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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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So, you think you can't innovate?

'Lenham Parish Council wanted to update the way in which Transport and Highway issues were recorded and shared with other committee members and other groups. It was felt that the old spreadsheet system was difficult to monitor as members were never sure if it was the most up-to-date copy available.

Therefore a solution was sort so that everybody only ever had one copy and it was always up-to-date. This was achieved by the use of Google docs, a free internet service where you can upload a spreadsheet which is then available to view or amend 24/7 online. You can then protect this by means of a secure password so that only the selected users can work with the document. Another option is to invite viewers to see the document and, as this suggests, they can only view the document and not alter it in any way. The Parish Council linked this free service with a Google mail account, so that all correspondence was in one central location.

So now we are now always up to date, and have more time to devote to the job in hand rather than constantly sending emails out with new file updates. We can share the workload as and when required, which we believe gives the community a better service without any extra costs.'

There you have it, parish councils and county councils alike can use a little bit of initiative and innovation to solve problems and make working life easier and more efficient. Please bear in mind though that not all council teams and departments have the resources to carry out such a large-scale project as the one illustrated above and the process is often long and time consuming, but a little thinking outside the box and an enthusiasm for improvement may prove to be fruitful.

- A special thank you to Lee Davison of Lenham Parish Council for the post, if you would like more information you can contact him at leetonidavison at hotmail dot com.

Picture: The title 'Google Docs' with related words such as 'collaboration', 'free forms' and 'documents' in a smaller font beneath, with thanks to Nedral for publishing under a Creative Comms license some rights reserved.

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