It's a cliche that many good ideas come in the shower. We were talking about this recently: Alan (one of our developers) has a faulty shower that cuts out after ten minutes. This is about half the time he needs to solve a difficult problem, so his productivity is way down. Delib customers fear not: Alan is currently Working On Other Things, and the usual level of technical brilliance will be kept up by Jess, Rich, Stan and Tom.

This is a long introduction to a short problem that I was thinking about in the shower: how to humanise the way that people interact with government on policy issues. Prompted by Steph's post on Alpha Gov's engagement and participation strategy, I was thinking that the level of interaction remains sub-human.

It's probably too simple to suggest that civil servants and local government employees include their pictures online (although that might be an interesting move). I think that might miss the issue, in that the process is in need of tweaking, and just sticking a face on it won't improve matters much. But changing the entire bureaucratic process and attitude might be a step too far this early in the morning, so I wondered if there were any immediate steps that might add some humanity.

I was interested in what Steph thought about this, so I asked him:

Andy: can you think of three things that could add humanity to engagement, participation and consultation? They have to be possible to do soon, and better than my lame idea of sticking civil servants' faces online.

Steph: Fun post! My thoughts:

  • a blog for each policy team: blogs humanise organisations like nothing else, just look at Matthew Taylor's RSA blog, or the government example of the BIS Science and Society team (and guests) sharing their process for delivering a major pieces of research
  • forget the corporate Twitter accounts (well, stick your Press Release RSS feed into them if you must), and spend that time setting up professional Twitter accounts for individuals like Amy at DH - where individuals actively and personally listen and engage, and it's about the network rather than the numbers
  • meetups: people work better online if they know each other offline: it's much easier to draft things together, discuss ideas, get moral support if you know the people you chat to online from physical meetings too - that's why events like UKGovcamp have such a buzz. It's not enough to make consultations have 'an offline component' - why not encourage the online contributors to meet up too?

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Sounds straightforward - thanks to Steph for sharing :)

I've become a big fan of Eventbrite, and think that it has an obvious benefit for organising real-world meetings, but also has a nice network-building element to it as well - even if you can't make the meeting, Eventbrite can help build connections between people. It's another piece of the puzzle - for free - and I'm hoping to write more on it soon.

Any other similar good examples out there?