Half Baked Idea – Citizen Data Transfer Protocol – cdtp://carlhaggerty

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I make no apologies but this post is most certainly one of those half-baked ideas :)

For a while now I’ve been thinking about what civic architecture means, what it might look like, how it might be built and who might actually do that as well as why would we actually require something else.

Below are a few of the posts and thinking which has led me to where I am now

Martin Howitt’s Overview of the Localgov platform

Catherine Howe’s two posts on Civic Architecture

A post i wrote whilst working at Public-i called Playing games with local participation

A couple of my previous posts on this blog

So let me begin by saying that I personally believe that the internet itself is the platform for the digital civic architecture and that pretty much all of the components that are required are already there, but perhaps just not distributed evenly.

So for me after a conversation with Martin over lunch on Monday, I finally found a bit of clarity and realised that in order for a civic architecture to manifest, it needs a protocol to ensure that appropriate data and content related to civic conversations, decisions, people etc is able to be transferred across the internet.

Some people may well argue that this happens already but I’d like to suggest that what we need to create is a Citizen Data Transfer Protocol (CDTP)which facilitates the civic content and maintains key components along the way including identify.

In the same way that “http” facilitates the internet – see definition from wikipedia:

The Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) is an application protocol for distributed, collaborative, hypermedia information systems. HTTP is the foundation of data communication for the World Wide Web.

Hypertext is a multi-linear set of objects, building a network by using logical links (the so-called hyperlinks) between the nodes (e.g. text or words). HTTP is the protocol to exchange or transfer hypertext.

I’d go as far to suggest that the CDTP would be a protocol for distributed, collaborative, hyperlocal people, networks and communities. This has the potential to be the foundation worldwide civic architecture, which builds upon the internet.

This clearly requires a lot more thinking and development, especially the data model that would sit behind it.  Also the request methods would need to be defined, however this requires a wider conversation about how we would want a civic society to operate and therefore which methods would be included (to give an example using http the methods include get, post, put, delete etc).

It is also likely that a mark-up language might need to be adapted in order to ensure specific civic data or content is presented consistently. We might require a CDPL (Citizen Data Presentation Language), but this isn’t really in my thinking right now.

Another key element is how the CDTP would interact, connect and integrate with standard http sites and content. My thinking at this point in time is that it would use thinking and standards around linked data to help create and facilitate the environment.

So what would it actually do?

You may have noticed in the title that I included an address cdtp://carlhaggerty – my thinking here is that this address is my civic persona and identity.

This address allows me to create a civic presence away from my general social presence which is often confusing and pretty much about general stuff, my family and sometimes utter nonsense. It most certainly isn’t a civic persona.

What I imagine is this containing a living history of my civic involvement, contributions and actions. Coupled with some kind of gamification  layer that shows and displays my civic actions and persona within my neighbourhood, community, town/village, city, county and beyond. As well as my communities or networks of interest.

For me a key element to any civic architecture is that it isn’t a social network itself but is a platform that connect people – for some time I struggled to see how this could have been achieved but for me the CDTP allows this to happen and it can be open to everyone.

Like all my half-baked ideas, this is about as far I have come with my thinking right now, although it has certainly provided some much-needed focus to my future thinking.

The Future of Local Government Part 4 – Influence and Insight

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I seem to be doing quite a bit of thinking about the future recently which has naturally sparked a few blog posts in my mind, so I’m going to continue the future of local government theme and build on the previous posts:

This week has been a really interesting week in many ways and yesterday we had a feedback session on our future Devon programme which went very well. The energy and passion in the room was reassuring and it reinvigorated lots of people. It was also refreshing to see our corporate leadership team embracing the challenge and ideas from the group of about 70 people who were able to make the session.

