Author Archive

Profile photo of Julia Glidden

Local Democracy or Local Disaster?

29. April 2010 – 16:39 by Julia Glidden

A recent experience that my neighbours and I have had with Brent Council echoes Gez’s warnings about that new ‘Duties to Involve’ risk increasingly disillusionment with politics if done wrongly or insincerely.

In this instance, Brent Council faced losing tens of millions of pounds for new social housing if planning permission were not granted for a new building in January. In a tight economic climate, it is understandable that the Council made a foregone decision to grant the permission. What is neither understandable nor acceptable is that the Council pretended that an incomprehensible mailing to residents upheld its own ‘Duty to Involve’ policy, and that the planning meeting itself was an open and unbiased event.

Believing Committee members were genuinely open to facts my neighbours spent countless hours drafting model mock-ups of the proposed building, trawling through highly technical documents and crafting extensivly detailed arguments regarding the inadequacy of the proposal, only to find Committee members more interested in whether the windows of one house in one neighbourhood violated conservation codes than the overall impact of 150 unit dwelling. That legally mandated information was not available until just days before the meeting or that an arcane and inaccessible website kept crashing so much so that residents had to stay up until after midnight simply to down load key documents is another matter……

Having attended the Planning Meeting myself, I saw first hand the disillusionment that a ‘faux’ consultation exercise can have on citizens. Having dutifully trudged along to a so-called ‘site visit’ in the freezing cold – only to be presented with arcane architectural plans on a sub-zero street corner, my neighbours did not even realise that current technology would have made it relatively easy for the Council to post virtual mock-ups of the proposed building with easy to understand depictions of its noise and light impact on the neighbourhood on their website. While they may not be blaming the Council for a sub-standard use of ICT, they are certainly all disgusted by a sham ‘Duty to Consult’ that wasted their time, and made a mockery of the Council’s own policy.

This same Council is now hosting a community seminar next week on ‘Community Involvement.’ My neighbour passed what he referred to as ‘this joke’ along to me because he knew I would be interested in the subject. I am. But the ‘open’ seminar is a being held in community centre between 12-4 on a weekday. I would ask the Consultation Institute how ‘open’ – let alone representative – an event which excludes most of the working population really is? Surely, a Council that genuinely wants to hear from all its citizens would make some sort of attempt to leverage the Internet? Unless, of course, it is really not interested at all?

Profile photo of Julia Glidden

Squabbling Scientists….and eParticipation

10. February 2010 – 21:11 by Julia Glidden

I have spent the day running user groups for an interesting new argument visualisation tool that is designed to make it easier for citizens to participate in policy making on climate change.  Check out the new EU-funded project: 

Aside from learning some very interesting things about how easily eParticipation practioners fall into assuming prior knowledge (such as asking people what they think about the ‘platform’ or ‘argument visualisation’ when most people don’t know what either of these terms mean!), I also learned something very discouraging about the present state of the climate change debate.  One things is for certain – the present fall out among climate change researchers and flurry of media coverage surrounding it is taking a toll that not even the most innovative of social media tools can alleviate.

Anyone familiar with acedemia will recognise the current academic dispute surroung climate change research.  It is a sad and familar tale of petty jealousies and turf wars in which researchers conspire to block dissent and promote a self-selected clique.  This type of behaviour happens all the time in universities around the world.

 Unfortunately, while the researchers conspire to one up each other, average citizens are left dazed and confused about what, if anything, they should do to address climate change.  Should they really cut back on the family budget to fund higher environmental taxes?  Give up on the car? Cancel the family holiday in Spain? Live with that wind farm down the road?

Henry Kissinger once famously commented ‘The disputes in academia are so fierce because the stakes are so low.’  In this instance, alas, the stakes are not low at all.

It is truly unfortunate that while the so-called scientific experts squabble, the pressing interests and needs of average people are left unanswered.  There are enough valid concerns about the various methods being proposed to help save the planet without unnecessary doubt and obsfucation being thrown into the debate by quarreling academics. 

Profile photo of Julia Glidden

Digital Democracy for All?

7. October 2009 – 19:12 by Julia Glidden

Tom Steinberg has recently made headlines here in the UK with the announcement that he will be acting as an unpaid advisor to the Conservative Party to help them use technology to engage with people and make government more open and efficient.

It is looking increasingly likely that the Conservative Party will win the next General Election in the UK.  And in anticipation of that victory they are publicly commiting to engage with the public more and make data more accessible to everyone.  Surely – these are laudable goals whatever ones political loyalties.  And surely it is good news that a government in-waiting is openly recognising the power that new technologies can bring in enhancing democracy.

Yet soon as the announcement was made, -Tom was roundly criticised for associating with a political party.  Fair enough to one extent.  Except that as far as I know no one in democratic engagement circles in the UK has ever been criticised for helping the Labour Party use new technology to engage with citizens.  My point here is not so much one of double standards but rather of the danger of ‘politicising’ what strikes me as an obvious good – namely encouraging governments of all stripes to improve the democratic process.  What do you think?

