I thought it would be a bit remiss if I didn’t mention on my own blog that I gave a talk about the benefits of blogging!

The context was an annual conference called Civil Service Live. An event where thousands of civil servants gather to hear the latest views and ideas from all around the service. This year speeches included a variety of Cabinet Ministers, and panel discussions were facilitated by some familiar faces, including Peter Jones (of Dragon’s Den fame) and Kevin McCloud (didn’t catch his session unfortunately – on eco home design of the future).

I saw an inspirational talk by Professor Eddie Obeng (member of the Design Council). He showed us a short film:  the World after Midnight – which illustrates how it is not enough any longer to tinker around the edges with systems and services – the world has changed, and we need some radical changes to reflect that.

On to the session I took part in. The format was one of a general introduction, then 5 groups where myself and different colleagues spoke about different parts of the social media toolkit: blogging, photos, video, twitter and social media monitoring. My main conclusion would be one of optimism. A session at last years conference saw a small group of people who already knew about what was going on, mostly talking to each other. This year, the session was held in one of the big  lecture spaces, and was packed. I didn’t count heads, but I reckon well over 100 people were there, as at least 25 were clustered around my table.

My main message was how blogging in a work/government context can bring a personal perspective to what goes on. Especially at the moment, when civil servants and public sector workers more generally are in the news more than any time I can remember, there is still very low knowledge about what people who work in Whitehall actually do.   I spoke about what we are doing at DFID as DFID bloggers have some fascinating stories to tell about their work all around the world, but I also gave some pointers to other established blogs around Whitehall – FCO and MOD for example. There were lots of questions – only 2 people in the group had ever commented on a blog post, and I think only 1 or 2 had ever  written their own. We discussed a process for setting up and measuring the effectiveness of a corporate blog, but also the value it could bring to individuals who could write about something they feel passionate about and find other people who share similar interests.

As I said, I left with a feeling of optimism that more people who work in the public sector are curious about these tools – which don’t feel new to those of us who use them every day, but which are still a big step for people used to traditional methods of communication. At least 2 people asked me for recommendations of which tools to use – so I hope we see more people trying this method of showing that the civil service is not some army of faceless bureaucrats, but a diverse workforce with many different faces.

ps. It would have been nice to illustrate this post, but I don’t have any photos of my session. If any of the people who were recording the event has something appropriate and can contact me, I’d appreciate it!