3 things I learnt at work last year

3 lightbulbs hanging from ceiling

In today’s weeknote, I’m being a bit more reflective. Thinking out loud about my work and place in the sector. A bit of stream of consciousness I wrote early this morning. Slightly edited. Definitely not polished. I hope that’s OK.

What I learned about my consulting practice

I am not as good or want to do digital transformation consulting. It’s hard to talk about this because it’s been who I’ve been known as for a few years, and who I’ve been hired as. But it’s always been important for me to be honest with myself not only about what I’m good at but also about what I like to do. It’s also a bit scary. Right now there’s more consulting work for this type of work than for other things I’m most interested in.

Or at least that’s what I think.

So what have I learned about what I love to do?

I love knowledge mobilization and want to do more, funded. 

This is my big task this year. To see if I can get some of my ideas funded in some meaningful way. Also to be really clear about where I fit what I’m doing with related work in the sector. That comes in many forms. For example, where does my work intersect with funded Communities of Practice? With professional development, including courses, webinars, conferences, workshops, etc.? With academics and community researchers diving into one-time work that may be important and have impact, but are one-and-done and not necessarily sustained. I’m thinking of building linkages among and between all of these projects and work so others can benefit not just from one-time projects, but the patterns, themes, and connections among them.

I love content strategy, in particular as it relates to KM. But also how it relates to service and service practice, and I want to do more. 

For sure content matters when it comes to KM. It also matters when it comes to service delivery, marketing and outreach, and Communities of Practice. This work supports KM, and is a way to get actual funding, as it is something that has actually been funded. Unfortunately, it happens not in networks but in individual organizations. I’m not interested in a full-time organizational job right now. I recently thought of applying for something, but it’s not a fit.

The way most jobs are structured and rigid in so many cases doesn’t fit around how I and my family have structured my work and life commitments. So I’ll have to think this out some more, but it feels more possible than the broader KM approach, at least in my mind. I may be wrong. I hope I’m wrong.

I am cultivating a network of other consultants and want to continue to build that out.

I’ve more or less abandoned the Consultant Connect website/portal. But I’m still committed to building this network out, at least for myself. As I’ve shifted away from some of the digital transformation practice I’ve been referring work to others. I need to continue building this up and figure out ways to network and expand it.

What I learned about responsible technology

Responsible technology is the foundation for how we approach tech, tech development and policy in our sector. Inclusion by design was an aha moment for me — it’s the foundation of responsible technology. I’m still processing it all. But one of the ways I can be useful is to figure out how to operationalize this in organizations and their approaches to technology.

This is an area where my KM, content strategy, and consultant network all intersect well. I’m not always great at creating checklists or frameworks. But this is a place to make specific recommendations and build something new for the sector. I typically curate and inform folks about what is out there. Doing that can be useful. But the reality is that most folks don’t have the time to figure it out and narrow it down. I can have more impact if I put out some models and then get people’s reactions.

Progressive tech policy is hard . We’re up against entrenched power structures with the tech bros. 

Even as they fire 10s of thousands of people and prove their disinterest in progressive societal change or impact we lean more towards them than politicians and policy-makers and ignore the impacts of disruption.

So how to make this shift? I’m not sure. For some time I’ve been trying to push out a trend found in the Edelman Trust Barometer. NGOs/non-profits have been, and continue to be, the most trusted institution (compared with business, government, and media). It never seems to become a conversation. And I’m not sure why. It’s something that should be celebrated. And applied to our work and sector marketing.

In particular when it comes to contributing now to progressive tech policy. As Sean Erreger has written and I’ve adopted, no tech team is complete without a Social Worker. We’re seeing the same mistakes in AI that tech bros make with everything else. They’re not being responsible. The latest headline is that some are terrified of the implications and potential misuse of what they’re releasing. 

It’s a sign that they’re not being responsible. That they don’t have the right people at the table to ensure safeguards are in place. 

In spite of the growing responsible tech networks, coming together and working more closely, it doesn’t feel like we’re turning a corner. Entrenched disruptive attitudes, and “ship and fix later” startup mentalities permeate the industry. How can we have an impact?

What I learned about my sector

I’m a bit of a broken record, but I still need to figure out how to make this work. After what felt like a spike in transparency, collaboration, and shared leadership during the height of the pandemic, things are sliding back to how we’ve done things before. 

There’s a rift between who is sharing and who is not. 

Digital transformation isn’t being taken as importantly as other challenges by sector leadership. 

But it is a concern for workers. 

Front-line workers know what they need and need to be consulted more often. Every time I talk to them I learn more and more.

We also need to be better at brining Newcomer voices into the conversation.

I’m still trying to figure this all out, and my place in it. As a consultant I have both unique access to people and organizations. At the same time I have limited access to people and organizations.

I don’t have a full picture.

I know that. 

I’m working on it.

In a future post, I’ll share things I want and need to more know about in my work to be helpful as we continue designing a future hybrid service model.

I hope we can dialogue and figure this all out together!

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