Councils, communities and Web 2.0

In my last post I suggested three recent posts on other blogs for further reading on the potential for Councils and NGOs to use social media and Web 2.0 applications. I selected these posts because I felt they provided particularly useful insights and I’d like to summarise and comment on some of the points they made.

Simon Wakeman points out that the advent of social media is only part of the changing communications and media environment that councils face, along with the decline of traditional media such as newspapers and the declining trust in institutions. This means that council staff will need to develop new skills to operate in this environment as well as have access to the new media tools.

Wakeman also believes that whilst councils are sensible in adopting a more centralised approach to their communications strategies with dedicated social media roles, they also need to review their policies and protocols and to adopt a more flexible approach to staff access to social media sites. Councils have an opportunity to put new policies in place whilst the volume of social media interactions is still relatively low.

Wakeman concludes:

“having social media explained properly helps people see the links between their service, social media and the community – and that can only be a powerful catalyst for councils to be more effective in delivering services for local residents.”

Bill Schrier takes this line a bit further. He points out that Government is by its nature “all about community”, bringing people together to do what they can’t do as individuals. He notes that Web 2.0 is:

“transforming the Internet into connected communities that allow people to interact with one another in new and distinct ways….

“… therefore, Web 2.0 – community building tools – seems tailor-made for government, at least theoretically.”

Schrier goes on to list over eighteen different ways in which Web 2.0 can be used to build online community engagement and some of the associated issues for councils, a taxonomy if you like of Web 2.0 applications. It would be difficult to summarise this list so I suggest you have a look at Schrier’s post. I’ll be using his framework to discuss some Web 2.0 applications in future posts.

Finally, Anne Stevens discusses the implications of Web 2.0 for the voluntary or community sector. She notes that there is a natural fit between specific-issue voluntary organisations and social media. People interested in a particular issue “will naturally be drawn towards others who share this interest and so community and collaboration online are an ideal way of leveraging this”. She also notes that Web 2.0 applications facilitate the sharing of information between multiple organisations working for the same cause (or single organisations with multiple locations) as well as with people who are isolated by geography or disability.

In future posts I’ll talk about some specific Web 2.0 tools as well as taking a look at some non-Web 2.0 applications that might be useful to councils and non-government organisations.

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