They even managed to provide a video feedback session which was fantastic as it showed and shared individual journeys of a cross-section of the group and all of them basically said the following things:

  • Meeting and connecting with people from across the council was a great benefit and should happen more often
  • Having the time to think and move out of your day job even for a few hours a day to think and unpick the really big issues is empowering and also hugely beneficial in terms of personal and professional development
  • Nobody wants the experience to end and are keen that this experience is broadened out to a wider selection of people

The event itself was a great opportunity to glimpse how a future culture could work and how it would feel, the atmosphere and energy of many people from different parts of the organisation coming together and sharing ideas, challenge thinking and questioning everything was a joy to behold and be part of. A simple challenge is how do we maintain this…i’m personally confident this will happen but it is still a challenge.

There are many individual learning points for me from the session but I wanted to use this post to pick up on two specific issues which I think as local government we sometimes forget.

INFLUENCE

In a local government context influence exists and manifests itself at many levels – at officer level, at senior mgt level, in teams, across team, within partnerships, at political levels and it can affect the very local issue right up to the big national issues.  The key thing to acknowledge here is that at some point in this complex influence web – something has to try to make sense of it all and find consensus.

Communities will exert influence up to a local authority which has a responsibility to co-ordinate across a larger geographic region. In doing this consensus is often negotiated so that the best outcomes and interests of all is progressed.

Moving forward it will be essential to ensure that something exists in some form which can maintain the influence at the right level to ensure the best outcomes across an area. This is likely to coincide with where the insight and intelligence is collected and where commissioning is managed and evaluated.

So should a local authority exist in the years to come then a key component of that will be to maintain and grow its influence to ensure that it facilitates the best outcomes for its population.

I think back to a previous post of mine about the World of GovCraft where I comment on a video of  Game designer Jane McGonigal who spoke about harnessing the power of game mechanics to make a better world. In the video she talks about “gamers” and the super powers they have developed and how these super powers can help us solve the worlds problems.

My thoughts now are about how can we use our influence as individuals, communities, networks, organisations etc to actually harness the possible and potential capacity that Jane eludes to existing…

To recap she suggested that gamers have 4 super powers:

Urgent Optimism – extreme self motivation – a desire to act immediately to tackle an obstacle combined with the belief that we have a reasonable hope of success.
Social Fabric – We like people better when we play games with people – it requires trust that people will play by the same rules, value the same goal – this enables us to create stronger social relationships as a result
Blissful productivity – an average World of Warcraft gamer plays 22 hours a week: We are optimised as humans to work hard and if we could channel that productivity into solving real world problems what could we achieve?
Epic meaning – attached to an awe-inspiring mission.

All this creates Super Empowered Hopeful Individuals – People who are individually capable of changing the world – but currently only online /virtual worlds….

….So some observations:

If people have “Urgent Optimism” then what are we doing to tap into that to help solve and tackle obstacles?

if people have a “Social Fabric” what we are we doing to build trust with them and do we play by the same rules and share the same goals?

If people have “Blissful Productivity” then what are we doing to mobilise and optimise the people around us in our communities to work hard at solving real world problems

If people can be inspired around “Epic Meaning” what meaning are we providing in our engagement  and participation offering?

We should recognise that games are powerful in more ways than we can imagine, we need to think hard and fast about how we can develop the right kinds of games to engage people and to involve people in shaping their future and solving common problems

So let me try to answer these questions now in the light of this post, I’m not saying that the responses are enough but there is something we can build on and develop further to really engage and influence people.

Urgent Optimism – The wide scale budget pressure in the public sector has meant that in some areas local services are being stopped and in most cases these are preventative services which would have longer term benefits. Instead of sitting back as citizens we will have to rethink how we see the outcomes we articulate being met.

Social Fabric – We need to be honest and shift our dialogue to one which is adult to adult and start opening up and being more transparent about how and why we make decisions as well as how we plan for future services. We need open access to all the intelligence and insight so everyone can query it.

Blissful Productivity – Social tools are be used albeit sparingly to help mobilise people to get involved and contribute to solving the real world problems we are facing. Lots of great examples are already happening around the country – this week Casserole from FutureGov was launched wider and promoted as an example of community based action

I think we need to connect the digitally mobile and engaged with the offline folk who traditional get involved to create richer conversations and deeper discussions about how we can shape local services.

