A Framework for the future of Digital Local Public Services

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

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

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.

    The Local GDS question – again…

    Last Friday evening conversation started on twitter about a local GDS, the why, what, how, who, where etc.

    Now I didn’t have too much time to get involved in the conversation on twitter, although I did post a comment on Ben Proctors blog post on Friday evening – I would have contributed more but was actually at karate with my son and then had quite a busy weekend which included a 1 day kayaking course (which I can highly recommend).   The one thing I did tweet was that I’d be better off writing a blog post about this as it will certainly take more than 140 characters.

    When I previously wrote about over on the GDS blog back in March this year I started the post with this statement:

    Does local government need a local government digital service? – The easy answer to the title question would be No…but I don’t like easy answers and I believe that No is fundamentally the wrong answer.

    I mentioned the types of things that I felt were and still are needed to help move this forward e.g.

    • Leadership and vision
    • Skills development
    • Connecting
    • Standards / toolkits / frameworks
    • Setting the bar high
    • Greater engagement and collaboration between local and central

    Also things we should avoid doing

    • measuring / monitoring from a central place
    • force it
    • focus on technology
    • create and acknowledge artificial barriers

    I’d recommend reading the post for the comments alone which were really fascinating as are the comments on Ben’s blog

    I think I need to clarify things before we can move forward.

    First: saying we need a local GDS does not mean that it is a physical team based anywhere in the UK and has paid staff < I’m sure many people would jump at the chance at this kind of thing but in my personal view it isn’t sustainable.

    Second: saying that we need a local GDS does not mean that it is restricted to just local government people / staff < events and movements like govcamp demonstrate that a collection of people passionate about solving problems is all you need to make wonderful things happen.

    Third: lets not forget that 400(ish) local councils are not easy to co-ordinate and are very different in terms of politics, but that shouldn’t mean we shouldn’t do anything.

    Fourth:  there is no silver bullet to what people may perceive to be a local GDS.

    Local GDS already exists…so lets move on…

    Can we just all accept that Local GDS is already here and has been for years, we just simply haven’t called it that.  I’d say that localgovcamp is probably the best physical manifestation of what this looks like and it meets outside of London.

    If I go back to what a Local GDS should do and ask myself has localgovcamp done this then this is what you get….

    • Leadership and vision  < YES
    • Skills development < YES
    • Connecting < YES
    • Standards / toolkits / frameworks < YES
    • Setting the bar high < YES
    • Greater engagement and collaboration between local and central < YES

    plus the things it shouldn’t do…

    • measuring / monitoring from a central place < AGAIN YES
    • force it < AGAIN YES
    • focus on technology < AGAIN YES
    • create and acknowledge artificial barriers < AGAIN YES

    So if we can accept this, then how do we make it better, scale it, get more recognition and also make the sharing of outputs easier regardless of the local council environment < YES this means we have to accept that some councils work on old systems and we have a responsibility to help those just as much as we have a responsibility to innovate for the rest.

    The main issue is that there are a large number of councils who have still had no contact or even heard of  localgovcamp which does concern me as the whole sector needs to transform not just those who are connected.

    I personally believe that those people who really want to move this forward should all work together on working out how we achieve the following:

    • better co-ordination and information sharing across all local councils including town and parish
    • a bit of consolidation and rationalisation on the many standards and frameworks which are out there some of which conflict and are legacy from eGovernment days.

    There are more things but solving these two would go a long way to making things better.

    Just so people are aware, I’ve already spoken with the LGA and a group of people are talking towards the end of September early October on how to move some of this forward.

    It isn’t an exclusive group of people and I’m not concerned or precious about this and if other people want to move this forward in different directions then please do – however I want to make a plea that whatever happens – it needs to be practical, thought through and realistic as well as inclusive for all councils to engage with. That will mean kicking some up the backside in order to get them engaged of course.

    I am keen on seeing this get resolved as I’m looking to the future of the sector and I’m worried that we will simply disappear and I’d at least want the knowledge to be available to those who needed it.

     

     

     

     

     

    That time of year #UKGC12

    20120119-173226.jpg
    So it is that time of year when a dedicated crew of local and central government folk and those who are passionate about moving it forward come together over two whole days.

    The event of course is UKGC12 and for me personally represents an opportunity to reconnect with people, get inspired by people and be challenged by people.

    I always go into these events with my eyes wide open and I prepare to go home either validating thoughts and ideas or changing direction, but I always go home energised and motivated (even if a little tired).

    The first day back at work used to be a downer, but things have changed for me and I know that I’ll go back and be able to make things happen and to contribute to moving things forward for the council.

    As the next few days are about to kick off, I look forward to meeting old friends and making new ones.

    The UKGC12 events feel like a family reunion, but without the annoying family members who you’d rather not see. There isn’t a single person who attends who isn’t going to offer fascinating conversation. So if you are new to the event, don’t panic, spark up a conversation and don’t worry if you don’t get to speak to everyone you planned to…stay connected online.