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Social Council Canteen: Green lights at Solihull

August 13, 2013

Exciting times for Solihull with our “Social Council” initiative. Last Friday we gave a green light to three new projects and some more emphasis to two others.

Independent Living.  We have noticed that while there is great support for dedicated telecare products in the market, there is a growing need to help people with smart phones to use them to help with independent living. And there is a great community of people who know what the gadgets can do who would just love to be more helpful.

So, we plan to create a network or community of users to help share experience and understanding, so as to enjoy better and more independent lives.

Life in a Day. Getting a sense of what the borough is all about, we plan to produce a series of days in which people in the borough post photos of what they are up to. At work, school, leisure or just visiting. Our Library’s heritage department will collate the images and digitally publish them – telling the story of life in a day in Solihull.

This initiative will help create the buzz that generates active engagement with digital and extends networks of people.

Good old Twitter.      Our contact service will be building on its work to actively listen to our customers on social media channels, particularly Twitter. As well as individual accounts, we officially tweet on @solihullcouncil and on @solihullconnect and we’ll be working out more about these two voices.

Networked Councillors Developing the opportunities for Members to engage with local communities on digital channels, enhancing their leadership roles, will be something we will be working on with public-i and @curiosc.

Social Intranet We have just gone live with a new open source intranet – which saved a fortune and got us some great tools from the user community. One of the reasons for choosing the tool we went with is that it’s good for intranet social media; blogs, Wikis, Forums and the like. Soon to follow will be the new Internet site – crafted from the same toolset.

There is a cultural journey to be undertaken to become an organisation that really embraces this way of working. The council’s Social Intranet gets a great nudge forward, with people using it to discuss the elements of the Social Council. For starters, I’m looking forward to seeing a reduction in emails as people talk with each other on open forums – and get more (and different) stuff done…


So those are the new things from our first Social Council Canteen. We have been running a monthly Social Media Café – a monthly public event where anyone can pitch up to talk about their ideas and get enthusiasm, support and lateral thought from others. So when we set up an internal group to specifically look at the Council’s role in this, it seemed neat to call it the Social Council Canteen. And with our CEO a present and enthusiastic joint sponsor – the future looks bright.

We are interested in making a difference in people’s lives, more than we are in delivering services. It’s so much more than being about the technology – but the technology does help to reach different communities in different ways and get good ideas going really quickly.

We think of the “local community” as an asset, with great resources to contribute to the shaping and delivery of its own needs – rather than as a problem that needs services to fix it. This allows the development of creative, shared activity. Our Social Café and Canteen have set out on this “road to co-production” and only one thing is certain; that we don’t know now where it will lead us to.

Which is the exciting part. We don’t know exactly where the project will go, but we do expect great ideas to emerge as we gather momentum and hone our understanding of this art of the possible.

I’ll keep you posted with where we get to…


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