Monday, 12 October 2009

It's conference season

I started this week with paperwork...which is not usually my favourite pastime! However, I was sorting out the details for the appointment of our new Head of Membership, Ellen Jessett, and working through CVs of applicants for another new role, Head of Business Relationships and Commercial Development. I am excited about the quality of the people who want to work with Socitm. It is a really positive sign that people hold our organisation in such high regard and want to invest in our future.


I met with Liz Azyan early evening (@Liz_Azyan if you are a twitterer) to discuss how Socitm can best use social media at socitm09 (#socitm09). We will be sending live streams from our key sessions which can be followed on our stream (@socitm) as well as Liz's own and a site constructed specifically for conference output (http://www.socitm09.net/).

There may be a lot of hype around about the benefits or potential benefits of social media but I am fully persuaded that the concept is 'going places' and that we will continue to explore how best to use it to the benefit of our members.

On Tuesday morning, quite appropriately in the light of the previous comments, I attended a breakfast briefing at the Law Society at which a speaker from SIFT (http://www.sift.com/ ) outlined a range of ways in which social media could be, and has been, used to help membership organisations in their development. I was introduced to the wonders of 'twello','twilert','twtvite'and 'cover it live' - google them!

This meeting overran so I had to leave slightly early, and then arrive only slightly late, at the Insight steering group. There was the usual, but important, discussion concerning financial performance which is progressing according to budget, but we were particularly animated about the new concept of 'Tomorrow's public service organisation' and the Consulting strand of this 'The Council of the Future'. There was general agreement that this is the hook on which Socitm will hang its activities for the next 24 - 36 months.

Wednesday morning started with a conference call to Australia at 7.00 am. We are in discussions with a number of contacts in Australia, particularly an organisation called 'Know and Then'  (http://www.knowandthen.com/). There is the potential to advise on the development of a 'Socitm equivalent' down under and some really exciting international activites over the next 12 - 18 months which are being spearheaded by CLGF (Commonwealth Local Government Forum : http://www.clgf.org.uk/ )

Then it was on a train to Stratford upon Avon for the CCiTDG Conference (Charity Consortium IT Directors Group) with whom we have a growing relationship through our third sector community. Like local government the current financial situation demands the attention of the third sector, but unlike local government they have no legislative right to funds which makes their whole financial structure and budgeting regime so much more precarious yet they still have very significant IT infrastructure to maintain. It came as quite a surprise to me to learn that this sector often has a requirement for the innovative and effective application of technology that far outstrips anything we experience in government circles.

The theme for the conference was 'Making a difference in interesting times' although it rapidly became clear that a strong emerging sub theme was 'collaborate or perish'. I have created #ccitdg on twitter where you can see some of the 'nuggets'.

Oddly enough many of the charities present, larger and smaller, identified some key internal issues that they have to deal with as IT staff and departments: too few resources, too little budget, too little status....some of you may recognize that.

There were some interesting points about IT project implementation and it was stated by Edward Granger-Happ of Save the Children that restricting yourself to only building from the bottom up (although politically correct) will make it difficult if not impossible to acheive your objectives in the timescales. It was compared to building a suspension bridge by only starting from one side of the river....it just isn't going to happen.It should not have come as much of a surprise to know that charites face very similar issues to local government in the whole area of IT and 'service delivery'but what was a surprise was the scale of some of the IT infrastructure and the innovative nature of solutions, often on a global scale.

And finally..it's off to Edinburgh on Saturday for Socitm09..hope to see you there. Remember,if you are not going you can follow on twitter (http://twitter.com/socitm ) and #socitm09 or the website http://www.socitm09.net/.

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