Community Engagement: Attracting Digital Talent

The Department for Education partnered with eSynergy to attract diverse digital talent

The Department for Education (DfE) is responsible for child protection, education (compulsory, further and higher education), apprenticeships and wider skills in England.

In 2019, DfE Digital found it was growing rapidly and needed to recruit people across different digital specialisms to design, build and run their services.

Leaders realised they could not fill the roles they required quickly enough, and so to help boost recruitment, they decided to take a two-pronged approach to building online and offline technical communities.

DfE partnered with eSynergy to run a dedicated community engagement programme through which they could build their offline communities and engage with the wider technical community. Their intention was to raise awareness of the great work their service and delivery teams were doing to meet the needs of users.
The community work spanned the DfE Digital teams in London and Manchester.

eSynergy brought together several digital specialists across DfE digital to plan their community engagement programme. They wanted to make sure it closely aligned to their business needs as well as focusing on the challenges they needed to overcome.

They identified three areas of work within the DfE Transformation and Digital directorate and beyond, which included the wider family of DfE Digital delivery teams. These areas were:

  1. Service ownership
  2. Being user centred
  3. Culture (specifically building diverse communities

Within these workstreams the DfE would share stories which showcased how they’re transforming the DfE so they can better deliver policy outcomes that meet user needs.

Over the first 3 months eSynergy provided DfE with opportunities to engage with communities through online and face to face activities. This meant DfE could take advantage and tap into our extensive partner network and existing communities.

What we delivered

  • A creative and diverse hackathon with eSynergy partners – CodeUntapped. This gave DfE educational and digital specialists an opportunity to spend time with 20 hackers from the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities as they explored and designed ways to improve a real, live DfE service- ‘Find a job in teaching’.
  • UX meetup in Manchester on user centred design at DfE offices. We provided a speaking opportunity for DfE to share its story and commitment to designing government services, and to explain why this is such an exciting challenge. DfE showcased how it’s becoming more userfocused and what the value of user-centred design is.
  • Speaking opportunity for the Director of Transformation and Digital to give a talk at a diversity and inclusion meetup called ‘BEEqual’. The event was hosted at DfE offices and helped to reinforce DfE’s reputation for being wholly committed to improving its working culture by putting people first. Members from the digital team attended and networked with the community.
  • An event calendar of community meetups. The meetups chosen for the calendar are tailored to the needs of the DfE digital delivery family with a focus on upskilling in digital, data and tech. This calendar is shared fortnightly with DfE Digital teams – and ‘friends of digital’ within DfE – reaching over 300 people.


  • Raising the DfE Digital brand across all activities to over 7,500 technologists within a 3-month period
  • Engaging DfE Digital with other diverse digital communities and enabling DfE hiring managers to meet directly with 85 people across London and Manchester
  • Multiple speaking opportunities for DfE internal teams to share their stories on being user centred, the service ownership model, and its culture (specifically on diversity and inclusion)
  • Identified champions within DfE digital who will foster and grow community engagement
  • Content published across DfE internal and external channels to promoting its community engagement efforts and increase DfE digital brand awareness

eSynergy have given us the impetus and opportunity to connect with several very relevant communities much sooner than we would have done if we hadn’t partnered with them. At these community events we’ve shared, learned and discussed all sorts of things relating to our culture, user centred digital design, and public services. It’s been enjoyable and rewarding for us in DfE and hope the many people we’ve engaged with so far, feel the same way.

Community and Communications Lead for DfE Digital