DFID starts blogging

DFID have launched a new blogging platform, with various members of the department who are based abroad telling their stories through a group blog.

The site looks beautiful, which is perhaps to be expected when you consider that it was put together by arch government wordpresser Simon Dickson. Simon writes about the site:

I can’t say how pleased I am with the results. I’ve been collaborating with a couple of new contacts – my near-neighbour Tony Parsons on the design side, and Simon Wheatley (who I met at WordCamp) on the technical stuff that was beyond me. Both have been truly brilliant. And I have to say, the DFID guys have been fabulous too – giving me all the freedom I could ask for. It’s been a perfect combination, and I think it shows in the site.

It’s not just about the tech side though. Shane McCracken has been working with DFID to provide training to the bloggers, in collaboration with Griff Wigley. I helped out too, taking a bit of time out to show the DIFD web team in London how the WordPress administration interface works. This combination of training and support, should mean the quality of the content will match that of the site. Top marks to DFID for identifying and committing resource to this side of things.

Shane writes:

We’re very lucky in that our blogging volunteers are superb writers with extremely interesting lives and situations with enormous scope for great photography. They are going to provide a fine insight into the work that DFID do and the effect they have on the people of the countries in which and with which they work.

The coaching programme has had its challenges. As you can imagine the budget to fly us to Tanzania was not made available, so coaching is happening online is the same manner as we did with CivicSurf. The DFID bloggers are in full-time positions working seven days a week and in time zones and work patterns that don’t necessarily coincide with our 9 – 5 UK life. Thankfully Griff, who has been leading the coaching, works flexible hours.

Finally, Owen Barder, who used to work at DFID, notes approvingly:

DfID has a very good reputation abroad, but hardly anybody in the UK knows anything about it, or appreciates how much DfID contributes to positive perceptions of Britain. I hope this blog will help tell the story in a very direct and personal way.

Good work, all.