Profile photo of Julia Glidden

Web 2.0 Hits Malmo!

29. September 2009 – 18:26 by Julia Glidden

You know that an ICT trend really has come of age when it takes centre court at a Ministerial level eGovernment Conference.  eVoting made its debut in 2003 in Como, eParticipation at Manchester in 2005 and now Web 2.o looks set to follow suite in Malmo.

I imagine many PepNet members thinking ‘ but of course!’ while reading this entry.  Still, I recall well the near-stunned silence when I first pasted pictures of young person’s MySpace and Facebook pages on the massive plasma screens adorning the halls of the Slovenian Luanch of the EU Presidency in 2008.  I also recall well my relief that I wasn’t hauled off the stage when I used a photo of a scantily clad young woman in red lingerie to visualise generational differences about privacy!

That Malmo will now feature a special session on how Web 2.0 can be used to increase citizen involvement in the production and use of public services shows just how far the topic has come.  While I won’t use any half naked photos to illustrate my points during this session – I will certainly be making the point that the expectation of communication, collaboration and co-creation that Web 2.0 has unleashed is here to stay!

For those of you interested in the topic, please join my session ‘Experiences and Initiatives – Engaging the Citizens of the eUnion’  on Thursday November 19, 2009.   Please also feel free to forward me any ideas you might have on the making of a great presentation!

Profile photo of Julia Glidden

7th Eastern Europe eGovernment Days Continue to Exceed Expectations

24. April 2009 – 18:21 by Julia Glidden

Once again Irina Zalisova and her team and European Projects and Management (EPMA) in Prague have run what has to be one of the absolute highlights of the eGovernment Conference circuit.  Hosted in the lovely Brevnov Monastery, this year’s event attracted over 100 of the top eGovernment practitioners from throughout Europe, and featured two packed days of engaging speakers and highly charged and interactive workshops.

It is hard to single out any one session – as the caliber of speakers and topics was consistently high throughout the conference.  Still, Jeremy Millard’s session on eGovernment & the Future of ICT comes to mind for not only stimulating a great deal of thought about the ‘Internet of Clouds’ but also for skillfully blending a wide array of perspectives from both the public and private sector.  Skeptical (from my Accenture days) of private sector presentations in general, I have to say that this time around the conference really was all the stronger for the voice of industry.  Wilfried Grommen from Microsoft set minds thinking with a provocative discussion of what he sees as a fundamental paradigm shift away from old ‘PCs & software’ so familiar to us all, while Sylviane Torporkoff, Partner at Items International and President of the Global Forum, kept us all alert and engaged with a rousing tour de force of varying global approaches to eGovernment.

As I write, I am conscious that this entry reads like a bought and paid for advertorial.  As one who is generally weary of the ‘same old, same old’ conference scene, I can assure you it is not.  In my view, the 7th Eastern Europe eGovernment continues to stand out – not just because it is located in the wonderful City of Prague (which this year was blessed with some wonderful weather) but also because it remains true to a genuinely winning formula:  engaging speakers, relevant and timely topics, and a committed and engaged audience.

Congratulations to Irina and her team.  I’m already looking forward to next year!



Profile photo of Julia Glidden

John Prescott Goes Digital….

2. March 2009 – 16:52 by Julia Glidden

At a recent gala dinner for the Labour Party (long story why I was there), I was heartened and yet still suprised to hear the former UK Deputy Prime Minister extollling the virtues of Blackberries, Facebook and Twitter. ‘I talk to Alistair (Cambell) all the time with this!’ – he says waving his Blackberry.  ‘And, yesterday 6,000 people joined my petition on Facebook.  6,000!!!!!  Do you know how long it would take to knock on 6,000 doors?’   

I was heartened because he did so with the gusto of a real convert.  Surprised because the power of the technology seemed so genuinely new to him, along with many others in a room full of party activists.  James Crabtree gave an excellent analysis (at last year’s London’s eParticipation Symposium) on the reasons why technology has taken off so much more slowly amongst British political parties than American ones.  But I still wonder how any politician or political group anywhere can only now be waking up to the power of technology to mobilize opinion.  After all, politicians spend their lives trying to communicate with the electorate and the Internet is nothing but the ultimate communication tool….  Only recently I spoke with a young local Councilor who told me that social networking ‘and other such things really had no value for him….’

I wonder if now that that the US has a YouTubing, Blackberry toting President things will change….  And if they do, whether politics will be changed by the medium, or the medium absorbed into a new form of ‘business as usual.’

