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Impact of social media on Whitehall - from 2011


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Some research I did around the time I was moving on from the civil service

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Impact of social media on Whitehall - from 2011

  1. 1. Impact of Social Media on how Whitehall works Antony Carpen
  2. 2. 2 Disclaimer – READ ME These slides have been prepared by Antony Carpen and are the observations of Antony Carpen alone (though other individuals may concur with some of them). They do not represent the views of any Whitehall department, any ministers, Her Majesty’s Government, the Civil Service or any other institution. The contents of these slides are for DISCUSSION purposes only. The purpose of these slides is to help facilitate debate on how: -Policy development processes can be improved -Public administration can be improved -Public service delivery can be improved
  3. 3. 3 What these slides cover Introduction -What is social media? -How it differs from “traditional offline and “traditional online” media -Networks – what they are and an example of how they can work -How people are using social media networks – three themes -For support -For greater knowledge -To challenge those in authority -How social media dissects traditional “media management” approaches -Case Study: Conference -Case Study: Media-trailed headline speech -User analysis -How can Whitehall respond? -The need for more evidence
  4. 4. 4 What is social media? The Central Office of Information ( said the following in its 2009 publication “Engaging through Social Media”: Social media is a term used to refer to online technologies and practices that are used to share opinions and information, promote discussion and build relationships. It is equally useful to communications staff and policy officials. Social media services and tools involve a combination of technology, telecommunications and some kind of social interaction. They can use a variety of different formats, for example text, pictures, video and audio. The term ‘social media’ is applied to the tools in question, their applications and collaboratively developed practices.
  5. 5. 5 What is social media? Social media is different to traditional forms of communication such as through newspapers, television, and film. Cheap – anyone with access to the internet (for example through public libraries) Accessible – the tools are easy to use Enabling – allows almost anyone to do things that previously were only the preserve of well-resourced organisations The use of the word “Social” implies a conversation. Social media is definitely not about one-way communication to a large audience from big organisations.
  6. 6. Social Networks Antony Carpen Whitehall Teacamp Network
  7. 7. 7 How I (as a new user) formed my networks After setting up an account on a given platform – e.g. Facebook or Twitter, I then used the search tools to find people with similar interests to me. For example: - Career - Sport - Science - Academia - Music - Campaigns For each interest, I was able to build up a small “virtual” network that looks something like the diagram below Everyone within this network of interest is connected to each other
  8. 8. 8 How I (as a new user) formed my networks This gave a picture that looked something like this: Represented by the large yellow circle, I have links into a number of different virtual networks as represented by the small yellow circles:
  9. 9. 9 How I (as a new user) formed my networks As people have multiple interests, some of those interests are shared: Accordingly, they may already have links to the same communities of interests that I have – represented by the green lines
  10. 10. 10 How I (as a new user) formed my networks Through the use of social networks, other people start linking up too - denoted by the blue lines, There now is a very complex virtual web of people linked by mutual interests. The stronger each of those individual links is, the stronger the web is.
  11. 11. 11 How these networks can be used by people Having a virtual web such as this can serve three key purposes: 1) For “support” 2) For the search for greater knowledge 3) To challenge those in authority.
  12. 12. 12 1) Support If, for example an individual finds themselves being criticised in the mainstream media, a “virtual network” of shared interests can respond accordingly. Think of the web below being like a trampoline. When pressure is put on the individual at the centre (i.e. the big yellow circle in the middle), it is felt not just by the individual, but also by others linked through the virtual network. In order to return to the “steady state”, the trampoline responds accordingly – bouncing back. The same is true with those who are linked by a common interest to the individual who needs the support. What is difficult to predict is how others will react to such an individual being targeted.
  13. 13. 13 2) Search for greater knowledge This is otherwise known as “crowd sourcing” and has been used to very good effect by a number of “decentralised” groups such as UK Uncut, the anti-tax-avoidance group. When invited to appear on television, they inform their networks of who they will be appearing with and ask for advice on how to handle and what points to raise. Because this was the equivalent of sourcing “briefing” from thousands of well-informed individuals passionate about the issue, and because of the speed at which they were able to do so, nominated spokespersons appearing in the media have come across more strongly than their opponents in “established” organisations, who have been briefed through traditional methods.
  14. 14. 14 3) Challenging those in authority This is the big challenge for Ministers My understanding is that the “traditional” method of policy announcement is that a minister will do a number of media appearances and make a speech at a conference alongside laying a written statement in the House. (Only for big items have I observed ministers going to the House unless summoned in an urgent question). These will nearly always be preceded by an embargoed press release that will go out with the first editions of the morning’s newspapers. The challenge that ministers face is that the content of these announcements, and their media appearances are now being challenged by individuals and organisations in real time – i.e. they are being commented on as ministers are speaking.
