New direction for the sociable organisation

This is probably the most satisfying post I’ve written on this blog. In a way also a huge relief. I’ve looked forward to writing it for quite a while. However, it also means it will be the last post on

SO masterclass

Two years ago I took a punt with an idea where I work at Leeds City Council about trying a different approach to see if there would be appetite to deliver something that clearly needed doing but which didn’t sit with a specific owner or someone who could be accountable if it went horribly wrong. We therefore didn’t bother with a PID (project initiation document) or business case as it was clearly a no-brainer and needed doing.

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Podcast – Talking to Phil Jewitt about the Sociable Organisation

This post is the outcome of a chat that I had with John Popham where we met to talk about what the Sociable Organisation idea is, where it came from, what difference it is making and where it may lead.

Many thanks to John for taking the time to meet and producing the podcast.

John Popham's Random Musings

This is the first in what may be a series of podcasts in which I talk to people whose work I particularly admire about some aspect of what they are doing.

In this podcast, I met up with Phil Jewitt, Senior Communications Manager, with Leeds City Council, to get some insights into the Sociable Organisation project which he is leading. This is a project which is using social media to drive collaboration and co-creation, both within the city council, and across the city involving partners.

There are some lovely stories in here which illustrate the point I make continually that telling stories usually has more impact that quoting statistics and writing reports.

Please let me have any comments below.

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Introducing a Social Publishing model


During their studies at the University of Marburg, the brothers Grimm, who were academics, linguists and cultural researchers before becoming storytellers, came to see language as closely linked to culture and therefore cultural expression.

Just as personal values shape the integrity of an individual, an organisation expresses its personality in how it talks, the information it provides, the way it presents it and in the nature of conversations it is part of. Employees will tell the same story in slightly different ways, some more engaging than others. Values and actions play a part in shaping the culture of an organisation, in how it connects and how it is perceived.

Logically then, if you keep true to a good set of values and tell it how it is, honestly, constructively, inclusively and sensitively, in language that people understand, and listen accordingly, an environment where increased opportunity for open dialogue and mutual understanding is created.

This post is an update on Leeds City Council’s ongoing work to refresh website content and design and on progress using social networking. It introduces a concept we are developing loosely titled ‘Social Publishing’

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From ivory tower to the real seat of power?

After a short break, we are firing up the Sociable Organisation blog with updates about new ways of thinking and exploring more sociable ways of working.

We start with a post by Matt Lund, who works in the council’s consultation and engagement team.

Ivory Tower

Ever been accused of sitting in an ivory tower?

Well it happens if you have a corporate policy role in a Civic or Town Hall. I suppose it’s an easy statement to make and a perception for folk like me, who have such roles, to be acutely aware of. However, a new opportunity is giving us a chance to disprove it by working in a different way.

We successfully bid to be part of the Design in the Public Sector (DIPS) regional programme run by the Design Council and supported by Local Government Yorkshire and Humber. It provides training and support to local authorities and their partners who want to explore ‘design thinking’ as a way to improve local issues.

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Park life, where people help people


Every weekend I go to my local park. I walk through the woods, round the lakes and have a coffee at the cafe. Roundhay Park is a place I’ve visited for nearly 50 years. Nearly!

It has great landscapes and sometimes it has different moods. I know a fair bit about the history as I was lucky enough to do the design work for a book entitled ‘An illustrated history of Roundhay Park’. It’s still available in the Roundhay Mansion gift shop. You can also make a virtual visit to the park via the Friends of Roundhay park website.

There are many different groups who use the park. On Saturday mornings there is Leeds Park run, a volunteer organised 5k run. There are dog training groups and other fitness sessions. A rowing club uses the lake, as does a canoe water polo basketball sport mashup all sharing the lake with people fishing. So all sorts going on.

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Social customer service

Last week’s Shift Happens post strongly hinted at a follow up post from the customer services Digital Access Team at Leeds City Council. Well, true to form, they have provided the following update on how they have found adding social interaction to the customer service offer.

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Our team now manage web chat, social media enquiries and emails and we’ve had to find the right approach, language and tone to respond via these different channels.  It’s been good to see how members of our team add their own personal touch and how well received our approach appears to have been with our customers. Continue reading

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Shift happens


Two years ago I invited someone I had met through social media to a meeting where we could share a drink and have a chat. I wasn’t sure if they would come, but they did. We talked about stuff that was happening at the council and wider. Not too much about what was being done but about how stuff was done. We both listened intently to what each other had to share. At the end of the meeting my guest said “thank you, that wasn’t like working with the council at all.”

I didn’t sleep that night. Those words are still etched in my memory like an internal Voldemort mark which every now and then is the source of pain when I feel or see stuff that isn’t yet right. I suppose it was an indirect compliment …. for doing something that I felt wasn’t out of the ordinary.

So what is ordinary? Being active on Twitter; contacting someone who may have a particular view on something I was working on; having a meeting in a coffee house; talking honestly about the realities of how things are and what might be. None of that is special, perhaps a different way of interpreting what work is maybe, but not special. Use of social media isn’t special, it is something people use, but some of the things that happen because of it can be special. Continue reading

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Facing up to our facts

nursery name pegs

For people of my generation who went to school in the early 70’s, the image above is probably typical. Even before we could read or write our names, most of us were encouraged to associate them with ‘our space’. I say encouraged but we had no choice. We were probably also encouraged to link that space with an image. I imagine there were some schools where that image was a self portrait, a family photo or a school mug shot Polaroid. In some cases I imagine that image and space was associated with gender.

We went along with this, we had no choice. Continue reading

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Always people first

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I’ve learned that if you wait until something is perfect, it won’t be; not for everyone anyway. The delay will probably have had a detrimental effect on what you were trying to do.

So I had an idea and put it out there – sociable organisation, sociable city even. It was, and still is, storytelling about how introducing social networking and other ways of working in and across the boundaries of organisations might help connect people, virtually and physically. An idea to help share ideas, experience, skills, to look to see how others do things and perhaps even discuss what things are done. Ultimately it might help shape a different way of designing, delivering and accessing services. It was also an opportunity to encourage people to tell their story and cut their teeth in the world of publishing, and one where comment and feedback was welcome. Continue reading

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Getting IT together and connecting people

“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

That’s one of my Dad’s sayings that sort of make sense if you don’t take them too literally….or if you tweak them slightly. I’ll come back to this.

The other week I met someone I’d been trying to catch up with for a while. His name is Vic Berry. Rumour had it he was a ‘digital outreach worker’, someone this ‘meaning maker’ had to meet. On meeting, Vic conceded to being a mere ‘project co-ordinator’ for Citizens Online in Leeds.

I wanted to meet Vic and hear his story as it’s easy to assume that the world is all shiny tech; everyone is ready and up for ‘channel shift’ and the whole city is connected and socially networking thank you very much. It isn’t. Continue reading

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