A quick personal reflection on @XJamGov and #ggovjam

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So this week I participated in XJamGov, which was part of the international Global Service Jam and was focused on the public sector/government.

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My three things – photo from flickr, by Phillippa Rose

First and foremost it was one of the best learning experiences I’ve had in a long time…I didn’t expect to learn so much in such a short time. It sort of felt like the first time I attended a govcamp event – I was nervous, anxious, intrigued and fascinated by the whole thing.

As the picture shows I wanted to:

  • Learn – new things and learn about people
  • Make – cool things
  • Be inspired – to change the world

It met each on of these (although I think i was probably motivated to change the world beforehand).

So what did I get from this event?

Well it wasn’t all easy and free-flowing, I found parts of it hard to engage with and the fast pace meant that you couldn’t really hang around and reflect on stuff.

The first kick off session starting on Tuesday by receiving the secret theme and then capturing ideas, this was straight forward as a concept but the approach was refreshing so made it feel new. The next bit was straight into developing ideas and that became strangely hard as it didn’t seem to create any tangible ideas i could connect with so I was at risk of disconnecting with the process right at the beginning. However I trusted the organisers (Simon Gough and Phillippa Rose) so went with it. About 15 minutes before we finished I was part of a conversation with a couple of other participants and we started formalising an idea and it started to make sense and we quickly became more and more focused on that and then it all started making sense.

On Wednesday morning the sun was shining and I had managed to reflect on the ideas we were talking and discussing yesterday and when I caught up with the others who then became fellow team members we started to recap on where we thought we were and we quickly started to develop the idea and was then tasked with creating a concept to show the other teams. Our team was called “Team Troubadour”….

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The basic concept we developed was that stories and storytelling can change the world and help people and communities grow…we put together a Lego model and some sketches which outlined the concept and were then tasked with sharing this with others for constructive challenge.

After the challenge session we had to do some more formal work around business models and used the business model canvas to help us flesh out what our service actually was, who it was for and how we would create it.

I really enjoyed this session and found the process of only picking one customer segment very challenging but it was a critical step in helping us define a minimum viable product.

Our customer segment was schools and our idea was that a school would sign up and be tasked to gather stories from within their community and then be responsible for how these stories are shared. We also had the idea that each school would need to find a global partner school and they would challenge the school to also gather stories from within their community and each would share the results with each other via our platform.

So we ended up with a proposition and description which was this:

We want to help reconnect people to each other and to their communities through the power of story telling.

By sharing stories we open ourselves up, enable learning in unexpected ways, and ultimately provide opportunities to increase community cohesion, social understanding and general well-being.

We provide a ‘Troubadour’ story telling pack, which includes story guides, story prompts, story wheels and a variety of other educational resources which invite people to have the courage to share.

Troubadour also provides an online service which enables groups to open up their projects for sharing and collaboration with other groups.

Some of the challenge we identified were that stories are often hard to tell, sometimes hard to uncover, so we wanted to create a set of tools which helped facilitate that process…We then started prototyping and we were talking about the products and services we needed to create…one of the first prototypes we created was a story wheel.  We did some curriculum mapping, customer personas, resource development, website wire-framing and researched other websites and platforms around how they worked and operated.

XJamGov #ggovjam

XJamGov #ggovjam

We were able to road test the concept using our own team and some of the pirates who come in to constructively challenge your ideas…

The whole process was intense, inspiring and also fun, I don’t recall having this much fun whilst being so productive…I’ve learnt a huge amount around this aspect specifically that I spent some time this afternoon chatting on google plus with one of my team about how we can learn from and adopt some of the techniques and approaches to get more from what we do.

Thursday was mainly focused on finalising our prototypes and creating our presentation to upload to the govjam website for it to be shared.

It was fast paced and fully of funny moments as well as some challenging conversations…however we managed to create a presentation and upload it, as well as uploading and linking to a number of the resources etc we had done.

Most of the teams work can be found here http://www.govjam.org/project/21993

The other teams results are available here http://www.govjam.org/govjam13/jamsite/21663/projects

This is the video we created…

So would I do this again…without a doubt and I would HIGHLY recommend these events to anyone and everyone…It truly was an inspiring few days.

June is a month for breaking down barriers

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On the back of the Guardian article today, I thought iId share this slightly longer explanation and summary around Create / Innovate.

June is a month for breaking down barriers – First and foremost Create and Innovate  is about thinking differently it will be about experimentation, discovery, play, learning and reflection.

