Today Cabinet Office announced the publication of guidance for civil servants on the use of social media as well as guidance for Departments to overcome the technical barriers to civil servants accessing the internet and social media channels.
The social media guidance is made up of six principles:
- Communicate with citizens in the places they already are
- Use social media to consult and engage
- Use social media to be more transparent and accountable
- Be part of the conversation with all the benefits that brings
- Understand that government cannot do everything alone, or in isolation
- Expect civil servants to adhere to the Civil Service Code (online as well as offline)
Writing in the foreword to the guidance the Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude notes “When civil servants, policy makers and service delivery units alike, open themselves to dialogue with the public they can glean a much better understanding of the real needs and concerns of citizens. They can keep up to date with the latest thinking as well as being a listening post and avenue for real time reassurance and information”
In his foreword, Sir Bob Kerslake (@sirbobkerslake), Head of the Civil Service, points to the role that social media will have in changing ways of working “The workplace of the future will have to be less rigid, less hierarchical and a lot more flexible. Participating in social media is a good way to learn how a modern workforce engages and communicates”
The work done on the social media use guidance, which was a commitment in the Government ICT strategy published in March 2011, has not been done in a vacuum. It iterates from previous guidance from the COI in 2009, from discussions and debates with public sector colleagues at events like UKGovCamp, policy contributions from those interested in the digital space (though not necessarily working in government) such as @Puffles2010 presentation on The Impact of Social Media on Whitehall (.ppt file 8MB), Teacamp debates, Steph Gray's (@lesteph) Digital Engagement Guide, the many interested Twitter users as well as from our own staff here in GDS @GovUK.
Part 2 of the guidance on helping Departments overcome technical barriers was developed by the Home Office and provides a very valuable snapshot of some of the significant challenges that will need to be overcome in the coming months.
For those who are regular users of social media there will be little new, but for some of our civil service colleagues who may have experienced both cultural and technical barriers in the use of social media at work, we hope it will be used as a means of empowering them to explore what social media offers, whether that is consulting and engaging, improving their policy practice or simply listening to better act on the concerns of citizens. The world of digital engagement is evolving all the time and we anticipate that this guidance will not be something that remains static but will continue to iterate over time.
We welcome continued contributions and feedback on how government can engage with social media with a constant focus on trust, users and delivery. The guidance on social media use is now on the Cabinet Office site.
Emer Coleman is Deputy Director for Digital Engagement at the Government Digital Service