  15. 15. Who holds the knowledge? Antony Carpen Whitehall Teacamp Network
  16. 16. 16 Who holds the knowledge? - 1 In the old way of working – especially in the pre-internet age, people who had access to wide amounts of knowledge and information were few and far between outside of central government. (The issue is accessibility, not educational ability). Government departments and large organisations were the only ones who could afford to maintain large systems to enable easy access to that knowledge and information. This gave us a world that looked something like the diagram above. Department of State Policy team Trade Union MinisterResearch institute Media organisation University Professional body Large campaign group Pre-internet society Media outlet
  17. 17. 17 Who holds the knowledge? - 2 This system illustrates that unless individuals were part of large organisations, feeding into the policy-making processes was very difficult for the individual person. The rise of the internet and advanced communications tools meant that more existing knowledge could be published more easily (static), and the access to that knowledge led to further advances over a much shorter time period (dynamic) than without these tools The internet substantially increased access to that knowledge that was previously only available to large organisations – especially as they made it more available. Department of State Policy team Trade Union MinisterResearch institute Media organisation University Professional body Large campaign group Society takes up new communications tools Media outlet
  18. 18. 18 Who holds the knowledge? - 3 The developments of social media has meant that each individual with access to the internet also had the opportunity to use social media for much more efficient discussions and deliberations than was possible through email and old newsgroups …and through those networks, knowledge moves from being the preserve of Government and large organisations… Society takes up new communications tools This meant that each online individual had the potential to move from being a “passive” internet user to an “active” internet user – i.e. one who engages in discussion and debate through social media, rather than just a passive “reader”. Therefore, online user evolves from… into… …an active networked user
  19. 19. 19 Who holds the knowledge? - 4 Knowledge and information is now no longer the monopoly of Government and large organisations. Knowledge and information is “out there” – with people using commenting, adding, developing and innovating with it. This creates significant challenges for Central Government (as well as large organisations) The next set of slides look at the impact of what happens if Government decides to behave in a manner reminiscent of the pre-internet & pre-social media era Department of StateInstead of “knowledge” being here… …it is now out there
  20. 20. 20 The current model is that a minister will receive briefing from a policy team before attending a conference. The minister will clear a speech prepared by a speechwriter with policy input. The minister may take questions and answers before moving onto another engagement elsewhere. Prior to the rapid growth of social media, the “model” of engagement was as set out below. The minister has the close support of the policy team and press office, with the wider department supporting if needs be. The audience is normally a fairly specialist/self-selecting one – especially where conferences are not advertised widely and/or are charging. Therefore the number of people who will attend – and their professional interests, will be limited. Department of State Policy team Conference delegates Minister Communications case study: the conference
  21. 21. 21 The challenge is that more and more delegates are turning up to conferences with web-enabled handheld devices, electronic notebooks and laptops. …and these delegates have already started using social media to provide live updates from conferences. Competition in conferencing has led to the growth of “guest wifi” access. Conferences organisers have also started setting up temporary websites to facilitate discussion, and organise Twitter hashtags for people outside of the conference to follow – and contribute. Department of State Policy team Conference delegates Minister Communications case study: the conference
  22. 22. 22 This means that the audience a minister is speaking “live” to is potentially far greater than the people in the room. This is especially the case where conferences are streamed live over the web. Suddenly the policy team and department numerically are proportionately much smaller compared to the audience. This means that ANY claim/assertion made by a minister will be fact-checked, dissected and disembowelled in realtime. Department of State Policy team Conference delegates with web access who are part of informed networks Minister Virtual networks following from outside the event Communications case study: the conference
  23. 23. 23 Communications case study: the conference Mainstream media also feed into these networks. Where something is “newsworthy” it may be streamed onto websites and news channels with very limited input from press officers Due to the 24/7 demand from mainstream news channels, unless departmental communications’ units are feeding into the debate, they can find themselves bypassed Department of State Policy team Conference delegates with web access who are part of informed networks Minister Virtual networks following from outside the event Mainstream media
  24. 24. Communications’ Case Studies Antony Carpen Whitehall Teacamp Network
  25. 25. 25 Communications case study : The widely-trailed speech The Prime Minister in Early Feb 2011 was scheduled to make a speech in Munich, Germany at an international security conference. The theme of his speech was around the issues of multi-culturalism within the context of globalised security issues. The speech was released under an embargo to the mainstream media for release at midnight on the day of the conference. In the 12-15 hours between the lifting of the embargo and the delivery of the speech, the “social media virtual world” had the opportunity to dissect and comment on the speech “Social Media Virtual World” Mainstream media Embargoed press release
  26. 26. 26 Communications case study : The widely-trailed speech Parts of the “Social media world saw things differently to what was in the press releases. Topics that trended in one part of the social media focused on: - The Government’s definition/understanding of “multiculturalism” as a term - The choice of venue to make a speech that they saw was on “race” – the city where the National Socialist Party in Germany made its first attempt to seize power in the early 1920s - The choice of date given the above, which coincided with a controversial march by the English Defence League. Rather than “setting the agenda”, Downing Street found itself having to respond to issues that were otherwise outside of the scope of the conference itself. “Social Media Virtual World” Mainstream media 10 Downing St Feedback/trending topics Questions to Government from…
  27. 27. 27 Media Broadcaster/TV/Radio Show Ministers regularly appear in the media. Important speeches in the House are also featured on major news bulletins. The difference between this type of event and a conference is the size of the potential audience is significantly greater. This is due to the wide existing following through television and radio and the publicity that they sometimes give to such appearances in advance of broadcast. In the traditional model you have lots of people watching “passively”. While they more than likely will have an opinion, it is unlikely that they have cascaded it instantaneously to wide numbers of people. They may discuss it “offline” with others at a later point Policy team Minister Dept of state Communications case study - The TV/Radio Appearance
  28. 28. 28 Media Broadcaster/TV/Radio Show The growing use of, and the promotion of social media by people and broadcasters alike means that more viewers are able to use social media to discuss what’s going on while watching television at the same time. A typical example might be watching television while using a handheld web-enabled device. Another might be having a split-screen on a PC or a live radio feed while online. This means that, depending on the type of show concerned, a greater or lesser proportion of the audience will have access to social media, some of whom will be using the tools available to discuss what’s being broadcast. Policy team Minister Dept of state Communications case study - The TV/Radio Appearance
  29. 29. 29 Media Broadcaster/TV/Radio Show This then gives us a scenario where social media users are able to discuss the content through their networks. As journalists now have social media accounts as a matter of course, trending content can move rapidly from the social to corporate media This is what can create a media firestorm if the issue concerned is particularly controversial and if the reaction of lots of numbers of people to a specific issue catches both central government and the corporate media off guard. The recent scrapping of the proposed sale of woodlands is one example of this. Policy team Minister Dept of state Corp Media Corp Media Social Media users Communications case study - The TV/Radio Appearance
  30. 30. 30 What does all this mean for Ministers? • The decentralised nature of these networks means that the “command and control” system of “managing the media” is now obsolete • As Paul Mason of the BBC reported: “Propaganda is flammable” • Informed people are increasingly likely to see through bland press releases and will comment accordingly • There will be increasing pressure to provide facts and sound evidence to justify policies • There will be further pressure on ministers to be well-briefed across a wider range of issues – in particular consistency with other departments’ policies • Ministers and departments will find it hard to operate in a manner that ignores social media • Governments & media corporations no longer hold the monopoly on knowledge or media management. Knowledge is not the exclusive preserve of policy teams. It’s “out there” in the wider networked world. The challenge is how to move from an “adversarial” model of engagement with people through the media to one where policy teams are embedded in such networks.
