Networked society

Networked society

Here’s a summary of the Networked society chapter from our “Growing a stronger local democracy” report, published 30th June 2017.
Networked society

Download the Networked society chapter of our report (PDF)

A taster of our findings about a Networked society

A strong local democracy grows from the connections between people. We all need to be part of the conversation if we are to share ideas, make choices and feel that we have a stake in the place where we live. This means not only having good access to information, but being able to easily understand and share that information – and to contribute your own ideas. It means being able to find like-minded citizens, to create social connections, to collaborate for social good and to have confidence in a digital world.

Living in a networked society offers many opportunities for strengthening citizenship. Digital technologies enable ordinary citizens to get their voices heard where others may have dominated in the past.

Networked citizens (not customers)
Being a citizen is different from being a customer. It’s about ongoing relationships, not transactions. We’ve created local government websites that are designed to enable people with busy lives to get specific tasks done quickly and easily – but that isn’t going to help us to encourage active citizens or to change our democratic relationship. We need different online spaces that are designed for citizens – not customers.

Real time democracy
Our experience of local democracy can feel very out of step with our lives as private citizens. We expect to be able to interact, comment, challenge, collaborate and vote on issues in real time. The technology is readily available for us to be able to do this for many aspects of our lives. So why can we not “do democracy” in the same way?

Growing the civic conversation
It’s important for us all to have ways of connecting, so we can be part of the civic conversation. Citizens already use the internet as a place to collaborate for civic good. There are opportunities for our council and our councillors to work with existing civic networks and active citizens online. We have a responsibility to not just be part of the civic conversation, but to help it grow.

Our recommendations about a Networked society

Kirklees Council should review our approach to creating and sharing democratic content. This should involve exploring different and innovative ways of developing content to facilitate dialogue and engagement before, during  and after the formal decision-making process.

Working with key providers, Kirklees Council should develop a democratic digital literacy pilot as part of a wider civic education programme for young citizens.

Kirklees Council should support all our councillors to understand and embrace digital technology. Digital literacy should be a core expectation of the councillor role. It should be part of new councillor induction and councillor development, so that we support councillors in developing their digital skills and confidence, and enable them to play an active part in explaining our decision-making processes to our citizens. Commission members should pilot this approach.

Kirklees Council should provide our councillors with a live social media audit that provides details of social media use, online networks and connectivity for the ward they represent.

Kirklees Council should provide our councillors with the appropriate IT hardware that they need to be effective in their role.

Working with key partners and providers, Kirklees Council should use the learning from international examples to develop an approach for blending online and off-line engagement processes, as part of strategic planning, policy making and decision-making. This should form part of a pilot that will explore innovative approaches to planning and priority setting in a particular area of Kirklees.

Our evidence about a Networked society

Local democracy roadshows

Public engagement events (PDF)

Public inquiry evidence


Discussions and debates


Explore our report chapters

Our report