when a digital pioneer takes a giant leap...

Your organisation has one person who does digital. You hit a ceiling. Why? They've only got one pair of hands. Isn't it more fun to have more people helping? That's a giant leap that's reaping rewards.

by Dominic Chessum

I will no longer be the one who champions the cause of digital at our councils. There, I have said it. 

Given that I care deeply about digital engagement and am more enthusiastic than ever about its possibilities that is a hard thing for me to say.

So why stop? Well the truth is I'm not - I'm just changing tack. As one of my colleagues likes to say - "There is no I in team" and only with my team can we forge ahead with digital engagement.

When I first moved into local government comms two and a bit years ago I carved out a bit of a niche for myself as "the one who does social media." 

To be honest at first it was a bit of a case of the old saying "In the land of the blind the one eyed man is king," but, to be fair, I did have genuine enthusiasm for digital and could see the possibilities. 

I learned quickly from others, mostly by following people like Dan Slee, Dave Briggs and Carl Haggerty, and gradually got soc med policies in place and a few social media accounts up and running.

Like most councils we got some stuff right and a bit more wrong but we were making progress, however, after a promising start we then plateaued.

Why? Well, in hindsight the reason is simple. 

We stopped making progress because though I had the vision and enthusiasm I misguidedly continued to embrace being "the one who does social media" as a badge of honour.

This was social media and I was essentially silo working. What? I was missing the fundamental tenet of social media understanding. 

I was holding onto digital development and the ideas associated with it and only really getting others involved in the day to day tweeting. This was a #strategicfail.

It is easy to see why there wasn't whole hearted buy-in from the team. I wasn't really selling the concept, just creating more work for everyone.

Time for a rethink. Over the past six months my enthusiasm has been infectious as I explained my ideas and current thinking and encouraged others to challenge my thoughts.

It is amazing how bouncing an idea round the team can change my thinking very quickly. So much so that now when I think about who has shaped my soc med thinking I have to include Lisa Green, Pam Sayle, Chris Hutchings and Ian Oliver who are all members of the team. They are all at different places on their digital journey but their ideas have made me think differently.

That is why Monday July 9 is going to be so exciting. 

Next Monday is the day of our first team unconference to generate the ideas needed to take digital engagement forward. This is the invite: 


I’d like to invite you to an idea.

It’s not a meeting, it’s not a presentation, it’s just an idea.

Without you it will just be that, an idea. In fact, worse than that, it will just be my idea.

With you it will become our idea.

My idea might go somewhere, but…

Our idea will be more than that. It will be something bigger. Perhaps it will change the way we think. Perhaps it will change the way we work. Perhaps it will go even further… That’s the thing with ideas… You just never can tell.

The idea is A Digital Future For Our Councils

You are invited to our team's first Digital Unconference.

There is no agenda other than the one we set as we explore the idea together.

You can be part of the team for the day too. We will be tweeting using the hashtag #digitalday and be bouncing our ideas into twitter for you to bounce yours back. All thoughts will be very much appreciated.

We are lucky to have enthusiasm for digital development from both senior management and senior councillors but even with that there is no way a digital champion on their own could seize the opportunity. 

As an enthusiastic team we just might.

Dominic Chessum Communications Team Leader at South Holland and Breckland District Councils.

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