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Daveslist Volume 3 Issue 16 🏆
Weeeee aaaarrreee the chaaaaaaampiooooooonssss, my friiiiiiieeeeeeeendsssss
Monday this week was spent in the marvellous surroundings of Newark and Sherwood Council, a district in Nottinghamshire, just a short hop over the border from my home county of Lincolnshire.
I’d been invited by the lovely Dave Richardson and Kristin McIntosh to come and deliver a talk about all things digital to the council’s network of digital champions - volunteers from across the organisation who give up their time helping colleagues, spreading the good news, and learning new things themselves.
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My talk centred on the 5 things everyone needs to know about digital (what digital actually is, user centred service design, agile delivery, data, and technology) from my e-learning course. It was a good summary of where things are at in the sector, I think, and outlined what we have learned, and what the emerging good practice is for councils both large and small.
(If you think people in your organisation could benefit from this talk, just let me know! It’s easy enough to deliver remotely and at just an hour out of my diary, I wouldn’t need to charge for it.)
Workshops and training days work brilliantly with small cohorts of people - but if you want to get your whole organisation on board with digital, what do you do? One option might be my 'Digital Essentials' e-learning course!
What was so nice about the atmosphere in the room was the friendly, confident nature of the champions and their relationship with the central digital and IT people. On the way home, it gave me a chance to think a bit about why these networks are so useful - and therefore why every organisation ought to have them - but also what we can do to make them successful.
Here’s a few of the things I thought about, in no particular order:
I must admit, I think if I was launching one of these things now, I would avoid the word ‘champions’ - it’s been over-used over the years and does have the vibe of people being forcibly volunteered to do things nobody else wants to. ‘Advocates’ is quite nice as an alternative.
There’s a real trick in not letting this activity become a victim of ‘milk monitor syndrome’. You want your digital volunteers network to be something people want to do. It can’t just entail a load of busy work that nobody else wants to do.
Part of the answer to that lies in making it somehow exclusive. This network should confer privileges that ordinary norms don’t have. It could be something really simple like a special laptop sticker. It could be early access to new technology. It could be getting opportunities to learn new skills. It could be getting to go out and about to visit different places to find out how they do things.
Running the network events is really important. I think a mix of remote and in person works well (not at the same time! I don’t mean hybrid…), using each for different things they are most suited to. Use in person events to try out workshop formats, to introduce some new ways of working, or even to get some additional brains onto a real problem. The remote meetings are good for show and tells, guest speakers and so on.
Particularly for smaller organisations with limited numbers of digital / technology professionals, these networks are a great way to build up some capability, capacity and confidence that you can tap into. Next time you want to run a design sprint at a problem, instead of being limited to picking from your own exhausted, overworked team, you could recruit some people from your network, who by this time will have some experience in what you’ll be doing, and probably chomping at the bit to get the chance to exercise these skills in real life!
This issue’s links
Local Digital evaluation study: A snapshot of our initial findings – I have views, will write them up at some point. But there’s some things in here presented at positives that could be seen in another way entirely. As just one example - “We were pleased to hear that nearly three-quarters of responding councils (51 out of 71) reported having an identified leader responsible for technology.” I am not sure how pleased I am that 20 councils surveyed don’t actually have anyone in charge of this stuff!?!? My mind boggles 🤯
People. Process. Product – Three lenses to improve your digital strategy - more great stuff from We Are Open.
How we’re opening up access to GOV.UK Forms – access isn’t being opened to local government just yet, which is probably fine for now. Beyond ‘free’ I’m not sure what else GOV.UK Forms would bring to the party at this stage in its development. One important consideration for me is what it spits out once a form is submitted – am guessing some kind of XML or JSON maybe. Organisations adopting these forms will need the in house capability to do something useful with that output, which isn’t always the case.
Stacks of really, really useful stuff in this guide to digital transformation in HE from Jisc. Lots that can be applied to other sectors.
That’s it for this issue. Don’t forget to hit reply if you have any feedback, or forward this on to anyone you think may enjoy it.
Also, if I can help you with anything, you can hire me!
Until next time,