#DefraCommunities update — 2019 November #1

15:40 Monday 4 November 2019 @ Defra offices, London

James Arthur Cattell
Nov 4 · 3 min read

In the October 2019 update I was a bit lost because:

  • I couldn’t find the user research I’d done (now found)
  • I wasn’t sure how to describe the work we’re doing

What I didn’t reveal is that the last meeting with our senior sponsor didn’t go great. In the October update I mentioned that, “our senior sponsor has suggested we figure out how to implant our work into other people’s strategies and delivery plans”. That is code for, “You need to change what you’re doing”. It was painful to hear but good to get the direction.

We agreed to focus on 3 areas:

  1. Develop the proposition better
  2. Audit existing communities
  3. Convene people

Develop the proposition better

By propositon we mean how we describe the work, what we plan to do and who we’re going to do it with. We also think we should include:

  • how do we reward community development?
  • how do we get better outcomes for people working in communities?
  • how do we make community leadership part of Defra group leadership
  • what change model will we use to deliver this?
  • how do we fund our networks?

Audit the existing communities

When you join Defra or 1 of it’s 33 agencies and public bodies, you should quickly be able to find the communites that are of interest to you and join them. This means they need to be easily findable and basic information about them should be clear. In the core Defra department alone we already have:

  • 13 Communities of practice
  • 15 staff networks
  • 18 Professions

This isn’t an exhaustive list and we’re bound to find more as we go along. Plus there’s all the other amazing parts of the Defra group. Fortunately our Digital Data and Technology Service (DDTS) has managed to get 6 of the largest parts of the organisation into the same virtual space. They are:

  • Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)
  • Rural Payments Agency (RPA)
  • Marine Management Organisations (MMO)
  • Environment Agency (EA)
  • Animal and Plant Heath Agency (APHA)
  • Natural England (NE)

I remember these 6 with the acronym DR MEAN (yes I’m sure I can find something better, but this works for now). This virtual grouping covers the majority of the Defra Group. This means that 27,000+ people can now join our internal social media platform called Yammer. There are currently 1020 active Yammer groups, with 82 of them containing messages that are read more than 50 times a day.

Yammer is well on its way to becoming the platform of choice for community engagement. This could eventually mean we don’t need to audit all the communties, just occasionally highlight some of them to a wider audience. We just need to make sure there aren’t any duplicate Yammer groups and that each is well described so they’re easy to find.

However in the short term a commuity audit will be needed, including:

  • who is the senior sponsor
  • are they funded and if so how
  • who are community leaders / contacts

I’ve had a little play with listing communities in my user sandbox on Wikipedia:

Using Wikipedia to list commuities

Suffice to say it needs work….

Once the audit is done, we’ll then need to standardise each communities content on each of the organisations intranets (no, we don’t share an intranet).

Convening people

This is all about bringing people together to help push the community development project forward. This includes thinking about how we communicate what we’re working on. Connecting with and selling it to senior network sponsors, leaders and stakeholders is what we need to do. Plus we’ll need to convene and train the network champions (when we figure out what they are). We agreed that the particular teams / people to focus on in the short term are:

  • human resources (HR)
  • strategic comms
  • senior HR business partners
  • organisational development and design (OD&D)
  • equality, diversity and inclusion (ED&I)
  • leadership development

So what’s next?

Imran and I are catching up tomorrow to figure out what to do and when. Expect an update soon.

James Arthur Cattell

Written by

UK Civil Service community grower for Defra and One Team Gov (#OneGreenGov). Unconference expert. Maths student. Cyclist. Bipolar. Janet Hughes's husband ♥

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