I was delighted to be asked to participate in Open Policy 2015 and talk about the work we do in BIS to encourage teams to build digital capability, and specifically how three teams have worked with online communities to extend their evidence base, and get practical policy-focused results.
Within BIS, we have developed a model for engagement that stresses sustainability of engagement, and listening to understand the online conversational landscape before jumping in to engage for a specific policy purpose. Dubbed the sideways Christmas tree, the four main elements also help us structure the development of digital plans for consultations and building team confidence.
I talked about the work that we're doing to embed this overall approach, and how we are helping policy colleagues to recognise the reach and relevance of their online influencer communities,
I was also able to discuss three great team projects, which have seen staff applying the model to various extents - one during an independent review, one partnering with a blogger network during formal consultation and one example of working with one of the growing number of Twitter chat communities to find out about the use of technology in further education. All three are now case studies published on the BIS Digital blog.
For both the consultation and review, clear benefit of working with the relevant online communities was felt in both volume of responses, and in relatively high conversion rates of readership to response: clearly, the right people were being enthused to respond, and actively take part. Both these exercises also saw us using our relatively new Citizen Space consultation hub, and developing dedicated simplified content for that platform.
The audience at Admiralty House were keen to hear more but also provided plenty of challenge: we know from our own internal training that taking the plunge with an online community may not always come naturally, and there may be barriers and hurdles to overcome before teams are comfortable with perceived level of risk. I also heard about some great uses of social tools and how other departments are challenging those risks head on. Hopefully initiatives like Open Policy 2015 will provide them with the evidence they need to take the next steps to build more innovative approaches to digital activity within the policy making process.