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  • Mainly about engagement and collaboration using social media and events, with some asides on living in London. More about David Wilcox and also how the blog started.
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David,
Your post is a fantastic piece of work and very fair.
I am a huge admirer of what the BBC has done to edge towards what I call networked journalism. But I find myself (possibly for the first time ever!) sharing Janet Daley's instincts.
I am very uncomfortable with the idea of the BBC acting in a non-journalistic way to "Sustain citizenship and civil society".
Everything it does should have that effect, but when it starts entering in to community activism then it risks two things. One risk is political bias - not at a high level, but just at a routine level. It will inevitably reflect the liberal agenda of its staff. Is the BBC prepared to go open source on this? How will it deal with politically incorrect local groups?
The second risk is much more practical. Can the BBC really afford the commitment of resources that would make such as network effective and open? Should this not be the role of local authorities?
I agree with Stephen Coleman that the BBC should not give up simply because I-Can failed. But it was a strong indicator that the BBC does journalism better than activism.
This is a crucial area for journalism. I argue in my new book "SuperMedia" that the news media has the opportunity with new technologies to engage with the public in new and exciting ways. But if the BBC ends up squeezing out local newspapers, for example, then that can't be a good thing.

Thanks Charlie for that great encouragement. I think one of the problems about getting some serious discussion on an appropriate direction for the BBC is that the issues exercise people in different camps, tribes, communities: journalism, broadcasting, public engagement, e-democracy etc. It's on the edge of a lot of people's maps ... and we need a new map. I wonder if LSE, RSA, Centre for Digital Citizenship, say, might offer to get together with BBC Trust - and others - to explore how this might be taken forward. I think BBC Trust is now committed to using online media for future engagement, but has to be careful it isn't seen to be influencing while consulting. Some neutral ground is needed.
Two issues: what sort of role should BBC have in local multimedia news, acivism, etc, but before that, how does someone stage a useful deliberation. All in the spirit of networked journalism, of course. "Supermedia" is ordered ;-)

David,
That sounds like a pitch for a conference:
any takers?

The BBC Trust's current consulation process is very formal and there's got to be benefit in allowing for a more conversational approach - even if it's just prior to the formal consulation mailbox being opened for responses.

The current situation is a bit like trading solicitors letters, without any recourse to mediation and face-to-face discussion. It's all a bit shouty.

As the Trust Unit seeks to facilitate the work of the Trust, engagement with audiences and stakeholders (large and small) could be more engaging - admittedly at a cost. But then you pay for quality. And the open conversations could help steer the production of more focussed questions for the formal responses.

Charlie - I've now flown the conference idea with RSA over here.
Alan - thanks. Sounds if you know what you are talking about on the Trust front:-) Any other ideas? Could we mix independent event(s) with online interaction?

Just a quick thought on trust...

The Editors blogpost linked to in your post http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/theeditors/2008/01/the_trouble_with_trust.html includes some very interesting stats on the most trusted institutions - showing the BBC to be more trusted than government. We are uniquely fortunate in the UK to have a media organisation with such a broad reach and which inspires trust and respect. (even taking into account the blue peter cat text voting etc!)
I agree that there are necessary reservations and guards that ought to be looked at on how far the BBC's public purpose remit should extend - but am nevertheless convinced that the BBC is uniquely well placed to facilitate some kind of truly inclusive national engagement process.

The key word for me personally is facilitate rather than dominate or control -how you get an institution to engage with a networked environment - that's a whole other question!

You might be interested in reading something Richard Wilson and I wrote around this topic for Involve's ParticipationNation http://www.involve.org.uk/participation_nation - Critical Mass is the title.

Great post by the way!

I would love to have the BBC release their original iCan research. At the time it was some of the most extensive research at the time. We can all learn from their experience.

Say, here is my post about the launch of iCan in 2003: http://www.mail-archive.com/do-wire@lists.umn.edu/msg00081.html

What I found limiting about their construct as a public media host was the emphasis on connecting like minds when as far as I can tell, that is not a "market failure" online. I am more interested in connecting local people with dislike minds based on the common interest. Of course, I'd love to see the BBC take a partnership role and support E-Democracy.Org's and others efforts to connect local people online rather than see the BBC create local dead-end sites that attempt to corner the citizen-to-citizen interactive market (like most commercial media properties do who ban forum/blog comment links to external "competitors.")

I did notice that former iCan/Action Network leader Martin Vogel joined BBC Trust for a bit and is now an independent consultant - http://www.linkedin.com/in/martinvogel - Perhaps Martin can add to the conversation?

Steven Clift
E-Democracy.Org

David - there are big problems with the mission to sustain civil society, not least with the democratic process itself and the BBC's own non-democratic governance structure.

It could start sustaining civil society by offering a means for its licence fee payers to participate in its governance...

Steve - your point: will the (monolithic) BBC really collaborate with others in the field, maybe chimes with...
Adrian: can the undemocratic BBC promote sustainable civil society, when the necessary ethos is so different.
This for me highlights the importance of attitude and culture in all this.
We know we need to do things differently, and that involves a mix of top-down and bottom-up. Charlie thinks local authorities should be the top-level route, but Alice reminds us the BBC is more trusted.
It feels as if we have a good focus on the issues. Time for a get-together somewhere (with virtual presence from Steve?) I've suggested over here that RSA could help convene. No response so far - other offers?

David

Thanks for this fascinating post

I will do some asking around in Scotland and try to find whether the BBC here may have different views to London

On our local pages on BBC now for Edinburgh, you can click through to "fixmystreet" so the BBC is selecting partners already to encourage local participation in certain services.

Alex

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