#DefraCommunities update — 2019 October

10:57 Tuesday 29 October 2019 @ Defra offices, London

James Arthur Cattell
Oct 29 · 3 min read

I’ve got an hour till my next thing, so here’s an update on the work Imran and I are doing on communities in the Defra group.

The vision

The idea is we change the culture of the Defra group via communities. As to what we’ll change the culture from and to is a bunch of assumptions at the moment. So we’ve started somewhere smaller with a product we can test.

Community cards

A year or so ago I attended a 2 day Liberating Stuctures immersion workshop in London. Liberating Structures a collection of facilitation techniques including classics like 1–2–4-All and Open Space Technology. At the workshop we received a pack of playing cards explaining the structures and how to use them.

A selection of the Liberating Structures cards

Based on these I suggested we build something similar to aid conversations with (potential) community managers. So I do user research with various community leaders and Imran builds and iterates the community cards:

The printed community cards being assembled

These cards work well in conversations and we’ve received good feedback.

Scaling up

Our initial view of how to scale this would be to hire more community development managers (the job Imran and I do) and send them out with the cards to have more conversations. But our senior sponsor has suggested we figure out how to implant our work into other people’s strategies and delivery plans.

This means being able to succinctly describe what we do, hence this blog post.

Why #DefraCommunities?

This feels like a good question to start with, but it initially leads to a bunch of widely held beliefs:

  • Communities can give you a sense of belonging
  • You can learn from your fellow community members
  • It’s nice to have peers who will listen to your ideas and problems
  • The need to contribute to something bigger and feel rewarded for it
  • It’s useful to have peeps who challenge your beliefs in a safe environment

The user research I did provided more concrete answers. However, I just went to open them and can’t find them, which is frustrating (will find and publish them next time). I based the user reserach on some standard questions and worked with Defra Digital’s head of user research and others to refine them.

The questions teased out memories from participants so I could see what they think they did for a bunch of given scenarios such as:

  • Why did you create the community?
  • How did you attract more members?
  • Tell me about the 1st meetup you did

So again, why #DefraCommunities?

Oh dear. I need a better answer for this that’s based on the user research I did. Will have a proper search later after all the meetings I’m about to go to.

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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