I wonder if others winced as I did at the "pat-on-the-head" phrase Steph used in his blog about government digital engagement the other day. I winced because it rang true.
Too much of what I've been responsible for doing over the last few years, and some of what I see others doing elsewhere, falls into the "pat-on-the-head" category. You know the kind of thing. That Twitter Q and A, that piece to camera for YouTube, that Pinterest board.
It describes the things that I've done just because it's possible to do them. Or because I felt that I needed to add something to an empty space in a media handing plan. Or because I was asked to add "add something whizzy" to a policy engagement plan. It describes the stuff I've done on issues that were of no importance at all, because it didn't matter if I failed, or because I was so keen to demonstrate that digital engagement mattered.
Pat-on-the-head engagement has sometimes been necessary of course. My career would have turned out very differently if I hadn't sometimes embraced any given opportunity to use the tools of digital engagement. Very few of my early efforts were exemplars for open policymaking. For every commentable bill, there's been a Second Life conference.
But we've come a long way since 2007 (when I did my Second Life thing). I think there are more than enough examples of serious digital engagement delivering real, tangible results in government. Digital engagement has matured. It's no longer a quirky add-on to traditional methods. Or at least it shouldn't be.
I don't think we need to prove that digital engagement is worth doing any more. I see great examples all around me, and you can read about the ways in which we've used digital engagement in DH recently in our blogs or the case studies in our digital strategy.
So I'm determined that the DH digital team won't be responsible for any pat-on-the-head digital engagement any more. We'll continue our drive to use digital engagement techniques to help solve the most important and difficult issues that the department faces, like the transition to the new health and care system or the challenge of tackling the problems associated with long term conditions like dementia. We'll increase our focus on insight and evidence so that we can choose the most effective methods for a given task and understand the impact. And we'll have the confidence to say no when we're asked to do a bit of stick-on digital engagement that we know won't achieve anything.
That's our pledge. So if you see me or Susy, or Liz, or Anna, or Claire, or Sam or anyone else connected with the DH digital team peddling a bit of pat-on-the-head digital engagement, feel free to call us out on it.