Going digital is about culture too – and that is tough

Written by on January 29, 2016 in Guest Blog with 0 Comments

Employee hide under the desk in front of problemsI recently shared my thoughts on what I have heard for around 10 years are some fears and barriers in public services around using the Internet, social media, digital platforms – whatever your preferred term is – in better ways for improved knowledge exchange, building trust and creating strong relationships. I wrote about fears people have about being abused online, fears around negotiating online identity, fears digital champions have about inertia generally but especially in hierarchical leadership and finally about fears around BYOD.

I want to round off the week with some final thoughts for discussion and to highlight some things I missed out.

Digital is for augmenting, not replacing. Thanks to Lorraine Spalding for helping me remember that ‘old fashioned’ communication and engagement is still important. Of course it is! I am aware that those of us who shout about digital communication and engagement don’t always remember to say that. Although there is a big push in public services to digital first and channel shift, when it comes to encouraging interaction and dialogue we have to remember that we need to reach people in all sorts of ways. I think this is important when we’re thinking about interacting with each other too. The last office I worked in had an email amnesty for a day and it was amazing. People were actually getting up to approach each other for conversations and it was really something.

There’s a leadership vacuum. Our digital practitioner networks have disbanded and we have Martha Lane-Fox and Mike Bracken shaped holes in our hierarchical leadership. I’m not sure what to do about the top tier thing and I’m not even sure what my wish is there but I do hope for a revitalization of the practitioner networks. I’m working with a friend in the third sector to put together an Edinburgh version of Glasgow’s Digital Media Meetup and we’d like to keep a focus on supporting colleagues in public services (I’m including third sector in ‘public services’) learn from each other at the meetups. We feel public services are more reliant on each other for sharing resources and sector specific learning and although there are a lot of private sector led digital meetups in the city, they’re not always a good fit. We’re currently looking for a steady venue, speakers and maybe sponsorship. Get in touch if you want to talk more about it or if you want to get involved. For the foreseeable future I think digital leadership will have to continue to come from practitioners so let’s tear it up!

Organisational culture is a bitch. Huge systematic changes are needed to enable widespread transformation in all sorts of areas including digital communication and engagement. Everyone says it, we all know it but for some reason no one is really doing much about it. It’s like an open secret. The rhetoric flying around about all this is incredible! The next time you’re at a public sector digital conference/shindig or watching one online, check out the ‘insights’ coming from the top table then I challenge you to find evidence of that person practicing what they’re preaching. Inside at officer or practitioner level, I bet there are stacks of plans and conversations that have gone down about using web and social media for a project or for general engagement but never actually happened. Stacks I tell you! Stacks!

Open up dialogue. There are different camps in the digital discussion and people from all sorts of areas should be coming together more often to share thoughts, ideas and to help each other understand where everyone is coming from. IT security, digital communicators, traditional communicators, data and information managers and the rest need to hash some things out in order to approach increased use of digital in public services to work well long term.

Keep up the good work. So many people are doing really great things that are not largely visible. I know you’re there somewhere so keep it up! Hopefully our paths will cross and we can work together in the future.

This article was first published here, and is reproduced with kind permission.

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Leah Lockhart

About the Author

About the Author: For over ten years, Leah has been working with small teams and individuals to help them learn to use digital platforms for communication, engagement and building relationships. She is Director of Relate Lab, a consultancy offering hands on short to medium term support to people who want to learn practical skills for online community growth and management. .

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