This is the third post of five this week in what I'm calling The Fear Series. The Fear Series is about highlighting some of the most common fears I have come across working in public services to improve the use of web and social media for around 10 years. These fears and anxieties are often used as barriers to better online presences and engagement and they come up so frequently I want to pick them apart and offer up some suggestions to help you face your web and social media fears in 2016.
This is about the fear of the digital champion and advocate in public services. Inertia is a perennial problem and it's exhausting and soul destroying. Scottish public services aren't exactly fast moving or hotbeds of experimentation and innovation so for the creative person with new ideas the unique public sector environment is very challenging. In fact the last couple of years talented thought leaders have thrown their hands up and left to focus on working on digital projects outside of Scotland or chose leave the sector all together- the tail end of 2015 saw some especially heart breaking exits.
Inertia and the lack of high level leadership around public sector digital communication and engagement isn't a new problem. I blogged about it back in 2012, in early 2013 and again in mid-2013 and I hate to say I could publish the same posts now with no real editing needed. Back in the heady days of 2013 there was quite a lot of practitioner led activity to bring digital doers together to share practice and ideas but it has died away now. Once upon a time the Scottish Public Sector Digital Group (hashtag spsdg) was blogging away, the # was on fire, tea camps and gov camps were a regular feature. We felt connected, energised, organised...and then we got back to our workplaces where not much was happening or allowed to happen. When this goes on for such a long time, it really gets you down and while SPSDG members and participants are still around, we're disconnected and disparate now. Leadership in Scottish public sector digital has always been practitioner led but at some point middle and top tiers have to move to create change. But this isn't really happening and so the motivation, excitement and positivity on the practitioner side is low.
There are some glimmers of hope though. Ian Watt from Aberdeen City Council posted recently about some exciting progress in open data work throughout Scotland's public sector and there is some good work on the horizon to explore the future public serctor workforce and the updated (including digital) skills needed for the 21st century. These are projects that could be parts of a larger piece over the whole sector but the hierarchical nature of our organisations means practitioner led activity can only go so far to affect wider change.
Previous posts in this series have included some thoughts and ideas to help people face their fears in the new year and to overcome barriers to better use of web and social media in public services but I'm kind of stuck with the inertia fear. I have the fear! What can we do together?