A Change of Environment

So as most people now know my next role is going to be at the Environment Agency. Still #oftheGovernment, as Mr Caplin once wrote, for a while yet at least. I join in about a month — just in time for the Severn Tunnel to close which would have made getting to ONS something of a struggle to be fair!

The Environment Agency are a big organisation — about 10,000 staff based at 16 offices (I think) and they are a NDPB of the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) which is working to bring its 30+ arms length bodies together to present a single, coherent delivery strategy. Or so I’ve read — this is all pretty new to me!

I’m not, as some people have assumed, going to the open data focused #opendefra team. I know quite a few people involved in that activity personally and am a fan of their work (and of everything Alex Coley did before he nerded-up and moved to Epimorphics) but my main interest remains the wider digital transformation agenda and I’ll be focussed on that when I join.

Sally Meecham, ex of GDS, DVLA and elsewhere, is currently acting as interim CDO for Defra and I’m looking forward to hearing her ‘vision’ for the work ahead. Emily Webber is also spending some time working with Sally to help out and that is more good news (though I better finish her book before I meet up with her — there may be a test!).

One big side effect of the #opendefra work I have been fascinated with though was beautifully articulated by Ellen Broad in this post she wrote a few weeks ago. The strides that team have made towards a genuinely open culture is something I celebrate and hope to encourage that thinking more widely in the digital arena once I get settled in.

There are other signals that make me pleased with my decision — the #defraselfie Twitter ‘meme’ is a fun thing to see and Clare Moriarty, the Defra Permanent Secretary, is one of the very best senior leaders I have ever seen on Twitter. Open, friendly and professional. Even after all these years of Twitter that is still very rare.

I’m not going to lie — it is also going to be nice to be back in Bristol. The Agency offices are lovely (if a little pristine — didn’t spot a single Post-It, index card or poster on a wall or column let alone bunting!) and in a brilliant location so once I’ve settled in I’m looking forward to getting back involved in the local geek meet-ups across a range of subjects.

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