One of the challenges that gets us going at Networked Neighbourhoods is persuading council officials and local elected members of the advantages of engaging with local citizen-run online forums.

Earlier this year we wrote a detailed chapter for SOCITM’s annual report, Better Connected (subscription needed); and have now published an article in the latest issue of C’llr magazine.

The article concludes with a few key principles for people in local government when it comes to relating to local sites:

  • Support citizens in developing their own websites: do not try to direct or influence. Small grant funding may be appropriate, but enabling supportive connections is paramount.
  • For elected members: go where the conversations are, avoid party political pronouncements, and show that you value the potential to enhance service to local people.
  • For officers: be prepared to provide helpful information and to correct misinformation, but avoid the risk of seeming to dominate. Invest in relationships with site administrators; this will pay dividends.

The same issue of the magazine includes a short piece by online councillor of the year James Barber, who we were privileged to nominate for the award and whose pioneering efforts featured in our research. James’s recommendations are:

‘I’d encourage all councillors to dip a toe in any local community forum if they’re lucky enough to have one and try a thread on how you can help people and see where it takes you. One absolutely crucial rule is to stay non political – people have problems that need solving. They’re not looking for me to solve their politics.’

C’llr magazine is published by the Local Government Information Unit (LGIU) and we are hoping to run an event in collaboration with them later in the year – follow this space.