Global networks, local action

I’m liveblogging from the global networks, local network event at Canada House on Trafalgar Square this afternoon.  This post will grow over the afternoon, so keep refereshing your page, but if you’re interested in details about the event, see here: There are so many geeks listed on the attendee list that Mark O’Neill is worried that they’re planning on gassing us to get rid of London’s entire social media community.

Geeks are running late. We’re starting at 4:25pm to accommodate.

16:24 Getting started.  Place is probably 3/4 full.  Canada House giving us a welcome.  Public diplomacy has been hijacked by PR control freaks who believe that communicating with their publics means broadcasting messages out rather than 2-way communications.

16:28 Canada House just got its first twitter account.  First problem – what’s the userID?

16:29 Chris Huer telling us how the afternoon is going to work.  Talking about social media in terms of internald and external comms and then international relations and dipomacy.  Intros of the panellists now.

16:31 We’ve been told to stand up.  Difficult when you’re blogging.

16:33 Social media “makes things visible”.  By opening up the means of production and the opportunities for connection between people beyond traditional boundaries, we have the opportunity generate transparency, trust and “truthiness” (thank you Stephen Colbert).  Obama’s campaign mobilised social media by making the vote personal.

16:36 Jennifer Jansson from Six Degrees says that social media is about opportunities for access to greater information. Lovisa Williams, US State Department, says that State Dept sees social media is about building relationships.  Stephen Hale, Head of Engagement, Digital Diplomacy, UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office says signidficance of social media is removing barriers to communication between people. Emer Coleman, Greater London Authority is interested in using social media for policy making and to generate conversations between Londoners.  Dominic Campbell, futuregov, likes social media because it can help him read minds.

16:40 Questions to the panellists and requesting responses to what we think social media is, but he’s not really waiting for a response.

16:41 Dominic Campbell notes his progress into futuregov and this event has primarily through twitter.

16:42 Lovisa Williams talks about the US State Dept’s barcamp as a means of finding people who are working in this space.  This essentially set up the Govt 2.0 department in the US.

16:47 Jennifer says that difficulty is countering the apathy of young people.  These social media are a useful tool in inspiring action and interest.

16:47 Helen Jones Canadian High Commission asks how to overcome the rampant bureaucracy she has to deal with where tweets have to be cleared and approved, translated etc before enaging. Stephen Hale notes you can’t have that level of bureaucracy for an effective engagement strategy.  He notes that senior and approved staff are allowed to tweet.

16:49 Mark O’Neill notes in 10 years of working next door, this is the 1st time he can get thru the door.  So it is opening up.  But he notes that one of the conversations he has to have are about the logistics as well as the culture and competences in tweeting.  He notes he tweets his expenses claims as a means of enhancing transparency.  The problem is when you have to distinguish between a conversation channel and a broadcast channel.  One of the challenges is being able to sustain conversation.  [[JJ’s Note: media like BBC have noted this for some time.]]

16:55 Emer says that you need to deal with the management issues associated with communications professionals, and facilitating the often anarchic approaches advocated by social media professionals.

16:58 Question is raised: are social media tools for communication or are they tools for commujnicating more broadly with the public?

17:02 Just asked what do we need to do distinguish where social media sucks and when its useful?  Strategies need to be more public.  Might be useful to engage specific communities for specific functions.

17:07 Who else can we bring in to encourage engagement?  We have to start somewhere, so we’ve brought together a room full of geeks.  How do we bring in next?  What other tools should we use, what else should we build?

17:10 US State Govt used ning to develop and this was designed to ensure that the site was branded and that the community was ‘closed’ for ‘safe communications.  Launched in October, with a video competition on values.  90% or more is usergen.  Full time community manger monitoring the site 24/7 for all uploaded content.  Currently has 11,000 members. [[JJ’s note: will be interesting to see what happens when this site gets too big for ning.]]

17:15 Dominic noting that in order to plan the social media strategy you need to establish the communication strategy first, or at least to consider how social media can support what the objectives are of a department.  Dominic asks what the role of the Director of Digital Engagement should do and how we’re supposed to measure his performance.

17:18 Stephen Hale says that digital diplomacy in the Foreign Office is using the web to communicate.  They use wiki for document development for instance.

17:20 What should we be measuring?  Social networking analysis representative says we’re still building cathedrals.  If there’s no change in policy or process, the act of generating engagement is pointless as it is not resulting in changes on process and legislature.

17:25 Mark O’Neill says we need to rethink ‘engagement’.  Government has a sense of telling people what to do, not asking them what to do. Social media is a tool which can facilitate action but it’s also a way of talking rubbish or hiding inaction in the rhetoric of collaboration – hiding in the plain sight of an unconference.

17:33 Shift of social engagement is that public no longer go to the govt, govt now goes to the people.  [[JJ’s note: O’RLY?]]

17:40 Need to ensure that the citizens have the opportunity to access resources with adequate connectivity and processing power. Lawyers and IT departments like to limit the stupidity of amateur users.

17:44 US State department had to work with the legal departments everyday and it has been an uphill battle to deal with their individual concerns.

17:49 If you find that your business or IT tools you should have some arguments ready where you can go up the chain in your IT processes to be able to build apps to serve us. [[JJ’s note: why do you have to go up the chain?  Why can’t we get the public and the people to build it – eg: sicamp]]

17:52 Diplomacy used to be states talking to states.  Now it’s states talking to citizens.  Changing behaviour is conducive with social media. Foreign service career progression is best supported by sticking to media releases.

17:59 closing with a quote from Thomas Jefferson.  Thanks for watching!

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