  31. 31. Policy Case Studies Antony Carpen Whitehall Teacamp Network
  32. 32. 32 Policy case study – UK Forests 1) The Environment Secretary announced in a statement to the House on 17 Feb 2011 that it would be changing its policy on the future of Britain’s forests. This was in response to strong campaigning across the country opposing any proposals to “sell off” forests currently under public ownership. My observations of the impact on social media fell into two strands: 1) Principle/disposition of citizens 2) Analysis of the case by specialists 3) The “amplification” of that analysis through social media Principle/disposition of citizens - As was ultimately acknowledged by the Coalition, people felt a strong affinity to their local woods and forests – something they saw as belonging to the country, not to the Government. (Therefore: in the eyes of the people, there was a moral legitimacy issue over Government’s plans to sell of something that the people did not see as the Government’s to sell). - Campaigners targeted this “principle” of the policy – claiming that the public was being “sold back” something that it thought it already owned; the message “They are not your forests to sell” had particular resonance Analysis of the case by specialists - Financially-astute campaigners targeted the financial figures – in particular those in the impact assessment - and found flaws in them - They were then able to explain to a wide audience how, in non-financial terms the Government’s own figures did not necessarily demonstrate that the plans would save money – thus not contributing to the Government’s top priority of reducing the deficit
  33. 33. 33 Policy case study – UK Forests 2) Amplification through social media - Simple messages were amplified and re-amplified in the social media – i.e. “We don’t agree with the principle, and we don’t agree with your financial arguments either” - The use of hashtags and short hyperlinks allowed campaigners to access detailed articles that articulated arguments against the proposals - Social media tools enabled people to contact their MPs, putting to them the arguments that had already been set out for them by those who had done the detailed analysis - Online petitions allowed people to express an opinion with minimal effort – over 500,000 people signed the petition at - As the consultation had already set a closing date, the Government established a target date for campaigners to work towards - Social media ensured that the amount of effort required to co-ordinate actions was minimal due to the de-centralised nature of the campaign - This was seen as a national issue with local impacts – enabling local groups to act independently but in unison - Social media enabled people to feel part of a national campaign/broader movement while acting locally
  34. 34. 34 Policy case study – UK Forests 3) Amplification through mainstream media - People found it easy to apply the arguments to woodlands and forests local to them – i.e. taking a national issue to a local level - A number of large organisations – in particular long established ones (e.g. National Trust) were able to mobilise an existing membership base through “old” media as well as new - The mainstream media – which has specialist teams dedicated to monitoring social media trends - picked up the forests issue and “amplified” them through its own reports - Some of the protests caught the public’s imagination and mainstream media attention - The role of celebrities campaigning against the proposals raised the issue to people who might otherwise have not been aware of the issue - Many of the constituencies where the woodlands and forests are, are predominantly those of MPs whose parties form the Coalition – which then generated party-political pressure
  35. 35. 35 Policy case study – UK Forests 4) What we do not know - limitations Because the uptake of social media is a new and growing phenomenon, very few robust academic studies have been carried out as to its impact – particularly on influencing government policy. While we can quantify some of the campaigning – such as the number of signatories to a petition, what we cannot do yet is to attribute or quantify to what extent social media influenced Government. - To what extent did ministers take into account of the number of people signing petitions? - To what extent did ministers take into account the number of individual representations they received from members of the public? - To what extent did ministers take into account the merits of the cases being put forward by individual members of the public? - To what extent did ministers take into account the representations from famous people? - To what extent did ministers take into account the representations from other politicians
  36. 36. 36 The UKUncut street protests against tax-avoiding firms is a very recent phenomenon. However, the issue that it campaigns on is not new: civil service unions have been campaigning for some time on these issues. How did UKUncut succeed in raising the issue up the political agenda in a manner trade unions could not? Changing of political/financial circumstances: As the cuts to state spending were announced, the issue of tax avoidance and tax evasion became an area that people began to look into – especially opponents of the cuts who were seeking to find/evidence alternatives. Challenging the Coalition’s narrative: Campaigners began to interrogate the slogans of “There is no alternative” and “We are all in this together” by examining how the cuts were going to impact the affluent and the wealthy. The availability of the evidence base: Trade unions had already commissioned work by experts in the field of tax – in particular by the Chartered Accountant Richard Murphy. His work had already been published and was already on the radar of a number of activists. In depth policy case study – UK Uncut 1)
  37. 37. 37 In depth policy case study – UK Uncut 2) Decisions taken by ministers in two key cases. One national publication was following the case of Vodafone, and published a number of accusations regarding its tax affairs. Around the same time, the Prime Minister appointed Sir Philip Green as an advisor on efficiency. The Student Protests The so-called “Battle of Millbank” was the first notable large-scale anti-cuts protest that led to the occupation of a high-profile target. Media coverage led to the polarising of opinion in anti-cuts’ circles, but ensured that there was enough of a critical mass who came away with the view that non-violent direct action was an option by which to oppose the Coalition’s programme. This was also followed up by university occupations which further mobilised greater numbers of students. The coming together of these and other factors may have created a climate that was fertile enough for people to feel that taking non-violent direct action was a reasonable response to the Coalition’s programme. It was within this climate that a number of groups started planning actions – including UKUncut
  38. 38. 38 In depth policy case study – UK Uncut 3) The first “action” A handful of organisers, having heard about the two decisions by the Government decided to respond. They used social media tools to mobilise 65 campaigners for an “action”. They decided to target a Vodafone store in Oxford Street, London – peacefully but successfully closing it by occupying it. The immediate follow-up The campaigners moved very quickly once the “action” was complete. The cameras they brought with them allowed them to capture and upload photographs onto image-sharing sites soon after the event had finished. Once uploaded, they used social media to spread news of what they had achieved. Factors that may have led to the rapid cascading of this event included: - This was a group no one had heard of before (and therefore had no “baggage”) - The target was a high profile company, a high profile shop in a high profile city – which they succeeded in closing – a relatively rare event - The issue was relatively new outside of trade union circles - Detailed information had already been published – but few people knew where it was - Campaigners made use of social media networks that already existed or were growing on the back of the students’ demonstrations - The ethos of “you are in control of what you want to do” was in direct contrast to traditional organised protests by trade unions and/or the far left, which tend to be far more restrictive - Their arguments were seen as an “alternative” to the Coalition’s narrative - Publicity from a national newspaper who picked up “UKUncut” as a trend, followed it up and reported on it.
