Digital training and capability at FCO: a new strategic approach


Digital training at the FCO has reached toddler-hood. Claire Collins blogged in November about its one year birthday and now, just like a toddler, it’s good at attracting attention and charming all who meet it!

Toddler shoes at the ready
Toddler shoes at the ready

FCO staff who’ve taken up the Digital Transformation Unit (DTU) global training offer have been overwhelmingly positive about the quality of the learning. We regularly get top scores from participants on our flagship Digital Diplomacy course, and  the improvement in feedback on other courses, like ‘Delivering Digital Consular Services’, shows our continuous review and refinement of the modules we offer for FCO’s consular, comms and policy officers is paying off.

So what’s worked and what hasn’t?

Our top blogging and tweeting digital diplomats are well regarded: we recently took the top spot in the 2016 Digital Diplomacy Rankings, and second in the digital category of the Portland Soft Power rankings. Most posts (embassies, high commissions and consulates) have one or more social media channels, or share one. This reflects the FCO’s willingness to be an early adopter and experiment with reaching non-traditional audiences through online media.

Capability is going up, but we need more systemic change at management level. Even with heads of mission (ambassadors, high commissioners, consul generals) committed to using digital, we also need policy leads to ensure that extensive, committed digital monitoring – vital to good policy research – is happening. Our staff leading comms teams need to prioritise and reward creative digital content and good quality digital evaluation.

So what’s next?

Luckily there’s no need for us to throw our toys out of the pram. We’ve come up something to pull our training modules into a comprehensive digital transformation package for any post – large or small.

This next – more strategic – phase for the DTU should help ensure the skills and confidence we have nurtured translate into real progress on the UK’s foreign policy priorities. It should position leaders to champion digital across their posts.

As we create these packages we’ll carry out interview-based evaluation of training that’s taken place so far. So if our trainees from that post give us feedback that they haven’t had opportunities to use training, or didn’t find it applicable to their work, that could help us to design the transformation plan to ensure that they do.

The leadership offer

The new offer for leadership at posts adds up to consultancy package with suggestions for staff and team objectives and tools for analysing skill gaps vs needs.

To get this off the ground we have our brilliant network of small, agile, regional digital units, all familiar with the local digital landscape, and well known to the key staff at each post. They deliver regional training events and run live webinars for the posts they cover.

We’re piloting the offer now and gathering feedback from the sort of people who will be involved before we roll out this programme…..we won’t try to run before we can walk.


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