It’s obvious from a previous post that I’ve been pondering a little how my social media use has developed since I first started with it in a policy setting. Since moving into a Digital Engagement role, I’ve naturally had to have a gradual drift out from the public engagement with science/science and society world into other policy areas covered by BIS.
One thing that would definitely be different if I was still in a policy role, is that I’d be one of BIS’s (relatively) new Digital Champions. We haven’t anything as formal as terms of reference, rather a statement of intent to:
“..champion effective digital engagement, and help the Digital Team raise awareness of the impacts and advantages of digital tools”
I can’t claim any credit for this initiative as it was on the radar before I joined the team – I like to think I would have thought of something similar, though (grins sheepishly). It’s still really early days, and we haven’t gone beyond one substantive meeting. And even there, some of the issues around civil servants’ online engagement were very much at the forefront of people’s minds. So, much work to be done, a lot of it centred around selling the benefits of social media usage to more senior managers, and possibly also a change in mindset to engagement per se. Finding the time to support the group adequately is also proving to be a real issue.
I do empathise with some of the issues that people were facing. I was always extremely lucky to have the implicit blessing of my managers and that helped me publicise, for example, our work around public attitudes to science through a dedicated blog and Twitter. (Obviously, working in a digital team means that support is even more apparent now). But, it wasn’t always easy to share experiences with others who were doing something similar. And, for each of those who supported me, there were as many sceptics who couldn’t see beyond the more frivolous elements of social media. So, just knowing that others are interested in engaging online to develop stronger policy, and sharing experiences are hopefully going to be benefits of this group.
So, what else will these Champions do? Hopefully, it’ll be an organic development led by the Champions themselves, but the way we’ve envisioned it is that they will be enabled and empowered to take the digital message out into the Department, and act as our intelligence to pinpoint opportunities where digital engagement could add real value. They’ll hopefully normalise and start to truly embed the use of digital tools to engage with stakeholders, run consultations, promote projects, programmes and campaigns, and appropriately support the many aspects of life as a civil servant. We are realistic, though, and know that it won’t happen overnight. And that it won’t happen without a significant amount of buy-in from staff at all levels. Having the head of the Civil Service blogging and tweeting will, hopefully, offer a helping hand with that.
It’s early days, so watch this space.