  39. 39. 39 In depth policy case study – UK Uncut 4) The simplicity and availability of the broad intellectual case The argument that extremely wealthy individuals and corporations should pay their “fair” share of tax is one that resonated with a number of people. Within the context of reduced public expenditure and with statements from ministers around “fairness”, the issue of tax avoidance became one that people took more of an interest in. The simplicity of the broad argument and the ease-of-use of social media tools meant that messages were very easy for people to understand and cascade. The nature of social media has meant that “amateur” campaigners who might otherwise come unstuck in online debate are now able to call in the help of experts in a number of fields to assist them. The sharing of ideas and resources The “open source” decentralised nature of UKUncut contrasts with the more structured approach of trade unions and the established far left. Their online tools page contains e- tools that appeal to a diverse range of people.
  40. 40. 40 In depth policy case study – UK Uncut 5) People join in Having caught the imagination of interested watchers, the organisers of what was to become “UKUncut” used social media to “franchise for free” their brand to anyone who was interested – in return for nothing. They were able to upload a number of tools, guest blogposts, links to events organised on Facebook etc and used Facebook and Twitter to help spread the word. They invited people from across the country to organise their own action locally and to list it on “Google Maps” for all to see. This gave a pictorial view of where co-ordinated “actions” were scheduled for. Campaigners unwittingly used the military principles of ‘march separately, strike in unison’. This resulted in thirteen co-ordinated actions organised in less three days. This gave an impression of being part of a “wider” movement Trade unions – which have been much slower to take up social media - began to pick up on the activities of UKUncut. Unions realised that UKUncut was using information published online by trade unions and “amplifying” the messages within them to audiences far beyond the normal reach of union activists. Because of the impact the students’ protests had on the more “militant” trade union leaders, they had already adopted a “young people lead, the rest of us will follow” attitude. This transferred easily to UKUncut as a number of trade unions encouraged their members to get involved and support them.
  41. 41. 41 In depth policy case study – UK Uncut 6) The response from opponents and from corporations The initial response from corporations and their defenders has been around the issues of: - Legality (tax avoidance is legal, tax evasion is not) - The primary purpose of the firm (which have a legal duty to maximise profits for shareholders). - The fact that protestors are seen to be targeting businesses and not the Government - The need for jobs/risk of firms relocating abroad Engagement with those opponents The response from opponents could have caught out campaigners who were only aware of the basic principles of the campaign. What social media has enabled however, is that campaigners have had quick and easy access to a number of experts who are sympathetic to their cause. This enabled anyone from the original group of UKUncut campaigners to “crowd source” any “briefing” that they needed for last-minute media appearances. This has led to a number of well-reviewed high-profile media appearances.
  42. 42. 42 In depth policy case study – UK Uncut 7) A shift in Government Policy On 06 December 2010 and 14 January 2011, The Treasury made two policy announcements in relation to tax avoidance – the first being on additional measures, the second being on the launch of a studied group chaired by a QC. It is difficult to quantify to what extent UKUncut influenced these announcements because: - Clamping down on tax avoidance was a manifesto commitment of one of the Coalition parties (i.e. to what extent were these moves seen as “business as usual” for the Treasury) - We currently do not have access to information/quantifiable on who did what lobbying of MPs, the Government and other organisations (for example levels of correspondence) - We do not know to what extent the investigation currently being undertaken by the Treasury Select Committee – and the evidence emerging from that – has influenced Government Policy. What we do know is that UKUncut were very effective in taking information already in the public domain and “amplifying it” through social media.
  43. 43. User analysis Antony Carpen Whitehall Teacamp Network
  44. 44. 44 User analysis - SWOT Lack of information At the moment, there is a lack of information on how people are using social media – in particular when it comes to politics, public services and public administration. Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities Threats Basic “SWOT” analysis would allow departments to identify how people’s use of social media is likely to affect them. This will vary by organisation.
  45. 45. 45 User analysis - SWOT Strengths • Social media allows people to ensure that information published by departments can reach a wider audience • Social media allows people to discuss more easily the content of that information with people who they might otherwise not interact with – this being the case with “virtual communities of interest” • Social media is allowing more people to engage with policy development within departments through greater awareness of things like consultations. • Social media is allowing civil servants and policy makers to collaborate more informally and access information that might otherwise not be available to them. • There is already a critical mass of civil servants across Whitehall who are acting as social media advocates across departments.
