Further reflections from LocalGovCamp and about LocalGovDigital

Standard

As you can tell I’m all for imaginative blog post titles :)


Anyway what I would like to reflect on is how I believe LocalGovDigital became more real, more present, more about the network and collaboration as opposed to the steering group at LocalGovCamp and how through the conversations at the open steering group I realised we had finally achieved what we needed to in order to make real and lasting progress.

Let me explain…

For me and for others LocalGovDigital as an unnamed network started at the very first LocalGovCamp and what made that so successful was it created new connections, new collaborations, new discussions etc but what we didn’t really focus on back then was creating collaborative outputs (OK, some were created and some people tried) but nothing has really appeared that has transformed a service.

When LocalGovDigital formally came together nearly 2 years ago now, we came together through a shared vision, shared values, shared aspirations and I guess at the time and more importantly shared frustrations.

We all wanted to see something change, we wanted to think different and do different…so we tried a few things as a small group of people and called ourselves the steering group and it started to do stuff.

However one of the issues for me and others was that the capacity of those within the steering group was limited and therefore we decided (rightly or wrongly) to focus on small outputs, manageable and extensions of the “day job” as we were and still are all voluntary.

As time progressed more and more people recognised the value of the network and the collective voice and action of practitioners. We were a “Thing”, we were seen as formal when we weren’t. We needed and have started to understand what all of this really means and how we can make change happen.

LocalGovDigital has never been about the steering group, it has always been about the network, the people who do stuff, make stuff, change stuff, design stuff and share stuff.

The steering groups role was merely an attempt to do the following:

  • Mobilise the existing network, not grow a new one
  • Amplify the voice of practitioners, not simply share it
  • Make and do things instead of just talking and meeting
  • Be networked and collaborative instead of simply networking with each other

So the change I saw at LocalGovCamp this year was that people recognised they were the network, that we are all the network and if we collectively want to see things change we all need to help and give some time to make and do things differently. The steering groups role needs to change and adapt and that has to be about doing those things above and creating the spaces for people to come together to collaborate, to make, to do and share.

We also need to clarify our focus and that has to be about outcomes and not about specific products. I wouldn’t want to get into a situation where we are recommending specific platforms and saying implement that and you will see change as we all know that doesn’t work. However what we do want to do is support good stuff.

My colleague Martin Howitt summed it up very nicely recently, he said:

LocalGovDigital aims to support and collaborate with everyone in and around the sector. We want to focus on outcomes rather than specific groups or people.

That is to say that if someone builds or creates something brilliant and someone else does something similar then that’s brilliant too because we can all learn from it. It’s the learning that is important and not the product or the organisation that produces it.

So my final reflection is about my contribution – what is it I can do to help?

One of the biggest issues for me is the skills and capacity of those in the sector to make change happen…that isn’t to say there isn’t any capacity and skills, but it just isn’t always well-developed, doing the right things or focused on the right outcomes…so my focus is to look at how that can be solved in practical ways.

The capabilities for digital local public services – connectivity

Standard

Continuing the development of my thinking around the Framework for Digital Local Public Services I wanted to share some really basic thoughts around how the connectivity challenge can and perhaps should be approached. This isn’t really a post about what is happening in Devon either, but i’ll naturally use examples locally to help illustrate the point

This post is really just a set of ideas, I’ve not dug deep into the legislation to see how viable this is as I’m starting to think that it shouldn’t really be the barrier…if something needs to be done to help our communities then we really should be doing what we can to remove those barriers given that over the next 4-8 years we will lose a significant amount of funding and unless we challenge the system we operate it we will only even get what we’ve got but slightly more efficient, which isn’t going to be enough.

In the framework it states:

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.

So I’m going to take each one of these in turn over a few posts and propose a set of ideas which could help us move forward…

So starting with…

Connectivity

Now there is work going on to bring connectivity into the many rural areas across the country and that is a good thing, although many people are arguing that this isn’t good enough, fast enough or even fit for purpose given the challenges ahead – in essence some are saying the work currently under way is short sighted and unsustainable.

I’m not going to get into a political argument around this as I simply want to propose some ideas around how we could think differently to provide connectivity.

The first and most obvious thing in my opinion is to look at all public sector organisations currently providing connectivity to their own buildings and assets which are located in often remote parts of our counties and rural villages – for example Libraries, GP Surgeries and  Schools as well as some council offices.

You may find that in certain communities the public sector network in all its forms, provides a level of connectivity which the community itself has failed to secure as part of any wider commercial offering.  This in my view is not good enough and I know there are some challenges around state funding, but if we are to create a wider public sector system which allows communities and individuals within those communities to access, deliver and even commission services for themselves then we need to redefine what we consider to be a public sector network and therefore what constitutes state funding.

Therefore my basic idea here is to open up what we currently recognise as public networks and allow our communities to piggy back on the connectivity through wifi or via small charges to communities themselves.

This feels like something that we can do quickly if we have the energy and desire to do it and is something that we have prototyped using public libraries for a while so we know it works as well.

We can then focus energy on making sure those areas which literally have no connectivity are connected with a fit for purpose solution.

It is much easier to write then it is to deliver as it does require not just basic change but a change in the system of government in order for these solutions to come to fruition.

Open Data Network

Standard

This a post really pointing people somewhere else…

I’ve written a blog post over on Re:Work Digital about looking at trying to facilitate and promote a south west open data network.

Using data to generate conversations, is one of the key ideas in the 5 stars for open data engagement and this is something that a network can start to address as well as the other ideas listed below.

  1. Be demand driven
  2. Put data in context
  3. Support conversation around data
  4. Build capacity, skills and networks
  5. Collaborate on data as a common resource

Check out the post and let us know your thoughts and ideas on how we can take this idea forward.