UKGovCamp 2012


What I want to give to the UKGovCamp 2012 gathering after a splendid time last year. 2 workshops – one on protecting public servants that use social media, and another on the impact that social media is having on policy-making and Whitehall.

Some of you may recall my earlier blogpost on unConferences. This type of gathering first appeared on my radar this time last year at the UKGovCamp conference in 2011. Lots of my time there – and in subsequent unConferences in 2011 was spent listening, looking and learning.

This year is going to be a little bit different. For a start, I’ll be bringing along Puffles – along with a handful of baby dragon fairies for those of you who would like to adopt one. Secondly, to give something back to all of those who shared their advice and knowledge with me last year, I am planning on offering two workshops. Offering a workshop and actually delivering it at unConferences can be a hit-and-miss affair. Poor Puffles offered to run one on Using Twitter for campaigns at the autumn People and Planet weekender last autumn but people opted to choose other workshops instead. (This is not a criticism of the organisers or the people – it’s an observation that offering to run something is no guarantee that people will turn up to it at unConferences – especially if there is a workshop or three that people really want to go along to that clashes with it).

Safeguarding public servants that use social media – background

The one good thing to come out of the tabloid hatchet job of Sarah Baskerville was that I got to meet her as a result of it. She brought me along to UKGovCamp 2011 and the rest is history. I stumbled across the case around the time I launched Puffles onto the Twittersphere.

Restrictions apply on what civil servants can and cannot say publicly. While this may have worked in pre-social media world, it does not work today. My view is that the current guidance dated 2009 is obsolete. It does not cover that growing blurred area between the professional and the personal. During my civil service days, I had no official role on digital and social media. It was stuff I did in my spare time and during ‘down time’ when things were slow on my day job.

I launched Puffles onto Twitter rather than myself because I did not want to be on the receiving end of a media firestorm over what might at the time have been an innocuous tweet. And with good reason. Several years ago I had the media chasing after me because I happened to be in the same school and year group as someone that happened, over ten years later to be accused of a serious crime, name splashed all over the newspaper front pages. Receiving panicked calls from your parents that correspondents from national newspapers were trying to push their way into their homes is not pleasant. They didn’t know how to handle it, & I didn’t know how to handle it. But I was lucky. My civil service team at the time swung round and pulled in one of the department’s top press officers. He reassured me that if there were any further calls from the media over this – either to myself or family, to put them through to him & to leave everything with him. We didn’t get a single call after that. That is why for me, the proceedings at Leveson are ever so important.

Safeguarding public servants that use social media – the workshop

This workshop will briefly introduce the concept of tweeting and blogging under what I call a ‘nom de guerre’ to older people, an ‘avatar’ to younger people and a ‘daemon’ to anyone who has read Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy (Think “Northern Lights”). Some like me remain relatively innocuous and harmless, while others get into big trouble.

I’ll then move onto the concept of Puffles’ House Rules – a set of rules that I wrote for Puffles to keep the two of us out of trouble – and out of the papers, for what was left of my civil service career. What do you think of them? Do they work as a reasonable template for other public servants? How can they be developed to encompass problem solving for people interested in areas far beyond their day job but that are of public interest? Not everyone attending the gathering will have social media incorporated into their day job – they do a lot of their work in their spare time unpaid.

Finally, there is the question of whether and/or when Cabinet Office are going to update their guidance on social media usage by public servants in that blurred area that was the line between professional and personal. How can we engage with that process? My local MP Julian Huppert has already tabled a written PQ on this issue and no response has come back on this. Any further delay and Puffles might have to ask him to make it an oral question where ministers have to stand up on the floor of the House and account for it.

Impact of social media on how Whitehall works

Although I have lots of slides on this, I’m going to avoid doing a ‘death by powerpoint’ session on this – or at least try. This workshop will hopefully cover:

  • Social Networks – what they are and an example of how they can work
  • Who holds the knowledge? A look at how knowledge that was once the monopoly of large institutions and policy units is now no longer – & what this means in practice
  • How social media dissects traditional “media management” approaches
  • Communications case studies
  • Policy case study
  • User analysis
  • How can Whitehall respond?
  • The need for more evidence

I’ve uploaded the draft slides to this post in advance to give you some idea of my thinking.

SLIDESHOW: The impact of social media on how Whitehall works (Approx 8MB)


4 thoughts on “UKGovCamp 2012

  1. One of my rules of thumb about online social media is that it’s typically mediated by a web browser… so slideshows can be viewed directly on the web via things like slideshare, rather than downloaded and viewed in a desktop application, or downloaded then uploaded to an online viewer by the reader/user…;-)

  2. Interesting slide deck. The network vs hierarchical world view is, I think, quite hard for people to appreciate in terms of consequences and process, so it’s often easier for folk to fall back onto the hierarchical model when trying to work out what approach to take (related to this, it’s maybe worth noting that the digitally disengaged have networks too, though they may be smaller and tied to geography and slower time scales in terms of message propagation.)

    I need to ponder more the idea of dissolving single points of consultation with a dissolved conversational approach… Hmm…

    FWIW, I’ve been experimenting with various ways of mapping communities. Eg here’s a map of folk followed by 100 or more followers of the IW council twitter account, @iwight:
    Happy to chat around this if you think it might hint at a useful approach to making sense lo local social media communities.

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