The power of suggestion (via Twitter) led to @liz_azyan and I hosting a session at LocalGovCamp on academic research for local government.
I may have been carried away in the moment when I agreed to do this but I think there were some useful points at the session. I didn’t make any notes so this is all from memory – if anyone who attended to session wants to jump in maybe we can crowdsource the overview? 🙂
Many of the people who came to the session had been interviewed by Liz as part of her research but we each gave an overview of the work we are / will be doing. This lead to plenty of discussion and praise for Liz’s blog LGEO Research (and that stands for Local Government Engagement Online). The overriding feeling here is that independent academic and active research is valuable to local government as a way of stepping back and explaining what you’re doing and why (rather than the more practical how), having a way of seeing the bigger picture of what other people are up to and in some cases providing validation to the harder-to-convince within an organisation.
On a personal level several people said they had found being interviewed with Liz a cathartic, therapeutic experience which allowed them to re-focus their thoughts on their work.
We also discussed and explained the process of sharing the results of the research. Due to the research being part of our studies neither Liz or I will be able to share much as we go along. We both fully intend to publish and share as soon as we are able – Liz mentioned this may be early summer 2010 for her while it is likely to be early 2011 for my own research.
We also talked through my planned research and there were several people who felt that they would be interested in talking to me further about this and would be interested in the outcomes – I’ve certainly made a note of people I would like to talk to when I get underway!
We then returned to the place of academic and active research and how we can sustain this rather than rely on people like Liz and myself choosing it as a subject area and becoming part of the community. The funding available from the IDeA (session I missed earlier in the day) was mooted (not muted as I accidentally wrote earlier) as one of the possible sources which should be looked into, or whether an organisation like SOCITM may take up the role of carrying out independent research. The idea was tweeted and RT several times after the session and perhaps this is a discussion which needs to continue.
Altogether I found it really useful to talk through the reasons and uses of research and meet some people who I am sure I will need to speak to more as time goes on.

Picture credit: @JaduCMS

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2 thoughts on “Academic research for local gov – LocalGovCamp

  1. Sarah, thanks for the post. I think there are too few real researchers working on the subject of Social Media in Local Government Engagement. Liz Azyan and you are clearly at the front – I wonder what the effect of having no research would be?

    Would we Social Media evangelists engage with each other as much? How else would we support business cases to CEOs?

    The article in IWR (Information World Review) that was handed around the room during the session – featured Liz Azyan's blog from someone she had never heard of. Her blog was published in a mainstream global journal – screenshot and all.

    I suspect Liz's blog is widely used and cited. Here is an example of Jadu citing some of her research in a press release:

    Liz inevitably will complete her research (as she is doing this as I understand, for her PhD). An what then? As we discussed at the session, this research needs constant updating as the adoption is moving faster than most individuals have the resources to keep up. What we need is sustained and well structured research of a high standard – shared to the community. Video material is essential as is data. Certainly, this kind of highly qualitative research balanced with quantitative data – provides amazing material to support almost any activity connected with promoting the use of Social Media inside an organisation. It also helps evangelists build up a portfolio of campaign material (video interviews, sound-bytes, quotes) – which all builds a footprint on the web for referenceable credibility. I.e. getting your name and brand out there.

    Techniques for engaging your organisation can also be researched and shared…

    Someone I know recently walked over to their CEO with a lap top and search for their name on Twitter. The CEOs reaction was rather interesting when they saw all the results of people talking about them. The CEO signed up on Twitter within 1 day and now I see them all the time – Tweeting and responding. Their organisation is now doing the same.

    There is so much value in this kind of research in adopting new paradigms – and we who use the research should promote and encourage it so it's sustained. IDeA have a real opportunity to do this.

  2. Thanks for the response Suraj – a great summary of the things coming out of this session.

    Would be great to hear what others think and find a way to go forward with a way of sustaining research for the benefit of the sector.

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