GCS Accelerate: One Year On

It’s worth taking the time to consider how much the world of communications has changed in such a short period of time. 15 years ago, Facebook was launched, and then two years later, Twitter arrived. Just 12 years ago, the first iPhone landed on our shores, and in its wake, a raft of smartphones with an increasing range of features, apps and new social networks. The digital world has revolutionised the way the whole world communicates. And it continues to change.

The challenge for us as government communicators is to keep on top of this landscape, so we can continue to deliver vital campaigns and communications to the audiences that need to hear them when they need to hear them – whichever channel they use. GCS Accelerate was launched as a response to this challenge.

The Birth of GCS Accelerate

In 2017, an audit of digital capability across government was commissioned, which highlighted a need for departments to build upon their digital knowledge and expertise. Out of this need for digital upskilling across the profession, the Accelerate programme was developed. Because digital has an impact on each area of communications, learning plans were developed in alignment to six areas of the MCOM model: media, content and publishing, paid campaigns, internal communications, external affairs, and strategic communications / I&E.

Alongside these, a separate strand was also developed specifically for Directors of Communications, to support their work of leading departments and implementing the best possible digital practice. Their learning is, by nature, more strategic, covering Workforce Management, Culture Change, Audiences and Channels, and Data and Technology.

What GCS Accelerate has achieved

Since the programme launched last October, the Accelerate team have delivered a huge amount of training:

  • Over 500 learning interventions (that’s any form of training, be it a course, briefing or on-site visit, delivered to a GCS member), and there’s even more to come next year
  • The Accelerate ‘Essentials learning series’ podcast was published, with the first episode on how to handle misinformation in the media
  • The Accelerate newsletter, reaching over 800 subscribers
  • Plus, we’ve further developed our relationships with our partners, including Facebook, with whom a bespoke version of Blueprint was delivered for GCS members.

The courses our talented trainers have delivered have been highly rated by those who attended, with each course scoring, on average, either ‘Good’ or ‘Very Good’ on feedback. The feedback on trainers has also been exemplary, and this is a reflection on the quality and competency of all of you who have contributed to the delivery of these courses.

I’ve been present at all the leadership briefings and visits and seen the quality of training first-hand, which has been second to none. We’ve heard from eminent speakers from organisations such as JC Decaux, OmniGOV, ScotRail and the Reuters Institute on topics as diverse as big data and data protection, neuroscience, reputation management through social media, the development of Out-of-Home media, and the most effective ways to reach young people with our communications.

The future of GCS Accelerate

While it is right to stop and recognise the excellent work achieved so far, there’s a great deal more that can be achieved by Accelerate. There’s going to be even more face-to-face training courses in 2020, to reach our target of at least 1000 learning interventions by September. Work has begun to start delivering courses online, in partnership with our colleagues in GCSi, allowing the programme to scale quickly and reach our regional colleagues with exactly the same courses as we have in London. In November, work started to produce a six-week online ‘Introduction to Digital Comms’ course due in May, which some of you are helping to build by providing your expert knowledge.

The contribution made by GCS Accelerate trainers and those attending our courses will be recognised, by issuing Accelerate certification. And the relationships with our digital partners will be strengthened to deliver even more training to ensure that GCS communicators stay ahead of the curve.

Accelerate has been and will continue to be an agile programme. Because the digital landscape changes quickly, we as government must respond to those changes if we want to continue to be world-class and world-leading. Whether that’s increasing our knowledge about data transparency or learning about new digital tools or platforms, we must remain front footed.

By making digital integral to our work as government communicators, we will ensure that we continue to deliver world-class digital communications that support government priorities, enable the effective and efficient operation of public services, and improve people’s lives.

A personal thank you

A great deal of work has been done, and in the light of all this excellent work, I’d like to say thank you to all involved:

  • Thank you to those delivering the training, the volunteers who have used their own time to improve the quality of Government communications
  • Thank you to the hub members and Project Leads, who have driven the development of these courses.
  • Thank you to our DoCs, who have supported this work and striven to implement these learnings within departments, and for leading by example by investing into their own learning
  • Thank you to all our partners, external trainers and speakers, without whom we would not have been able to deliver the programme

Finally, a special thanks to those whose specific responsibility it has been to make Accelerate a success:

  • to Chris Hamilton and Fiona Bartosch, who devised and launched the programme;
  • to Peter Heneghan and Subhajit Banerjee in the Cabinet Office and No.10 Digital team;
  • to Cheryl King-McDowall, Paul Mortimer and Jacqueline Williamson, who provided much support from the Professional Development team;
  • to those in the Accelerate Programme Management Office past and present: Femi Fagunwa, Iain Farnsworth, Roberto Pulcini and Oliver Marsh;
  • and to the SROs for all the strands, Alexia Clifford, Wendy Fielder, Joanna Blackburn, Amy Khan, Gemmaine Walsh, Shevaun Haviland, Tony Kluth, and Sharon Sawers.

Thank you again for the work to make GCS Accelerate such a success, and I look forward to a very successful year to come.

If you’d like to find out more about GCS Accelerate, visit the GCS Accelerate webpage or email gcsaccelerate@cabinetoffice.gov.uk