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Collaborative Working Techniques; are we practising what we preach?

In the industry we like to talk about the transformational potential of the technologies with which we work and the profound way in which they impact individuals the economy and society. When you look at our own practices do we always live up to this challenge ourselves?

One area that has intrigued me is the research work that floods my mailbox from all sorts of organisations making these claims for Web 2.0, Virtualisation, SaaS and so on. The strange fact is the conclusion and the final output from the work tends to be a 50 page pdf to download, or a PowerPoint deck. In other words, in a world of Youtube, Blogs and Wikis, and even for many of us our won personal conviction that things should be different, our preferred mode of dissemination is the traditional linear report. Do you find that a little odd, or is it that we can only move at the pace of the slowest person to change their working practice?

What I think actually happens is that we will make change only when we have a positive role model, or case study, that we can use to say that we could change, and that others have been there before to prove that it is safe, and good. Against this background the importance of blogs as a method of bringing to the attention of those who would like to change the case studies and examples is, in my mind at least, extremely important. These are examples not be of absolute best practice and on a huge scale, but on a workable example of emerging practices that show innovative potential, and value that may become more widespread in time.

It is against this background that the work done by IPSOS Mori with the Local Government Association and the Horizon Scanning Unit at DIUS in the UK is worth knowing about. They have conducted an interesting piece of research on the “Future of Local Services to the Public”. Instead of the final report, what they have done is to put their research onto a wiki and opened up the wiki to the wider community. It’s a bold experiment that deserves a pat on the back, and more particularly I hope readers of this blog will take the opportunity to engage with them. Usually the final report decays in value over time as in these days of rapid change we seem to be constantly on the back foot trying to keep up. Here the end of the research phase in this project has led to a community being launched which can take the ideas forward. I hope it succeeds and shows the way. What we should do, I suggest, regardless of the outcome on this project is to think of how we might develop this approach on a wider basis. If interested, have a look at the wiki at http://communities.ipsos-mori.com/lgawiki/index.php/Main_Page.

Another, really interesting example is the Power of Information Task Force.. This is a group sponsored, by a Minister, Tom Watson M.P. Over the last year they have conducted an extensive consultation on how to better use public information to serve the needs of our citizens, based on an earlier excellent report by Ed Mayo and Tom Steinberg. The work has been done online, openly using the tools of web 2.0. It offers an insight into how interaction between the state and the citizen may evolve. It also poses a challenge to make sure that all citizens have access to digital technologies, if this really is the way forward. Again, if interested, look at http://powerofinformation.wordpress.com/

Both of these examples also show working between public, private and third sectors in innovative ways, and I am very grateful to a colleague; Dr Chris Yapp, for practicing what he preaches in bringing these cases and much of the comment above to my attention.

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Kirsten Burgard

The wiki from the local goverment association is awe-inspiring. I’ve seen wikis used in government, but never to this extent. It’d be great to find Wiki’s dedicated to planning elements like tactical planning, operational planning and even program planning (especially multi-year programming). Sharing this kind of information across agency lines could make government more tansparent, but it could really make it more citizen focused and way more citizen friendly by giving citizens the ability to interact with government. And I think it’d be okay to have to deal with an occassionaly Stephen Colbert type (who edits Truthiness wikis), it’s part of the process of opening things up.

andy mulholland

may be others can contribute other examples so we can build up our case studies and convert others to trying out the approach?


I agree. Often I hear consultants talk about how they can implement these new tools but when I dig into whether they use them in their organizations, the truth is that it is very limited. As always, walk the walk, don’t just talk the talk.

andy mulholland

thanks John – thats a good one, interesting to see the responses it provokes from companies engaging

as Govloop himself says it really should be the consultants that drive this down through new projects, internally we kick started social networking with high end business consultants by driving bids through using the social network thus forcing them to engage and learn how to use a social network to handle real work and create real benefits

Paulette Neal-Allen

I agree with Kirsten, the local government wiki is fascinating. I could probably spend all day reading and never run out of fresh ideas.

I disagree that it really should be the consultants that drive this in new projects. Yes, they should be a part of it, but I think we all need to be involved in figuring out where Web 2.0 technologies would be a good fit for what we are trying to accomplish.

andy mulholland

Hi Paulette
i may be a little hard on my own profession but i dont think over all we are providing enough of an example to those we work with, and through that starting to help those we work with to get engaged with new ways. of course it would be great if in parallel we could also see the leaders from the GovLoop community also pushing where they see the opportunities too!