Reflecting on LocalGovCamp 2014 – Did that really just happen…

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I wanted to post a set of reflections after attending this years LocalGovCamp and fringe events which happened last week (20/21 June).

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Firstly I want to acknowledge the effort and hard work of Sarah Lay – given all of her work in the day job and outside I’m in total admiration for how she managed to make this happen.

Other folk who need acknowledging for there hard work, skills and all round goodness are:
Jon Foster
Phil Rumens
Sarah Jennings
Nick Hill

So back to the event and my reflections and in no particular order

Surprisingly a two day event actually worked, having the practical makers day and leaders summit on the Friday created a focus and energy which carried over to the Saturday even though the people were different

A major realisation that LocalGovDigital has always existed ever since the first LocalGovCamp – the continued support network, the peer to peer sharing, help, advice and collaboration has always been there since 2009, but not as formalised as we are now – we simply made it visible and opened it up.

It never ceases to amaze me how inspired I get from going to these events, there was a time when I felt like the sessions didn’t offer value to me personally so I often just floated around talking (reflecting) I essentially continued attending for the people and conversations – And this year it recaptured the energy, newness and enthusiasm of the very first event back in 2009 – I found the sessions were more stimulating and focused on what can happen now, not what might at some point in the future (in an ideal world) which shows that there is a shift towards a greater clarity of focus…however this was not always the case but you have to let conversations flow

There were more people who hadn’t attended than had previously attended which was one of the things we wanted to achieve. So I’m not sure exactly how we managed to do that but it certainly contributed to the energy and excitement. We also had councillors attending which was also a great success. We need more but we have found a way in which it worked and it feels like we can build on this momentum quickly as well

LocalGov Digital really came to life at this event, it felt like the network was active, present and greater than the sum of its parts. However we still need to effectively harness that and provide stronger leadership as a collective group of people. As Glen Ocsko stated in the open steering group meeting – “we need to grow some digital balls” – that to me means we have to find the confidence to really demand a new relationship, to state our expectations, to share our values and principles and state loudly that “We want, demand and can build something better”. I’m under no illusion that we will need help, but at least we can be honest about that.

Localgovcamp is really about people and places and it just so happens that there is an overt leaning towards technology and some even stated that they felt it was a technology event…we need to address this before we lose people…
For me though I see localgovdigital as being the change makers who can support and help enable a transformation around people and places to create value:

Our focus should be the whole person, whole system and whole place…

By.

- focusing on need
– being open by default
– adopting digital by design
– being networked and collaborative
– by doing and showing
– being evidence and data driven

All of this is underpinned by the democratic accountability which is one of our strengths.

Finally I had one of the best pork pies I think I have ever eaten in the old manor pub – Dave Briggs also had one and can testify to it’s incredible taste, it could only have been improved by adding a good strong cheddar and a quality pickle.

Networked decision makers

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I make no apologies that probably the majority of my future posts will be linked to explaining and exploring in more detail the Digital Framework for Local Public Services.

So this post is focusing on some of the middle area of the picture…in particular the box around leadership and decision-making. This part of the journey is critical not just in a wider context of leadership and decision-making but in ensuring that we have open and transparent local decision-making as well as a clear accountability in terms of local representation.

Digital Climate for Local Public Services Framework v2

To recap I previously explained this area in this way:

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.

Now all this is easy to write and even easier to say, but the practical implications of this are slightly more complicated and require a shift in thinking about what we should expect of our future leaders and decision makers and how we help those people become networked and connected.

Now the great thing about the internet is that you can always find and connect to people who are in a far better position to dig deeper into the thinking and that is exactly what Catherine Howe has done in relation to the Networked Councillors project. It came out of two things:

  • If we are going to have more networked and digital citizens we are going to need politicians with the right skills – we will need networked councillors but we have not yet really explored what that means

  • Just showing people how to use twitter doesn’t solve the problem

I’m really pleased that Catherine has shared this work as I personally think it validates the wider framework and also adds a layer of detail which I was obviously lacking (on purpose of course)

The report on the website is well worth a read and is easy to digest.

I want to pick out another quote form the report which to me helps to proactively link this to the wider framework and the language of the framework which is:

The qualities that the Networked Councillor should embody are found in the way in which Next Generation Users are approaching and using technology. We suggest that the following qualities, which can already be evidenced online, will be inherent:

  • Open by default: This is open not just in terms of information but also in terms of thinking and decision-making

  • Digitally native: Networked Councillors will be native in or comfortable with the online space, not in terms of age but in terms of the individual adopting the behaviours and social norms of the digital culture

  • Co–productive: Co-production is a way of describing the relationship between Citizen and State which brings with it an expectation that everyone in the conversation has power to act and the potential to be active in the outcome as well as the decision-making process

  • Networked: A Networked Councillor will be able to be effective via networked as well as hierarchical power as a leader

This is obviously one part of a wider complex environment and although this report is focused on councillors specifically it also applies itself to future leaders and decisions makers whether a local councillor or not….however for me this is a fantastic start to the discussion and conversation.

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…