  46. 46. 46 User analysis - SWOT Weaknesses • Not all civil servants are comfortable using social media • “Social media” is not something that is easily taught and remembered from a training course. Familiarity with, and the benefits of social media come with regular use of it. • Some people say that they do not have the time to use social media on a regular basis. • There is an assumption by some that the “media” bit in social media means that it’s a function that automatically sits in a communications unit – in the same way that only managers are required to lead. These are false assumptions. • A decreasing resource base and the substantial reductions in staffing levels across the public sector may result in those most willing or able to make the most of social media being the very people who leave. • Social media could put “artificial” time pressures on officials – e.g. 24/7 news cycle when the public interest may be better served by more time being taken to consider an issue.
  47. 47. 47 User analysis - SWOT • The civil service has the opportunity to benefit from the dynamic gains from both large and closer “virtual communities of interest” that can be harnessed to “crowd source” solutions to a multitude of problems • Social media can be used within the civil service to form such communities of interest to solve problems that require information to remain within departments. (A Whitehall version of Twitter?) • Problems can be nipped in the bud through appropriate “crowd sourcing” – in particular with new ideas or with delivery • Risks can be identified through the monitoring of trends across tools such as Twitter, through following hash tags or well-connected tweeple. Opportunities
  48. 48. 48 User analysis - SWOT Threats People are using social media to “join up the dots” and highlighting inconsistencies between departments and organisations. Therefore there will be greater pressure on inevitably smaller policy teams. People are using social media to “fact check” claims in announcements and speeches in real time. Thus even greater pressure on policy teams to ensure facts are correct due to risk of public criticism The blurred lines between the “professional” and the “personal” puts civil servants at risk of tabloid firestorms. The “personified” nature of social media (as opposed to a corporate account) is in part the oil that lubricates the engine of social media, but can be used against civil servants wanting to score points. Whitehall needs to be aware of the polarisation of communities and users that could be exacerbated by social media – in particular the profile of social media users not necessarily being the same as the country as a whole. (The risk is that policy is formulated to suit people of a certain profile at the expense of others).
  49. 49. 49 User analysis - SWOT Threats The scale of the challenge posed by the take up by social media may lead some to see it as nothing but a threat – and lead to a “bunker” mentality where they try to “switch off” from what is happening in the wider world. Just because social media is available does not mean that people will automatically use it. The benefits of using social media to engage with politics, policy-making and public administration have to be tangible to people If Whitehall is unwilling to demonstrate that its social media tools can be used to improve policy, users may well use social media against Whitehall. Therefore departments need to manage expectations about what outcomes the use of social media will lead to. There’s no point in inviting people to take part in a consultation through social media if a policy has already been decided. Where “sham” consultations are undertaken, social media allows more people to use freedom of information legislation to uncover evidence of where the views of consultees have been ignored. This could lead to both bad publicity and even judicial reviews.
  50. 50. 50 User analysis - Segmentation Connected and engaged Connected but disengagedDisconnected and disengaged Disconnected but engaged The risk of polarisation of society along lines of political engagement and use of social media, if manifested could have impacts on public service delivery The proportions will vary. However, Whitehall needs to acknowledge that the use of social media is in addition to other methods of community engagement and outreach, not a replacement for them. This is in part about “audience segmentation”
  51. 51. 51 User analysis - Segmentation Level of connection Disconnected & Disengaged Levelof engagement Connected & Disengaged Connected & Engaged Disconnected & Engaged Another way of looking at segmentation is through the diagram below
  52. 52. 52 Networked and engaged These people are the “pioneers” of social media – whether making use of existing social media to engage in the political processes or whether exploring how social media can be improved to make it more user-friendly and available to more people. Departments and organisations should be able to harness the input of people within this cohort without needing to invest significant resources. This is due to the cheap and accessible nature of social media and this cohort’s familiarity with both the technology and the issues that they want to discuss. People within this cohort are also potentially “advocates” who can encourage others to use social media to engage with the political processes. This is because people are much more likely to trust a personal recommendation from someone who they are familiar with – for example through a mutual “virtual community of interest” than through a traditional advert. User analysis - Segmentation
  53. 53. 53 Networked but disengaged This cohort of people are familiar with the technology but may not be interested in, or aware how they can use it to influence policy on issues that they care about. These people may already use social media for such things as: - Interaction with television/radio shows - Using social media to review/research a holiday - Using social media to source a recommended service or product The message to these people could be: “You already use this technology for X, Y or Z; have you thought about using it for A, B or C?” All groups will have their sub-segments. Young people at college might fall into this category just as much as a small business owner. The approaches that are used won’t necessarily be the same. User analysis - Segmentation
  54. 54. 54 Disconnected but engaged Social media isn’t the only medium that people use to engage with the policy making process. There are a cohort of people who, for whatever reason may not have considered using social media as a means of engagement. These people may engage in the policy making process through: - Phoning into television/radio shows - Being a member of a pressure group - Writing into newspapers or other publications - Writing to departments or politicians directly The message to these people could be: “You are already aware of the issues; have you thought about joining the conversation at X, Y or Z?” User analysis - Segmentation
  55. 55. 55 Disconnected and disengaged Possibly the most challenging group/cohort to approach, and one that goes beyond a simple “social media” approach alone. There will inevitably be sub-segments of this and other groups. For example some may be affluent and have no incentive or desire either to get connected and/or engaged. Others may take a cynical view of politics and policy making while viewing social media as being “for other people” or “too complicated”. All groups will have their sub-segments. Again, the approaches that are used won’t necessarily be the same. User analysis - Segmentation
  56. 56. How can Whitehall respond? Antony Carpen Whitehall Teacamp Network
