Bring out the Windsor and Newton, I need to paint…

Huge apologies to those waiting for me to write up the discussion on Thursday. It will come, next week, it will be useful and yes… you can play too.

In the meantime, the questions that I have been sent privately suggest that my presumed awareness of website rationalisation and transformational government might be a little skewed.

The official documentation can be found by Googling the two terms, and maybe downloading a couple of PDFs, but the following is an explanation *MY OWN PERSONAL VIEW ONLY* of why it is important background to how we consult policy development in the future, and hence: the changing face of e-democracy… and why it is a part of what I am trying to do.

(My qualification for writing about this comes from the period of time I worked with Alex Butler *formidably good* and Andrew Stott *formidably mathematical* communicating the practical requirements of the policy across Whitehall).

Essentially, transformational government contains a piece about the online world: given the handle of website rationalisation. Website rationalisation has sub-divided itself  into rationalisation and convergence.

Website rationalisation is simply: reducing the number of websites government uses to disseminate information.

Website convergence is (I am not going to say simply) migrating the content out there onto the three proposed ‘golden’ destinations:

  • Directgov: for citizen information
  • businesslink.gov.uk: for business from SMEs to large corporates
  • Departmental sites: for stakeholder/’corporate’ information (central department sites only, non-departmental public bodies NDPBs are required to associate themselves with their ‘owners’)

There are more, NHS, Police etc but they are exceptions. Stick with the simple version…

In theory, this is a good thing: it simplifies how government delivers information, helps us members of this democracy find the information we need and it will eventually reduce cost.

All of this needs to be complete by end March 2011.

So for us, it’s good!

For departments it is more challenging as it does mean that every website needs to be audited, carved up and re-delivered through the three agreed channels.

I cannot hope to give the number of websites we are talking here, but there are many :) please forgive my reticence to quote numbers, I know I will only be proved wrong!

Again, in theory, this is simple: audit the sites, audit the information, de-duplicate: re-deliver.

The challenge comes when policy units need to consult, to engage with us and find out what we think. Can using such a remote version of e-delivery work?

The challenge is already here. The people working in departments across Whitehall and the UK are now, have been and will be consulting on policies they are charged with developing over x number of years, and the Internet is a key tool for doing so. Take away the policy unit’s website and… how can this be done?

Well, the choice right now is the departmental website: until Directgov is able to offer consultation tools (not knocking DG, this is a biggy).

But… what if we were to look at this as white space? The information that we all need to know in any circumstance will, by 2011, be delivered through the three approved government arms. (Tempted to go Ganesha on the arms thing, but, let’s not.) Departments have time to streamline the corporate sites.

So is this an opportune moment to look at better ways of getting peoples’ opinion on policies in development?

My gut says yes. The temperature in the department I work for says yes. Hence all the fuss.

I will bring you details of the discussion last Thursday and will show you where you can play and what you can do if this matters to you.

Hoping that helped…

HELP ME

I seem to have written that as the subject line of a great many emails today! So why not a post?

On Thursday, 4th December 2008 – midday, I am hosting a meeting, wrong handle…, hosting a ‘thing’, about how departments will consult policy online and how we might help policy groups choose the most effective channels available (in light of transformational government) to engage/inform (gulp).

The background to why this event is happening is:

  • that online communication has moved on at a speed that organisations/public sector would struggle to keep up with
  • adoption of social media as a communication tool in the digital world has been aggressively successful
  • transformational government: website rationalisation

The problems we are looking to address are:

  • how can those involved in developing policy in this democracy ensure that they can engage effectively online with those people either affected by or interested in that policy
  • what are the most effective channels for digital engagement in the ‘website rationalised’ world

This started as a very small discussion amongst those I knew in the public and private sector who were great at this kind of thinking, an informal chat that would offer up some interesting grist for our overworked mill. I blagged favours and felt rather chuffed that I had so many great people agree to come.

It has grown into much more than that, as obviously there is much interest in this, and it is a huge opportunity not to be wasted: having so many stonkingly brilliant people together in the same room for two hours.

Why am I posting? Why do I want help? Well, I thought that those of you who read this blog are obviously also interested in this kind of stuff and thought that it would be a bit rude not to include you.

So, two things, send me, by email or post here:

1. Questions/thoughts that you think we need to address in such a meeting

2. Ideas/links to innovative ideas you have on consulting policy online

Special thanks to Sarah Goulbourne and Will Jones from Tom Watson‘s office for helping at the last minute with a suitable venue; Oli Barrett for an invaluable telephone conversation about tips on getting the most value out of this session; Steve Moore for offering his facilitation skills; Mitch Sava for agreeing to present and Tiffany St James for focusing my mind (as ever).

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