It’s been 2 months since I arrived at DH, and was handed responsibility for our Digital Champions Network. This has given me a little time to mull over the idea and think about what that actually means, and I've had to work out a fair number of other things along the way too.
For those that don’t know, the Digital Champions are a group of wonderful people scattered around the Department, roughly one per team, who have the extra responsibility of being the first point of contact on all things digital for their team. We have a network of almost 100 people, and to keep things simple, we connect with them all over Yammer, so that everyone can keep up to date with what’s going on without hefty email chains going round.
Essentially, the main objectives for our Champions are:
- Be the first point of contact for digital support within their branch
- Help test DH digital products and services
- Take part in digital team research into digital activity in their branch
- Encourage and help colleagues in taking the Digital Passport
- Attend our special digital champions events and learning activities
In a nutshell- the Champions help us and we help them. They’re our eyes and ears across the Department on how digitally savvy we are (or aren’t), and in the process, they get extra learning and development opportunities, whether that be a corporate objective, or a way of making their own working life smarter and more efficient.
Ultimately being a Digital Champion is about having a ‘digital’ mindset, and by that, I mean being inquisitive and willing to try new things, whilst mindful of our work context and the security it demands. It’s about giving things a go, and thinking about how digital could benefit those we work with too.
So here are some of the ideas we’ve had about things for the champions to get involved with (NB: ideas, rather than fully-fledged plans…yet). We’ve been thinking of our ‘offer’ in terms of 3 broad categories:
INCREASING BASIC CAPABILITY
- Digital Passport- this is the online tool we’ve developed that will eventually go round the entire department with a view to raising capability to the level set by the Government Digital Service. We’ve got a working prototype of the tool, which was sent round the Champions a fortnight ago for testing, and with their feedback, we’ll soon improve our prototype and launch it. Once it goes out to the whole Department, it will come down to the Champions to coach their colleagues through it (there are prize incentives to the Champion that gets his or her team through the quickest!)
- Digital Development Curriculum- through our Yammer network, I’ll be posting weekly learning opportunities for our Champions to engage with, from blogs to videos, event listings to testing and research calls, so our Champions can get involved in as much digital ‘stuff’ across the board as they can, and participate in the community by asking questions and engaging others.
- Digital Thought Leaders- this is a series of regular seminars provided by the digital team, with expert guest speakers from other sectors, giving inspiration and insight into applications of digital in their work. First on the invitation list are the digital champions, who’ll get to hear from some of the top in the digital field.
BESPOKE SUPPORT AND DEVELOPMENT
- Digital Surgery- this is an offer we’re currently drawing up, which will involve a series of drop-in 20 min slots, roughly once a month, with a member of the Digital team. This will help to make our Champions more visible across the Department, and hopefully promote our digital ‘message’ a bit as well. You’ll come to our experts with your problems, and learn about our approach in the process.
- Digital Day- we’re going to be offering up our services as ‘digital consultant’ types. Teams that are currently working on a project which involves some digital stuff can present their cases to us (in writing), and those with a clear need for digital involvement will get one of our digital team to work with them for a day and help raise capability across their team, assisted by the digital champion. We’ll only be running a handful of these days over the next 6 months, so competition will be fierce, and Champions will need to show clear awareness of how a digital consultant would be of use to you over the course of the day.
- Digital Champion Development Day- we thought we should offer some more advanced training for our Champions too, so we’ll be putting on a workshop for them sometime in September. Current items on the agenda include training on cloud computing, data visualization, social media analysis, basic coding, and using online research to inform policy. We’ll also be inviting digital colleagues from various other Whitehall departments to swap stories on digital successes.
- Digital Dragon’s Den- a new competition opening up between the digital champions, in which we’ll be inviting bids for new digital products/projects. The Champion that can present the best case to us will win their team some financial backing from the digital team to fund the work as an exemplar digital project. For example, your team might want to develop a new digitally accessible consultation, or deliver a product which visualizes the data around your policy area. We’ll need to see that you have a detailed plan: that you’ve thought about the resources required, the timescale, the cost, the risks, and how much involvement from the digital team you’ll require. Ideally these will be finite projects that will be beneficial to the wider department, improving transparency and efficiency (etc). Shortlisted projects will be reviewed in interview with the applicant digital champions before we make our decision.
Hopefully that will be enough to keep our Champions learning and raising capability across the Department for months to come!
As always, further thoughts, queries, complaints, compliments, declarations of admiration (etc) can be made through our Yammer Group.