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Stop, Look & Listen

The Team have recently been featured in the December Issue of 'CountyBeacon' which is created by CNN and this month was based on the theme 'Transformation Through Technology'. Below is our article:

Kent County Council making research more collaborative and cost-effective Kent County Council has long been acknowledged as an ‘innovative council’. It has led the way on several fronts including Telecare and Telehealth, the Kent Payment Card, Gateways, Kent TV and a vast range of service specific projects.

In addition to those ground breaking initiatives, the Technology Research and Transformation Team has been looking at how the innovative use of technologies and tools can change the way business is done, support individuals to work smarter and enable knowledge and ideas to be exchanged seamlessly.

This has taken many forms, from the establishment of e-Catalogues to Innovations Fairs through to the development of a public sector ‘mash-up’ service. Our recent focus has been directed towards the deployment of tools that are more collaborative and cost effective. Part of that process has been the establishment of a blog called iNews.

You may be wondering why we are using blogging techniques rather than more traditional mechanisms? Primarily it’s because we recognise that it’s often difficult to find out the latest news and views across a broad topic area. At the moment we are testing out a range of new tools as we want to develop mechanisms for enabling ‘innovation conversations’ with a range of individuals and organisations including officers, Members, partners, private, public, third and FE sectors and the public. Blogging offers an alternative to more traditional ‘broadcast’ mode options as it is immediate, interactive and offers the capability for multiway dialogues.

We want to use emerging technologies to provide a better understanding of key topics as well as establishing a platform for comments, ideas and challenges. From using games to influence behaviours, clubbing for jobs to sharing links on managing knowledge, we feel it’s by sharing stories that we can best convey how innovation can help realise benefits, maintain tangible change and reduce risks.

In addition to sharing what we do, we also use the blog to highlight other projects, reports, conversations, ideas or articles via a free social bookmarking service (http://delicious.com/KCCInnovation). People can opt in to receive a daily digest of research findings, and they can personalise what areas are relevant to them by filtering for specific topics. To maximise participation and help users feel comfortable about using this new way of communicating we provide tips and guidelines on how to blog.

Other ideas we are currently researching and developing include better use of semantic web tools to enable greater engagement, text to speech visual presenters that may potentially save users and staff up to 40% of their time in answering standard questions by an enhanced (and hopefully intuitive) FAQ system, the impact of disruptive technologies on an organisation, opportunities within Web 3.0 and how interactive gaming tools can increase and strengthen community interactions. Clearly there is a lot happening and we welcome readers’ contributions and comments via i-News.

Picture: The Team's logo: Technology, Research and Transformation written in blue text with two arrows creating a circle around the text.

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Event: Innovating Out of the Recession
The Importance of a Pen and Paper
More information about what we are researching
Stop, Look & ListenSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Wallace, Gromit and their Cracking Ideas!

The Cracking Ideas resource was officially launched on June 4th 2007 and was designed to appeal to a new generation of innovative minds.

The resource, in itself a cracking idea – a partnership between Aardman and the Intellectual Property Office (IPO), is an educational resource developed for children aged 4 – 16 and is fronted by Aardman’s Oscar® winning characters Wallace and Gromit of enterprise, innovation and inventing fame.

Cracking Ideas consists of two main components: Firstly the Wallace and Gromit Present a World of Cracking Ideas exhibition – a new interactive and family-oriented experience - and secondly the Cracking Ideas website at www.crackingideas.com
Wallace and Gromit take the lead throughout and help the IPO spell out their messages. They help explain for example: What exactly is a Copyright? How can a Patent protect an idea? How do you tell a registered Trade Mark from a copycat version?

The exhibition’s first venue was the Science Museum, London and arrangements are currently being made for the second tour venue.

The accompanying current Cracking Ideas website compliments the exhibition and features interactive games, monthly challenges, a members’ forum for young innovators and lots of useful information presented in a fun and original way with opportunities for educators to link to the National Curriculum.

Visitors to the website and the exhibition are guided through the world of innovation to discover how simple ideas can transform into life changing products and how intellectual property impacts on every aspect of our daily lives. The IPO wants to generate a wider understanding of the need for creativity and encourages visitors to appreciate everyone has cracking ideas.

With the help of Wallace and Gromit the core concepts visitors have the opportunity to learn are:

• Everyone can innovate

• Creativity has value

• Innovators own their ideas

• Ownership should be respected

• Innovation and creativity can be linked to financial reward

• Ideas can be exploited if protected by intellectual property rights

• Innovation is exciting, being creative is fun, being enterprising is exhilarating

Visitors between the ages of 4 and 16 also have the opportunity to participate in the National Cracking Ideas competition. All they have to do is come up with Wallace and Gromit’s next business venture. Following the ‘Top Bun Bakery’ in their latest film ‘A Matter of Loaf and Death’ participants will be asked to identify Wallace and Gromit’s next successful business and identify how intellectual property can help the innovative duo protect their creativity.

Entry to the competition can be in groups or individually. It’s a great competition to have a go at with the Christmas holidays coming up - It’s good fun, educational and there’s some fantastic prizes to be won.

For more details visit www.crackingideas.com/competition or contact nicola.jenkins@ipo.gov.uk

- A special thank you to Nick Warren, Education and Enterprise Co-ordinator.

Picture: Wallace and Gromit dressed in brown coats with scrolls and a clipboard under their arms. The text on the picture reads: Ideas can be big business. Enter yours into the Cracking Ideas Competition! Time to get cracking!

