What the UK Government Interchange is and 3 reasons why you should take part
If you’re like most people I’ve spoken to about the UK Government Interchange, your first question probably is, what is it?
It’s part of the UK Government’s Devolution and You Campaign, a Civil Service learning campaign that’s been running since 2015, and I took part in it earlier this year.
It aims to help the UK Government and the devolved administrations learn about each other, and work together effectively.
How to apply
The Interchange part of the campaign happens twice a year (once in Cardiff and once in London), and it’s open to all grades and all parts of the Scottish Government.
Applying is straightforward. You just have to fill in a short application form that focuses on:
- how the knowledge you’ll gain will be useful for you personally
- what the benefits will be for your business area
- what you’ll do with what you’ve learnt
You have to choose 3 departments you’d like to work shadow in from a list of 23 that includes the Treasury, HMRC and Department for Work and Pensions (you might not get your first choice.) And your line manager has to add a short supporting statement.
What you do while you’re on it
The Interchange I did took place in London over 5 days. Travel time’s built in, so you arrive at lunchtime on a Monday and leave at lunchtime on a Friday.
Your time’s split between work shadowing in your host department, and whole group sessions designed to give you an insight into how the UK Government works. When I did it, it included helpful presentations and discussions about on parliamentary business, innovation in policy making and exiting the EU.
I spent time with the Home Office Digital Team which is made up of the content design, digital engagement and the intranet teams. Despite being busy, everyone I spoke to was welcoming, accommodating and gave me clear and comprehensive explanations of what they do and how.
What struck me most was, although their teams are structured slightly differently to ours, and they use different systems and processes, the challenges and constraints they deal with are similar.
Why it’s worth doing
A week away from your desk is a long time, so is the Interchange worth it? The short answer is, yes. I really enjoyed it.
You get a much clearer sense of the bigger political picture, and the chance to immerse yourself in colleagues’ work – things that aren’t possible to do just by phoning or Skyping.
The main benefits are you get to:
1. Learn about what a UK Government department does, and how it’s structured
I’ve never worked in Whitehall, and my main contact with colleagues based there is through the Government content community that I’m a member of. So, for me, the Interchange was a good opportunity to learn about a UK Government department’s responsibilities and structure, and understand how it creates content.
2. Meet colleagues from the devolved administrations
The Interchange means you can find out about their policy challenges, the context they’re working in and the ways in which they operate differently from the Scottish Government.
3. Raise Digital’s profile among policy colleagues
As Digital Data and Technology (DDAT) professionals, our presence at the Interchange is a chance to:
- remind policy colleagues of the ways that digital services help government to deliver policy
- show why user-focused design matters