The communities of practice set up under the auspices of Local Government Improvement and Development (Idea.gov.uk) and the USA equivalent Govloop have become vibrant and dynamic platforms for discussion and sharing best practice. The notion that an isolated local government officer can now tap into the combined experience of thousands of colleagues has the potential to improve business practice so long as the institutions themselves embrace the challenge of change in culture this represents (see Meeting in the Middle) . So now we have precedent for the application of crowdsourcing in the realm of local governance.
Meanwhile in the 3rd sector there is another community less concerned with the teeth grinding and intense navel gazing of local government transformation because they are still struggling with a curve ball called Big Society. The question they are asking is ‘Where is the leadership?’ . The concept may have come from central government but, like the cuts in levels of funding, you can be certain that local government will be expected to deal with the fall out. It’s easy to be cynical about the Big Society but given another name like localism, it’s pretty much the direction of travel we need to go in anyway. So I wonder whether expanding the CoP principle to hyperlocal and cross-community collaboration online is perhaps a quick win while we’re waiting for clear direction from Westminster.
That way, even if it never materialises, we have a functioning model of shared solutions that can grow organically and is sustainable. It doesn’t immediately answer the question of who delivers a given service or solution but aren’t we more likely to answer that question as a public sector community than as a local authority in isolation?