The Government's #digitalnatives: Outsourcing comms to the community

The Government announced recently that it plans to recruit '100 digital natives' to bolster its communications service as part of its modernisation drive.

Online boost: The government is undergoing a digital skills recruitment drive
Online boost: The government is undergoing a digital skills recruitment drive

This is excellent news and long overdue. The recruitment also focuses mostly at the junior level so GCS must be planning to develop a comms service that is fit for the 21st century. 

Starting at a junior level means the GCS can recruit fresh talent and potentially create a network of first-class digital comms experts that can shape the public sector comms agenda for the future.

GCS has an impressive talent management plan in place – last year 2000 comms people were put through their professional development programme – and all major departments are expected to have performance hubs in place by the end of this year. So any new recruit entering GCS should expect a professional and rigorous development path. 

The main challenge is ensuring that GCS recruits the right people that can understand the rapidly evolving nature of digital media, but more importantly how to build campaigns that will resonate and generate movements for change.

This means strategic listening and mapping networks (online and off) to establish influence, engaging the right people to build relationships relevant to the issues, and involving citizens in the design and delivery of the campaign. 

Co-design and co-creation are crucial ingredients for the future of communications services. The ‘digital natives’ need to understand how to facilitate conversations with the right people to co-design campaigns and programmes that will improve social outcomes. 

The ultimate goal is to involve people in the delivery of the campaign. This is essentially about outsourcing communications to the community. 

By building the capacity and capability of communities to deploy digital media campaigns not only empowers citizens to build campaigns that will resonate with them, but also engenders trust.

Co-delivering campaigns could also create much-needed skills and potential employment opportunities, which drives straight to the heart of social impact.

The GCS is perfectly placed to drive a new agenda for communications, but this will be a slow process because 100 junior level digital comms staffers are unlikely to make the disruptive impact required to transform the government’s reputation as a trusted partner that improves the lives of citizens who have grown disillusioned with government and mainstream politics.

Now is the time that the government can really do what matters most to people – connect with them, create new opportunities for growth and aspiration, and change the relationship between citizen and state. 

Bring on #digitalnativeuk.

John Shewell is the founding director of colab, a strategic engagement consultancy specialising in delivering campaigns and programmes to improve social outcomes.

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