Rewiring Local Democracy

Tomorrow (10 December) we launch Local Democracy Bytes as part of our Rewiring Local Democracy work stream. Here Carl Whistlecraft (steering group vice chair, co-lead on the work stream and Head of Governance and Democractic Services at Kirkless Council) and Dave Mckenna (co-lead on the work stream and Scrutiny Manager  at City and County of Swansea Council write about what Local Democracy Bytes is and why it’s important.

Digital is changing local democracy.  Social media, webcasting and hyperlocal websites are all changing the way that local politics operates and the way that it talks to the public. We know that there are many great examples of councils and councillors working differently but we would love to see things change faster.

A central strand of “Rewiring Public Services”  is an acknowledgement of the need to rejuvenate local democracy and redesign the democratic relationship between citizens and their elected representatives.  We totally agree.  We want to digital to be a catalyst for a new way of doing democracy.

That is why we are leading a workstream of the Localgovdigital steering group called Rewiring Local Democracy.

(Carl has blogged about some of these ideas before – as has Dave.)

Those posts cover some of the reasons why we think digital local democracy is a good thing:

  1. If we want people to be involved with local policy and decision making we must translate it into something that people can engage with – rock and roll for the masses rather than jazz for the few.
  2. Digital and social technologies represent a real opportunity to improve and adapt interaction and engagement with local communities – doing things differently rather than simply enhancing what we have always done.
  3. While local government is usually associated with the services that it provides we shouldn’t forget that local policy and decision making – digital should be about citizens as well as customers
  4. Reducing budgets make the need for a new democratic relationship more important than ever – nurturing and harnessing the capacity within local communities will be critical.
  5. Using digital approaches to engage young citizens in local democracy and civic participation and make a virtue of a continuing rise in digital activity alongside the reduction in voting and democratic participation.

They also suggest some of the ‘transformation’ themes we expect to be working with:

  • networked councillors
  • social council decision making
  • social council meetings
  • social local elections.

These themes are described as part of a wider framework here.  The framework reflects some ideas and current thinking.  It is not intended to be set in stone but provides a focus for dialogue and collaboration as we hope to harness interest in how we might rewire local democracy.

We therefore see ourselves doing five things to support this work:

  • fostering the new models of local democracy made possible by digital
  • discovering examples of digital democracy in the UK and beyond
  • sharing examples of digital democracy across networks for learning and inspiration
  • prototyping new ways of doing local democracy digitally
  • collaborating and innovating across and outside the sector.

So, if you are involved in anything that sounds like this kind of work we would love to hear from you.  Oh, and watch this space!

Carl Whistlecraft and Dave Mckenna

Find Local Democracy Bytes on twitter: @LDBytes or on the Knowledge Hub or share using #LDBytes.