LocalGovCamp is back for 2014

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LocalGovCamp – Flickr by #ashroplad – https://www.flickr.com/photos/47624301@N06/

Just a quick post to highlight that LocalGovCamp will be back this year and will be organised by LocalGov Digital.

LocalGovCamp will take place in Birmingham on Saturday 21 June 2014.

The camp will be part of a two day event run by the LocalGov Digital network, with Friday (20 June 2014) activities focused on the network’s work streams including a LocalGov Digital Makers event.

More information will be released shortly – follow the LocalGovCamp Twitter account for the latest updates.

If you are interested in sponsoring or helping out then get in touch on Twitter via @localgovcamp or @localgovdigital, or contact Sarah Lay, as work stream lead organising the event.

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.

xjam_3Mar_017

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.

A Framework for the future of Digital Local Public Services

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I’ve been thinking a lot recently and actually decided to draw a picture of what I thought a Framework for Digital Local Government might look like…so this post is about that.

The reality is that you can’t really create one just for Local Government as we aren’t designed that way. We are about people and places underpinned with effective democratic governance so any framework needs to be designed in such a way that in encompasses those things and that means it needs to involve everyone.

I’ve been lucky enough to have many conversations with people who have helped/challenged/reflected on which have all helped me refine my thinking and about 4 weeks ago I met Martin Howitt for our usual lunchtime coffee and chat and it was this conversation which sparked a few ideas and helped create a synergy in my head around the stuff I was thinking about and then later that day I draw a picture on my ipad which you can see below (i make no apologies for the quality of drawing :) ).

Since then I shared the picture and explanation with colleagues on the LocalGov Digital Network Steering Group and I received positive feedback so I then decided to share it again and test it wider at last weeks Digital Summit in London and you can read the notes of the session on the public Khub group. On the whole a broad agreement, some people have even created very similar frameworks already which is reassuring but they are looking at it from a different perspective, but yet the underpinning framework is the same, there were some semantic language issues and some challenges about risk, financial landscape and actually making it happen…all great points but I don’t have any answers.  However in terms of risk, I didn’t want to see risk in the framework as it sits around it…your view on risk will influence your view on the framework itself.  The same issue goes for financial climate, if we target savings of 100 million we will only aim for 100 million and we may miss the opportunities which deliver a complete transformation and deliver 1 billion.

This post is about that picture and the explanation about it. The only thing that has actually changed about the picture since i first draw it is the title. I have started to add to it and extend certain bits but I’ve also started to draw more pictures which digs deeper into this picture…more on that in another post.

It is also worth sharing that since I’ve been using this framework I’ve actually discovered that it works just as well when you look internally…starting from the left these represent the key building blocks to ensure that your organisation and people can explore and discover new opportunities and create new services etc. Something that has been validated recently here in Devon with a report to our corporate leadership team around the barriers to digital innovation. The resulting actions have created a massive open door to make progress but we need to ensure that we see the wider picture and framework to help us move forward and not leave anyone behind.

So onto the picture and explanation…

A Digital Climate for Local Public Services – Open by Default, Digital by Design

The following drawing focuses on the underlying proposition that every citizen can and will meaningfully integrate the internet into their daily lives. This level of active and capable participation should allow for new opportunities to emerge which reduce and divert demand to alternative tools which are open by default and digital by design.

The environment will not simply develop, and the transformative opportunities will not unfold, unless people, businesses, service providers, government, community organisations and others fully understand and integrate digital into everything they do.
This requires pervasive digital awareness and education — a ubiquitous digital climate that animates and inspires creativity and transformation and enables growth and wellbeing.

We must acknowledge that a digital climate is different to a transformation programme. It is a shift in thinking in which people and institutions are routinely aware of and constantly incorporate digital technology and opportunity into whatever they do.

Here is a rough picture of how I see this, which I also tested out at the recent Digital Summit.

Digital Climate for Local Public Services Framework v2


Open by Default – Digital by Design

Open by default = Everything we do is open, our processes, our data, our decision-making etc

Digital by design = Digital by default is a channel decision and my personal opinion is that digital by design is a philosophy which we should adopt to ensure that others can build on our open platforms and processes. 