One of the reasons for holding Create / Innovate is to respond to a recent Council report to our Corporate Leadership Team in relation to the Barriers to Digital Innovation. The key findings of that report stated that we had a diverse set of reasons why digital innovation specifically was difficult and they were different across the organisation and in different service areas, however across the council it was a combination of one or more of the following barriers:

  • The attitude to risk across different service areas, some were naturally more relaxed than others

  • The cultural challenges and associated issues

  • Policy constraints and issues arising from a few conflicting policies

  • Technical barriers and issues – these were not just about ICT access as information security concerns were also affecting usage

  • Resource issues and perceptions that the “flood gates” would open and we would struggle to manage the multiple channels effectively

Corporate Leadership Team supported the report and tasked Corporate Communications in collaboration across the council with a series of actions which would start to unpick and address the barriers. The actions which have helped trigger Create / Innovate are listed below:

  1. approve the review and rationalisation of relevant policies and guidelines and re-present to staff

  2. approve a continued programme of staff engagement, awareness raising and training delivered in creative and innovative ways;

  3. support digital and social media pilots/prototypes and the establishment of digital leaders across service areas

So why Create / Innovate?

There were three things really, which led to the idea of Create / Innovate being a month long series of events and activities, although originally it was only planned for one week as it seemed more realistic to fill one week with activities.

The first was a conversation with colleagues at the Met Office in Exeter who recently held a similar event. In conversations I explained my aspiration to hold a similar event somehow at the council and mentioned that our Corporate Leadership Team were really supportive, so they offered a room at the Met Office for our Corporate Leadership Team to hold their first meeting in June. After a further conversation with our Chief Executive and his Executive Assistant about the practicality, they agreed that they would give it a go and try it to see how using different spaces helps change the dynamics of the conversations and decisions. So on Monday 3rd June, the councils Corporate Leadership Team will be holding their meeting in the Met Office, they will be using digital devices and smartphones and it will be reported live to staff via the councils yammer network.

The second thing was a conversation with a local Service Design Agency Redfront Service Design (Simon Gough and Phillippa Rose) who organised the recent Service Jam event in Exeter back in March (XJam) and there was an opportunity to host and get involved in supporting a specific Service Jam for the public sector in June (GovJam), which locally we have called XJamGov www.xjamgov.co.uk – this takes place between 4-6 June.

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Photo by Paul Clarke (from XJam photo set on Flickr)

The idea of GovJam is to work around a common theme, small Teams meet at multiple locations, working for 48 hours on building innovative approaches and solutions towards challenges faced by the public sector.

GovJams are especially relevant to local government and public sector professionals, and will give us the opportunity to grow collaborations  – exchanging techniques, insights and ideas with colleagues near and far, while working on concrete projects addressing key issues inspired by the common Theme.

35 locations around the world are currently hosting an event including: LA, San Francisco, Barcelona, Warsaw, Eindhoven, Bologna, Mumbai, Berlin, Helsinki, Santiago, Montreal, Toronto, Perth, Canberra and Melbourne – In the UK only Exeter and Dundee are currently hosting events.

The third opportunity also came up through a twitter conversation with the Local DirectGov Team which added more scope to a months long event, was to host a Really Useful Day at County Hall – it is in so many ways similar to the Jam experience although we know the topic in advance.

The purpose of the day is to learn about and explore customer user journeys. It aims to map existing user journeys and take people through a process so that participants are more aware of how the real user journey can be improved – the following challenge is then taking that back into the work place and implementing it.

The great thing about both of these events is that they aren’t exclusively for staff at the council and will be attended by a diverse group of people from across the region which helps us to build new connections and collaborations.

Encouraging a culture change

Like most people the real challenge is trying to change a culture from the edges and this won’t happen in June alone. Culture change is a complex thing to make happen and we are fortunate here in Devon that we are in a climate where the whole organisation is starting to shift and there is more awareness of a new culture emerging.

The council has also spent the last twelve months exploring the next 5-10 years under the heading “Future Landscape” which has provided a lot of internal momentum and has engaged around 300 staff across all services and at all levels in thinking differently, so we won’t be starting from scratch in terms of engaging people in opportunities to think differently and challenging existing cultures.

My aspiration is that if we can nudge or disrupt people forward by 5 steps and then in July they take 4 steps backwards, at least we would have moved. The greater challenge will be in sustaining the momentum from some of the staff and amplify that and make it more visible.

Adding value and the wider benefits

We’ve also looked at how some of what we do can involve the wider public and although the primary focus is to challenge the internal culture of the organisation, we have an opportunity through some of our public facing services to involve and engage the public in helping us to think differently as well as challenging them to think differently around how our services are provided.

