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.