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Event: Innovating out of the Recession

The next decade is likely to be one of acute fiscal austerity, in which government will inevitably have to do more for less. In these difficult times, a common approach may be to freeze new developments and put innovations onto the back shelf. However, as the Cabinet Secretary Gus O’Donnell has recently indicated, this is exactly the wrong thing to do – the fiscal pressures are too severe to be sat out using unchanged approaches, for then the pain of real service cuts will only be maximized. The challenges of achieving modern public services are too urgent to make sitting on a cutback status quo a sustainable option. Innovation from inside and outside the public sector will be critical in finding new, more cost effective solutions to existing problems.

The LSE Public Policy Group
(in conjunction with the Institute for Government) is holding a series of seminars looking at the scope for innovation across government. These seminars bring together practitioners from central and local government, academia and other sectors to explore how innovation can drive us to do more with less and be more efficient with what we have. Our speakers have included Sir Richard Mottram, Jim Easton, NHS National Director for Improvement and Efficiency at the Department of Health, Sir Michael Bichard, Irene Lucas, Director General at Communities and Local Government, and a memorable contribution from Peter Gilroy OBE, Chief Executive of Kent County Council (KCC). They have covered innovation in areas such as the Public Services and Public Sector Productivity, Local Government and in the NHS.

Peter Gilroy impressed our audience with KCC’s recent innovations and the savings that have been estimated from these. Telehealth, while initially subject to a great deal of scepticism from local health providers, has saved £1.5million on bed days alone in a year. Kent TV, which is an online showcase for Kent, has saved up to £200,000 on publications, and allows people from outside the region to take a look as what’s going on in Kent. The Kent Card is equally ambitious - it’s a new credit card agreed with RBS that has agreed, pre-loaded, amounts, and this simplifies direct payments extensively. This has already led to an estimated £2million per year in savings. Building from this is the planned ‘Gateway’ Card. It is estimated that 42 cards across the public sector are currently needed to access entitlements; the ‘Gateway’ Card will give access to library, leisure and care services, all in one.

There are many synergies and points of agreement between what Kent has already accomplished and a particular forefront model of where UK and other advanced countries are heading in terms of public management. This model has been summarized in the influential book Digital Era Governance (Oxford University Press, 2008), written by me with Helen Margetts (Oxford) and PPG colleagues. It stresses that for public managers it is now long overdue to move out from the idea of a ‘digital channel’ that supplements older modes of public service provision, and into a ‘digital world’ where increasingly citizens expect to interact (all the time, on everything) with government primarily by digital and digital-plus-other means.

What the idea of ‘digital era governance’ (or DEG) stresses are three themes that are already very clear and evidence in Kent’s extensive innovations and pioneering achievement:

- Reintegration – pulling back together services that have become grievously fragmented in the 1990s and early noughties.

- Needs-based holism – which puts the citizen or the customer first, and builds services around their needs, and not just administrative traditions or convenience. And…

- Digitalization – moving as many services as possible online, in ways that citizens can directly access and control themselves (a kind of ‘do-it-yourself-wherever–possible’ form of government.

Our forthcoming programme of seminars will continue our comprehensive look at innovation. In January, in our seminar New Strategies in Human Resources; we will look at how we can move towards a public sector with fewer but better staff, especially in the context of digitalization. Our other topics in 2010 will include Rethinking IT and shared services procurement, Innovating through Public Sector Information, Innovating out of Digital Exclusion and Innovating through Learning and Knowledge Transfer.

We’d welcome other Kent staff and citizens to these sessions, and to keep an eye on our website for further updates please go to - http://www.lse.ac.uk/collections/LSEPublicPolicy/EventsandSeminars.htm

If you would like further information please contact Chris Gilson at c.h.gilson@lse.ac.uk

To learn more about Digital era governance

- A special thank you to Patrick Dunleavy (London School of Economics) for the blog post.
Picture: A green arrow with coins on it striking the ground with a man running in front of it with a lightbulb above his head and paint brushes in his hand, with thanks to colinwhite for publishing on Flickr under the Creative Comms license.

Event: Innovating out of the RecessionSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Innovate to Save 09

Come and join us on the 17th December at Sessions Lecture Theatre (Maidstone) and see how people have used innovative tools that could save you money and time. If you wish to tweet at this event, the hashtag is #innovatetosave.


09.00-09.45 Registration & Refreshments - Networking

09.45-10.00 Introduction to the day

Alex King MBE, Deputy Leader, Kent County Council.

In a time of economic difficulties, it is important for all of us to weigh up the risks and rewards of innovating and its potential to transform. Alex will be discussing the need to invest in innovation and how it fits into the bigger picture for both Kent as well as KCC’s future.

Finding the needle in the haystack

10.00-10.20 X Factor or Why Not Factor? Turning ideas into innovations

with Dr. Alan Kennedy, Innovation Manager at NHS Innovations South East

Everyday, thousands of people have lots of great ideas. NHS Innovations South East (NISE) provides a service to NHS staff in the region to help them convert their ideas into reality (you could say like Dragon’s Den). Alan Kennedy will be sharing the secrets of NHS success and how this approach can be adopted more widely.

10.20-10.45 Aggravation or Collaboration? Developing innovations between agencies

with Damien Kennedy, PM for the Key Innovation Programme, the National Pan Government Knowledge and Procurement System.

