Puffles’ Twitter Lists – The Civil Service


Not so much a ‘who’s who’ of the civil service on Twitter, but a list of those who are in, used to be or work around the civil service – and who get Puffles too. It’s not a definitive list by any means. Most of the people in this list have met Puffles.

To note: I’m refraining from listing those people who are civil servants but who have not explicitly listed themselves as civil servants. 

I’d like to put Andrew Campbell of Cabinet Office at the top of this list because when I was in the civil service, he was the most senior civil servant (acting DG at the time) who knew of Puffles’ existence and encouraged me to keep going with all things social media. An honourable mention to his PA at the time Vilma Miller who also looked after me during the early days of my time on the Fast Stream. Unfortunately Andrew is not on Twitter (Emer Coleman‘s not got to him yet) – that said, if he was on Twitter, he would never sleep. And he would drink all the coffee leaving none left for Puffles. So as Andrew’s not on there, you’ll have to make do with his boss Stephen Kelly, (who doesn’t follow Puffles [He does now!]), his boss’s boss Richard Heaton, Cabinet Office Permanent Secretary and First Parliamentary Counsel (who does!), and the Head of the Civil Service Sir Bob Kerslake – where the buck stops.

I’ve mentioned Emer Coleman – Head of Digital Engagement at the Government Digital Service who joined from the GLA. Dragon fairies are normally notoriously hard to train and make sense of, but with Emer this seemed to happen instantaneously. Not only that, she completely re-wrote the rule book on how to engage with the wider public on social and digital media – i.e. go where the conversation happens to be. The first substantial example of this I saw from Whitehall was when she started crowd-sourcing for ideas of what should and should not be in new social media guidance for the civil service. Being the first person to write a blogpost about it following the announcement (via Twitter), she started the discussion process in the comments section of that post, with the final result being the guidance and a (*wingtip*) for Puffles in the Cabinet Office blogpost that accompanied the press release.

Digital engagement

The genius that is Mike Bracken brought Emer – and a whole host of other talent into the Government Digital Service. He’s managed to bring together a team of extraordinarily talented individuals and fuse them together as a team that is functioning light years ahead of the rest of the public sector – and dare I say it the private sector too. Within this team are a whole hose of people who have experience and the talent that the private sector pays a lot of money for, only this lot (perhaps most importantly) are also driven by the values of public service. Three lovely people who work with Emer in this regard are Nettie Williams, Abi and Wendy CoelhoLouise Kidney and convenor of Teacamp in London, Jane O’Loughlin. Louise has brought the wisdom of time in local government to the heart of Whitehall, and Jane helped bring the heart of Whitehall to Cambridge – to Teacambs in June 2012. It was at a meeting of senior local government officials prior to that where Jane, walking into the meeting room carrying Puffles did Teacambs start getting some real momentum.

Mike and friends have also got back following the first draft of this post to recommend Tom Loosemore, also at the GDS. Again, if there are others you think should be on here or those that I have inadvertently missed out (it is a big list!), please let me know. [Updated 19 Dec 2012]

More digital and data wizardry

Dafydd Vaughan and Jordan Hatch are two of the brightest and most energetic of young sparkles flying around GovUK towers. (There are more of them – apologies for those I’ve omitted in this draft!) The difference being GovUK towers seem to know how to make use of all that energy. (It wasn’t always the case with me). How they do the stuff they do I am not entirely sure – but the results that come back are like “Wow! Actually that info is really useful!” The bit I’m interested in is getting this otherwise essential information and getting large organisations to feed it into their decision-making processes. That’s in our ‘to do’ pile. Leading the cutting edge of all things innovation (yes, the public sector can do innovation!) is Mark O’Neill. They also do creativity too! Just ask Paul Annett. The person who’s responsible for the ‘web’ end of GDS that most interests me is Neil Williams – who is leading on the Inside Government pages of GovUK.

In terms of the high-achieving multi-talented, few that I’ve met in the civil service have matched Alice Newton. But I would say that as she spent three years at and in Cambridge. Speaking of Cambridge and GDS talent, there’s also Nick Stenning and (outside the GDS but still a wizard on all things open data and data journalism) Lucy Chambers.

It’s our data! We paid for it!

To those public sector bodies that hold onto data and refuse to release it, that’s my line. There are a host of people working on open data. If you don’t know what open data means, it means THIS. (Not to be confused with open source – which is about software intellectual property (or the opposite of), crowd sourcing (finding stuff through your social media networks) or open policy (which is developing policy in a transparent manner rather than a few chaps around a sofa – like these ones. #DiversityFail? Us?)

Actually, open data and open policy making are linked. The data is useful to open policy because it means that the information a policy is based on can be interrogated, processed and analysed – and scrutinised by those outside of government. This is good. Better scrutiny leads to better policy. Hence why there are people inside the system working on both open data and open policy-making. They even have their own corporate Twitter account! The brains behind all of this include Olivia Burman, Paul Maltby, Ilaria Miller, Charlotte Alldritt and Liane Farrer. Close to the pinnacle of this is Sophia Oliver.

I mentioned Lucy Chambers being outside of Whitehall structures – she’s with the Open Knowledge Foundation. There are others too – such as Glyn Wintle, Hadley Beeman and Sam Smith.

