Thursday, 11 October 2012

Digital Inclusion: You're Not Alone

Working with digital can sometimes feel like you’re trying to change the world on your own. Add to this the growing pressure some in Local Government say they experience and there’s a chance that if you do both, you might be feeling pretty alone right now.

If you are then this is for you.

I realise what I’m about to propose is hardly groundbreaking stuff, but if it helps a few people in their professional roles, why not point them in the right direction. So here’s what I suggest:

1) Use Twitter Professionally

Twitter. It’s about finding out what people like Wayne Rooney had for tea isn’t it? Well yes, but it can also be an invaluable tool in your working life.

Create yourself a Twitter account for professional use, and start following people in the same field as you. If social media is blocked at work, use it for a few minutes every day home. If you’re worried about what work might think of you using it, use a pseudonym.

Start following people like you. Start asking them questions. Start showing them what you’re doing, because they’ll probably be interested. Before you know it you’ll have your own network of peers to discuss your work with. Some of them will even help you out if you ask.

2) Attend Meet-Ups, Camps and Unconferences.

Now you’ve got an online network of fellow professionals you can discuss what you’re doing on a day-to-day basis. There’s only so much you can say in 140 characters and though we might all be digital by default, there’s nothing wrong with attending the odd event with your network of peers.

Keep your eye out events attended or perhaps even organised by those in your Twitter timeline. With any luck you’ll walk away feeling enthused about what you do with a bunch of new ideas to try.

3) Ask For Help In Person

So you’re talking to fellow practitioners online and attending events but sometimes you might need help in person, to speak to colleagues or senior management. Why not ask for help from your network?

To give you one example, when I needed someone to speak to our CEO and Council Members about what another local authority was doing with social media, Dan Slee sat on a train for two hours and came to talk to them about the great stuff they’ve been doing at Walsall for years.

It’s important to remember one of the great things about working in the public sector is local authorities aren’t in competition with each other and there are people out there who will take time out to help you and ask for little in return.

Perhaps one day this will become standard practice not just for those working in digital but beyond too, but until then be proactive and help change things yourself.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Perhaps you’d like to blog a response, write 4 to 6 and we could compile them on a website with advice and ideas for local government digital practitioners.
This blog is written by Phil Rumens, Vice-Chair of LocalGov Digital, lead for LGMakers and who manages the digital services team at a local authority in England.

The opinions expressed in this weblog are my own personal views and in no way represent any organisation I may have worked for, currently work for, might be thinking of working for, might not be thinking of working for or have never worked for. In fact having said that they, might not even be my views any more as I might have changed my mind so I wouldn't take any of it too seriously.