Three cheers for Dylan Jeffrey

I rather glossed over it at the time, because of the general excitement of the moment, but a remarkable thing happened a couple of days ago. A man called Dylan Jeffrey commented on this blog.

Why is this so remarkable? Well, Dylan is a civil servant. What’s more, he was commenting as a civil servant. He was also giving the official line of his department (Communities and Local Government) in a place where discussion was happening online. Not by emailing out a press release, or making some grand announcement, but by quietly finding where the conversation was, and taking part.

Indeed, Dylan did his department great service – the conversation was a fairly tempestuous one, with disgreements abounding about who was at fault for the decision to cut the funding for ICELE, the centre for local eDemocracy in the UK. Several bits of communication had come from ICELE – a press release here, an email there – but nothing, apparently, from CLG. This was a communications risk for the department, as their side of the story simply wasn’t being told.

The comment that Dylan posted was pretty uncontroversial, simply providing some background factual information and then adding detail of a Ministerial statement on the issue, which was probably available buried away somewhere on the CLG website as a press release or somesuch. But Dylan brought it to us, where we were talking about the issue, sticking his neck out to both inform us, and do his department a service by communicating their message.

Of course, this week saw the publication of the guidance for civil servants engaging with the social web. Of the five main points, three were: be credible, be responsive and be a civil servant. Dylan hit all three of these.

Let’s hope other civil servants take note, and that Dylan’s colleagues at CLG thank him for doing this on their behalf.

4 thoughts on “Three cheers for Dylan Jeffrey”

  1. Chapeaux indeed. You’re right that’s what’s great is the fact that he went out and found the conversation rather than waiting for t to come to him. His comments maybe a little ‘official-speak’ but voice comes with confidence and radical trust. But even voice and trust are not sufficient if they’re only be exercised in the official corners of the Party. In the light of the new ‘guidelines’, it’d be interesting to know the processes/hoops he had to go through to make that leap into your space. Dylan? You following the conversation still?

  2. Paul,

    Thank you for your comments and thank you Dave for raising this important issue of the need for public bodies to sometimes attempt to reach out to where the conversation is taking place.

    This is an important area that Government at all levels, locally and nationally, needs to understand more. Guest blogs from Perm Secs and the official blogs from Ministers, either Departmentally such as David Milliband’s or outside of the Departmental spaces such as Tom Watson’s are a great leap forward from the offical communication lines that have existed in the past.

    The recent Power of Information Review looked at this in more detail and councils are responding up and down the land developing new ways of using technology to enhance their dialogue with communities in their location e.g. Redbridge with consultation or Stratford with Twitter. This builds on the existing technology such as online reports and webcasting offering new ways of engagement which are breaking new ground for public bodies.

    The issue of confidence and trust is a very important alongside the issue of slowly changing existing culture, custom and practice to accept new technology into communications which is more than traditional web 1.0 that Government has previously focused upon. This still has a massive role to play in making information available to the masses and also continuing to enable traditional transactional services to be undertaken utilizing technology. Web 2.0 interaction on the other hand is still evolving and is very citizen driven, which can only be a good thing in determining the needs and discussion that people want to see.

    How should Government play in this space is still being discussed but the more it becomes normal for healthy and informed dialogue to take place, the stronger our civic society will be, which I am sure is a common aim for many.

  3. Having missed this at the time, I agree that it’s a significant event. As the CLG web manager I will hunt Dylan down and see if I can a) sign him up for my digital people network within the Dept and b) ask his help in spreading the word to other officials. We need more like him. (Also, my son is called Dylan, so I am predisposed..)

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