Capabilities

  1. Connectivity:  Access that is high-speed, reliable, affordable and available everywhere (wired, wireless, digital).
  2. Education: Provide access to training and technical support for users to become comfort-able and proficient. Enable a mind shift in citizens that value learning, connecting and communicating through technology, and that recognise the business and other opportunities of expanding Internet participation.
  3. Hardware : every citizen requires the capacity to connect to the Internet and tap into the full range of its resources and content.
  4. Software: that meets the needs of individuals, families, businesses and communities.
  5. Participation:  Access to and participation with local data and intelligence to help shape decisions in communities.

What I want to do with this section is to start to map what activities are happening in each of these areas (internally and externally) to help me understand where we can add value or realign things to increase value. It should also allow opportunities for us to rethink decisions we’ve made in the past which are no longer future proof.

One example here is how are we in the public sector looking to support a greater level of connectivity within communities over and above the broadband roll out…It feels to me that our public sector networks in local government, health and education are providing robust and significantly higher levels of connectivity into communities which we perhaps could unlock. You can have an example where a primary school in a rural area is served by a 10-20mb connection but the community around it is on dial-up or has no connectivity. I know there are challenges with this but we have to and must think differently about our assets.

Leadership/Decision Making
We require strong visible leadership to enable transformation and strong decisions that ensure that we all contribute to creating a climate for growth and wellbeing. The leadership can also come from anywhere not just local public service providers
Capacity Building / Networks and Networks of Networks
Stimulating local action and identifying and connecting with networks and networks of networks to generate and create new opportunities and markets.
These connections can and will come from anywhere, this is not solely down to the council or local authority – this is about people and places.

Principles

  • People and communities are unique
    • Design “with” not “for” people and communities
    • Design for Inclusion and accessibility
    • Enable independence
    • Foster health and wellbeing
  • Positive relationships and networks
    • Respect diversity of opinions
    • Connect people and connect networks
    • Co-operate and collaborate
    • Open by default
  • Enabling communities and environments
    • Evidence based research and decision-making
    • Support everyone to achieve
    • Think Local and Global
    • Digital infrastructure for smart communities/cities
  • Learning and development
    • Learn, discover and explore though experience
    • Create space for reflective practice
    • Foster creative and divergent thinking
    • Enable sustained learning

I’ve blogged previously on principles here, here and here and it is something that lead me to the wider framework. Within this section we also need to think about the various ways in which people can discover and explore things…This is where the climate comes into itself. We in Local Government have to accept that we will not be solving the problems we have created alone…this climate and environment is about creating new relationships, new networks, new business models, new value.

One of the biggest hurdles we must get over is we need to stop thinking we have to solve this by ourselves. We don’t and shouldn’t think like that…creating a digital climate allows others to be part of that discovery and exploration and we should focus on creating that above all else.

Value
Everything has a unique value, we should understand this value and look to grow or transform its value.

Basic Example:

A Public right of way (PROW) = value
Local Community Centre = value
Public Transport network = value

We can increase and transform the value of each by connecting them redefining the value and by doing so contributing to a climate of growth and wellbeing.

Outcomes (a possible future state scenario)

Outcomes will always be up for debate and some will argue that these are not good enough and that doesn’t matter…What does matter is that we agree what outcomes our communities want and allow them to achieve them. The outcome of the framework is to create a climate for growth and well-being underpinned through:

  • A digital climate that inspires transformation and creativity
  • Everyone having universal access to meaningful participation and democratic processes
  • Everyone having opportunity to seize new markets and generate new opportunities
  • Everything is inclusive and accessible

So where do I see this going…The LocalGovDigital Network will be using this framework to help guide our work programme in the coming year, I personally will be using this to guide my work in Devon and I’ll be working with others on developing this further so it is used and helps drive change.

I personally believe that people are either contributing to the delivery of this framework or they are not and if not why not?

More will follow in the coming weeks…

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…

Conference

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.

Delegate badge

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.