You may have an idea or a problem you need to solve in your area of work. Have you considered if other councils and public sector agencies are doing something similar? But supposing if someone else had already done all the hard work and solved it or had tried and failed? How could you find this vital information? Damien Kennedy will discuss how ‘The Key’ will pilot ways for the public sector to share and develop ideas, from showcasing to procuring the solution you're looking for.

10.45-11.30 50:50 or Call a Friend? A problem shared is a problem solved

with Tim Milner, Knowledge Manager at IDeA Knowledge Team

Collectively councils have the information and skills to support ongoing improvements across the local government sector. Knowledge management helps staff tap into this resource and gives them the tools to improve the way they capture, share and use the knowledge. It also reveals what works and helps people build on experience to ensure better practices and policies are established. Tim Milner will be discussing specific techniques and the process of adopting these within daily working life.

11.30-11.45 Break

11.45-12.15 Empowered communities fighting decay? The unlikely role of the web in regenerating local areas.

with Will Perrin, Founder of Talk About Local and former technology policy advisor to the Prime Minister.

‘Talk About Local’ is a project to give people a powerful online voice. The team behind the project want to help individuals communicate and campaign more effectively to influence events in the places in which they live, work or play. William Perrin, the founder of Talk About Local will be giving a presentation on how it is working to get these voices heard.

12.15-12.45 Social Media for improved internal communications

with Hollie Snelson, Internal Communications Manager at Kent Communications & Media Centre

Spotted an interesting team you would like to learn more about but don’t want to leave the comfort of your office? Got a question and don't know who to contact or want to shout out about what you are working on? Have no fear as Hollie is here to discuss how you could be using Yammer like 400 other KCC workers to break down the directorate barriers and share knowledge. She will also highlight some other tools which could further improve internal communication in the future.

12.45-13.00 Break & Mince Pies!

The best things in life are free

13.00-13.15 Here comes everybody? Using technological innovation in a recession

with Noel Hatch, Projects & Research Lead

Transformation in society doesn’t happen when it adopts new tools. It happens when it adopts new behaviours. Thanks to digital technologies more people are creating content, sharing resources, and collaborating online in ways that weren’t possible before. Maybe it's time to look at different ways we can use digital technologies to mobilise untapped resources, like people's creativity, energy and innovation.

13.15–13.45 Do you get the picture? Simplifying complex information.

with Andy Collett, IBM.

‘Many Eyes’ is a web site where people can create and upload their data in a variety of ways. It allows users to undertake online conversations about their information. Andy Collett will demonstrate how to navigate around the free online programme, and the many different settings that can be applied within it.

13.45–14.15 The power of social networks: Social Network Analysis and Collaborative Software.

with Dr. Norman Lewis, Open-Knowledge UK.

Social Network Analysis (SNA) identifies the threads of influence and trust that flow through and between social networks and communities and the individuals that hold pivotal positions within these networks – from spreading information to influencing decisions that their peers make. Dr. Norman Lewis will discuss how this approach has been used in other organisations.

14.15-15.00 The "Why Don't You" Web? Using online tools to help each other in the real world

with Dougald Hine, Co-Founder and Director of School of Everything and Signpostr

Until recently the internet was largely about replacing real world activities with virtual ones: why go out to the shops, the bank or the library when you can do it from your desktop? Increasingly, however, people are using online tools to organise face-to-face interactions. Drawing on his experience as co-founder of School of Everything and Signpostr, Dougald Hine will talk about how we can use the web to help people help each other in the real world.

15.00-15.30 Wind down – Time for informal Q&A with presenters, networking, a mince pie and the raffle draw.


At the time of going to press this programme was deemed correct, however, alterations may occur due to unforeseen circumstances. Please also note that the views expressed by the speakers and featured in their presentations are not necessarily those held by Kent County Council.


Thursday, December 17, 2009 from 9:30 AM - 3:30 PM (PT)

Add to my calendar Add to my calendar
County Hall
Lecture Theatre (Sessions House)
County Road
Maidstone, ME14 1XQ
United Kingdom

Via Michelin | Google


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Changing YOUR Recycling Behaviour

The Technology, Research and Transformation Team are currently working with a University of Greenwich gaming student on his final year project which he wishes to share with you in the following post:

'Hi, my name is Kel Ezekwe and I am a final year student studying Games and Multimedia Technologies at Greenwich University. For my final year project I am looking to design and build a game that promotes recycling and informs the player of the benefits it brings to both the environment and the earth’s resources. Kent County Council are interested in my project and will liaise with me throughout to see if they themselves might be able to use it at the end of its development.

Presently games that promote the use of recycling are very basic, using 2D graphics and are mostly aimed at kids, this product will attempt to be a bit more complex in terms of using 3D graphics to hopefully give the game a wider appeal to adults yet still being attractive to children. This game I will develop will be an easy game to play as it will be aimed for everyone, with no specific target group directed for it.

Even though the game will be basic it will not be played through a story book format as it would give off the impression of it being more a kid’s game instead of a game aimed at both adults and kids.

The Source game engine (from Half Life 2) will be used for this game as it is an engine I know quite well, plus it is very good when it comes to dealing with character interaction which I am hoping feature in this game at some point.

Finally my project should be finished sometime in February latest to allow testing and final additions to the game.'

- A special thank you to Kel Ezekwe for the blog post.

Picture: A black recycling box for bottles and cans on a lawn surrounded by crushed multicoloured cans, with thanks to Kingdesmond1337 for publishing on Flickr under a Creative Commons license some rights reserved.

