Open practice: what it means to us

Open

Open by Opensourceway on Flickr – Click on the photo to see Opensourceway’s Flick Photostream

We have been discussing an idea that we call ‘Open Practice’ within the team here at Public-i and we wanted to outline what we mean by this and start to share it a bit more widely.

I have written recently on my own blog about what I see as a need to consider being open as more than a question for source code or data and to think of it as a necessary step towards operating in a more networked and boundary-free way.

Simply put, ‘Open Practice’ applies the same constraints and opportunities of behaving in a more open and transparent way on Public-i, a commercial organisation, as we see as necessary for the public sector to flourish in a more networked and digital society. This is work in progress and we have lots to do, but we are trying to explore this with a number of different actions:-

  • We are streaming and live-reporting our user-group events so that everyone can see and challenge what we are doing with the product set and also listen to questions we may get about service issues or software problems (happily relatively few!)
  • We are starting to share our technical thinking behind some of our product decisions – with a good example being this post I wrote about video formats and open video.
  • We are trying out new forms of relationships – for example ‘sharing’ Carl Haggerty with Devon County Council.
  • We’re using the blog to share our learning, both about technology and about online engagement and social media. See, for examples of this Ady’s recent post on responsive design and Andrew’s interview about a local Facebook page here. By following the Open Practice category, you can see all the posts that we’re generating in this regard.
  • More broadly, we’re using our Twitter stream – as many do – to share posts and information we’ve seen from elsewhere that we think is of value and interesting to our customers and the broader community.  We know lots of people do this – but its still part of the picture – and its part of using twitter as a proper participant and not simply as a marketing tool.
  • We’re making sure staff are attending events where part of the point is the individuals contribution – Dave and Sarah‘s attendance of BlueLightCamp a case in point, as well as several staff (including Richard and Daniel) acting as surgeons at Social Media Surgeries.
  • Personally I am fairly used to this – I made a decision to be open with my research thinking when I started blogging to support my thesis and this has carried on with a series of action research posts that reflect on our creative councils project – We Live Here.
  • I am also collaborating with Organisational Development specialists Mayvin on their 21st Century Leadership research, which you can read about here. We showed our first thoughts on this at the Solace South East conference – here are the slides:

Personally I think that more openness is a consequence of a more digital life. Clearly, with that the case, lots of people are engaged in this process in different ways and there are many good examples – see Dan Slee’s excellent post on the ‘do and share’ philosophy behind the Comms2point0 site, who has written about this from a localgov/public-sector perspective, or the evolving work of the Government Digital Service’s blog.

As a result, I believe that embracing this ‘Open Practice’ is a question of ‘when?’ not ‘if?’ If you believe that then it is far better to be exploring constructive and positive ways of making openness the best choice and not just your only one. This is all very much work in progress and one of the factors in the speed with which we progress with this will be the way in which our clients – not all of whom are in the public sector – respond to it. That means we are keen to hear what you think.

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