Why mission patch stickers matter (and how to get a Croydon Digital one!)

A tribute to the humble laptop sticker, used by CDS and digital teams everywhere to celebrate good work and communicate values.

Here at the Croydon Digital Service (CDS) we make a real effort to work openly and collaboratively. It takes effort, but it makes things better. We also really need the support from our wider network that working openly brings. Like any profession, digital workers need to connect with colleagues to get us through tricky times, inspire us with best practice, find out tips and new ideas, and keep ourselves motivated.

Part of the wider culture of the digital profession includes mission patches, an idea GDS borrowed from NASA. You only get a mission patch if you’ve completed a project. They’re the equivalent of a certificate for a staff award, but probably cheaper – and they mean so much and people love them! Whilst people might be forgiven for thinking they’re merely silly stickers on laptops, they’re really a meaningful part of digital and design culture.

I’m excited that we now have some too. As they are fairly new to local government and certainly to Croydon, I thought I would share a post explaining a bit about them.

Vicky Teinaki, an interaction designer working in central government, wrote a great blog post about how she realised the value of mission patch style stickers:

“It was at that point that I realised how a badge actually wasn’t just a cutesy and fun thing. It was actually a chance for a team to celebrate success, and recognise their efforts. This was particularly important if they had to quickly move on to the next phase of work rather than recover.”

Giles Turnbull has also written a blog post about how such a simple thing brings so much value. A tiny reward. A marker of significant work.

“They’re an incredibly simple and effective way to bring about cultural change and new ways of thinking in an organisation.”

You can see how much they mean to people from the reply to my call out on twitter asking for examples – it turns out there is even a website (DevLids.com) dedicated to them!

For the Croydon Digital Service, mission patches are the best marketing we could ever do.

I tweeted about our new mission patch stickers and the likes came in from Directors of Delivery, Heads of Data Science, Digital Strategy and Commercial managers in the Civil Service, local government and national charities. People then see those likes in their own feeds and word spreads organically.

Our stickers – along with our posters and the string of bunting in our show and tell corner – are a cultural signifier that if you come and work with us, you will be joining an open, collaborative, agile community. This helps us attract good talent to our team, which is so important when the Government Digital Service (GDS) itself is so geographically close to us, competing with us for talent. Our open approach has meant that other local and central government departments have taken notice of what is going on here. I’m really proud of that. The staff we’ve recruited have been confident in taking the leap to local government from the NHS, Public Health England, other central government departments and GDS because they know they will be working in a team that shares their values. When we often can’t compete on salary, this has been invaluable.

This blog, our personal twitter feeds, our Local Digital and OneTeamCronx networks – they all get people taking notice and knowing that we really want to achieve great things for Croydon and would love their help. We are so grateful for the support, advice and free help we get in return.

For example, experienced GDS staff and service designers from Cancer Research UK volunteered their time to be on our alpha assessment panel. Public sector design consultancies offered us a location to have an away day for free. MHCLG took notice of our collaborative approach and we won £101k of funding. Making things open makes things better.

It’s UKGovCamp this weekend, where we all get together in our own time at an event run by volunteers, to share ideas about how to make public sector digital better. There are going to be some cracking stickers for attendees:

… and perhaps even a session just about stickers and how much they mean to people working in this field:

But making things open is hard work! We don’t have a dedicated blog editor, so we are all always juggling to make time. And the best way to incentivise a colleague or a member of the local tech community who really wants to write a blog post but is struggling to find time…..? Well, only people who have written a blog post for Croydon Digital get an “I am a voice of the Tech Community” sticker!

So – digital, data and tech people of Croydon – you can see that gorgeous beauty of a sticker above in my tweet, you know you want one – submit your blog posts here!

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