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Knowledge Management: The Importance of Pen and Paper

Tim Milner will be speaking at our 'Innovate To Save' event on the 17th December. To view the agenda and sign up, please visit our Eventbrite page. He has kindly written a blog post about his view of Knowledge Management...

This may well be the most luddite post on Kent's innovation pages, but I would like to highlight the importance of a piece of paper.

Networks have always been an important part of working life, whether you're a milkman or the Prime Minister - our netorks are essentially the map of our working life so far: our contacts, our projects, events we've attended...

These networks have arguably become even more important now, where a lot of the work we are all doing is with people we've never even met, nor are likely to ever meet. Whether it's someone you only know online, or someone you see once a month over a fuzzy conferencing screen, or hear over the phone - these are important contacts, and the future of a lot of the work you will do in your life.

My work as a member of the IDeA KM Strategy team involves helping teams join up and communicate better with each other; retain and disseminate their knowledge; and work to understand and realise the potential of networking. That includes finding ways that staff can solve problems online. The results of this have been the development of the communities of practice platform, and an online Peer Assist tool, as well as the use of applications such as Yammer. It is important to realise that all of this work is intrinsically and unavoidably linked to having an awareness of the myriad relationships we are all involved in. And the only way to keep up with these is to start work immediately on creating a relationship map!

Relationship mapping provides an overview of the relationships a knowledge holder (you) has with key contacts in the organisation. It's a perfectly simple thing to start, and the more you tend to it on a contact-by-contact basis, the less time it takes to maintain. Like an oak tree growing out of an acorn (main tip is: make sure that piece of paper is big!), it starts with your name in the centre, and branches out from there - the key comes in the way you define these relationships: direction of contact, frequency of contact, difficult relationships, internal and external, and, potentially most revealing of all, where the links lie between different contacts - that's not how you relate to contact A and B, but how contact A relates to contact B. This process feeds into many of our different knowledge management tools, including playing an essential role in our knowledge retention tool.

There are many ways to keep track of these relationships - lots of fancy software and complicated mapping techniques, and, of course, online social networks help do this for you - but where your relationships are spread across different networks - online and offline - I favour simply picking up a pen and a piece of paper. An old fashioned, but extremely fruitful and accessible way to track your contacts and projects across your working life.

- A special thank you to Tim Milner, Knowledge Manager of the IDeA Knowledge Team.

Picture: A relationship map, similar to a spider diagram, showing how one person is connected to another on a large sheet of paper.

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Having trouble finding a video?

Video is the most popular media format and with all the footage available it becomes increasingly difficult to find an efficient way to search through it.

vidipedia started life as a DTI sponsored Research & Development project investigating human indexing of video archives. enigma was appointed project lead and worked with project partners; ITV, Imperial War Museum, British Film Institute, Codeworks Connect, C.C. Harvey and the Universities of Newcastle and Sunderland, to find a way to improve video content searching.
The amount of footage viewed and produced is dramatically rising; viewing figures continue to increase, more viewing platforms become available and production costs shrink. According to Nielsen, the average American now spends 5 hours watching TV/DVR footage per day, the UK is fast approaching this. If you add online video content to this, the popularity of video is undeniable. Approximately 20 hours of video footage is currently uploaded to YouTube every minute. When you take into account archive collections and out-take footage, that’s a lot of video content!

Much of this content has real value, whether it is of cultural importance, expensive to replicate or irreplaceable coverage of one-off events. Hundreds of thousands of hours of unique archive footage held on original film and tape is slowly degrading, to be lost forever if it is not digitised. The problem is that no-one can find an economic case to digitise it. We investigated whether we could unlock the value held in all of this video by making it more searchable.

Current video search systems can be quite crude. Essentially, video searching mirrors image archive search techniques; each video is associated with some human entered text data, which is then searched upon. A fundamental issue with this is that video varies in length, from short clips to entire reels, and classifying using a universal set of data doesn’t provide enough detail necessary to deem searching useful for uncovering value within lengthy or mixed content footage.

We needed to produce a system which supported indexing to a highly detailed level; down to the scene or even frame. It also needed to prove cost effective to footage owners.

We developed vidipedia as a unique suite of software which combines to deliver all the processes required to upload, annotate, manage, distribute and deliver video material in a form that is much more searchable.

Video is stored centrally; multiple archives can store footage on a centralised system. Core functionality is delivered via secure web-services and interfacing with remotely hosted web applications. Complex data can be stored about specific time segments (clips) in footage. Footage can be annotated by users to provide indexed data on; personal experience, feelings, sounds, emotions, visual – with the added bonus that in the future, this could be used to produce “living histories” for archives. Users can search on this data to find specific clips within any footage.
Keeping human annotation at the heart of the process allowed us to obtain good quality data. We implemented systems that would follow the model of Wikipedia; supporting altruistic annotation, as well as revenue sharing for commercial services; users annotate the material in return for a share of future viewing or licensing royalties.

Main Benefits:

• significantly improves quality of video search results
• data tagging /aggregation to scene and frame level
• removes up-front costs of annotating video
• provides economic case for digitising archive video
• makes video FINDABLE
• makes video VALUABLE

A wide variety of different video based applications can benefit from the improved searchability that vidipedia offers; video search engines, public access portals, asset management systems, online broadcast platforms. To effectively service all application types, vidipedia is not a single "product".

We developed a system that is a whole series of flexible software components that can be configured to support specific needs of different video based applications. It's best to think of vidipedia as an "enabler." Its power is in its flexibility, therefore the opportunities to commercialise it are great and varied.

