Bit of an odd post this from me really, but given I don’t have a personal blog (and really what’s the difference between personal and professional with me anyway?!) I thought I’d post it here. It is also a little odd as it’s pretty much content free, more a thought as I sit and have a quiet think to myself on the train about where life is at for me at the minute.
Those of you who know me (or even just follow my incessant tweeting) will know me as a hopeless optimist. I like to think of myself as a realist, but an optimistic one nonetheless. Despite those tendencies, I have to say I’m particularly excited by the things that me and the people around me who I know, love and respect are doing right now.
I am a local government geek (again, no surprise). From pretty much the moment I set foot in university if not before I was fascinated by cities, their look, their feel, the diversity of people, the fun that could be had – and then increasingly how they are run.
No doubt this had something to do with moving around a fair bit as a kid and seeing a bunch of different places, eventually settling in Birmingham for most of my childhood, a city that has always had a strong sense of self, loads of civic pride and history of strong city leadership particularly coming from the work of Joseph Chamberlain.
At university I was a Geographer almost solely interested in urban geography and politics. My undergrad thesis looked at political leadership in Birmingham in the 1980s and 1990s and as a post-grad I studied Directly Elected Mayors and their importance in shaping cities’ fortunes.
My Masters was initially really only intended as a delaying tactic having accepted a job as an accountant and bottled actually going through with it (wouldn’t you??). Fortunately the NGDP cropped up while I was doing it (and actually while I was really truly enjoying academia for the first time too), giving me a vital foot up into local government.
Barnet beckoned with the then chief executive and his assistant chief giving me the kind of opportunities you can only dream of at that age, ending up heading up a decent sized team running projects, strategy and other things for the council by the age of 26.
And that’s where FutureGov comes in almost 3 years ago now, where we’ve spent our time looking at how the web (another personal interest of mine) can be used to start to reimagine how local government is done, how it can rework the relationship between citizen and state, how it can challenge the enduring power structures and help us to create the kind of world we want to live in for ourselves supported (crucially) not dictated by either the government or the vested interests of big business and others.
I tell you all of that to explain why all of a sudden it feels like extra exciting times, both for me personally but also for all of us as a collaborative, as all these passions and interests suddenly come crashing together.
Suddenly I am attending Chief Executive only gigs to talk about how technology and the web can help local government both understand and deliver on the needs of the people it is there to support. Suddently I am invited to sit on the Practitioners Advisory Board of INLOGOV to help support their research and thinking around the future shape of local government (in the building next door to my old school in a weird twist of fate!). Suddenly we have the opportunity to put on CityCamp London (thanks to our amazing supporters) to bring together some amazing brains to consider the future of London and what role technology can play in reshaping both society and state in making it an ever better world class city to live and work in.
But most importantly, suddenly for the first time I feel like people in government are listening and people in society are better able than ever to use the web to just get on and make amazing things happen for themselves with or without the help of government (I prefer with, but that’s just me!).
When I started FutureGov, I scribbled down the glib (and frankly the somewhat laughable) tag line “helping to shape the future of government”. This month, for the first time and with the help of all of you amazing people (and above all the simply brilliant Carrie Bishop), I think we might be starting to do just that.