Archive for the 'strategising' Category

Social media, digital strategy & Scottish Gov’t direction of travel

At the Scottish Public Sector Barcamp last Friday evening, it was encouraging to hear Sarah Davidson (SG Director of Communications) say a few words of welcome which included good – and intriguing – news of high-level SG interest in a recently-submitted Digital Strategy (did this include digital engagement? – from the tenor of the discussion later it would seem so, but we’ll need to wait & see the Strategy when – hopefully – it emerges blinking into the sunlight of the public domain). If the evident general support for the strategy points the SG in the desired direction, then there’s useful scope for other parts of the Scottish public sector webeconomy and IT folk to be moved along too – even in today’s devolved state of affairs.

This news co-incided with a tweet shortly before, from one of the participants, that he’d momentarily accessed Twitter from his SG account – surely an accident he thought!

One of the break-out groups on Friday evening discussed social media and the prospects for Gov’t engagement with citizens – see an able summary by James Coltham – and one of the themes within the talk was just how sustainable full engagement really is in practice. People were anxious about the resources needed – examples quoted (I haven’t fact-checked these btw) were the BBC employing fifty (5 0h!) staff to sift through user-generated photos (e.g. 15? 25?k snaps of the February snowfall), and reflective Guardian writers wondering quietly about green-ink users of Comment is Free.

But before we all give up before we start in on this, can I just check what we’re really talking about? Reflecting later, I wondered whether or not the analogy of hosting a party might not have some leverage. Being a host can be frustrating – there never seems to be an opportunity to have a decent conversation with any of your guests; but then this is surely in part because you’re doing what hosts should do: introduce guests to each other, ensure that people make good contacts, have enjoyable conversations, etc etc. The party’s deemed good if the guests have all had a good time with each other, rather more often than with you the host. So, similarly, the gov’t job here might be to frame the conversation (snacks, soft lighting, wine served at the right temperature, etc.) and to guide it, drawing people in…rather more than engaging with each and every intervention in the way that one might in a traditional consultation?

Mind you, I’m not sure how this plays out in detailed practice. Its certainly likely to be harder work than the traditional act of punting out a consultation document (when, as was wrily suggested on the day, the answers are in any case known before the questions are put…) and getting on with the day job until the deadline for responses arrives. But it might not be quite as heavy a burden as people were thinking – because the task might not be quite what they feared?

Meantime, thanks to one ‘Calgacus Wasabi’ (shurely shome mishtake, Stewart?) for a segment from his Flickrstream, on the day.

How to Promote Knowledge-Sharing?

Work – in particular the bit of the organisation I’m attached to – is a very information-rich environment. Information is our stock-in-trade, I guess you could say. And if information is ‘got right’ then I guess there’s a relationship there with knowledge (data->information->knowledge?).

So, having to think about promoting knowledge-sharing…in the context of social-networking approaches, and web 2.0 enablement(?), is an interesting task. It starts actively with making an input to a corporate event, after an external representative from a corporate leader in this field has described their experience and approach.

In this context, I guess my task is to play the barefoot doctor. We have no infrastructure to speak of (technically) and though we surely have plenty of collective experience organisationally and socially, we have not yet spent any of the necessary time realising this.

So, where to start? I think by letting them paddle about in it for a bit, and perhaps the easiest approach to this is just to tell a story. After all, I’ve been paddling about in it for a while now (the injecting yourself with cowpox analogy may be useful), so I think I will take them on a wee journey, that I did myself last week, involving the tagging of a blog post for our Green Group.

For a general initial framework, I came across a very handy post by Dave Briggs only the other day that, among other things, outlines the process or steps involved in bringing a community together (online).

  • Establish tags – common ways of describing and finding content that everyone can use: local gov, local press, individual bloggers, existing communities and groups
  • Aggregate content – use the tags to bring the conversation about the area into one place
  • Communicate – start to talk amongst the various content producers
  • Meet – get everyone meeting and talking to each other in real life
  • Develop – put together some of the infrastructure together to allow for further collaboration and coworking, both online and off”

[emphases added – why?, see below]

As knowledge-sharing can presumably only happen within some sort of community, these steps seem applicable.