Our plans for the future are to find an application for vidipedia that would greatly benefit from the way it makes digitised video findable and therefore unlocks its value.

The model provides an extremely adaptable and non-prescriptive solution and enables vidipedia to service any application that can benefit from its video handling capabilities. We look forward to developing it with someone to suit their needs and to unlock the potential of vidipedia.

- A special thank you to Zoe Hartill for the blog pose. For more details please e-mail her at zoeh@enigma-interactive.co.uk, or visit their website: www.enigma-interactive.co.uk and view their portfolio.

Picture: A screenshot of 'Vidipedia'. A video is being shown at the top with links to other videos below.

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Getting young people 'skilled up'

Within Kent County Council, we have a staff group representing younger employees called ‘Greenhouse’. Greenhouse aims to be proactive in empowering younger members of staff to fulfil their potential by encouraging them to take part in projects outside of their normal day jobs. Being a younger employee of KCC myself, I am a Greenhouse member and currently helping to start up a new project called ‘Skill Sharing’ which I wish to share with you all.

‘Buddying’ and ‘mentoring’ are two recognised resources for staff within KCC. However, these schemes are rather formal and limited in their scope and it was thought that younger members of staff have specific needs that could be better met through mutual support networks. Initially it was suggested that this could be achieved through more experienced members of staff offering support and advice to newer staff members, however following a recent meeting the idea of a more informal network could fulfil a number of different outcomes was born.

The ‘Skill Sharing Project’ will be similar to an online matchmaking service. Members of all ages will advertise the work-related skills they can share and wish to learn on the Communities of Practise website. They will then, after seeking approval from a line manager, arrange a time and date in which to do so. For example, a researcher may wish to learn how to speak in public to communicate ideas more effectively, and a public speaker may wish to learn about new methods and tools of research to construct presentations efficiently.

We are hoping that this project will not only allow members of Greenhouse to learn new skills, but also create more social interaction and a greater interest in what Greenhouse has to offer. Perhaps one day the scheme will be adopted nationally (we have ambitious dreams!), but for now we are working on testing out the project ourselves and building case studies to generate interest.

If you would like further information about the project, are conducting a similar project or would like to get involved, please contact Kirsty Russell at kirstyjoannarussell@kent.gov.uk.

If you would like more information about Greenhouse please visit here (for KCC staff).

Picture: The Greenhouse logo, a green outline of a house with two figures in the middle with the words 'Greenhouse, helping younger staff grow' beneath.

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Your monthly dose of KYCC

The KYCC (Kent Youth County Council) are pushing the boudaries of what young people as a group can achieve, are getting involved with numerous innovative projects and are creating imaginative and intelligent solutions to problems across the county. This is the November update on what the KYCC have been up to, keep your eyes peeled for more updates in the upcoming months!

October proved to be a busy month for the Kent Youth County Council as they travelled to Germany, sat in the House of Commons and were consulted on the Kent County Council’s budget.

Flemish Youth Council meeting

Tessa and Libby travelled to Brussels on the 15 October to attend a conference promoting “Financial literacy as a condition to bolster the future of the youth”

Members of the Flemish Youth Council were also there and everyone was invited to take part in the workshops in both the morning and afternoon that explored different themes that are helpful for young people with money.

In the afternoon, Libby and Tessa took part in discussions about their experiences with finance and the impact of the current financial crisis with 3 different groups.

It is hoped that this meeting will be the start of closer links with the Flemish Youth Council and have more opportunities for meeting up.

Kent Youth Council Budget Planning Meeting

On 27 October, KYCC met with the Financial Strategy team to discuss how they think Kent County Council should spend its money. Ideas included cuts to investment in education and waste disposal and highways but greater investment in children's social services, adult social services and communities. Their views will be included in a report that will be sent to the Kent County Council Cabinet.

4Way Exchange: Germany

10 KYCC members travelled to Mözen, in Germany, to meet and work with young people from Estonia, Finland, Poland and the host nation. They got to know each other quickly and spent the week discussing how to encourage greater youth participation amongst young people and adults.

Each night provided an opportunity to experience the culture of each country in the ‘national evenings’ as the young people sought to break down stereotypes and learn more about each other’s background.

There were also visits to local schools and Councils in nearby towns where they discussed the role of young people with Head Teachers, Mayors and politicians.

UKYP in the House of Commons

Friday 30th October saw history being made as young people from across the United Kingdom sit on the green benches of the House of Commons and debate issues that affect the country’s youth. 7 Kent members were there with Ariba Karim (KYCC member for Ashford) closing the debate on the abolition of University tuition fees. The four other topics that were discussed were:

• Lowering the voting age to 16
• Youth crime and how to tackle it
• Public transport for young people
• Jobs for young people and the economy

Full coverage of the debate can be accessed here.

- A special thank you to Marc Burrett for the blog post.
Picture: KYCC in the House of Commons.

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Let’s face the music and…?

It’s that time of year in TV world – everyone is singing or dancing. For many, it brings welcome respite from the tough times we are in, especially with the knowledge that 2010 will bring more of the same.

Next year the mantra will remain: ‘Do more, with less’. For the world around local government however, the expectation will be for ideas and solutions to keep flowing.

These pressures mean that local government must become more fleet-footed in addressing innovation and change. It calls for being nimble; for nurturing a deeper awareness of the world around; and for becoming experts at connecting challenges, solutions and resource as ‘inspiring enablers’ rather than owners and makers of change. When we crack this, it feels like the organisation is dancing: fluid, open and light.