One of the most active service areas is Libraries, where we have adopted a more public image called “Time to Make and Play” which we hope will help people engage in small scale activities in some of the libraries to help them explore how the spaces can be used and how collaborative approaches within communities can use those spaces more effectively as well.

Some examples of the activities happening in libraries are, Raspberry Pi Jam, Gadget Days, Free to Play tables, Musical drop in sessions, Smartphone advice and make a noise in libraries.

Lessons so far…

  • Involve people:
    Working collaboratively with a wide group of people from different orgs requires you to be flexible in the tools you use and how you communicate with people.

  • Sell the idea
    Don’t sell a programme of completely fixed events, although start with something to build around, do sell an idea and ask people to help fill the programme with activities and events they believe will help challenge thinking and provide opportunities to do things differently – this allows you to capture all the variations of events and activities that people feel are required, from the more formal events like XJamGov to simply having a social media surgery so people can understand how to use smartphone more effectively.

  • Be patient, keep focused and relax
    There were times that I didn’t think this would happen, I was initially getting concerned by the lack of progress in setting things up and sorting the logistics etc, but being patient, staying focused and involving people means you can relax a little and things do and will happen.

  • Be flexible and prototype
    An absolute must, no matter what you originally thought would happen and wanted to happen, you need to be flexible and be prepared to change plans, adapt to other peoples ideas and timescales and most of all, let go of any notion of a formal plan…after all the whole month is a prototype of how we can engage people in different things.

Final thoughts

My aim has been to ensure that Create / Innovate is a creative and fun approach to addressing barriers to digital innovation and a key objective is to start to build sustained awareness and understanding of the opportunities for staff to be more creative and innovative within the council.

We are trying to disrupt people in fun and creative ways and we also hope to inspire people to try new things…the whole idea is really a prototype, so some things may not work out as we expect but that is ok so long as we learn.

Looking forward to XJamGov

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Flickr – Photo by Paul Clarke – http://www.flickr.com/photos/paul_clarke/

In the first week of June, I’ll be attending XJamGov, a global service jam event which will be hosted at County Hall in Exeter and organised by the awesome Simon Gough and Phillippa Rose of Redfront Service Design.

There are still tickets left so do check out the site and get yourself signed up.

The event is a public sector focused event and will follow on from the recent XJam event held at the University of Exeter in March (see Paul Clarke’s photos)

This event is part of a wider programme of events during the councils Create / Innovate Month and should help to get us off to a great start and will challenge people’s thinking and help develop ideas and capacity.

June is going to be fun and full of random ideas :)

Reflections from Dubai and the #GSMS event

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NB: This is a cross post from Re:Work Digital

A couple of weeks ago I received a very welcome but random message from Dan Slee, it basically said “Do you fancy an all expenses paid trip to Dubai” – “PS this isn’t a spam message” or something along those lines.

My response was obviously Yes, although it nearly didn’t happen as I’d already planned to attend a weekend in Cornwall with some friends. After some last minute flight changes, I was set to fly on Tuesday morning….

The GCC Government Social Media Summit

The event was the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) Social Media Summit, held at the very nice Ritz-Carlton Hotel and I was speaking on Day 3 following the topics that Dan had previously set but with a Devon Spin of course…

  • What does Devon County Council do?
  • How we won the internal argument
  • How we took the first steps
  • The broad set of principles we navigated by
  • This is what we did
  • This is what you can do

So after taking the night train journey, an hour and a half sat at Reading train station at 4am and a 7 hour flight I found myself in a very nice hotel room in Dubai (I stayed at the Ritz-Carlton as well), wondering what I was actually going to say, even though I’d created a few slides…

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My aim was to be helpful and honest and to avoid the kind of humour i would normally throw in as it would simply be too local to Devon and the UK…I think it worked out ok!

It is slightly weird knowing that you are being translated live into Arabic and in the back of my head I kept thinking how would this translate? I received some positive feedback from people in the room so I am assuming it went ok…most people said they thought it was very practical compared to some of the other speakers.

