I’m on a panel at OpenGov today: ‘a practical one-day conference to discuss the challenges and opportunities of social technologies to enable engagement, collaboration, and transparency in government’.

Alongside some impressive luminaries including James Crabtree from Prospect, Paul Evans of the Local Democracy Blog and Mark O’Neill (loosely) from DCMS, we’re tackling the topic of ‘Challenges and Strategies for Collaboration & Engagement’.

There’s a No Powerpoint rule, and just 4mins per panellist, so my proposition is a pretty snappy one: we need to get a stronger whiteboarding culture into Whitehall:


  • Embrace the messy and ephemeral: whiteboards look scruffy and get wiped clean. Good digital engagement can be like this; it’s not necessarily about a polished, sophisticated tool which lasts for ever.
  • Refine ideas through conversation: whiteboards get people talking and visualising ideas. Starting from really rough concepts and the willingness to discuss unfinished ideas will make policy discussions more honest and less confrontational.
  • Use simple, cheap, participative tools: if it needs a training course, it’s probably overkill – keep it simple so that discussion can spring up naturally about the ideas rather than the medium itself.

I’m also experimenting with Prezi, to cheat the no-Powerpoint rule. It’s got an insane interface but the visual effects are rather cool, if you like a bit of swooping in your visual aids. You can play online or download standalone players for Mac or PC.

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Frankly, who *doesn’t* like a lot of swooping in their visual aids? And if possible, a bit of tilt shift.

I like this whiteboarding idea as a succinct summary of how digital engagement needs a mind shift to a totally different approach – but that it should also feel like a familiar one. We’re miles away from this being reality though. And websites don’t wipe quite as easily as all that unless they were never really open in the first place..

‘@Jon: That’s rather cool. The interactive DIUS whiteboards have a similar 4 point calibration thing going on, but nobody in my team of seven could figure out how on earth to get beyond the calibration (or indeed navigate our intranet to find the answer, if one exists).

Amused to see that Jonny Lee’s video has 2.5m YouTube views. Wow.