  57. 57. 57 How can Whitehall respond? - Policy The historical nature of policy making is that policies are inevitably agreed on the basis of imperfect knowledge. The more imperfect the evidence base, the more problems there may be in delivery and the more chance that something may go wrong. Social networks through social media allow people to make more informed challenges to policies. In such an environment, is an adversarial model of media management and policy making sustainable? I would argue that it is not. Therefore, policy teams may find themselves having to take the plunge and engaging with informed social networks through social media. The risks that are associated with this is that constructive criticism by officials of existing practices are picked up in the mainstream media and are spun accordingly. But what is the alternative? Department of State Policy team Minister “The networked world”
  58. 58. 58 One of the features of all Whitehall departments is the “silo” structure. Despite numerous attempt to break the silos – such as programme and project working, or matrix management, few have actually succeeded. A traditional setup of a Whitehall department looks something like below. How can Whitehall respond? - Structure Permanent Secretary Directors General Directors General Directors General Directors Directors Directors Deputy Directors Deputy Directors Deputy Directors Team Leaders/G7s Team Leaders/G7s Team Leaders/G7s Policy advisers Admin/support staff Policy advisers Admin/support staff Policy advisers Admin/support staff
  59. 59. 59 Matrix management and project/programme boards have been introduced across a number of different departments to try and bring in a wider level of input across policy teams. While this allows input from a wider base and is suitable for accounting for “big” decisions, it’s less suitable for smaller steers. How can Whitehall respond? - Structure Permanent Secretary Directors General Directors General Directors General Directors Directors Directors Deputy Directors Deputy Directors Deputy Directors Team Leaders/G7s Team Leaders/G7s Team Leaders/G7s Policy advisers Admin/support staff Policy advisers Admin/support staff Policy advisers Admin/support staff
  60. 60. 60 Blockages in the system Quite often it is the lack of smaller steers that cause blockages in the system – for example needing short comments on a given document, consent before something goes up to a minister or a request for information on a given issue. Boards themselves cannot be too big lest they become unwieldy. Yet at the same time this can limit the input other interested parties can have in the development and delivery of policy. These delays can cause considerable angst for project managers – in particular those managing project timelines. My own experience with managing projects is that the delays tend to be around trying to get clearance on relatively minor points from a variety of different sources rather than in more important issues such as agreement on core principles of a project or carrying out in-depth analysis on an evidence base that underpins or has a significant impact on the project. If, as with departmental correspondence, the delays are in the “messaging” rather than in the content, to what extent can social media smooth out these delays? How can Whitehall respond? – Project boards
  61. 61. 61 Problems with the board structure Having project and programme boards is an essential part of ensuring that civil servants are accountable to ministers – especially where projects and programmes cut across policy and departmental lines. Therefore, the next few slides will look at how Social Media can be used to complement rather than replace board structures. There are two specific issues that I have looked at: - Project and programme boards are too inflexible to deal with smaller issues, which can often cause delays in the development and delivery of policy - Project and programme boards need to be limited in size lest they become unwieldy; however this can mean those with only a small but perhaps essential part to play can sometimes be excluded. How can Whitehall respond? – Project boards
  62. 62. 62 Limitations of “project boards” While the principle of project and programme boards is essential for the accountability of decisions, the inflexible nature of them – in particular the “grade- driven” nature of them can sometimes mean that the best people for the job, or those most likely to have solutions to given problems, are not always included. As boards need to be limited in size (and scope) in order to be effective, further barriers to input are raised. The challenge then as now, is how to ensure the highest quality input for the minimum of resources – especially as Whitehall downsizes over the next few years. There is also the residual “culture” of “command and control” within the civil service in general. The impact of social media in the outside world, and the pressures it is already generating, means that command and control structures and systems are no longer suitable to meet those pressures. This inevitably means that project and programme boards will have to become more flexible. How can Whitehall respond? – Project boards
  63. 63. 63 The problem with email The use of email has resulted in the explosion of “correspondence” that makes it difficult for users to see the wood for the trees. Attempts such as email codes of conduct have failed in their efforts to reduce email use to the bare minimum. Users who end up with several hundred emails per day can sometimes find that they either have to spend an unreasonable amount of time sifting through lots of otherwise unimportant emails, or run the risk of missing out on the important ones through only reading a select few. The challenge is to come up with a solution that allows short informal electronic communications while ensuring that emails are used for only the important things – sending of attachments, cascading of hyperlinks, confirmation of a decision, a commissioning note or something that requires an audit trail. Fortunately, that solution already exists; it’s called “Twitter” How can Whitehall respond? – Communications
  64. 64. 64 A Whitehall version of Twitter? The idea of a Whitehall version of Twitter would be to build “community of interests” within Whitehall in exactly the same way as Twitter does outside. The functionalities could be the same as Twitter – possibly developed through an “off the shelf” software package and/or using open-source. Setting something like this up does not need to be complicated nor expensive. This would enable policy advisers across a department – across the civil service even, to keep up to date with developments in policy areas that they are interested in. It would also enable wider crowd-sourcing of solutions to problems that have arisen. One of the features of Whitehall social media users is that very few of us know what grade we are all at. The network is very much driven by the people who make up the network. As it turns out, people are more familiar with Twitter usernames than with real names. When it comes to problem-solving, people are interested in the solution, not in the grade that the person coming up with the solution is at. How can Whitehall respond? – Communications
