Digital Hero – Chris Connolly

Hello again, gosh it’s been a while. For the latest instalment of Digital Heroes I have not one but two people which, to avoid confusion, have their very own posts. Both of them currently work for the Scottish Government Digital Engagement Team, helping to make all of their consultations digital (a huge task) and also trialling more progressive forms of involvement, crowdsourcing policy ideas on a wide range of subjects. We’ve worked with them for the last couple of years and it’s been awesome watching them undertake what is in effect an enormous change exercise. They’re both moving on to pastures new in the near future so if you need a horribly well qualified person to join your organisation, holler at them.

Onto the interview; first up we have Chris (link to Eachann’s post is at the bottom), an enthusiastic American who, for reasons unknown to me, has abandoned those shores in search of rain, gales and horizontal snow storms. Let’s jump right in.

Chris_C

1. What’s your name and where are you from?
Chris Connolly. Unless I’m in trouble, in which case it’s Christine. I’m originally from Chicago. I moved to Edinburgh three years ago to pursue a Master of Public Policy and ended up sticking around. Edinburgh is a pretty amazing place.

2. What do you do for a living?
I’m currently a Digital Engagement Manager at the Scottish Government. What does that mean, you ask? It means streamlining consultations by using Citizen Space and providing consultation best practice guidance and training. It also means supporting colleagues to better engage with citizens using digital tools and platforms. This can take the form of developing digital engagement strategies and upskilling colleagues.

3. Favourite band and / or artist?
Oh no! This question has always been impossible for me. I tend to rely on Spotify playlists to fulfill my music needs. Is that too much of a cop out? Currently, I’m enjoying the Summer Throwback playlist.

4. Creature of habit or maverick thinker?
I like my routines but change is always welcomed; too much routine is boring. I think that working in digital engagement requires being a bit of a maverick thinker. It’s a dynamic and relatively new area that we’re still trying to navigate.

5. Your house is on fire, what do you save?
The dog, Breck aka Dirt Paws. He might be a demanding stubborn old man but he has a lot of character and can be good company when he wants to be. He basically rules the house. Oh and my partner, definitely shouldn’t leave her behind.Breck_Dog

6. Biscuits – dunk or leave unsullied?
You can keep your biscuits. If we’re talking about chips (ahem, crisps) then dunk them in all of the dip!

7. Best gov site you’ve seen (other than gov.uk) and why?
One project that I’m really excited about is the work of digital communications colleagues on transforming the gov.scot website. The beta version (beta.gov.scot) has recently been released and offers necessary upgrades including being mobile and tablet friendly. The website is being built with user experience at its core with content based on analytics. You can even submit feedback on the site as it develops. It’s definitely worth keeping an eye on this.

8. Best project you’ve worked on at SG and why?
Oh wow – I’m finding these questions to be getting more and more difficult. Can I tap out now?

I’ve worked on a number of great projects and have had the opportunity to learn about various policy areas ranging from salmon fishing to social security. However, I think the best project I’ve been involved in was rolling out Citizen Space across the Scottish Government for all consultations. This demonstrated a real commitment to improving consultation and opening up the policy making process beyond government. We’ve received great feedback on the ease of using the platform both for respondents and teams consulting.

9.  Where do you hope gov will be in ten years in terms of digital democracy?
I would like to see governments continue to embrace digital engagement and working out loud. I’d like to see more empowered citizens who are given opportunities to engage and shape policy. A stronger commitment to feeding back to citizens on how their engagement influenced policy is important.

10. You’re leaving SG soon, what’s next for you?
It’s sad to have to say goodbye to the Digital Engagement team. I’m proud of the work that we’ve accomplished over the couple of years since the team launched. I know that the team will continue to do great work.

What’s next for me? I’m still trying to figure that out. I’m keen to continue work around citizen engagement. The appetite to engage has been growing since the Scottish Independence Referendum and Brexit. It’s an exciting time to be involved in the democratic sector!

11. Any shout outs?
The Digital Engagement team and everyone who has supported us. A big shout out to Christian Storstein and Alaster Phillips who will continue to take the digital engagement work forward. Also, thank you to the wonderful Delib team who have patiently dealt with my constant pestering.

So there we have it, 11 questions exhaustively answered; much credit is due. If you want to talk to Chris about helping your organisation with a bit of digital engagement, Twitter is a thing you could use.

Until next time*

*Eachann’s post is here.