Alex Aiken reflects on the Government Communication Service’s cross-government milestones

Written by Civil Service World on 1 January 2020 in Feature
Feature

As 2020 approaches, senior figures from across government reflect on their highlights and challenges of 2019, look ahead to the next 12 months and share their favourite festive memories

Photo: Crown Copyright

What was your highlight of 2019?

We saw a series of important milestones for the communication profession which show how far we have come, but also how far we have to go. The publication of the functional standard marks a maturity for the profession, which was supported by our new careers framework and the renewed communication operating model. We also scored highly as a function in the annual Civil Service People Survey. All these highlights are landmarks and not a destination, as technology, communication tools and the skills we need to communicate continue to develop and challenge all of us.

What has been the most significant change in your organisation this year?

We have seen a much deeper level of cross-government working, across Whitehall and agencies, on a whole range of issues from public information campaigns to international events and professional development. This has been a positive and gradual change but it accelerated in 2019, partly driven by the Brexit debate but also by a realisation that on many issues we are more effective working together to serve the citizen, business or community. We now routinely run cross-government campaigns and use HM Government branding rather than departmental logos. We are developing a single source of information for businesses and we work across government on promoting our shared foreign policy priorities.

What will be the biggest challenge of 2020 – and how are you preparing to meet it?

We’ll have a new government with priorities and ambitions that the service will have to work hard to meet. In terms of the Government Communication Service, we will want to deliver a step change improvement in our digital activity. We learnt much about the effective use of online communication through the “Get Ready for Brexit” campaign and will want to build better web and social media content. We also need to review what we have learnt during the general election campaign about the positive role of online tools in terms of registering people to vote, but also how we track and counter disinformation and other techniques that seek to divide communities.

Tell us a favourite festive memory from your youth...

I always loved the end of term celebrations at school. I went to Dame Alice Owen’s School in Potters Bar and that there was a sense of celebration, relief and achievement when we reached the end of the autumn term, as well as the anticipation of Christmas. There were usually pranks, parties and other entertainment which provided a huge amount of festive fun!

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