Photo: Mosman Readers by Mosman Library.

It seems like all we can talk about at ccAustralia is governments at the moment; and I am afraid this entry is not going to break from that theme. But when you read about the exciting news we have to report, you’ll understand why we just had to post about it!

Mosman Municipal Council, the local government authority for the northern shores of Sydney Harbour, has brought together the ‘open and transparent’ government holy triad: open consultation, open content and open data! On 7 April 2009 they adopted a new Community Engagement Strategy with an intention to “inform”, “consult”, “involve” their residence.

Although they are certainly not abandoning more traditional and/or ‘real-world’ techniques for engaging citizens, they strategy demonstrates a strive to be best-practice in their use of new technologies. Key priorities in the strategy include:

  • Use of blogs, wikis and other social network and social media platforms “where two-way communication between Council and the community is encouraged and nurtured”;
  • Developing appropriate guidelines for the use of these technologies by the Council “to ensure on-line discussions are appropriate, intelligent and lawful”;
  • Encourage community contribution of local knowledge to collaborative spaces including Wikipedia and OpenStreetMap;
  • Releasing Council materials, where possible, under a Creative Commons licence “to promote the use and dissemination of Council’s materials while retaining Council’s rights of authorship”;
  • Releasing Council materials, where possible, in open formats and as open data; and
  • Building of an application programming interface (API) to that information.

To support these commitments, the Strategy also outlines intentions to train local Councillors to encourage their use of the internet in their official capacity. They also aim to support and mentor community members who are active online or who wish to be and to provide training and support for less digitally-engaged citizens (using their social media champions to provide peer-led training). Likewise, senior staff, managers and key professional officers will be kept abreast of the outcomes of online community engagement strategies.

Using these techniques, the Council hopes to achieve its commitment to transparency and accountability.

The Council have done a tremendous job developing a really world-class, best-practice Community Engagement Strategy. And they’ve even done it before the New South Wales Government passed its requirement that local municipalities to have one. Mosman’s progressiveness even extends far enough to provide their brilliant model for other Councils to use; the Community Engagement Strategy itself under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 Australia licence!

So you can see why we were so excited! Excited enough in fact to post a case study on the CC Case Studies Wiki about it!

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