Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A time to reflect and review

A change in seasons, change in circumstances and change in structures is always a good time to reflect on situations and review the current state.

I've been doing a lot of reflecting and reviewing following my honeymoon and, looking around at some of the other long-time Government 2.0 supporters in Australia, it appear others have as well.

There's been some excellent signs that social media use is starting to be recognized as a mainstream phenomenon in Australia - from the APSC's normalisation of social media in the Code of Conduct, the establishment of more Gov 2.0/Social Media in Government groups in states, the initiatives at all levels of government (when Census and the police use social media you know things are changing!), the growth of Govspace and data sites, growing skill levels in a number of agencies and the expanding bubble of government social media events from conference organizers (guys, time to refine your forums).

At the same time there's still some resistance, poor understanding and mixed leadership on the use of digital channels to improve government performance. Apart from a few long-term skeptics this is now mostly due to competing priorities, resourcing and low familiarity with how social media can be used within government guidelines with appropriate risk mitigation strategies in place. Though I must admit that I have not seen an agency choosing to not use social media develop a mitigation strategy around the risks they are taking by not engaging online.

Many agencies still block their staff from monitoring forums and blogs, Facebook pages and YouTube channels where their key stakeholders are actively engaging. This cuts them off from an essential source of policy and service delivery intelligence - although the incresing prevalence of personal devices means people can remain connected and effective. Ironically the rise of smartphones, tablets and micro-laptops has also called into question those who still claim that workplace access to social media should be technically blocked to reduce time-wasting. Sorry guys, the world has moved on. If you believe your staff would waste time on social media use management techniques, not technical blocks, to manage these potential performance issues.

While there has been increasing willingness to use digital channels for consultations, collaboration and co-creation, the expertise base across Australia is still lacking. There's little in the way of effective formal education for would-be 'Social Media Advisors' or best practice techniques for online engagement. We've seen individual best practice examples, but limited codification of the underlying techniques and processes, the practitioners' toolkit if you will, necessary to systemise success.

While there's still much to be learnt, debated, trialed and implemented as business as usual in the government social media space, there's also now more hands available within public services with the interest, passion and skills to push things along. Government 2.0 has edged closer and closer to business as usual and is likely to get there at some point in the next year.

That has made me deeply consider my own involvement in the space.

Note I don't have any intention of stepping back from advocating and supporting Government 2.0 approaches. In my view these approaches are the basis for how a 21st century government needs to operate to be effective, woven deeply into most core activities for all agencies.

However for a long time i have felt that the value I've added to the space has been much greater through my 'non-curricular' activities than through my actual jobs in the public service. I feel I add more public value through sharing knowledge, providing mentoring and advice, training others and supporting people across government to understand and consider Government 2.0 techniques, help them design, debate and implement appropriate frameworks in their agencies and provide advice and support in implementing and normalizing activities, than in my day job.

On that basis I have realised that I am at the stage where I can add more lasting public value working from outside government agencies than from within one at a time.

As a result I have decided that in 2012 I will be leaving the Australian Public Service - but not leaving public service. I will be exploring options to add more and greater value from 'over the wall' back in the commercial sector, where I have spent over three-quarters of my career.

I have met many good people in the public service, as well as a few of the other kind, and I'd like to thank all of you for what you have taught me during the five years I have spent 'inside'.

I hope that I have also managed to share some of my own experience and knowledge with you.

I haven't actually resigned from the APS yet, there's some loose ends to tie up in the new year. Also I intend to keep writing this blog - I believe there is still a need for something like it in Australia - and will remain active in the Gov 2.0 community, hopefully more consistently active than I have been able to be.

So this isn't goodbye, it is simply a new kind of hello.


  1. Big changes. I really appreciate your blog and the way you bring ideas together about government 2.0. Thank you, and I look forward to more exciting ideas in 2012.

  2. Craig,
    A brave and bold decision, but one that reflects your innovative tendencies. I am sure your effectiveness will increase in your new ventures and that you will continue to be a leader and influencer in the gov2.0 space.
    Merry Christmas

  3. Craig

    On the one hand you will be a huge loss to the agency you work for, on the other why should your immense talents be locked away when there is greater good to be done.

    Congratulations on a brave and highly principles decision.


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