The wise owls flying around the civil service, spreading wisdom as they go

If you’ve not heard of the following and you are in all things Whitehall social media, shame on you! Actually no – rather these people go out of their way to stop Whitehall doing silly things, helping the public access better services and hold those in power to account while assisting those inside the system on the front line to do so. They also do a lot of stuff for free and in their spare time too. Clock-watching bean-counting consultants these are definitely not.

First on the list is Steph Gray – ex BIS Head of Digital Engagement, he’s one of the brains behind Helpful Technologies. And they are helpful. Really. If there is once piece of information people new to public sector social media should take away, it’s this poster. Then there is the social media crisis simulator – which I’d love to see in action in my neck of the woods. I just need to help join up a few more dots before we’re ready for something county-wide. Others I highly recommend are:

Honourable mentions also go to Justin Kerr Stevens, Stefan CzerniawskiCarrie Bishop and Dominic Campbell. And no, none of them have paid me to be listed.

One thing that all of these people understand (that many ‘social media marketing’ types do not) is the importance of the word ‘social’ in the phrase social media. “Media” implies trying to communicate something from A to B. “Social” implies a conversation – something going back the other way and in other directions (and back) along with listening – and acting upon what is being heard. (Or at least analysing it and making a judgement on what to do next). So if Puffles and I can’t help with something public sector social media, chances are at least one of this lot can. Puffles and I tend to operate in the shallow waters – mainly around social media awareness and how to get the best out of the basics.

So…who else is on Puffles’ radar?

There are a number of people in the civil service who are in the Twitter waters to various depths. In at the deep end is Sarah Baskerville, who started doing public sector social media long before everyone else did. She was the one who took the newspaper firestorm over retweets all those years ago so that you didn’t have to. You know the ‘OMGz – civil servant retweeted something – that MUST be her opinion!’ sort of thing. The irony of that firestorm was that it led to the opposite of what was intended: Sarah’s friendships grew in numbers, breadth and depth as a result of that firestorm as lots of people – myself included – rallied round. Sarah was there in Puffles’ very very early days – as was David Pearson at Defra, Neil Franklin at DWP and Sebastian Crump.

Nick Halliday – the brains behind the National Audit Office’s Twitter account, Ann Kempster of the GCN and Rachel Christopher of DCLG are also working on a couple of very interesting pieces of work in Whitehall on communications and analysis – in particular getting co-ordination across departments, but through grass roots rather than a group of manderins issuing directives as in days gone by.

Departmental leads 

There are a number of talented people based in Whitehall departments who are regularly bouncing off the GDS – in fact with many of them they were doing things long before GDS was even a twinkle in the eye of Martha Lane Fox. Oh, if you’re interested in Martha’s work, follow Marketa Mach, her more-than-able ‘chief of staff.’

Tim Lloyd at the the Department of Business (BIS) and Stephen Hale at DH both pre-date Puffles. Both are ably assisted (and/or assist) Marilyn Booth and Susy Wootton respectively. Jenny Poole pre-dates Puffles too, and is now at Number 10, as is Nick Jones.

Alison DanielsRoss Ferguson and Eleanor Stewart are at the helm of the Foreign Office, once held by Jimmy Leach (the latter being very much worth listening to, given the push for all things digital he made while at the Foreign Office).

Pippa Norris has the challenge of heading online engagement at the Ministry of Defence. Social media is inevitably becoming politically controversial and challenging area for the Ministry of Defence as existing conflicts around the world spill over online.

Robin Riley is one of the most powerful public speakers I’ve heard in a long time. Not only that, his grasp of social media analytics is one of the strongest that I have seen. If you are a Whitehall department and want to know about what another part of Whitehall is doing on this, get this chap in for a lunchtime or after-work seminar. He’s that good.

Pootling back to Cabinet Office we find Liz McKeown as Head of Analysis. Leading on cross-Whitehall social media engagement and digital policy is Kathy Settle. Handling the area of civil service reform is Nicola Bolton.

Who are the exes? Those once in the civil service but who have moved to pastures new?

Those of you familiar with the Department for Communities may remember Grant Fitzner and Henry Tam – the latter now back in academia at the University of Cambridge.   Some of you will also be familiar with Jill Rutter – now at the Institute for Government.

Some of you may be familiar with Liam Donaldson, former Chief Medical Officer. If science is your thing, have a look at the Office of the Chief Scientific Adviser.

At the top of the all things digital in days gone by were Alex Butler and Andrew Stott.

Updates following 1st draft:

I invited people to submit further recommendations following my first draft.

North of Hadrian’s Wall, Ben Plouvier has recommended longtime Puffles’ follower Lesley Thompson, who looks after Teacamp Scotland.

Alice Pilia recommended both John Sheridan – who will be of interest to any legal types out there with a fascinating ‘legislation as data’ project that I first stumbled across earlier this year, and Ade Adewunmi who is opening up policy-making, but from the inside. If open policy is your thing, she’s one of the people to follow.

One VERY honourable mention should go to the Australian Civil Service’s Pia Waugh – who is doing similar great things on the other side of the world. Because of her, I was able to contribute to an event that was happening in Australia…from the comfort of my bedroom. The idea that ordinary people can contribute to events going on across the world “in real time” is…quite something.


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