Epic Meaning – The mission we have created is to reunite society, reconnect people locally and to facilitate services which meet the needs and outcomes of local people. This mission can no longer be just the responsibility of a single local authority – we are all in this together and we need to use our influence to extend that across all stakeholders in Devon and beyond.

INTELLIGENCE / INSIGHT

In the commissioning cycle it is absolutely fundamental to ensure that you have evidence and data which helps you understand needs today and those that are likely to be predicted over a period of time, so that preventative measures can be put in place and therefore reduce future demand on services.

This intelligence and insight is another key component in a future model – It should all be open by default and digital by design so that communities and individuals are able to identify their own needs and maybe create local solutions on top of that.

However the link to influence is crucial here as this level of insight and intelligence will be at the heart of what something would be using their influence to ensure the outcomes are met for the local population.

It will be critical to recognise that regardless of the organisational boundaries the influence of what we refer to now as local government must and should reach beyond those boundaries and ensure that its influence is focusing on achieving the best outcomes for all citizens and all needs within a local area.  Some of those needs will naturally fall within scope of the authority to commission services, however some will be outside and therefore it must use its influence over a wide ecosystem of private, public, voluntary and community organisations to ensure needs are met and communities are empowered where possible.

I think back to the guardian article referred to in my last post – however for me upon reflection that merely reinforces the current model and structures of government and doesn’t fundamentally re-imagine how things can be done from the ground up.

For me whatever emerges has to recognise that influence and insight are key components and building blocks of a future local governance model.

The Future of Local Government Part 3 – A Critical and Trusted Friend

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I’ve blogged previously on the subject of the future of local government but some posts were very scattered and half-baked, like most of the posts I write :) however I have written two previous posts which I’d like to associate this one with:

Part 1 – Future of Local Government

Part 2 – Future of Local Government – social enterprise council

In Devon there is a group of people from across the council who are coming together to talk about, challenge and discuss what the future landscape is for local government – It all kicked off back in June/July…

It is a bit like having a constant Open Space South West event but without the awesomeness of the external challenge and great food! That doesn’t mean that my colleagues aren’t awesome because they are…everyone has been on a journey and the issues and challenges that the groups have been discussing have been a struggle to get to grips with, but the important thing is – we are starting to make sense of some of this stuff now and there are some very good outputs and the level of thinking has increased dramatically.

We have six groups altogether – People, Systems, Customers, Commissioning, Spend and I’m in a group which is looking at Demand.

The group was initially charged with looking at 3 overarching questions but these were a guide and we were given freedom to explore all the issues providing we could come back together later this month to report our learning.

The questions were:

  • How can we move away from the current approach of ‘rationing’ provision to influencing and managing demand?
  • How can we better understand demand drivers so that we can deal differently with demand e.g. community resilience, building up skills??
  • How can we change behaviour so that expectations are better managed and others can make a bigger contribution?

To say that it was all good would be a lie, the conversations were challenging at the very beginning and it took the group some time to find its own rhythm and for the members of the group to find a consensus and for us all to break out of our current thinking modes.

For me the fundamental action that is required moving forward is a shift in the relationship between the state/public services and citizens. We also need to acknowledge that we need to have better and more aligned relationships with private and voluntary sector…

There is a little bit or irony about some of the conclusions I’ve personally come to in that when the county council faced the issue of local government reorganisation and the possible threat of not existing – we started to really articulate our core value and purpose in levels that I hadn’t seen before or unfortunately since – until now that is…the challenge and issue is that we clearly haven’t created a learning culture otherwise the conversations we have had would have developed the thinking of a few years ago, but in fact we have almost hit the same point but from a different angle…which is also OK…at least it reaffirms the previous thinking…

Anyway let me share some of the thinking about Demand, well the key starting point for us as a group was what demand isn’t.