  65. 65. 65 A Whitehall version of Twitter? With a 140 character limit, the pressure is on users to keep messages short and simple. It allows users to communicate with each other informally and is much easier to “crowd source” solutions to problems over a much wider network without clogging up people’s inboxes with “spam” A number of pressure groups and decentralised autonomous networks (such as UKUncut) have already demonstrated the power of using social media in this context. Using the public version of Twitter is not an option – as the hounding of Sarah Baskerville at the Department for Transport by the Daily Mail showed. For the benefits of a package like Twitter to work, there needs to be an “internal” version of it for civil servants so that issues can be discussed without the worry of a newspaper splash sitting in the background. It also however, requires civil servants to use such a package responsibly. That though, is a line management issue, not a technological one. How can Whitehall respond? – Communications
  66. 66. 66 A Whitehall version of Twitter? One of the features of Twitter is that users with an informed and well-connected network can “crowd source” a problem and find that a solution comes back from the unlikeliest of sources. Tweets are re-tweeted – especially if the problem is an interesting one that catches the attention of curious minds. Re-tweeting increases the likelihood of someone who holds the solution picking up on this. This is all done without clogging up people’s email inboxes. People can choose who they do and do not want to follow. Just as with Twitter, those who develop the strongest “virtual” connections are more likely to enjoy the benefits of being part of one. Developing such a virtual network allows more regular informal communication. This means colleagues from other parts of the department – and the civil service – are less likely to be strangers when they do meet. Therefore the incentive is to be part of the network as that is where the knowledge is. The sooner policy teams recognise this, the more likely they will “connect” How can Whitehall respond? – Communications
  67. 67. 67 What would we call a Whitehall version of Twitter? We could name it after the noise made by the wings of Whitehall’s favourite mythical creature (in the minds of Whitehall social media types) – Puffles the dragon fairy - *Buzzle* Buzzle: - n – an electronic messaging system similar to Twitter but for Whitehall - n – an electronic message sent through the Buzzle network -vb – the act of sending an electronic message through the Buzzle network To be Buzzled: - vb – the act of receiving an electronic message through the Buzzle network The icon of Puffles the dragon fairy is one that is easily convertible into a single/dual colour 2-D format. The narrative of a dragon fairy buzzing around Whitehall keeping people informed about things is already out there. How can Whitehall respond? – “BUZZLE”
  68. 68. 68 A typical project board A deputy-director-led project board typically looks like the diagram below – where team leaders from other divisions or directorates will be invited to take part, but the core work is done within the division. This model/set up means that there is limited scope and input into problem solving. A non-networked board looks can be illustrated as below: Applying social media to project boards Deputy Directors Deputy Directors Deputy Directors Team Leaders/G7s Team Leaders/G7s Team Leaders/G7s Policy advisers Admin/support staff Policy advisers Admin/support staff Policy advisers Admin/support staff Deputy Directors Team Leaders/G7s Policy advisers Admin/support staff
  69. 69. 69 A “networked” (or connected) project board A “networked” or connected project board, taking advantage of the features offered by social media is more likely to take advantage of those extra links. For example staff in admin and support roles (Icon A) may have links to people far outside and beyond the knowledge of project managers. Such people may have an interest or be able to provide a one-off input which could be valuable. A Applying social media to project boards
  70. 70. 70 Applying social media to project boards Sharing documents In the private sector there are already a number of firms that allow multiple remote users to access confidential documents over secure connections. The former Government Office Network experimented with the use of saving core documents. However, little came of it. The rise of social media and networking means that there is an opportunity for documents to be held on secure servers through which only colleagues with access to the network can have access to. Rather than cascading and re-cascading documents (and thus clogging up systems), a Whitehall-wide Twitter system would help others access those documents. Administrators – as in the GO-Network system would be able to restrict the rights of access depending on the nature of the documents deposited.
  71. 71. 71 Using social media to “crowd source” The previous sets of slides highlighted how the use of social media and networks could be used to unblock some of the blockages in terms of the functioning of programme and project boards. In terms of wider problem solving and consultation, there are huge opportunities for using social networking tools to improve how Whitehall solves problems and how it goes about consultations. The historical nature of policy making is that policies are inevitably agreed on the basis of imperfect knowledge. The more imperfect the evidence base, the more problems there may be in delivery and the more chance that something may go wrong. Social networks through social media allow people to make more informed challenges to policies. This is likely to increase pressure for a more conversational, continuous and constructive method of policy making than the relatively “discrete” (i.e. one where responses are invited against a “fixed” document at given points in time).
  72. 72. 72 Using social media for consultation The “discrete” method of consultation is one where responses are invited against a “fixed” document – e.g. a green paper or a white paper. The limitations of this method of communication is that entrenches 2-way conversation – where it is the Government trying to have a conversation with “everyone else”. A criticism of this sort of set up is that it is “adversarial” and that it does not allow either side to respond flexibly to constructive responses that are put forward. It also limits discussions between disagreeing parties to only those Whitehall decides are “key stakeholders. Department of State “Everyone Else Policy team “Key Stakeholders” Consultation publication Consultation responses
  73. 73. 73 The flexibility of social media means that citizens may want to engage in a conversation about policy making, rather than having a situation where they are only able to make one submission. It also means that citizens may want to have conversations with other people and organisations about the content of such consultations Department of State Using social media for consultation There is an opportunity for the Government to “open up” the lobbying and submissions from “key stakeholders” to scrutiny from the general public too. This could increase the transparency of decision-making and help hold “powerful interests” to account – particularly if the state “mandates” such organisations to respond to questions from the public
  74. 74. 74 Using Social Media to “crowd source” There is also the opportunity for Whitehall departments to “crowd source” solutions from the outside world by allowing policy teams to place themselves in the middle of “the debate” around a given issue. Department of State Policy team “The networked world” This approach is not without its risks – especially as this sort of action is “informal” by its nature. For this sort of activity to work and to mitigate the risks. I think that the Civil Service Code needs to be updated to ensure that expectations are managed in areas where the line between professional and personal becomes increasingly blurred.
