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Research, Impact & Social Media 40 Years Policy and Politics Conference University of Bristol 18-19 September 2012.

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Presentation on theme: "Research, Impact & Social Media 40 Years Policy and Politics Conference University of Bristol 18-19 September 2012."— Presentation transcript:

1 Research, Impact & Social Media 40 Years Policy and Politics Conference University of Bristol September 2012

2 Why have I got a dragon fairy with me? Introduction: 1.The hour glass 2.Policy-making pre-internet 3.Key stakeholders 4.The internet arrives 5.…followed by social media 6.The network is huge 7.Placing yourself in the network 8.An example of policy making using social media 9.How academia can engage with policy-making using social media – 1 10.How academia can engage with policy-making using social media – 2 11.Questions?

3 The hour glass Political party policy-making unit &/or think tank Civil service policy- making unit Ministers and special advisers The media & the public “Key stakeholders” including MPs, peers, industry, pressure groups etc

4 4 In the old way of working – especially in the pre-internet age, people who had access to wide amounts of knowledge and information were few and far between outside of central government. (The issue is accessibility, not educational ability). Government departments and large organisations were the only ones who could afford to maintain large systems to enable easy access to that knowledge and information. This gave us a world that looked something like the diagram above. Department of State Policy team Trade Union Minister Research institute Media organisation University Professional bodyLarge campaign group Pre-internet society Media outlet Policy-making pre-internet

5 5 With traditional consultations, a “ discrete ” method - where responses are invited against a “ fixed ” document – e.g. a green paper or a white paper, is used. The limitations of this method of communication is that entrenches 2-way conversation – where it is the Government trying to have a conversation with “ everyone else ”. A criticism of this sort of set up is that it is “ adversarial ” and that it does not allow either side to respond flexibly to constructive responses that are put forward. It also limits discussions between disagreeing parties to only those Whitehall decides are “ key stakeholders. Department of State The public Policy team “ Key Stakeholders ” Consultation publication Consultation responses Key stakeholders

6 6 The internet substantially increased access to that knowledge that was previously only available to large organisations – especially as they made it more available. Department of State Policy team Trade Union Minister Research institute Media organisation University Professional bodyLarge campaign group Society takes up new communications tools Media outlet Then we discovered the internet The internet arrives

7 7 Then we discovered social media – which now means that each individual with access to the internet also had the opportunity to use social media for much more efficient discussions and deliberations than was possible through and old newsgroups …and through those networks, knowledge moves from being the preserve of Government and large organisations…to “The Network” Society takes up new communications tools This meant that each online individual had the potential to move from being a “ passive ” internet user to an “ active ” internet user – i.e. one who engages in discussion and debate through social media, rather than just a passive “ reader ”. Therefore, online user evolves from… into… …an active networked user …followed by social media

8 8 Knowledge and information is now no longer the monopoly of Government and large organisations. Knowledge and information is “ out there ” – with people using commenting, adding, developing and innovating with it. This creates significant challenges for Central Government (as well as large organisations) Department of State Instead of “ knowledge ” being here… …it is now out there The network is huge

9 9 Departments of state now need to position themselves at the heart of the new social media- driven policy networks. “The Network” will nearly always have access to far more, far better information far faster than any large internal organisation could get hold of. Hence best working with rather than against social media world. Department of State There is an opportunity for the Government to “ open up ” the lobbying and submissions from “ key stakeholders ” to scrutiny from the general public too. This could increase the transparency of decision-making and help hold “ powerful interests ” to account – particularly if the state “ mandates ” such organisations to respond to questions from the public Placing yourself in the network

10 An example of Whitehall working with social media users to develop policy and/or guidance New social media guidance for the whole of the civil service – hundreds of thousands of people. Message sent out via social media that new guidance is being formulated: What should be included & excluded? I write a blogpost – Social media guidance for public servants on the same day. Debate kicks off in the comments section in a blog styled “A dragon’s best friend”Social media guidance for public servants Government Digital Service engages with civil service ‘offline’ too – culminating in a series of gatherings for both internal and external audiences “Magic Dragon Puffles” is invited to, and co-headlines one of these events! “Magic Dragon Puffles” is invited to, and co-headlines one of these events On day of publication, media release is issued. Two non-Government Twitter accounts are quoted in it. One of them is from a very knowledgeable critical friend, the former head of digital at the Dept for Business, Steph Grey. The other one…exactly. The power of social media!media release is issued

11 If magic dragon Puffles can influence policy like that, can academia do the same? Why not? There are things you need to find out and be aware of before you go head-first into all of this. Get a feel for the ‘social media scene’ of your policy area. That means reading and listening to what people are saying/writing and how they are saying it Don’t be rude, obnoxious or personally insulting. People are very quick to block these days and won’t hesitate to block you, irrespective of your job title The more interesting accounts are the personal accounts of people who work for large organisations than the corporate ones, which tend to be broadcast channels Learn how to differentiate between policy-making and party politics. Civil servants cannot engage in the latter. If you frame your debate in party political terms, you limit how civil servants can respond to you – save the party political points for politicians

12 If magic dragon Puffles can influence policy like that, can academia do the same? Why not? There are things you need to find out and be aware of before you go head-first into all of this. Content is key – people are willing to overlook obscure and colourful social media accounts if your content is that good and if you engage constructively Use social media to branch out beyond your area of expertise – but be transparent in what your area of expertise is and when you are treading in unfamiliar territory Find other people with similar interests (both in academia and beyond) – you’ll often find political types have an interest and an expertise in your field which can help with public scrutiny Be prepared to be scrutinised yourself. Acknowledge where you have made mistakes and need to make corrections. You’ll be credited if a quick apology and amendment is made than trying to defend the indefensible.

13 Questions?


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