley06.wordpress.com/2013/12/04/solihull-the-future-council-a-social-council/
These are exciting times for Solihull. Readers of my website will no doubt appreciate social media and what it can do to help deliver information to the community but it is essential those who do not have ready access to the internet are considered. Yet, we can not ignore date that indicates over 80% of the population has access to the internet via several devices. It is important we move now to become a ‘Great Council’ offering ‘Great Services’.
I will update you as the project moves along.