  75. 75. 75 A problem with relying on social media While the scenario below may indicate a more inclusive method of policy making and problem solving, the use of social media brings its own problems. A key problem is a symptom of the “digital divide” – i.e. not everyone will have access to, or the skills or desire to use social media tools. Social media users as a cohort may have particular features that do not necessarily reflect non-social media users and/or wider society as a whole. Therefore, to rely on social media as a panacea/magic bullet to solve problems may not need to equitable/fair policy outcomes if steps are not taken to include digitally-excluded groups in such processes. Department of State Policy team Minister “The networked world” “Digitally excluded” people who are outside of the policy conversation within the networked world
  76. 76. 76 The Civil Service Code and social media One of the strengths of social media is the ability of users to personalise the tools. As far as policy and politics-related social media is concerned, I have observed that the more highly-regarded users (i.e. not just a “numbers” game) are the ones who: • are able to publicise/cascade interesting nuggets of information, articles or analyses that are otherwise missed by the mainstream media • Interact with followers regularly • Interact with followers politely • Makes constructive comments or suggestions • Has a unique insight into specific issues – e.g. through professional expertise such as law, accountancy, civil service, campaigning, academia • Occasionally comments on wider interests beyond the main subject area of content – e.g. an accountant who supports a random football team • Enable their unique personalities (or personas) through the tools • Were able to form strong virtual networks of interest • Did not treat social media as just another outlet for press releases or sloganeering. (“Social” implies a conversation, not a lecture!) • Were able to use different social media platforms in a manner that complemented (and as a result amplified) the issues being discussed.
  77. 77. 77 The Civil Service Code and social media Does the Civil Service Code provide enough guidance and safeguards for civil servants using social media? This is what it says: How the Civil Service Code applies to online participation • Disclose your position as a representative of your department or agency unless there are exceptional circumstances, such as a potential threat to personal security. Never give out personal details like home address and phone numbers. • Always remember that participation online results in your comments being permanently available and open to being republished in other media. Stay within the legal framework and be aware that libel, defamation, copyright and data protection laws apply. This means that you should not disclose information, make commitments or engage in activities on behalf of Government unless you are authorised to do so. This authority may already be delegated or may be explicitly granted depending on your organisation. • Also be aware that this may attract media interest in you as an individual, so proceed with care whether you are participating in an official or a personal capacity. If you have any doubts, take advice from your line manager. Cont…
  78. 78. 78 The Civil Service Code and social media However, does the Civil Service Code provide enough guidance and safeguards for civil servants using social media? This is what it says: • Be credible Be accurate, fair, thorough and transparent. • Be consistent Encourage constructive criticism and deliberation. Be cordial, honest and professional at all times. • Be responsive When you gain insight, share it where appropriate. • Be integrated Wherever possible, align online participation with other offline communications. • Be a civil servant Remember that you are an ambassador for your organisation. Wherever possible, disclose your position as a representative of your department or agency.
  79. 79. 79 The Civil Service Code and social media Civil servants sometimes have meetings under “Chatham House Rules” which mean that any comments made in such meetings cannot be attributed to any individual. This is to allow the free and frank exchange of views and opinions without fear of being publicise to the extent that if they were, there would be no such exchange. The first rule of problem-solving is to identify and acknowledge the problem. There is therefore an inevitable tension between the need to Problem solving in an “open source” environment using social media
  80. 80. The need for more evidence Antony Carpen Whitehall Teacamp Network
  81. 81. 81 Lack of evidence The lack of research in the field of social media on policy making means that conclusions and recommendations made within these slides are based on anecdote and observations only. I would be interested to see to what extent conclusions from more in depth research align with the observations that I have made. There are a number of significant challenges in undertaking research in this field. These include: - It is very difficult to quantify is the extent to which a social media campaign has Influenced the decisions of politicians – in particular ministers. - It is very difficult to identify suitable “control cases” to compare current case studies to due to the changing of the economic outlook between the pre- SocMed age and where we are now. (i.e. to what extent are people carrying out campaigning that they would have done in the same economic circumstances but without social media tools?) - There’s always the risk of trying to find the evidence to fit conclusions in advance, rather than gathering the evidence first and analysing it to see what conclusions can be taken from it. The need for more evidence
  82. 82. 82 What information do we need/want to know? - Formation of “virtual networks of interest” and how they function - Take up/use of twitter hash tags and live blogging (both active and passive) to cover/follow ministerial speeches over a given period of time - Take up/use of social media tools by “decision makers” over a given period of time (thinking both setting up of accounts and intensity/frequency of use) - Take up/use of social media tools by the public sector in an exclusively professional context - Take up/use of social media tools by public sector employees in a “semi- professional/semi-personal” context (esp given lack of firm guidance) - Analysis of what “time of day/night” social media users are likely to use such tools to discuss politics and policy making - Interviews with “decision makers” on to what extent social media has been able to: 1) make them account for their decisions, and 2) influence/change what they originally were going to do - A detailed SWOT analysis (poss crowd sourced?) - A detailed audience segmentation exercise/analysis (poss crowd sourced?) The need for more evidence
  83. 83. 83 What information do we need/want to know? - Running of piloted “open source” policy-making within a small policy area – putting a policy team at the centre of “networked society” to develop policy in a discrete/small area - Covering the engagement/scrutiny of key stakeholders by members of the public; thinking in particular “vested interests” who will be expected to justify their positions on given issues to members of the public taking part - That policy team being networked to engage with people who are following any speeches and/or media appearances given by ministers or officials, and engagement in any conferences being hosted covering that policy area that the policy team is not attending - A scoping project looking at how a civil service version of Twitter could work, what the potential benefits are and what issues it would face (e.g. FoI & DPA issues) - Crowd sourcing to find out what information other people think we need to know – and what information other people would want. (In particular what questions it would want asked). The need for more evidence