As her secondment to Australia draws to a close, our UK colleague Rowena Farr recently took some time out to reflect on the innovative consultations our customers are running, professional events in Canberra and just how good Christmas in Aus really is!

Rowena, it has been so fantastic to have you in Australia for the last two months. What brought you over from the UK? 

I’m currently on secondment to Australia for just under 3 months to train our new Account Manager in Canberra, Mick Leahey. I’ve been here for 2 months so far, and was lucky enough to spend Christmas over here too. I was in Sydney for Christmas and then Tasmania early in the new year; both of which I really enjoyed. I’ve been on secondment to the Australian arm of the business before, and always enjoy the opportunity to come and help out where I can.

Have you and Mick had the opportunity to meet any clients while in Australia?

We have indeed had an opportunity to meet customers which has been great! During my first week in Canberra, I ran a training session at ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) which I really enjoyed as the group asked heaps of questions. They were all really engaged, and some of them even wanted to stay on at the end to ask further questions about a couple of their upcoming consultations.

Mick and I have also been out and about to meet customers in Canberra including meeting the Department of Industry about their challenge run using Dialogue on the Digital Economy Strategy. Just before the Christmas break, we met up with the Treasury, Department of the Environment and Energy and the Department of Health. We’ve got another couple of customer meetings in the diary for the next couple of weeks. I really enjoy going out and meeting customers face to face, so I hope we can squeeze in as many meetings as possible whilst I’m here!

I was also fortunate enough to attend a couple of events in my first couple of weeks, including the Design as a Democratic Force event and Open Opportunity Canberra. I also attended the first Canberra Product Tank meet-up one evening which I enjoy attending back in Bristol where I’m usually based. The event was hosted by the Digital Transformation Agency so it was great to see their offices and chat to a couple of the team there.

Are there any Australian consultations you have been able to look at and compare to UK consultations while you have been here?

The Department of Industry were nearing the end of their first couple of challenges using Dialogue which are based on the digital economy. It was great to meet the team and hear about how they had promoted the challenges: they seemed really engaged with ensuring that respondents knew about the challenges and how to access them. I also like the way that they’ve been active at keeping in touch with respondents by popping a message to update respondents on where they are at with analysis: e.g https://engage.industry.gov.au/small-business-and-the-digital-economy.

It’s also been great to see what a couple of our newer customers have been up to since adopting Citizen Space. We’ve got quite a few UK-Australian parallels in terms of departments now so it’s great to see where they are consulting on a similar topic but perhaps taking a totally different approach. Whilst at ABS (the Australian Bureau of Statistics) I was able to chat about my experiences of working with the Office of National Statistics in the UK.

While chatting with our Australian clients, has there been any feedback about the challenges and opportunities they are facing with online consultation?

I really enjoy chatting with Australian clients to hear about their approaches to online engagement and associated challenges. It’s been really nice to catch up with a couple of the customers I have met previously including our contact at the Department of Environment to see where they’re at with online engagement. I’ve noticed more of an appetite to use response publishing and Dialogue than a couple of years ago, which is fantastic to see as it’s indicative of departments being more open and transparent with respondents.

As you head back to the UK at the end of January, what are you most looking forward to with your clients and colleagues over there?

One of my favourite parts of my role is getting out and about to work events and meeting clients face to face. I’m sad to be missing out on the UK Gov Camp and Not Westminster which are both while I’m still in Australia, but am hoping to attend more Delib-related events in the new year.

I’m looking forward to getting back to the UK and chatting with my customers who are currently being looked after by my lovely colleagues Natalie, Katherine and Louise whilst I’m in Australia. I always enjoy our user groups and have been involved in planning them over the past couple of years so always want to make sure they’re a success and leave customers feeling like they want to attend again the next year. We’re looking at adding another location or two to the agenda in 2018 so watch this space for more information on that 😊

Thanks Rowena, it’s been an absolute pleasure to have you in Australia and we know the entire team, and especially Mick, have benefited from your knowledge and contagious positivity!