I’m still trying to come to terms with the fact that fish and chips, our well-loved and former national dish (now displaced by chicken tikka masala) may become a novelty due to rapidly depleting fish stocks. One solution involves, yes, wait for it, actually listening to fishermen.

It was nice to read about this in Annalisa Barbieri’s piece in today’s Guardian.

While Annalisa decries the woeful inadequacies of the common fisheries policy and berates the EU for failing to do anything to change things, she praises the efforts of one local fishery in Devon that has succeeded in reducing the amount of discarded fish by 50%.

Good to talk

The fishery did this by talking to fishermen and involving them in the design of new nets. It did this through Project 50% – an initiative funded by Defra (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs).

They even used social media to get the word out.

As one fisherman is quoted as saying:

“It was the first time that I’ve known a government organisation to work with the local fishermen and ask us how we could help.”

I devoted a whole chapter to “listening” in my book on social media, Monkeys with Typewriters. It sounds obvious, but it’s amazing how little of this listening we see – not just in government, but in our institutions generally.

Update (Oct 2020)

Having worked with digital teams in government, I’m happy to say that listening to stakeholders is now a massive part of the culture there. In fact, user research has become the norm. Or at least the best practice to strive towards. There’s even a civil service blog about it.

The fact that user research has become a key civil service discipline is down largely to the work of Martha Lane Fox and the original Government Digital Service.

If marketing’s a conversation why is everybody shouting?

Photo: EEPaul (via Flickr)