And as the first logical thing to do, it seems, is to work out how you classify (and thereby identify, describe and sort) the knowledge you wish to share, then it seems to make sense to focus on tags, only, for a first input. Roaming all over the various tools one can use will probably be just confusing. Other things like the sort of things wikis are good for, will just have to wait. After all, folk will want, and I hope value, the opportunity to state whether they’d like to hear more rather than be given the whole 9 yards without the option.

Useful resources for things to think about for later on though, include:

  • If people are persuaded enough to keep with the basic idea for the moment, and might like to think about it unharassed by a zealot, I guess they will need handy wee things to take away and think about, such as:
  • Then if people decide they would like to have a try – stick a toe in the water – then a range of sort-of stik-a-brik sets will perhaps be needed. Here (many thanks to Dave Fleet) is an inspiring example of the genre (albeit not related to tagging, but to online ‘listening’ – something people will need to try out early anyway). 
  • Later on when people are really beginning to think their way into what’s involved, they may want to consider roles and tasks – as in ‘what will people need to do differently’ and more importantly, how they will need to think differently about what they do.
  • At various points, people seem to start talking about toolkits:
    • The NTEN’s ‘We Are Media’ project is the best one I’ve seen recently, both in terms of content (see the Modules, accessible via links in the left hand menu) and the process of collating it – a classic use of a wiki, and as such a wonderful learning example.
    • Emma Mulqueeny and colleagues in Whitehall and thereabouts are also thinking of one, which will surely be relevant.

But there surely won’t be one given route into this…must go and read more of the NTEN material for now, and perhaps Emma’s later.

Lessons from decaying production models elsewhere, for research utilisation & knowledge transfer

Some interesting conversations and related reading last week triggered a couple of thoughts, which I hoped might be worth sharing. Anyway here goes:

  • The train of thought started in a conversation which included a touch upon Social Services Research Registers, which seem hard to enthuse people about and keep up to date, and the reflection ‘why couldn’t the process be more social?’
  • Next I was luckily able to obtain a preview of the upcoming ‘My Community Space’ functionality to be launched within the NHS eLibrary this April.  
  • Then on the way home I read an interesting piece about the collapse of the traditional production and distribution models for music and film – but there is hope in a much more community-oriented one.

If you pop over to the ‘Hyperpeople’ blog (strapline: ‘what happens after we’re all connected?’) you’ll find a lengthy post, which is, it transpires, the script of a presentation to Irish filmmakers…Anyway, scroll down to part III ‘And the Penny Drops’, and skim-read from there to the end, particularly the last four paragraphs.

The trick is, while doing so, mentally to transpose the discussion of ‘media’ (film, music) into ‘research’. For example there’s a nice bit in the penultimate paragraph about roles – and the need for a new one (a sort of ‘community developer’). Might researchers “be practically autistic when it comes to working with communities”? (Not literally, one would prefer to think, but perhaps, because of the other pressures they are under, maybe there’s a tint of accuracy?).

The message is a clear one I think:

“…the key is to find the communities which will be most interested in the production; this is not always entirely obvious, but the filmmaker should have some idea of the target audience for their film. While in preproduction, these communities need to be wooed and seduced into believing that this film is meant just for them, that it is salient…

…Starting at the earliest stages of pre-production, someone has to sit down with the creatives and the producer and ask the hard questions: “Who is this film intended for?” “What audiences will want to see this film – or see it more than once?” “How do we reach these audiences?” From these first questions, it should be possible to construct a marketing campaign which leverages microaudiences and social networks into ticket receipts and DVD sales and online purchases….”

…Meanwhile, across at the eLibrary, My Community Space is coming*. This involves the opportunity for any Athens user registered with the eLibrary to create a personal profile, along the lines of the ones we are becoming familiar with in all the main Social Networking Systems like Facebook, Ning, Bebo etc. You can register your interest in topics (interest in, or experience of, or both? – anyway, you can register that you have a stake of some sort). You can also tag resources with your own labels (and pick up those used by others?) – resources that you find both within the eLibrary (and associated repositories) and beyond, anywhere on the web. This act also records your ‘stake’ in topic – the resource gained your attention sufficiently for you to tag it with a label. If you agree, these notes of interest are visible above the level of the existing communities (little silos – but in a good way) that the eLibrary supports.So, a researcher, could, within the new production model hinted at above, search for eLibrary users – right across the user population so long as they had created a visible profile – by labels relevant to her project, to seek and thereafter develop collaborative involvement right from the point of hypothesis formation, through project planning, funding proposals, survey construction, editing the products, and considering the findings.

