10 Downing Street: Looking back on a 6 week secondment

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So today was my last day at No10. For the first time ever, I kept a diary (using Day One), and as I pootle down to the west country for Dartmouth Music Festival this weekend, I thought I’d write up my thoughts.

Heart of government

It’s pretty crazy to walk around No10 like it’s any other office. And it is that, a normal functioning office with a very famous front door, albeit there are two, one is in use and the other in storage. The building’s referred to as ‘the house’ because that’s what it was when first built and continues to be for the PM and his family. Here he is chatting to Angela Merkel in the flat.

Dave and Angela

There is masses of history to the building and I was lucky enough to have a private tour with a colleague who absolutely loves its history.

The 24 hour news cycle was in full swing and sadly I didn’t come across a Malcolm Tucker character. The grid is a great, pithy way of keeping informed on what’s going on. And as you’d expect, there’s a lot going on.

 

Stuff I did

On my first day, there was a reception at No10 for the PM to thank some ‘flood heroes’ after their valiant work during the winter floods. Another reception was in the garden, to launch an initiative of every school receiving a packet of poppy seeds to plant and remember the fallen of WWI, as the centenary comes up this summer. You can’t help but be impressed at the PM’s (past and present) ability to remember so much and his/her stamina to be on the go all the time. Anyway with receptions like this, the aim of the game is to capture the content and get it live toot de suite.

Flood heroes reception

At ONS, I don’t have to get involved with publishing website content, so it was good to get to grips with GOV.UK’s wonderfully simple CMS. One page went all BuzzFeedy, and I made a ‘listicle’ – GOV.UK’s first.

The rolling content churn was fun, but my head is more interested in strategic stuff so I suggested we should get to know our users better and understand their needs and wants. The first phase is done and has drawn some interesting conclusions that need exploring. A shame I can’t be around for future phases, but I’m pleased to have my name against it, nonetheless.

I also went along to We Are Social’s #socialsmackdown for a few hours and blogged about it. I love the way Beats by Dre use a WhatsApp group chat to discuss and approve content between client and agencies.

 

Overall impressions

6 weeks has flown by and the secondment has been worth it. It’s a rolling thing so if you’re a civil servant and fancy it, keep an eye out for when applications open up again. I got caught out a bit in that recess (when MPs are on holiday so things are a little quieter) happened during my first fortnight and purduh (the pre European election period, so gov comms slow right down so as not to be confused with political comms) started in my last week. So if you get offered a secondment here, bear that in mind.

All in all, a good experience and worth being away from home during the working week. That said, I am looking forward to starting back ONS but thank my hosts immensely for the experience.

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