We considered the issue of managing demand to definitely not be about:

  • Tightening or changing eligibility criteria so that fewer people are able to access a service who have legitimate needs to do so.
  • Altering, changing or restricting access or opening hours of services to reduce costs and pressures on budgets
  • Stop investing in or delivering non-statutory services – just because something is non-statutory doesn’t mean it isn’t a valuable service. Most preventative services are non-statutory and are key to reducing demand on statutory services over time.
  • Passing on costs to partners – no more to add to this one…

It is important to recognise that these approaches simply take what we currently provide and either reduce the numbers of people accessing them, stop them completely or pass on costs elsewhere. None of this supports communities and individuals to meet their needs, the very people that we are here to help.

We also acknowledged and spoke about the differences between “needs”, “demand” and “wants”.

  • Need happens
  • Demand is manageable
  • Want is a perceived need

Whilst everyone has needs, demands only happen when those needs are within the current remit of the council or public service provider

One of the challenging conversation was about how to manage demand and what options and strategies we could adopt now and in the future to either reduce or increase demand depending on the service.

The following is not a comprehensive list of what we discussed but are some of the more fundamental ones as we saw them here.

Pre-empt and Prevent

This requires us to plan strategically – we aren’t talking about the next 3-5 years but we must look at the next 30-40 years especially when it comes to social care…the example we used was what are we doing to-day with our 30-40 year old population which will reduce demand on our social care services when they hot there 70′s or 80′s?

Outcomes

A lot is mentioned about outcomes but rarely do we actually refer to the outcomes we are trying to solve…still so much of the conversation across all of local government (my perception anyway) is that we are service and target driven.

If we are really clear to the outcomes we want to see we can plan better and be more holistic and strategic in how we design services, so that poorly designed services don’t generate additional demand on other services – an example I used is school transport. Now as a parent and a school governor it was something which struck a chord with me.

Parents and families have a choice what school they can send their children to and this in itself isn’t a problem and is a good choice, however when a family chooses a school which then subsequently requires school transport the council is expected to cover the costs. One option might be to say as part of the choice for your school if your preferred option falls outside of your public transport network then the council is not expected to fund your transport. This could then perhaps spark a service which looks like the carsharedevon scheme but for parents and families to resolve school transport issues.

Capacity Building

It is an obvious thing to say but we really need to work across all sectors or society and build capacity into communities and individuals so that we can actually realise the change.

Some of this will be through facilitating connections between networks and networks of networks so that solutions can be solved locally without the need for the council or public service body to get involved.

Cultural and Societal Change

We need to shift and transform our dialogue to one which facilitates connections with others first before suggesting that the council could or is able to provide a service.

This is where I consider the role of a council shifting to a trusted and critical friend as opposed to the traditional parent child relationship which exists now.

A critical and trusted friend, in my personal opinion would offer good advice and challenge me to act for myself and support me when times are good and prepare me for when things could go bad. What they certainly wouldn’t do is to do all those things for me and make me less independent. This is a major shift in the relationship and when you throw in the democratic relationship into this mix we can see the scale of the challenge ahead – it is kind of exciting when you think about.

In my personal view, if I were to sit here and write that Devon County Council will exist in 8-10 years time, I would be very naive – however what I do know is that a public service body of some kind will exist, which will have a particular set of responsibilities for example:

  • needs assessment
  • agree outcomes
  • vision
  • influence
  • coordinating funding
  • commissioning
  • evaluation and review

So for me the future for local government is that we must accept that it won’t look like it does today, second that we must work across all providers to come together around shared outcomes and lastly we must transform and shift the relationships between citizens, public services and the wider ecosystem we sit within.

There is an interesting article in the Guardian today about behaviour change which outlines 6 goals for a local authority and this very much echoes the conversations we have been having in the demand group and in wider conversations as well.

I shall leave you with this as it very much reflects the thinking we are doing here – the article states:

1. Set a medium-term vision for place in partnership with other organisations in the public, business and third sectors, and through informed and honest dialogue with local people.

2. Based on this vision, adopt strategic objectives for the local authority itself.

3. Review all current expenditure and actions against the strategic options. Be willing to do different things in different ways, funded in new ways to secure the desired result. Set clear outcomes targets; stop doing some things while starting other new activities to meet new and contemporary needs. Where possible, switch resources into prevention.

