I can’t do a social media toolkit, but Obama can! (Sort of…)

Growl, possibly the only reason he is President of the US and I am not… apart from… (no OK)

Oh this is so hard to say, but Twitter has come up trumps again. The truly remarkable Oli Barrett found this gem.

It is a very wordy document, but do read it, just the headings will do if you know what you are talking about. I am interested most in how this success story can be moved into all online public engagement.

There is a very small but growing bunch of people who work in the public sector over here who have been trying to harness and do exactly what Obama has done: not for campaigning purposes, but for online engagement, digital democracy (although it is often for free and in our own time to be honest).

Hopefully very soon Government here in the UK will step up to the plate and put some serious time, money and resource into utilising the opportunity offered by social media, which I know has become a swear word, even amongst my most beloved. (And by time money and resource, I don’t mean taxing the public purse further, I mean re-directing the bleed).

I am not a geek, nor am I particularly talented at policy-making – but what I do know is how government works, big G government: as in the governing party, as well as the mighty civil service. And what I am so sure of, is that the three powers that run this country:

  • citizens
  • the Labour Party (do I need to date this post?)
  • the civil service

… must pay serious heed to how everyone is learning now. Behaviour is being influenced in a way never before seen; it is simple, it is the power of community.

I have no real idea how best to harness this, but I will give it a damn good try, but I know for certain that it does not depend on the right content management system.

The digital ‘me’ culture is not such a bad thing, you know: we start to think in Facebook/twitter updates, but it is exactly this that enables us to share our lives, and to say ‘I am willing to reduce my hours/days of work to ensure that my neighbour can bring in an income to support their family’. This is something referred to in Obama’s speech:

It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours.

I know that I have become far more conscious of my societal obligations since I started engaging in online communities. Why? Because it is real. Reality plays a huge part in this online revolution, I am not going to go down the path of fictitious reality as we can generally spot and ignore those, but each of our friends are more real to us – and so we feel an affinity and turn towards our governers to see what they are doing, how are they responding to our concerns?

Let’s see how this plays out, what worries me is that the opportunity here will be swallowed up by a fear of the unknown, and a need to be ‘stakeholder managed’ through change, which is ridiculous – we can all keep up, but can someone have the guts to show the way? Because to be honest, if someone doesn’t I can see the potential for digital civil war – and the senior civil servants, the Ministers and departments will have no idea how to address or indeed manage it; and they won’t have the time to write the project initiation document (PID).

Put a big bow on it and say goodbye

Last year during the course of my postings I made a few decisions/explored some random avenues and then disappeared off down other paths, seemingly willy nilly. This year I was determined to tie them all up and then move on.

Here are the three that haunt me:

Right back at the beginning I promised that I was not ‘blogging’ that has been proved untrue, as Dave Briggs pointed out, it was indeed a slippery slope. SO sorry!

I also said that I was going to build a social media toolkit I have since realised that there can be no such thing – it belies the medium and actually the best I could do was a decision tree to decide how online content should best be delivered according to who was needing to read the stuff. Not very clever, but realistic.

Finally, I made a big brouhaha about the online consultation deal because something small turned into something big. It has now turned into something monumental. This is exciting but it also beyond me and my blogging here until the people who are now doing this get to a point where we can help further.

I know that this last one is the most rubbish of me, I yelled for help, got it, then went silent. However, the name of the game is getting stuff done and if the work that I do goes any way towards getting that stuff done, then I have to be happy with that. And for all of you who contribute to discussions here, well… your time is not wasted either as all of it goes into the pot and is used to influence how we move forward.

It is better to be honest about this, so if any of the above piss you off then please accept my apologies. If my role is posting here about stuff that is happening, that then creates energy and conversation, it is not wasted. My role is enabling change and assisting the reality of that change; officials and Ministers do everything else. (That sounds lame, but I don’t mean it in a lame way – feel free to beat me up).

Well, that is the true beginning to my year. I look forward to another one that is going to kick arse in the government online space, not only in the UK but everywhere else too – it is an exciting time.

Emma the apologist

After having written about the tool kit we are preparing, I have gone horribly quiet, whilst many of you have been being deliciously helpful in the comments here.

Do not fret, I have not vanished off the face of the earth, I am making sure that I do not screw up the next step.

I will update this blog as I inch forward, but what has become clear is how much is being done by Steph Gray in DIUS – and I need to assimilate this, rather than dupe effort. (Proving harder to achieve in real life than you would think!) Steph and I run around each other in ever decreasing circles, so hopefully next week I will be at stage two.

Two things that bring me comfort:

1. Looking at where we are now and where we want to get to in departmental communication online; is the ‘stuff’ I am doing going to get us to where we want to be? Yes. (Phew)

2. The first step to take in collaborating in the social media space, is to listen. Oli Barrett showed me easily the simplest listening tool I have found to date: addictomatic. The only downside being that you can only listen to one ‘keyword’ at a time – good way to filter what you are really trying to achieve. So, you can either have many people listening, or you use a multiple listening tool like Pageflakes. Pageflakes requires a teensy amount of technical knowledge (to make it look good mainly) and I can recommend Dave Briggs as a good person to set one up for you in about… er half a day :)

So, I am getting there. It is complicated – by the day job as well as the wealth of information available.

Even better news is that Beth Kanter and I have touched base… I will keep you updated.

Next week I will also update my roll call, as I have recently received several formal complaints (sorry!)

Update sinning: sorry I do know the rules, but I have just realised that I posted without checking my reader first. Jeremy Gould has talked about both things I have mentioned here on his Whitehall Webby blog – h/t

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