• Opinion
  • March 20, 2019
  • 6 minutes
  • 2

Open working: A guide for public servants in the social media age

Opinion: Open is making government more accessible to everyone

This piece was written by Amanda Bernardo. For more like this, see our future of government newsfeed.


Public servants around the world are leveraging digital platforms to share their work, collaborate with others and engage with citizens.

In doing so, they’re able to take a once shielded and closed environment and transform it into one that is open and transparent. This environment invites public servants to connect; citizens to participate; and governments to change the way we communicate. In other words, welcome to the age of Open Government.

While countries around the world are developing their open #OpenGov policies and tools to enhance the way in which data is shared, there are platforms that already exist and are being used worldwide to achieve a similar outcome.

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Open Government is about making government more accessible to everyone, including those working in the public service. 

Regardless of what area public servants are working in, social media platforms such as Twitter have become a new avenue for open data. Public servants are sharing their days through daily and weekly notes; engaging in open dialogue with colleagues, stakeholders, and citizens; and sharing progress and updates in real-time.

Image credit: Amanda Bernardo

While working openly may be easy for some, it can also be extremely daunting for others. We’re hearing public servants charged with sharing their work online, talking about their progress, and demonstrating how they’re achieving results.

But many are looking for guidance on how this can be done.

Here are a few tips and tricks for those leveraging social media to work in the open:

What is the value of online engagement?

  • Demonstrates openness/transparency
    Breaks down silos to share information openly
  • Connects public servants across the world
    Allows you to build a multi-disciplinary network to expand your outreach
  • Allows information sharing in real-time
    Enhances timing of pubic communications

What should I write about?

  • Write about your work
    Highlight work in progress, engagements, or upcoming milestones
  • Share your team’s content
    Follow your colleagues and those working in similar areas to cross-promote
  • Share your expertise or answer questions related to your work
    Engage with users leveraging your team’s hashtag(s)
  • Share team/event photos
    Ensure all photographs have consent

What shouldn’t I write about?

  • Secret information
    Details that have not yet been announced or related to an official announcement
  • Critical comments about your government
    Offer constructive feedback as opposed to attacks
  • Personal bias
    By promoting a specific vendors, business, or stakeholders
  • Avoid tagging partisan accounts
    Political parties or personal accounts

Where should I write?

There are many social media platforms that can be used to work openly in the public service. Twitter, however, is quickly becoming a fan favourite, enabling public servants to act in real-time; connect across borders and waters; and, grow an influential network that allows for true reflection, feedback, and collaboration.

As a Canadian public servant, I’d be wrong if I also didn’t give a shout out to the amazing tools being created internally to work more openly — GCCollab, GCConnex, GCPedia and GCIntranet (#GCTools).

As public servants, we must also remember our obligations as an employee

In Canada, public servant employees are expected to follow the rules for:

  • Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector
  • Code of conduct within your department
  • Conflict of interest
  • Privacy

In addition to why we use online platforms and how we use them, we must also consider the efficient use of government electronic networks and devices to support this enhanced communication and collaboration.

However you choose to engage online and whatever platform is your preference, these tips and tricks are a great way to start an open dialogue.

Let’s not forget communities such as this one that continue to empower us to share our voices, our thoughts and our work in a common place for us all to read. — Amanda Bernardo

(Picture credit: Unsplash)

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