Just over three months ago, I left a secure job (well, it was then) in the civil service for reasons I’ve never quite been able to explain coherently. So how have the first 100 days of postbureaucratic life been?


I left planning to take a bit of time, do bits and pieces, and wait for inspiration to strike. To be honest, it still hasn’t, really. There are so many fantastic opportunities for the public sector to use digital more efficiently and creatively and support the great work being done on the inside, it’s hard to know where to start.

For now, I’m enjoying a lifestyle that mixes a couple of days at home each week, with a couple of days contracting or meeting clients. I get to see my toddler more, go shoeless to the office on warm days, and more or less maintain the lifestyle I had before. Setting up a new firm has been exciting, and I’ve had some fabulous conversations with interesting people that I didn’t get to meet while I was still on the inside.

Frankly though, I wasn’t expecting the scale of public sector cuts, nor the severity of the recruitment and spending freezes – thoughts of establishing a bigger business operation are on ice for now, at least. I’m probably not alone in hoping that mainstream government (my wise and far-sighted clients excepted) will rediscover the space between zero and profligate spending in relation to digital, and that not every consultant offers poor value. Pro bono is great, but even in a big society people need to eat.

So over the next few weeks I’ll be revamping this blog, merging it into an expanded site for Helpful Technology Ltd, which I’m describing as a firm offering digital innovation for people with more sense than money. It:

  • offers no-nonsense advice and strategic help, based on a solid understanding of clients’ goals and the context they work in
  • builds and implements a range of tools and websites, putting these principles into practice with an eye on the user experience and building sustainable relationships with audiences and clients
  • delivers training, coaching and mentoring to people interested in doing this for themselves, helping to develop skills and confidence
  • supports a number of its own ‘ventures’ – projects we support or own ourselves, where we put our ideas to the test with our own time and money

Over the last few months, it’s been great to work with half a dozen Departments and organisations beyond government on strategy or small digital build projects. Coming up in the next month or two are some exciting collaborations in the ‘ventures’ space too, including:

  • Read+Comment: a low-cost, hosted platform for online commentable documents, as used last week for the Directgov Review, and which I’m looking to put on a sounder footing in terms of support
  • Postbureaucrat: a news source and weekly email rounding up the best writing online about digitally-enabled change in the public sector (and a great opportunity to reach forward-thinking public servants, hint hint)
  • Meet The Communities: a networking event for leaders of online communities, government clients and the agencies who work for them to explore how sustained, two-way partnerships with online communities can help government and citizens communicate better, more openly, and more cheaply (just finalising the venue)
  • Government Jobs Direct: a major revamp to the site offering links to vacancies information in the wider public sector

That said, I have capacity for new projects so if you could use some extra resource, whether on strategy or small project builds, please drop me a line. And if you can help solve my inspiration problem, I’ll be eternally grateful!

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A good account, Steph, of a brave move that seems to be a rewarding one. I’ve certainly be thankful of your input at FCO on the standards compliance audit – something useful that we’ll be able to make available to others. Look forward to your next tricks and there will undoubtedly be opportunities to work on projects together soon.