4. Develop place-shaping and community leadership. Look to influence and bring into play all the available resources in the area, not just the council’s own coffers.

5. Ensure that local people, the voluntary and community sector, businesses, suppliers, contractors and staff are engaged in decision-making.

6. Adopt behaviours and processes that enable the authority to collaborate, partner and share with and where appropriate cede power to others – other local public sector agencies, the VCS, neighbourhoods and citizens.

#localgov – customers vs active citizens

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To some people this may seem like a pointless semantic issue around the use of the words “customer” and “citizen” but I think it is actually quite an important issue.

Some basic points first around definitions:

  • Customer = A person that buys or obtains goods or services from another.
  • Active Citizen = a citizen who takes an active role in the community.

Thinking about the future (something I’m doing quite frequently at the moment) I’ve been considering the language we use when talking about how we need to re-imagine and reposition local public services.

I posted previously on the role of content, stories, networks, relationships and trust however in all of this the outcomes we need to foster and encourage are that of active citizens and not more customers…

In an ideal situation we would want people to identify a local issue, connect with others in their community, other networks and seek to solve the problem directly. If that requires funding then they should be connected to funding sources, local public services businesses etc to help move it forward.

Only in the end if the issue can’t be solved should the local authority be contacted for help and assistance and when you contact them, the experience needs to be excellent and delightful.

But if we think customers first then we will maintain the view that everyone in the community is a default customer and we will not see the opportunities to transform and empower local people and communities to help themselves.

This is and will be a major challenge for people in terms of thinking differently as people have spent a good number of years hearing many people say we should be customer centric, customer focused and customer driven, which if you are still providing services is naturally the right thing to do…but the question is whether you are actually still delivering services in order to put customers first?

So the challenge for local public service providers is that we need to have two levels of thinking and two levels of transformation.

One thing for me that hasn’t happened often enough and doesn’t seem to be the focus of much conversation that I’m connected to right now is the overall framework that local public services sit within.

The issue with the majority of thinking right now is that it appears to be about doing better within the current local services framework which we know isn’t fit for purpose in the coming years – so we simply end up doing what we know will fail better as opposed to doing things completely differently.

So what is happening about what a new framework might need to look like and what is needs to enable. The two levels of thinking that needs to go on within local public services right now in my opinion are:

  • A strategic level – What is the strategic framework and how can we start to shape it (policy, infrastructure, environment, political etc) which local public services reside and how does that empower, encourage and provoke active citizens.
  • An Operational level – For service providers at what ever level, how do you design, provide and deliver services with and for users (customers)

Most thinking is naturally in the second level as this is where most people are and where most people feel able to affect change. So this isn’t wrong but it does mean that we need to ensure that the first level of thinking is happening and those people who can and are able to influence and shape it are connected and networked together.

As I’ve said before none of this is going to be easy and it shouldn’t be easy…but people do need to recognise their own responsibility in helping to shape the above levels and as organisations we need to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to contribute.

 

 

 

 

Content, Stories, Networks, Relationships and Trust

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I’ve been thinking and reflecting a lot lately around the future of local government (a recent post here) and the “inevitable doom and gloom” [PDF Warning ] that awaits us all in the coming years. It really isn’t healthy to maintain focus on that future for too long, but It has made me think about what I’m doing and more importantly why I am doing what I do.

I’ve also been thinking and reflecting a lot about content, not just the traditional content you find on local authority websites but compelling content, content that provokes ideas, ideas that are contagious and then become stories, which in turn contributes to changing behaviours and transforms local services.

In my work at Public-i I’ve been thinking and reflecting a lot about networks and networks of networks and the power and potential of networks to help connect and reconnect people online and offline

In various situations I’ve been thinking and reflecting about relationships and the importance of trust. As people and organisations everything we say and do is a representation of who we are and it is only when we create relationships built on this authenticity that we can attract others and foster the bonds that will empower us to achieve truly great things.

