I’m lucky to have some amazing clients doing great things in social housing and public service.
So many government departments, housing associations, local authorities and health organisations are tackling similar problems, in challenging environments and with a shrinking budget.
That’s why I think the new Knowledge Hub – a free-to-join website allowing public sector staff to collaborate, think and share their work – has come at a critical time for the public sector.
A hero of mine, Mary McKenna is also on the Knowledge Hub gang now, and has written a great post on why she thinks it’s what the sector needs – definitely worth a look.
I’m particularly excited to be also working with the team behind Knowledge Hub after meeting them at last year’s Digital Leaders Awards.
One of the main values of Knowledge Hub, for me, is in providing people with a place to connect and collaborate that’s safe.
The beauty of the public sector is we don’t have to hide our trade secrets from each other, and the more we learn from each other, the better our work, morale and – most crucially – the happier citizens are.
I think Knowledge Hub can help us do that without feeling exposed. Here’s why…
Discussing successes and failures with colleagues without a hostile audience
To properly work with people across the sector does require an environment where people can feel they are working with a common purpose. Also we need to feel we can share ideas, proposals and failures without being attacked.
It takes a brave person to share a project they’re working on and share what did and didn’t work.
What if the Taxpayers’ Alliance see it and go on the offensive? What if your industry magazine brands you incompetent or a crackpot?
Often innovators are misunderstood – mention a new technology or social media and some will think you must be wasting money, even if you are testing sound ideas that may save the whole sector millions.
And every organisation cocks up now and then. We’d do it less often if we were aware of the lessons learned by other organisations.
I try to practice openness in my work as much as possible, but for those who fear the consequences of sharing what they’re working on – Knowledge Hub offers an easy way to improve the discipline and communications skills needed for collaboration before taking the next step into sharing in the open.
People need privacy
As part of research for some lectures I did for the University of South Wales, I looked at why some social networks die – looking at use of many places where people network from Friendster and MySpace to Facebook and Twitter.
One key point that surfaced in my study is that the safer the environment is perceived to be, the better the platform fares.
1. A safer place for self expression
The larger and more public a group online, the more we can suffer from a feeling of inferiority – described by Jenna Wortham in The New York Times.
This means users don’t post things they think others might think silly or could be criticised. They self-censor, and over time the standard they set for what is worth the risk of posting rises.
As people stop posting, there’s less to see and less reason to come back and interact.
So many failed networks fail because nothing interesting happens there (and is sometimes the case with Yammer groups and intranets – when people get the feeling they’re being ‘watched’ by bosses).
Facebook’s closed nature – where we choose our friend connections before they see what we say – means users trust & are more willing to share information of a social and personal on the site.
I think this is likely to be the case for Knowledge Hub, where people feel less pressure from public scrutiny and can share more detailed information about work.
2. Safer guardians of your data
In analysing trust on social network sites, Dwyer, Hiltz, and Passerini (2007) argued that trust and why they use a site may affect what people are willing to share.
For example, Facebook users expressed greater trust in Facebook than MySpace users did in MySpace and thus were more willing to share information on the site.
Facebook has significantly changed since 2007 though (as has all social media). It makes use of our information and tracks our behaviour in ways that scare many of us.
Knowledge Hub is clearly not interested in using your data in the same way Facebook is – and the ground rules for the site is that only trusted third parties can join and a hard sell is forbidden.
These two factors mean that there is an increased quality of conversation on Knowledge Hub, we can share juicier information and get way more understanding and input from colleagues across the sector.
And other people are sharing this kind of detail keeps us coming back for more.
Have you tried KnowledgeHub lately?
I used in back in the day. As someone in a small team, I wanted a feeling of community and connectivity with others in my job. Then, it was a different beast, a bit clunky to use but I made some excellent and useful contacts.
However, it’s radically different these days – an easy login, improved search function and it’s been designed with mobile and tablet users in mind.
It’s just easy to use so I can use my brain power on cracking tough problems and learning (not working out where the hell I am and how to use the thing!).
Give it a whirl. It’s free to join and already has thousands of users so it won’t be like a ghost town when you get there!
As with all communities, the more effort you make, the more you get out of it. Follow or connect with people and join a couple, or many, groups of interest – give it a go.
In the next few months I’ll be collecting case studies and helping organisations make best use of the platform (there’s even a way of using to as an attractive and low-cost intranet).
Give me a shout if you want more information about how it can help your organisation to collaborate better.