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I’ve included a link to my slides but I’d like to share some of my reflections from the event (I only attended day 3)

  • The challenges faced by governments in the GCC aren’t that different from those faced by UK localgov and by sharing the learning from here it would make a really good input into our thinking back in the west.
  • One of the interesting differences is that money is not primarily an issue, although it isn’t free flowing either but let’s just say there are no budget cuts…just think for a minute, what would you actually do if your budget was whatever it needed to be? I thought about this and struggled to think that we’d do things that differently to be honest…although getting additional equipment and a few extra people would probably be the most obvious
  • When you are in a country where politicians are not elected, it makes you think very differently about why and how they would use it….it is more like organisational use in that listening, responding and acting is still very much the approach. But it does make you think that the “selling message” to politicians is a much harder battle than in the UK.
  • Content Strategy got more than one mention and it’s link to the effective use of social media is critical and I’ve mentioned this before and believe that compelling content is essential…It was held as a core component in any future strategy.
  • I found that most conversations around social media focused on the use of Facebook over twitter – Facebook was very much seen as the priority social media channel over others. I found this really interesting as in my view we have  few successes in the UK with Facebook, particularly around “good engagement”. In Devon we tend to use Facebook for a focused level of engagement, for example children’s centres, youth participation etc. The use of twitter and facebook are complimentary in my view and should not be seen as one or the other, but clearly use the tool which best meets the business outcomes and objectives you have set…it is likely that you’d need more than one channel and more than one approach
  • No one has a silver bullet and no one has the answer to all of this stuff…but the more we connect people and the more conversations that happen the more solutions and opportunities arise – this event which had people from all over the world and GCC region speaking meant that they had local learning and best practice as well as external challenge and ideas from further a field
  • Inspiration is inspiration no matter what language you speak
  • Story telling is a very powerful way to share learning and when it is does well, it is very empowering

Here are a set of photos from my stay in Dubai

Here is a link to my slides

Delegates of GCC Social Media Summit

My reflections on #OpenSSW

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Open Space South West
So last Friday was #OpenSSW which was held at County Hall in Exeter.

In the now normal feedback approach here are my highlights as a set of bullet points

  • Different people came and participated – one of the great things for me was that the audience list wasn’t filled with the “govcamp and localgovcamp” crew, not that it would have been a bad thing, but one aim was to reach and empower a bunch of new people.
  • The quality of speakers was fantastic – i’m lucky enough to know them all and feel honoured that they gave their time so easily and it makes a huge difference to the following conversations when people have been inspired and challenged by those speakers – although a change in format slightly in the future to better harness those conversations would be required. Perhaps related unconference sessions after a couple of speakers to keep it moving and inclusive
  • Events are hard work – Organising events is not a profession I’d like full time, but I’m so passionate about making this an annual event and supporting the network to grow and mature
  • We still need to pitch to senior mgrs – I still need to work on encouraging a greater attendance from service heads and councillors as the diversity in conversation needs those views.
  • Support for challenge – Thinking differently isn’t easy for some people and we probably need some kind of informal mentor / coaching network to help connect those people with others who can help and guide – this should be across different organisations so those mentoring can also learn about new situations and environments
  • Ask real people – Simon Gough and Phillippa Rose kept it local by actually videoing real people on the street in advance of what they thought localgov could do better and what digital local government should look like, the fact that not many people knew was also very interesting – a huge challenge ahead for all localgov if we wish to shift and transform the relationship with citizens
  • IT came up trumps – Council wifi can work if you find the people in IT who think outside the box – a massive thanks to them as I didn’t have an complaints about wifi all day…
  • It felt local #properjob – Keeping the event local helps to keep the conversations whilst generic focused on issues which people in the region can identify with more quickly
  • I need to learn so much – Andrea Siodmok is such a wonderful and clever person and I’d love to find out more about how her brain works and how she approaches issues and problems
  • Two days could work – Next time we should actually look at making it a two day event with actual camping
  • So many ideas – Carrie Bishop has a wonderful mind and I could listen to hear all day, although the way she waves her arms about it maybe better to dance with her :)
  • You don’t always need tech – Catherine Howe is awesome and her presentation (without slides) was very thought provoking and the issues of disintermediation is something which is really fascinating right now
  • Open by default, digital by design – this should be our core values and when you unpick it it can change the way we think about everything we do
  • Localgov is awesome – Justin Griggs is a great advocate of the real local government and we need to work out ways in which we can collaborate, cooperate and network better
  • Maintaining humour keeps things real – Only Dave Briggs can use the word foreskin and make it relevant to social without it being inappropriate – well that depends on your view of course
  • Know your audience – George Julian really understood the audience, mentioning a mass of stats based on the data collected on eventbrite…now she really is a geeky researcher and she is also a very nice person who I have great respect for
  • Photos are essential – I’d like to thank my colleague Sam Freeman for taking photos which you can access here
  • Localgov innovation doesn’t just happen in London – My final point and most important one is that the South West is doing amazing things as are all the other regions – London isn’t the centre of the innovation universe and we should promote the work happening at a local level more often. I’m obviously keen on helping in the south west
  • Open Space South West

    Overall I really enjoyed the event and I want to thank everyone who helped, contributed, challenged, shared, inspired, empowered, tweeted and gave up a Friday.