Recently alot of articles have popped up regarding local councils using facebook (i.e. Dave Briggs & Simon Wakeman to name a few) to engage with citizens. Its a really great time for local government to get involved with new means of communication and engagement with their customers. However early this morning, as I was doing a bit of research, I noticed that there is another angle of Facebook that we are forgetting to acknowledge… Anyone care to take a guess what it is?
The tables have turned
Well, its when the table flips and the shoe is on the other foot. Its when citizens create facebook groups or pages to demand local councils to listen. The issue I’d like to raise here is… What are local councils doing to LISTEN to their citizens on Social Networking Sites (SNS)? I understand how we can all get caught up with creating relevant channels of engagement with the public, but what about using the knowledge or information that is already been generated through all these user generated content (UGC) websites? Couldn’t this be a form of consultation as well? Are local councils currently listening? Or are local councils waiting til the mainstream media picks it up and creates a mockery out of the situation?
How do we solve a problem like “mainstream media”?
We all know how mainstream media is quick to pick up on negative points of anything on government. And its frustrating when they put their spin and sensationalize the story beyond recognition. How often do government or local government get to defend themselves before the damage is already been done? More importantly is what is local government doing to better understand the customers needs through these existing channels of communication? With various stories like this, where the council is using facebook to track down tax dodger and also here where local councils using facebook to check up on you, surely those same resources could be used to increase citizens trust in local government to deliver the services they need. There is no excuse.
Customers demanding back their right to their services
An article in a Liverpool Daily Post online newspaper highlighted an issue with Wirral Council. Here is an example of the group petitioning against the closure of Wirral leisure centres which now has 2,051 members with 65 wall posts and 4 discussion topics.
Petition against the closure of Wirral leisure centres
- Other facebook groups found on this issue
- STOP WIRRAL COUNCIL CLOSING THE LIBRARIES, LEISURE CENTRES & LIGHTHOUSE 257 members, 6 wall posts
- Wirral Residents Unite over the proposed closure of our public libraries 376 members, 16 wall posts
- Online petition tool setup in SENDMYVOTE http://www.sendmyvote.com/petition/wirral
An innovative consultation tool
I’m unsure whether this website consultation tool online was developed before or after the article was written, but it does show some innovative ways to conduct consultations online. Might be an idea for other local councils. What’s great about it is it allow you to embed the consultation progress of that consultation on your website/blog. And there is also an option for a widget to be put on your sidebar for easy access.
Consultation progress widget
Sidebar Polling Widgets
And people can also vote on your question via a link http://www.ask500people.com/questions/wirral-council-is-to-shut-libraries-leisure-centres-museums-and-a-theatre-to-keep-council-tax-low
However, when I browsed the Wirral Council consultation webpage, this consultation tool link is nowhere to be found. See snapshot of consultation webpage.
I tried to search as well using the search box, and guessing my searching skills are not up to scratch*, I failed to find a link. Say if this consultation was closed, how come its still taking votes and where are the results of the consultation? Why has it not been published? Surely a consultation of this magnitude deserves a prominent display on their website? Or is this consultation tool being developed by the local newspaper themselves? Who knows?
Maybe I’m being too harsh… so as Rachel Maddow from MSNBC would say … “TALK ME DOWN!”
And also, one last thing… ARE YOU LISTENING?…..