This may sound woolly, but it is what a truly advanced ‘learning organisation’ is all about. This about creating loops of information, knowledge and ideas that lead to possibility and development without things getting heavy. The challenge for local government is to find space in which to do this against a pressure to batten down hatches. How to make this practical then? Here are some starters for ten on ‘lighter’ innovation:

1. Find your ‘free space’ - places away from formal, tangible work. Free space may take many forms – coffee breaks, short walks, away days, conferences. One example: Quakers using silence in meetings to let new thoughts emerge. At another level, we help people with playful workshops, simulations, even festivals as forms of free space. The key thing here is a common understanding that in this space it is ok to think freely; to play; to ‘rehearse’.

2. Be clear about your reasons for innovation, then, create tangible visions of the future – accessible and meaningful to all. These may be visual reports, models, prototypes and so on. The best visions illustrate the outcomes of innovation. They build a common understanding, they inspire people and they concentrate effort towards a greater goal.

3. Explore dialogue and collaboration techniques to help connect and empower people and ideas. Consider world café and ‘open space’ as ways of getting groups talking. Consider ‘unconferencing’ – conferences flipped on their head so many people can talk to many others. From here, collective wisdom can bloom.

4. Remember the power of networks and partnership. Find win-wins and ‘serendipitous’ possibilities with people that have common goals. Social enterprise is a fascinating place to start here. Think of corporate partners or other local authorities. Better still, communities you work with.

These aspects of working all support purposeful dialogue, learning and sharing – and innovation that is greater than the sum of its parts. This way of working will become more important as the role of councils shift from agents of change to brokers of change. And more, when we get this right it will feel more engaging, more meaningful and more fun. So take it away – let’s face the music, and…

- A special thank you to Andres Roberts, who is the founder of Eudemonic, an agency for collaborative learning and innovation. www.eudemonic.co.uk

Picture: A page of musical notes with thanks to JadeXJustice for publishing on Flickr under a Creative Commons license some rights reserved.

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A pot of gold at the end of the unemployed rainbow

Citizens Information in Ireland is similar to the Citizens Advice Bureau in the UK. We advise people on their rights and entitlements in areas such as social security, health, consumer issues and finance. We operate a website, a phoneline and a network of drop-in centres.

In the last 18 months unemployment in Ireland has risen sharply and our phoneline and centres have become extremely busy with queries on redundancy and social security. Our website, http://www.losingyourjob.ie aims to answer many of these queries by providing integrated information on how to access public services. It is aimed at people who are newly unemployed or who are working on reduced hours or pay.

Available since March 2009, losingyourjob.ie was produced in a six-week period using open source technology. The website covers cross-sectoral information areas such as claiming social security benefits, requesting a tax refund, getting help with rent or mortgage payments, going back to education, looking for a new job and starting a business. It also provides information for migrant workers returning to EU or non-EU countries and for Irish citizens looking to relocate inside and outside the European Union.

is a “microsite” and is based on content from the Citizens Information Board’s eGovernment portal, citizensinformation.ie. Like Kent TV, we are very pleased that losingyourjob.ie has been shortlisted for a European eGovernment award.

- A special thank you to Graham Long, Citizens Information. If you would like more information on the project, please contact:

Picture: A shirt with a label reading 'unemployed' instead of a name tag, with thanks to inoneear for publishing on Flickr under a Creative Commons license some rights reserved.

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The Year is 2020: The Future Agenda Programme

Companies are looking further out than they used to. The recession has questioned many of the assumptions by which organisations operate, has prompted people to consider alternative pathways and, most significantly, has challenged major firms to take a more informed view of the future.

Now while the likes of Shell, IBM, Nokia and P&G have long-standing futures programmes that have served them well over the years, as the rate of change in many areas accelerates; as the drivers of change such as China, population growth and water scarcity become more tangible; and as other companies start to look further and wider for potential growth platforms, the approaches are changing. While Shell’s scenarios and Technology Futures programmes and IBM’s Global Innovation Outlook have sought to bring together and consult with expert groups, Nokia’s Wild Cards programme has been analysing uncertainties that could have impact going forward.

Interestingly Vodafone, the world’s largest communications company, is taking a new approach. As an organisation whose products and services are used in an increasingly diverse range of applications from micro-payments in Africa to machine to machine communication for cars and remote meters in Europe, Vodafone is keen to explore and understand how the wider world will probably change over the next year, but to do so using the new communication platforms that many of use now take for granted. Vodafone wants to listen to what experts think, but to do so in a way that encourages global debate and, most significantly in an era of open innovation, share all the insights for everyone to use.

So, what are they doing? Well, they are sponsoring a unique global debate called futureagenda.org. This has just kicked off and is looking at the 16 of the biggest challenges the world faces over the next decade– the future of authenticity, choice, cities, connectivity, currency, data, energy, food, health, identity, migration, money, transport, waste, water and work! The Future Agenda programme aims to unite the best minds from around the globe to address these issues. In doing so, it is mapping out the major issues, identifying and debating potential solutions and suggesting the best ways forward. As a consequence, it aims to provide a platform for collective innovation at a higher level than has been previously been achieved. A big remit and bold ambition!