In this post I’m going to try to bring this thinking together as it is very much all part of the same picture in my mind…

Content and Stories

Last week whilst in Brighton I spoke to Matt Bond (Cornwall Council) about stories and related things and he pointed me in the direction of Coca Cola’s new content excellence programme and the excellent videos they’ve produced which explain what they mean…

What struck me was the focus on stories, provocative stories as way to affect change. I recommend watching the videos yourself to gain your own insights but I’ve included some of mine below

Part 1

Part 2

Some of the key points for me are below, although the whole thing is very useful in a number of situations…however in the context of this post the following stood out…

  • stories provoke conversations
  • we need to act and react to conversations
  • technology can enable brilliant creativity
  • exploit existing community behaviours
  • story telling is at the heart of families and communities
  • we need provocations that will lead to bigger transformational actions
  • data is key to this and will become the soil of which ideas will grow
So our challenge is to not only transform our content around our services to make it easier for people to interact digitally, but also to transform our content so that we can provoke conversations, connect people with data and trigger bigger transformational action.

Networks

In relation to networks I think about Citizenscape as a platform, it is aiming to address the heart of these issues, in the projects where it is used, it is really about fostering empowerment within communities and networks online and offline. I recently blogged about my views on this here. A particular quote which comes to mind in the context of this post is:

So when you consider this and then what Citizenscape states its value is, the value isn’t directly in the technology itself (although without it, it would be pretty empty) but in the connections, the networks, the communities that are now able to come together and share learning, to reconnect at a civic level to address local issues and problems. The key role for the platform (Citizenscape) is to facilitate those connections, without it those networks may not get the chance to reconnect.

So our challenge is to understand what networks and what networks of networks exist with our areas and to connect them with each other but to also connect them with the content around our services to make it easier for them to interact digitally, but to also connect them with content and stories so that we can provoke conversations, connect people with data and trigger bigger transformational action.

Relationships and Trust

When I focus on relationships and trust, I think about an example that I was fortunate to see last friday at the DCCSMF (Social Media Forum), where a couple of local PCSO’s (Police Community Support Officers) came and shared their learning around connecting with communities. One explained how his use of social technologies as well as physically meeting people face to face helped build a relationship and trust within his community.
Devon Social Media Forum 2012

The another PCSO shared his experience which wasn’t about technology but in understanding where the networks were and simply connecting with them…In his case it was simply going to the local primary school at the beginning and end of each day to connect with the local parents. This approach has started to build relationships and trust.

The reality is and this is really obvious, but it takes time and more importantly effort to build relationships and trust and if we want to seriously address the challenges facing us over the next 8-10 years we need to start building new relationships, networks and fostering trust now to begin to have a chance.

I’ve said it before that it is all about people and that comes through explicitly in this great video by Simon Sinek called if you don’t understand people, you don’t understand business.

So our challenge is to develop those relationships and levels of trust and to connect them to the networks and networks of networks within our areas and to connect them with each other but to also connect them with the content around our services to make it easier for them to interact digitally, but to also connect them with content and stories so that we can provoke conversations, connect people with data and trigger bigger transformational action.

The questions ?

All of this brings me back to the future of local government and local public services.

  • Can we create content and share stories which provoke conversations that will lead to bigger transformational actions?
  • Are we actually capable of engaging with the content and stories as consumers and have conversations which trigger bigger transformational action?
  • We need to ask ourselves – even if we can identify networks and networks of networks and we can connect them, as members of those networks ourselves, are we prepared to engage in the challenges and are we capable of acting creatively?
  • As individuals and as professional people we will continue to develop relationships and trust – are we prepared to use it to change and influence the way our communities and networks operate, grow, develop and respond to the challenges facing us over the next few years?

Finally…

This isn’t a political question, this is question for every one of all ages.

I am personally reflecting on what these questions mean to me as an individual, as a parent, a husband, a friend and as a professional person – It isn’t easy, but it isn’t supposed to be, it will be hard, we need to prepare for this and stand up to the challenge.

The alternative simply isn’t worth considering, we must imagine and create a sustainable future.