With some imagination, perhaps the collaborative involvement of others could be framed as a learning activity too (here the Associate Schools Groups (ASGs) model might repay scrutiny) and as such, attract CPD points or whatever.

Could this be made to happen? Not overnight, to be sure, but might it not be worth tinkering with and planning for. What else might need to be developed?

  • The model is sort-of available;
  • The technology infrastructure is available though not seamlessly joined-up (does it need to be? – not sure that it does)
  • Organisational model (have a look at the ASG structure for a start?)
  • Learning infrastructure – CPD points etc.

What d’you think?

Some SHOW strategising

(try saying the title fast…)

An initial blether planned for tomorrow, on the topic of collating/updating the strategy for SHOW. Obviously, an opportunity not to be missed, given SHOWs centrality to all things webby this side of the border. Here’s my letter to Santa on what we might touch upon:

  • the political/organisational context. What does this conversation emerge from and lead to, both immediately and more broadly? Specifically, it seems that there’s a senior management discussion coming up very soon, for which at least initial thoughts need to be organised. More broadly, for example, as far as I’m aware, there was a discussion within SG (Scottish Government) recently of the idea of creating some form of Gov’t-wide portal – it seemed someone thought that a scottish equiv of Direct.gov should be created, and had mooted a spreadsheet-based exercise to collect all relevant links…sigh. Really…
  • the business context. That’s, most directly, Scottish health web-business, with readily-identifiable players including SHOW itself; NES and the e-Library; NHS24; the Health Boards including Health Scotland. Each will have their own plans, areas of specialisms, and probably, ideas for taking over the rest of the world. Atos too, in terms of server farms and the like? And other key contractoors too by extension. Any SHOW strategy will have to say some enabling and influencing things about these stakeholder interests.
  • which takes us to stakeholders, and whether we should at an early stage do some form of stakeholder analysis.
  • We’ll need to sketch out some form of big-picture outline of where we’ve been, and where we’re going to. There’s quite a lot of mantra-level material easily available about web 1.0 and its all-pervasive ideas & metaphors, for the former, and other stuff on web 2.0. But maybe we shouldn’t major on the decimal point stuff in case that puts the hi-heid yins off. The same concepts can be aired without the labels.
    • it’s the social web we need to orient towards;
    • also publication standards (microformats & the like);
    • the mainstream influence of open source (not just the geeks’ version, but the broader open source movement and thinking), in distributing so widely the tools that confer the power to co-create information and knowledge;
    • key mantras like ‘the web comes to you, not you go to the web’, and the like.
  • But sloganising can only stand in for analysis for so long. Perhaps its role is to buy time to make the case for some decent analysis, which will need to be bought in, I suspect. And could usefully be seen to be done so, anyway. One might be able to acquire some of this ready-made, for example the recent Gartner reports, and the ‘Power of Information’ (see also the ‘co-creation version’) thinking.
  • We’ll also need to deploy, or re-deploy, available research into what users will be doing by the time any strategy we collate comes to fruition. Here, there’s maybe an insight to be gained from the recent JISC report into the user voice. JISC suggest that todays expert users, which they give space to, are tomorrow’s mainstream. While the power of this is more intituitive than scientific, it’s still…powerful. The unsettling lessons JISC spells out for knowledge providers surely have their parallels for the health domain too.

Then there the organisational development part of strategy. What’s SHOW’s ‘core business’? Or USP? Hosting expertise? Standards and their development & promulgation? or what? If this is to be majored on, does anything else that SHOW does currently have to be downsized or better dealt with elsewhere? (This assumes that no organisation can move into new fields and carry on doing all of what it was doing before. Some things may need to be shed, or carried on with elsewhere. What might these be?

 Just to start with.


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