Starting with the expert views from some of the world’s leading academics, business thinkers, economists and senior people from the likes of Google, Shell, General Mills and the BBC, everyone is now being invited to add their thoughts and comments into the mix. Whether you agree with the views or have alternative perspectives, anyone can join in this programme, which open for comment until the end of the year. The questions being addressed are big ones – what are the major global challenges we face? What is certain and uncertain? Which way should we go? What are the impacts and implications? For each topic, bringing together expert views as well as engaging the wider public at the same time is a unique approach and one which many other organisations are keen to participate in.

What I see as interesting about this can be summarised as three things – openness, connectivity and focus:

No other futures programme has invited so many people to participate in an open debate and given all participants free access to use all the information from the discussions as they wish: Other companies have filtered out the noise and shared summaries – this programme is flipping conventional approaches on their head.

As 1 billion of us now have mobile access and many more use the internet as a core platform for information sharing, this is also another step forward as blogging enters the mainstream. For CEOs and professors to join students and the wider community in such a big experiment is a sign that blogs are maybe no longer a niche communication platform.

Lastly, by making the focus the ten year view, the Future Agenda programme is pushing people’s thinking beyond the usual horizon. While many of us find it easy to make comments on the here and now, and even postulate on short term trends, most are not used to thinking out to 2020, never-mind trying to address such major global challenges. However, at a time when many of the topics being addressed are increasingly present in the mainstream media, probably the timing is spot on?

Already there are some high impact insights on the futureagenda.org site – ranging from an incredible open view of the energy challenge that questions our short term ability to really change, through to a perspective on the future of food that advocates a second green revolution. On top of this, experts have suggested that the future is about less variety not more; that by 2020 the dollar will have been joined by the Asian Currency Unit as a global reserve currency; and that digital money transfer via mobiles will become the dominant means of exchange in the next decade.

In the New Year, Vodafone and many other organisations participating in the programme will be taking all the insights and filtering them to see what new connections and opportunities are likely to arise. They will be looking to seed new areas for cross-platform innovation and better understand their priorities going forward.

As a unique and admittedly ambitious approach, the Future Agenda programme is already causing a stir and attracting many companies to get involved. As a mechanism for organisations to collectively share views and build more collaborative paths forward to tackle the big global challenges, it will be well worth watching and even taking part?

- A special thank you to Tim Jones, Programme Director for the Future Agenda. If you would like more information about Future Agenda please visit www.futureagenda.org or contact Tim at tim.jones@futureagenda.org

Picture: A man hitchhiking a ride with a yellow sign in his hands that reads 'future'. with thanks to Vermin_Inc for publishing on Flickr under a Creative Commons license some rights reserved.

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Local 2.0 - Councils getting hyperlocal

For a while now, we at the Young Foundation have been interested in how councils can use hyper-local media to strengthen dialogue and collaboration at the local level. We have a bit of experience in the hyper-local & Web 2.0 field, having been involved with fixmystreet, Social Innovation Camp, a now defunct neighbourhood’s wiki and the excellent, newly launched, Maslaha.

This summer we were given money from DCLG’s Empowerment Fund to see how local authorities could practically use hyper-local media. A few months ago we sent out a proposal councils across England - asking for them to partner with us on a new project called Local 2.0. Quite surprisingly, nearly 40 councils sent submissions to us (we even had an enquiry from a local authority in Australia; they weren’t willing to pay travel expenses…). We ended up choosing three councils to work with: Kirklees, Kensington and Chelsea, and Kings Lynn and West Norfolk.

They are all different both in characteristics and what they want from Local 2.0. Kirklees are keen to develop shared spaces where online services, public sector information and community content are combined around hyper‐local needs and interests. Kensington and Chelsea want to develop local networks that can help residents connect and collaborate, and in Kings Lynn we will be seeing how hyper-local media can compliment the work of their neighbourhood management service.

We’re still at the beginning of the project and there will undoubtedly be lots of lessons which will be useful to others out there and I am sure we will learn lots from other work being done others. Our main method of communication will be through our blog, so please look in for regular updates.

- A special thank you to Mandeep Hothi, Associate in the Local Innovation Team at the Young Foundation for this guest post.

Picture: 'Local 2.0' written inside a street sign placed on a brick wall.

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Can Twitter Increase Your Sales?

If your business sells to consumers, then how can you make use of social networking websites to help promote your business? This guide gives practical examples of how to use a business profile to help build more sales.

Social networking has been one of the fastest growing sectors of the internet in recent years. These free to use community sites help consumers stay in touch with their friends, and are surprisingly addictive. The original first generation of social networking sites are now huge, and newer niche social networking sites for different audiences, interests and even geographic regions are now starting to emerge.

But many business owners still haven’t got to grips with how to use this powerful new audience to promote their business.

Most consumer-facing social networking sites allow you to create a profile page for your business; some are free and others will make a small charge. Your profile will usually include photos, a brief description, and contact details for your business. Some sites even let you set up a regular feed of news from your website, add message boards for users to comment on, upload videos about your business and send messages to your followers.

Once your profile is set up, other users can choose to become followers or friends of your business, either by finding you in search results, or virally by word of mouth. You can also promote your social networking profiles with a badge on your main website.

Once you’ve got a social networking profile, you can start to make use of this powerful new marketing tool, in a number of different ways:

Find new customers for your business:

Social networking can help you spread the word about your business. Social networking works by letting users share what they are up to with their friends, and because they are friends it is likely they’ll be interested in the same things as well. So when a social networking user becomes a fan or follower of your business, all their friends will find out about it as well, and this type of viral marketing is probably one of the most cost effective forms of marketing there is.

