All posts by Shane McCracken

Dear Olly – A masterpiece in Civic Leadership blogging

Kigali Genocide Memorial - Picture by Martin Leach
If anyone ever asks you why Civil Servants or politicians should blog, send them over to Martin Leach’s most recent post.

Martin is one of the DFID bloggers that we’ve been coaching.  He’s recently arrived in Kigali, Rwanda as Head of DFID Rwanda.  He’s just published a post called Dear Olly that drives home the human nature of the work that DFID in the developing world.

The post is really well written. It is personal. It links the UK with Rwanda.  It explains part of DFID’s important work in the country. It gives you hope that things are improving.

Please go read it, tell your colleagues to read it and tell your bosses to read it.  Then read some more of the DFID bloggers.  They are doing a fantastic job of telling the story of DFID’s work in a real and human way.

(Cross-posted from

Why Leaders Should Blog – Part Four – To find out what constituents are interested in

Tony Tomkinson has been looking at his blogstats. In 12 months he’s had over 5,000 visits and he has analysed them by post.  Nothing earth-shattering there.  No rocket science involved.  No records broken.  You might say it is quite dull.

Dull to you and me perhaps, but to Tony it is very interesting  indeed, because it shows what his constituents are interested in and for a civic leader that is the way to get re-elected.

Twittering Politicians

Twitter has exploded into the public consciousness recently thanks to the likes of Stephen Fry and the BBC’s fascination with it from Jonathan Ross, Richard Bacon and even most amazingly Terry Wogan.

Politicians are catching up rapidly.  No.10 Downing Street passed MC Hammer in popularity today and two services in particular help us find the more obscure users in the political sphere.

  • Tweetminster follows MPs and Prospective Parliamentary Candidates
  • CllrTweeps is building a list of Councillors who tweet

Both seem to be developing fast and are worth checking up on from time to time.

US Embassy Blog to answer questions in public

The US Embassy have obviously read page 27 of the CivicSurf booklet headlined “Answer email with your blog.”

This evening they announced via Twitter that they’d set up a new blog to share information based on the emails and calls they receive. It’s really basic stuff. Someone emails or calls the embassy about something because they can’t find the information elsewhere. So publish that information on a Google friendly website AKA a blog. Next time people find without having to call or email. Everyone’s time is saved.

It’s great to see the US Embassy using Social Media tools this way. It’s not clear if this is a rogue experiment coming out of Grosvenor Square or an international thing. Either way it’s great to see.

DFID Blog Coaching

We’ve just started Round Two of the DFID blog coaching programme and we’ll be seeing posts from some new far-flung places as the additional group of bloggers come online.  As Simon Dickson, who developed the DFID blog site, has pointed out the DFID blogs have more subscribers to RSS Feeds than the main DFID site and more than the FCO bloggers.  It’s an indication that the project is working.

The idea of providing coaching does seem to be gaining traction amongst local authorities. We’re putting together two proposals for community engagement sites this week and both have asked for coaching.

There is more information on this site about the coaching programme we offer.  Use the menu link or the rather large button on the right.

Stay in touch – RSS and email

There is an old maxim (at least 2 years which is very old for social media) which say email is for work and the web for play.  It is a maxim that I hope is becoming rapidly outdated as more and people within the public sector come to realise the value of the information to their jobs being provided online.

There are three ways to keep in touch with what the CivicSurf project are doing:

  1. Visit this site regularly – once a fortnight might do you, but you might forget
  2. Add the RSS Feed to your subscription list  – Plain English video on what in the world is RSS
  3. Sign up to receive emails whenever we publish something new – click link or use the form top right

The best way is number 2.  It means you won’t miss a thing, you’ll get the information when you want (rather than by an email cluttering your inbox), and you can share it via an intranet or your own blog.  FYI RSS feeds are covered in the CivicSurf Blog Coaching Programme.

Cllr James Cousins on blogging

Liz Azyan is conducting some research into Local Government and Social Media.  On her beautifully themed blog she has just posted an interview with Cllr James Cousins about his blog.  It is well worth a read.

It was interesteing to read that he had the self-discipline to run the blog unpublished for 6 weeks or so to build a few posts and to be sure in himself that he wanted to launch the blog.

CivicSurf Evaluation Report

CivicSurf Evaluation Report
CivicSurf Evaluation Report

Running a project has lots of high points: coming up with a brilliant idea; getting the funding in place; starting the actual production; seeing the bits coming together; getting feedback; publishing the evaluation report.

“publishing the evaluation report”.  A high point?  It’s not exactly an adrenaline rush and if I’m being perfectly honest it isn’t exactly fun.  But we, at Gallomanor, do recognise the importance of fairly evaluating the work we do.  Of working out where the mistakes were made, figuring what the real strengths of a project are and deciding what we’ll do better next time.

As part of the funding from the Ministry of Justice for CivicSurf we were obliged to write an evaluation report and in the interests of openness they’re going to publish it and are happy for us to publish it here.  Click on CivicSurf Evaluation Report to view it [PDF, 60k.]

I can’t claim it is a masterpiece of evaluation, but on the plus side it only runs to five pages.

For those who don’t want to open the pdf the key learning points are below the fold.

Before you go there though, a few things:

  1. The report could be read as being critical of the councillors from Norfolk and in general.  This is not intended.  We appreciate the workload for which councillors volunteer and we appreciate that amognst all the calls on their time participating in a “project” might not be that high on their list of priorities.  So let it be said again.  The councillors from Norfolk, Tony, Jenny and Peter, are brilliant.  They were generous with their time and feedback and they have persevered with their blogs and, I hope, still finding them useful tools for doing their “jobs” as councillors.
  2. A few thank yous are needed.  Tim Anderson, Griff Wigley, Gavin Ricketts, Andrew Brown, Dave Briggs, Mary Reid, Tom Watson, Richard Brunstrom, Andrew North, Steve Webb and the MoJ team who supported us.  Thank you.
  3. This isn’t the end of project.  The site will continue and expand.  We want CivicSurf to be a place for councillors, civic leaders and officers to come to for advice and resources on becoming an effective civic leader blogger.  We’ll continue to support any organisations that want to arrange a viewing of the documentary.  We still have copies of the DVD and booklet.  And we’ve produced a blog coaching programme that is proven to help civic leaders become more effective leaders through blogging.

Continue reading CivicSurf Evaluation Report

Code of recommended practice on local authority publicity – A consultation

Front cover of Consultation Document
Front cover of Consultation Document

It’s a fairly important part of the DCLG White Paper Consultation process for CivicSurf.  The Code of Practice on Local Authority Publicity has been blamed by many as a major obstacle to helping councillors use blogs.  This consultation is a chance to make your views clear on the matter.

I’ll be reading this over Christmas and posting some thoughts and responding in the New Year.