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.

Turning events inside out

Shane McCracken was sufficiently interested in the social reporting that David Wilcox and I undertook at the DC10plus event early last month that he started to develop a business model around it, dubbing it ConferenceXtra.

The concept is that it’s all well and good for public sector organisations to put on events to disseminate information, or share good practice, but the reach is only ever going to be as far as those that attend. By using the social web, events can be turned inside out, so those that can’t attend still get to find out what went on and an even contribute to what’s happening.

evoiceThis idea was put to the test a couple of weeks ago in Norwich, as Shane explains. The event was the evoice international political forum on eDemocracy, hosted by Norfolk County Council. Now, evoice are not necessarily a group that too many people are aware of, which makes putting their work up online all the more important, so that people can learn and share experience.

I was delighted to be involved in getting a whole host of audio and video online, as well as presentations through SlideShare and photos on Flickr. There’s a real mixture of content, especially video, with formal recordings of the presentations mixed with short vox pop interviews with attendees, very much in the social reporter style.

The site that we put together is hosted at ConferenceXtra, using WordPress (of course!). The great thing with the blog format is of course that is has interactivity built in, and it was great to see some comments being made, and conversations held, on the site soon after it went live. Hopefully the site will become a place where all those involved in the evoice project can convene in the future.

One fantastic project that was highlighted was that of Bus Stop 39, an online youth engagement initiative by Norfolk County Council and partners, which aims “to give young people an insight into their local council and its services, as well as offering the opportunity to be part of one of the UK’s first online teen soaps, enabling them to make informed choices when the chance to vote in local elections arises”.

Here’s one video where Tom Hodgkinson introduces the project in detail:


Check out the Bus Stop 39 page at the ConferenceXtra site for another clip where young people talk with great passion about the initiative. I, and others, have said it loads of times before, but this stuff works, folks.

Councillor 2.0

Just popped up on the Gallomanor blog – Cllr 2.0:

The Ministry of Justice Innovations Fund II approved a bid from Gallomanor and Norfolk County Council to help set this record straight.  We’re filming a group of six Norfolk County Councillors as we train them on how to blog.  The film along with a introductory booklet will be distributed to public sector organisations to help them convince their decision makers, their civic leaders that using the internet and blogging in particular are good communication tools.  We’ll also be setting up a series of Q&A session with local bloggers for the first 25 local authorities wanting to run them.

Great stuff! And perfect for my Public Sector Social Media meet on the 26th Feb. I have emailed Shane at Gallomanor to see if he and maybe someone from Norfolk CC can come along and chat to us about the project, which has its own blog (of course!) at http://cllr2pointzero.wordpress.com/.

Andrew Brown is also involved in Cllr 2.0, whose blog I have been subscribed to for a while now.

Another good example of councillors blogging is at Chester City Council, with their Chesterblogs project. I had emailed their generic web team address about this, and whether they would like to be involved, but sadly never heard anything back.