My normal day job at BIS can be summed up as building digital engagement capacity and skills within policy teams, helping them to think through how to engage before, during and after consultation, and making online interaction just another part of the day job. The barriers that we have to that are rarely digital ones: instead they’re cultural, with an associated basket of issues around engagement that we like to call the Fear.
But, this week, as I’ve already said, I’m going to be spending the week at Involve as a bit of an opportunity for me to look at engagement with the public sector from the outside in (or is that inside out, I’m not sure!).
One of the most interesting projects that Involve are currently taking forward in conjunction with a range of partners is NHS Citizen, a so-called Citizens Assembly that is being designed to bring the voice of ordinary citizens right into the heart of the NHS. It’s got a few main aims
To give citizens and organisations a direct transparent route for their voices to reach the heart of the NHS England decision making process, in a way that cannot be ignored.
To give the NHS England board and others a new source of evidence and opinion on the NHS now and future.
To give the public an open and robust accountability mechanism for the work of NHS England, and opportunities to participate in every aspect of the organisation’s work.
To establish a mechanism/system that leads to action, quickly
I’m particularly interested in the second bullet point, as I think it’s this one that we need to be using more in our arguments about why getting beyond the fear is important. As we get past the early adopters of digital engagement – those who come to it naturally as opposed to through our corporate activities to stress that this is A Good Thing – that’s the question that we’re going to need to be more actively considering: how does engagement give us better, more robust, evidence than we’ve ever had before. It’s not enough any more to just know it instinctively.
For those in the know about how government is redesigning its digital services, it’s also particularly interesting to see that there’s quite an emphasis in the documentation on digital by default, and that an agile approach is being taken to developing this project. I’ll talk about that in my next post, as I’m particularly interested in the so-called Discovery Space and how it relates back to the work that we’re doing within BIS to promote social listening as the first step in the road towards normalising digital engagement.