Communicate easily with customers or followers:

Most social networking sites allow you to contact users who’ve chosen to follow you. This can be a quick and cost effective way to stay in touch with people, and also avoids your emails being caught by spam filters as messages are broadcast within the social networking site. Of course you shouldn’t abuse this facility be messaging people every day, and so messages are best saved for genuine news and offers.

Promote your latest special offers or deals:

Social networking sites are a great environment in which to promote special offers or deals. Because social networking sites operate a ‘closed community’ you can send out better offers than normal which cant be seen by the rest of the world. This also makes it easier to track responses. And because social networking users are usually highly active, sending an offer to your group of followers can be a quick and easy way to drum up extra sales.

Carry out market research and get feedback:

Your own group of social networking fans and followers also gives you a ready made source of valuable research and feedback. If you’re planning to launch a new product you can see what your group thinks first, or you could just ask them what your business should be doing to improve. You’ll get surprisingly constructive and honest feedback from your followers, and they’ll be delighted to have been asked.

Publicise business events and occasions:

If your business is holding an event or a special occasion, social networking can help you publicise it in advance. This could range from a one day sale in a shop to a live event or gig in a pub or bar, or a special dining evening in a restaurant. Many people use social networking sites to organise their social lives anyway, so it’s a really relevant place to promote an event to your followers with a message or update on your page.

Give your business a web presence without a website:

If you don’t have a website for your business, you could even use social networking sites to establish a web presence instead. Most social networking sites make your business profile page visible to all web users and search engines, not just their own members. And there are plenty of social networking websites around to reach a surprisingly wide audience for little effort or cost.

Create and build groups or campaigns:

Social networking sites can help you mobilize and attract support for an issue or campaign which directly affects your business. For example, if you are campaigning to have the high street pedestrianised, or support local producers, start building a groundswell of support online on a social networking site. Word can spread virally and before you know it you could mobilise significant support.

Help your existing website perform better in search engine results:

Most social networking websites allow you to create a profile page, which can usually include a hyperlink back to your own website. Leave your profile page visible to the rest of world in your account settings, and it will soon be found by Google and other search engines, which will see the link as another vote of popularity for your site.

A special thank you to Peter Parsons of http://www.kent.co.uk the new local social networking website for business and consumer web users in Kent.


Picture: An overview of social media tools and services, including blogger, twitter and youtube. With thanks to FredCavazza for publishing on Flickr under a Creative Commons license some rights reserved.

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Event: Chain Reaction 2009

In July 2007, the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, announced “we will support the development of an annual global forum on social leadership which will meet each year to inspire debate, forge links between activists and stimulate the pursuit of social change”.

East London community organisation Community Links established this forum – now known as Chain Reaction. At the core of Chain Reaction is a simple idea: that we all have the power of our own actions, but that none of us on our own can create social change, not governments, not local authorities, not business, not communities. However, together we have the power to change the world – literally creating a chain reaction.

Chain Reaction was founded on the belief that social leadership exists everywhere, is explicitly cross sector, is enthusiastically collaborative, and is driven by a set of shared values. Chain Reaction is a process and an ongoing network of individuals and organisations, but its impact is most evident when brought to life at events. The first Chain Reaction brought together over 1,000 people from 17 countries for a two day event in November 2008 where people were enabled to “connect, collaborate and commit to action for social change”. Crucially the event had a focus on young people; over a quarter of people attending were under 21, representing emerging social leaders.

An innovative and interactive programme includes inspirational keynote speakers, high level debates, practitioner conversations and practical workshops. Alongside the programmed sessions participants were encouraged and supported to self-organise meetings in the open space. Participants were offered a process that supported them to connect to the people they wanted to meet, collaborate to develop their ideas and commit to taking action together.

At the second Chain Reaction event on 12th November 2009 the same mix of government ministers, social activists, and businesses will reconvene, this time in the UK’s financial centre – Canary Wharf – to explore how the changed circumstances of recession offer opportunities to build stronger communities alongside stronger economies. Chain Reaction 2009 will focus on several key themes:
  • New ideas for financing social change
  • New ideas for delivering public services
  • New ideas for engaging communities
  • New ideas for organising ourselves.
The use of online communications is an important element of Chain Reaction. Our Ning Network enables people attending to connect before the event and set up meetings in the open space, and continue discussions after the event. Twitter is used to keep people in touch with activities and generate discussions with tweets relayed on big screens inside the venue as well as online. Last year the innovative Videoboo system allowed participants at the event to post video comments directly to the Chain Reaction YouTube Channel. A group of young people made a short film during the event reporting on Chain Reaction which was edited to be shown at the end of the day, which can be found here. We are repeating this again in 2009 with the support of the Big V bus.

In 2008 we reacted to a crisis. Now is our chance to move on, making new ideas for social change a reality. These ideas must involve government, local authorities, business, charity and ordinary people, working together collaboratively for a better future.

Why not join us at Canary Wharf on Nov 12th and start a Chain Reaction?

- Guest Post by Richard McKeever, linksUK Communications Manager.
For information please visit www.chain-reaction.org.

(Top) The Chain Reaction Logo
(Bottom 1) Participants is a self-organised meeting in the open space at Chain Reaction 2008.
(Bottom 2) The entrance hall of Chain Reaction 2008 showing numerous tables, a giant chandelier hanging from the ceiling and at the front, a stage with a screen showered in a light purple light, with thanks to chainreaction2008 on Flickr for giving us permission to access and use their images.

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