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Tuesday, 19 June 2012

44. Local Digital Democracy: A Five Point Checklist

Back in February 2011 I wrote a joint post with the legendary Carl Whistlecraft setting out some thinking on local digital democracy and what it might look like.  You can find the original post on Carl's blog here.

In the post we defined local digital democracy as:
  • Using social media to make a bridge between the formal world of local politics and the real world of real people
  • Being clear that local government is not just about services – it has a distinct and important democratic role with elected local councillors at its heart
  • Recognising that the world is changing.  Social media is changing the way the world works – local democracy needs to catch up
  • Recognising that local democracy needs stronger citizen engagement
  • Building from the traditional ways of doing things and using online tools to make them work better and reach more people
We could also see numerous benefits including for decision making and for reputation, for councillors, officers and citizens.  

In the post we identified the five essential features of local digital democracy.  Here I have just tweaked them into a into a checklist of five questions.  I think they provide a nifty little framework for assessing whether any given council 'has' local digital democracy.  How does yours score?

Local Digital Democracy:  A Five Point Checklist for Local Government

1.  Are Councillors Online?   
  • How many councillors are blogging, tweeting, facebooking etc?
  • Is training and support provided for those using social media?
  • Are awareness sessions provided for those who haven't yet put their toes in the water?
See CllrSocmed for much more info on this.

2.  Is the Council's Online Decision Making Social? 
  • Can online agendas, minutes and reports be easily shared via social media?
  • Are items broken down into bite sized chunks rather than published in unwieldy PDFs?
  • Is it possible for people to comment on decision making items via social media?
See my previous post on social council decision making here
3.  Are Council Meetings Social?
  • Do meetings have webcasts that allow engagement via social media?
  • Can councillors and citizens tweet at Council meetings?
  • Does an officer provide a formal live commentary on meetings via social media?
See the Kirklees experience for a great example.
Dave Briggs has also been looking at the issue of tweeting at council meetings.

4.  Are Local Elections Social?
  • Do election teams make use of social media to promote the election process?
  • Do candidates share their election materials online or parties provide online manifestos?
  • Are results shared via social media?
Again, more wonderful stuff from Kirklees.

5.  Is There a Local Digital Democracy Community?
  • Is the Council proactively supporting local digital democracy?
  • Are initiatives such as Local Democracy Week being used to support digital engagement?
  • Are there online communities supporting local digital democracy and looking at how it might be improved?
I've posted before on Council's producing democracy plans - what's needed is a digital version.

So, what does your Council score out of five?  I'd be amazed if any actually scored five but, who knows, maybe one day...

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/usnationalarchives/3660047829/

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