If you follow my tweets, you’ll have seen that on Monday I was at the excellent PEP-NET (Pan-European Participation Network) summit in Hamburg. Noella Edelmann’s summary is here.

One of the projects that presented was NextHamburg, who run participatory projects on the future of the city, as well as CityCamp-type innovation events. I particularly liked one of their slides, which I tweeted at the time should be over the desk of everyone working on participation:

Slide showing NextHamburg's principles

As of yesterday, there’s less need for my dodgy iPhone photography, instead you can download a copy of the new Social Media Guidance for Civil Servants, which is a good short (6-page) read.

Much respect to Emer Coleman and the rest of the GDS team for a set of guidance that really is a model of how things should be done. Its length and accessibility mean that it will doubtless be widely plagiarised around the public sector, and that would be no bad thing. The content hits all the points I would want it to – encouraging civil servants to join in the conversation, find people where they are, and promote transparency and accountability.

More than most guidance, perhaps, it’s a little shove towards the network culture we’re all looking for in public services – an opening up and softening of traditional hard boundaries and attitudes. I’ve said before that I’m a culture change sceptic – I don’t think you can have a top-down culture change project. Repeated small encouragements, like this guidance, are far more likely to shift attitudes, particularly if they are backed up with local action, as I hope this will be.

The one area where the guidance starts down a road but doesn’t get to the end of it is around conversational interaction. The idea of conversations and finding people where they are makes for a rather different vision of consultation than the traditional version, and I’ll write more about this on Monday.

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Written by Anthony Zacharzewski

Anthony Zacharzewski was one of the founders of Demsoc in 2006. Before starting work for Demsoc in 2010, he was a Whitehall civil servant and a local government officer.