OK OK! I have to write about this if only to stop repeating myself endlessly!
Answers to what everyone is asking me:
1. Am I applying? NO…
2. DO I have any idea WHO should apply? No… well, I have one, but am not saying here
3. Did I have anything to do with it? NO!!!
If there happens to be someone out there who has not happened upon the job description, it is here.
My thoughts, for what its worth, and only because so many have asked:
I believe that it is so easy to sling the usual insults at something like this (and assume that it will be a bloke, of course!), which is fine, but actually it is a position that is certainly going to have quite a profound effect on everything that has been happening in the public sector Web 2.0 (if I must use that term) over the last few years.
These forays into new ways of engaging online have happened mainly because of the willingness and enthusiasm of a few people already working across departments: and I have chronicled much of it here, but if you missed that, or for a more in depth explanation of this I suggest reading through Steph Gray’s blog.
So, regardless of what I think, or anyone thinks really, about whether having someone do this job is a good idea… it is very beside the point, especially for me. (Will come onto the money bit later). What does occupy my mind is the fact that with this person in post it could either dry up everything that has been going on, because it has been maverick, or (hopefully) note it, build on it, but let it remain organic (hate that word too but… you know what I mean when I say it).
Much of the delevopment in this area over the last few years has been in direct response to needs, rather than planned as Prince 2 projects. People who can make a case for what they are doing and require little/no budget, have been pretty free to do some great stuff. There has been a collaboration across departments amongst this happy band, such as I have never seen before; and unmitigated support from the Minister.
Undoubtedly, there has been some stuff done just for the sake of it, but at little/no expense (a plethora of twitter feeds, for example, 99% of which IMHO are pointless). There has been some guidance written on how to behave online as a civil servant using social media, but little on how to properly use it in delivering objectives, or some such awfulness.
The beautiful Power of Information piece of work has been like nurturing a small baby, and I know is a very serious piece of work, with high expectations. It is currently sitting behind a password protected area for some reason, but it is coming back out to play soon I am assured.
So, I can see that there is a need for someone to ‘own’ this, to coin yet another horrible phrase, and the bulleted list on the JD seems to imply that this is indeed what this person will have to do. But what I don’t see is any mention of the fact that this particular area is not fallow ground, it is a small seedling nursery, and I worry that the implication is that this is virgin territory; and that COULD attract someone who likes to (oh shall I say plough their own field? No… no OK) do stuff from scratch. Much of the explanation underneath the bulleted list seems to me to be very heavy on how HARD this job will be, high profile, Ministerial importance… etc etc, but that defies the counselled and collaborative way this has worked across departments to date.
I agree that there does need to be someone to say: Why? (especially with new twitter feeds 🙂 or the prolific use of WordPress whatever the need); and there needs to be some consistency, but only light touch, on the ‘How’.
There also needs to be a great understanding of the transformational government agenda, in particular website rationalisation. As that limits all citizen digital engagement to Directgov, well it did when all government did in the digital space was use websites to communicate: monologue not dialogue. So everyone will be rather confused by what the message is, but to be fair, it is recognised that one of the greater challenges of the job would be the communication of this, and getting people to do as suggested.
Well… I think that the money will put off the people perfect for the job: it’s too much. It will attract exactly the kind of person everybody fears.
And I do share the concerns that this wunderkind does not exist; it is an extraordinary cross-section of skills, requiring generalist stuff, even though it is specific in saying that this is not the case.
Justin Kerr-Stevens suggested that this would work best as a job share, and I completely agree. If you could have two days of a great, proven geek and combine this with three days of someone who knows how government works now, with the empathy to nurture that which has been created or started so far in scattered spaces and the foresight to recognise and develop the skilled civil servants already doing this stuff (no I am not blowing my own trumpet, am not a civil servant); that would be a good thing.
But whatever I think, it is happening, and yes, I shall be watching out for who gets this: from behind the sofa 🙂 Part of me wonders if this is almost too polar opposite to the Director of Citizen Participation: which makes it far more in line with the future of Dig Eng; rather than corporately planned and executed ENGAGEMENT.