Profile photo of Julia Glidden

‘Miss Manners’ in the Era of Web 2.0

23. February 2009 – 18:58 by Julia Glidden

When I was growing up in New England my mother used to use Emily Post’s finishing school in Connecticutt as a barometer for ‘good manners.’  Think of what ‘Miss Manners’ would say – or some such refrain – would inevitably meet my teenage breach of New England social protocol.  Now all fully grown up (or at least nearly!) and living in England (or the ‘real thing’ as my mother would say), I have found myself thinking about Miss Manners more and more…. Not so much because I am intent to replay my adolescent battle with my mother, but because of the real angst I have seen Facebook cause.  I can still remember vividly the first time someone I have known for years ‘de-listed’ me as a friend.  The cold impersonality of the gesture.  The sense of powerlessness I felt in the situation.  Was it a mistake?  Did I do something wrong?  Should I follow up and check?  Would I be breaching ‘Miss Manners’ School of Internet Protocol if I did?   In the end, I cracked and asked the person.  Turns out this person was trying to ‘clean up’ and ‘cut back’ on online clutter and did not realise that ‘cleaning up’ up a Friend’s list  in this way could be taken in such a brutal light.  Many notes of apology were subsequently sent to similarly ‘de-listed’ friends…..  Following this encounter, I have since been with a few colleagues when they have likewise found themselves ‘de-listed’ and asking the same questions as me…..  So I ask you – what is the correct protocol. And how do we make sure we all know it…… Or are at least aware enough about it to not unwittingly hurt friends or shut off contacts via a medium that is meant to bring us all closer together?

Profile photo of Julia Glidden

eParticipation in Lesotho – An Important Reminder

9. December 2008 – 17:28 by Julia Glidden

My colleagues at 21c and I have just returned from a fascinating trip to the Kingdom of Lesotho – a small landlocked country surrounded by South Africa.  The purpose of the visit was to conduct a workshop on local democracy with government officials and to launch a landmark study on the implementation of local democracy in Lesotho.

Whilst I had never been to Lesotho before I did lecture in South Africa for many years, and had the tremendous opportunity to help lead an eGovernment Study Tour to the UK for Lesothan Ministers a little over a year ago.  I am fairly well traveled, and do my best to stay on top of world trends in our field…..  So there is very little excuse for me to have found myself surprised by reality on the ground – yet I must confess that I was. Read the rest of this entry »

Profile photo of Julia Glidden

Pep-Net and Suppliers: Collision or Collaboration?

12. June 2008 – 19:18 by Julia Glidden

Over the past five years or so, it has been increasingly popular to talk about the value of co-operation between policymakers, academia and business, the emergence of a new collaborative model, the importance of public-private sector partnerships etc….. 

If my experience is anything to go by, however, most of this talk is just this:  TALK.  As a card carrying member of the private sector – albeit one with an academic background – I have found that more often than not practioneers and educators tend to ‘hold their noses and swallow’ when asked to collaborate with business, whilst entreprenuers spend most of their time biting their tongues at the alleged ‘wishy-washiness’ of the policy world. 

It was with some trepidation then that I led the ‘Supplier’ break out session at the Pep-Net launch last May.  Like it or not, a series of pesky questions kept floating in my head:  Do practioneers and not-for-profits really want to hear what business has to say?  Worse still, does business really have anything of value to add?  Can suppliers really benefit from a network like Pep-Net?  Or more scary still, can Pep-Net really benefit from the input of a bunch of money-makers? 

Happily, as you might by now have guessed from the public nature of this posting, I was pleasantly surprised by the ultimate answers to these irksome questions. 

To begin with in response to the question ‘What do Suppliers Expect from Pep-Net?’, I found a range of interesting answers that extended far beyond the simple one:  MONEY.  Instead, my colleagues and I all agreed that Pep-Net brought us tremendous value in terms of sharing experience, collaborating across borders, identifying trusted partners, potentially developing basic standards for software and tools, and, perhaps most interestingly, trend spotting.

When it came the question ‘What role can Suppliers play in Pep-Net?,’ the answers once again extended beyond the obvious to reveal a range of skills and services, including research, contacts, writing, project delivery, and service and software solutions.  Moreover, when asked ‘What are the benefits of Pep-Net to Suppliers?,’ the entrepenuers amongst us tended to focus much more on reputation and visibility than sales per se – with access to language skills and a potential recruitment pool coming in a strong second.

So well done Pep-Net for allaying my fears, welcoming the private sector into the fold and laying the foundation for some genuinely collaborative thinking and work!

Julia Glidden is Managing Director of 21c Consultancy

Profile photo of Julia Glidden

21c Consultancy

9. April 2008 – 14:00 by Julia Glidden

21c is a specialist ‘e’-knowledge management boutique which provides end-to-end strategy and project management services to the public and private sector. Our clients benefit from the agility, innovation and genuine sense of partnership of a close knit team and the methodological rigor of a Big Five consulting firm.

21c helps clients to structure and deliver successful citizen-centric IT programmes. We work closely with our clients throughout every stage of the project cycle – from proposal development to implementation – to identify effective solutions, achieve key milestones and disseminate results. We provide the critical – and often missing – link between IT architects and the community.

21c are uniquely placed in the government market to bring together networks of specialist organisations and people to ensure best of breed solutions for our clients. Our consultants are Prince2 and Managing Successful Programmes qualified, and have hands-on international experience in helping clients to achieve the transformational potential offered by new technologies.

21c Consultancy combines a unique insiders’ understanding of how government operates with a proven track record in the private sector.

For more information visit: