- People will travel to things they care about. Huddersfield for the majority of people is not on any mainline so did take some time travelling to, in my example it was a 6 hour train journey with 3 changes so it was a real commitment to make that journey and many people made the journey to the event which is why it was and is a success. My hat goes off to everyone who made the effort to attend, participate and give their views, ideas and energy.
- Sharing values and visions doesn’t always mean you’ll share the same opinions and this is a very healthy place to be and we should ensure that we bring in as many different voices into these discussions as possible.
- Curating events in the manner that was applied to this event is perfect when you want to have a specific focus on a topic and want to deliver value and outputs as it focuses the energies on that which is perfect.
- It takes more than just money from sponsors to make an event fly, but without them you only have an idea and energy. No one should under estimate the huge amount of effort required to get these things off the ground and huge respect to the team at Kirklees Council in making it happen.
- A highlight for me was when a couple of councillors from Kirklees in Tim Davies session on 20 ways to work with open data said they would like to see how Open Data could help them deal with a local issue around people feeding pigeons…they found some options and ideas from the group work and I really hope they share their learning and outputs as it will be with small stories like this that things like open data can really start to show some value to the non believers.
- Another highlight was the clear diversity of people in the rooms – councillors, academics, people off the street, council employees and those passionate around democracy. The quality of discussions I witnessed really showed through because of this.
It has been roughly two years now since LocalGov Digital came together – in my personal opinion we surpassed our original aspirations at the very first meeting when so many people committed to doing something together and we were blown away by the interest and momentum which came through at this years LocalGovCamp – it does prove that grassroots collaboration can and does work.
LocalGov Digital has also won Best Collaboration at the inaugural Comms2Point0 UnAwards. Sarah Lay has written a very good post on “We are all LocalGov Digital” which I think explains best what we set out to achieve and how everyone is key in that.
Anyway, here is a bit of a reflective post – what is localgovdigital, why we do what we do and a look back over the last two years and a look ahead…
What is LocalGov Digital?
Simply put, we’re a bunch of volunteers from local government and its partners who care about delivering brilliant user focused public services, enabled by digital where appropriate. Some of us are techies, web geeks, data crunchers etc and some of us aren’t. What we all have in common is our passion for improving public services. We pride ourselves on the fact that we’re a genuine practitioner network that gets things done for citizens in our localities.
The LocalGov Digital pledge:
We have adopted a Think, Do, Share approach to work and this focuses us on making sure that we actually deliver value on the ground, no matter how small, our approach encourages us all to think differently, do differently and share that widely across the network to help and support others.
The LocalGov Digital value:
Our underlying ethos is that local public services should be Open by default and Digital by design.
What we have done:
Since we formed as a network in September 2012 we have:
- raised the profile of digital service delivery in local government and sought out those like-minded people across sectors who care about delivering public services to collaborate and work together
- created a set of useful digital tools for local government digital practitioners including:
- Run a number of events including:
- Online Digital Democracy Discovery Days
- Created and curated regular blogs and though pieces on where the future of digital in local gov lies and its role in shaping local services
- Pulled together a tonne of dispersed digital news all in one place on our website and shared this through daily relevant links on Twitter
- Gathered the voices blogging or discussing online digital in the public sector and given this a home on our website.
What we are actively working on:
We are going to continually share and show people how we did stuff, so they can steal and reuse it if it helps.
We know there is a huge amount of work to do and there are currently only a small number of us to get involved and help move things forward. So we have listed the areas where we have active people right now. However if you are working on something else and want to get involved in expanding the thinking, doing and sharing then get in touch.
1. Skills and capability – does the sector have the skills, capacity and capability to deliver real change in public service delivery?
We’ll do this through:
- prototyping a “change academy” – this is about providing experiences / opportunities / moments to support people to meaningfully understand the tools and techniques to make change happen.
- Working with partners co-hosting a Service Design discovery day – Warwickshire, 20th November – what are the needs that local gov has on service design?
- Encouraging, supporting and promoting Service Jams and the Global Gov Jam Series
- Creating a resource hub, pulling together existing resources and linking to them
- LocalGovCamp – our annual gathering to support networking, hacking, leadership debates and sharing
- Continuing to encourage and support practitioners to join LocalGov Digital Voice and share their thinking and doing.
- Performance/digital dashboards – build on the existing work by councils who have worked with GDS and Socitm
- Working on breaking down the language barriers around digital and open
2. Democracy – is the sector supporting its decision-makers to understand and promote digital service delivery?
We’ll do this through:
- Different with Digital – this project aims to introduce new thinking around how local democracy might change as a consequence of digital. It is an experimental collaboration between specialist local government academics from four universities and local government practitioners working with LocalGovDigital
- Democracy Camp – February 6th / 7th 2015
- Produce user journeys for online democracy
- Local Democracy Discovery Day
3. Making – helping define best practice and joining up the creation and sharing of design and development of digital services, where common aims and local user needs align:
We’ll do this through:
- Localo – a set of common standards for transactions and data transfer to join-up IT and digital service delivery systems.
- Pipeline – a “Kickstarter for the public sector” to help those working in around local governments solve common problems through collaborating on the creation of digital solutions.
- Pulse – a resource to help find re-usable code and open resources designed by local government and the wider public sector.
- Future hack and discovery days focused on technical design and development.
What we’re not going to do:
- Create a single website for local government – we’re a practitioner network supporting local services in our areas
- Force people to do stuff – We will influence through showing and doing
What we know we need help with:
- Influencing decision-makers
- Getting our message out to the right people so they listen and don’t keep making the same mistakes in the digital arena (e.g. procurement)
- Financial support to get some things done – volunteerism only goes so far, we all have a day job to do
- People from all sectors who can offer mentoring and coaching to practitioners
Do you want to get involved and Join us!
We know how many people there are out there in local government and beyond who feel the same as we do about creating real and sustainable change in public service delivery.
We know there are loads more people who could easily sign up to the LocalGov Digital principles, because they’re already working on transformational service redesign enabled by digital. If that sounds like you, then take our pledge to think, do and share with us. Real change comes from within.
3 simple steps to getting involved
- Use twitter or a blog so you can think, do and share in public
- Start sharing your work or thinking with the hashtag #localgovdigital and connect your blog to localgovdigital voice
- Connect to your peers around you inside and outside your organisation and organise meet-ups to start thinking, doing and sharing in groups.
Getting involved with the LocalGov Digital Steering Group
We operate on the principle that people earn their way into the steering group through thinking, doing and sharing activity and providing local or regional co-ordination.
If this sounds like you, get in touch and share what you are doing.
This evening saw the LGC100 list announced and I am very proud and also nicely surprised to be included and in particularly in making the top 50.
This is a huge nod to the achievements and recognition of the work of the people around me at the council as much as it is for me. This is also a huge nod to the group of volunteers who work in and around LocalGov Digital.
The LGC 100 list looks ahead to who the panel of judges believe will exercise most influence in 2015. According to the LGC website the judges were instructed to consider who will have the greatest influence, rather than who they would like to see holding power. Phew as I’m unlikely to be anywhere near the top 100,000 if it were about power :)
The bio about me was nice and I didn’t even have anything to do with it, it said:
In an environment where more and more councils aim to bring about “channel shift” in order to give the public better access to services and cut staffing costs, his work could be significant over the next few years.
One judge said: “Carl is a driving force behind the digital reinvention of local government. He is also an active online social media promoter of local government.”
To say I’m proud is an understatement, it is a great achievement and I only hope I can live up to the expectation and promise over the next 12 months. I certainly have clear aspirations to do exactly that. :)
I think the reason so many people are talking about a local GDS either for or against or in some cases hybrid models is that everyone cares about local services. That is a good thing and we mustn’t lose that fact as we continue to discuss and debate various options and opportunities.
This also means that everyone will have an opinion and in some cases more than one opinion…that is ok too, but at some point we need to do something…prove the arguments wrong or prove them right…we actually have to shift away from saying we think it will and won’t work to proving it…yes that is risky and yes that requires resource and effort…but nothing will change unless we move forward.
Dave Briggs posted some thoughts earlier, this was a good post and Dave highlights some key aspects around ownership, quality, doing and sharing and this was sparked by Ben Proctors piece in the guardian. I liked Ben’s post and it provided a very good analysis of some of the issues for and against. I made a comment on twitter that it was leading me to take sides, in that we can no longer sit back and do nothing as the worse thing that could happen is that someone somewhere decides what needs to happen in isolation to the outcomes people are working for.
So I’m going to use this post to do two things
1) share my thoughts and they are only thoughts (half baked as usual)
2) commit to actually doing something to move forward – it might not be perfect but I’m tired of the talking and want to shift myself away from falling into traditional behaviours to actually doing something and I hope the more people who engage the doing might actually deliver some value…
1) My Thoughts
For every for and against argument there is a counter argument so we should shift away from pondering what the impact or issues might be and start proving it.
I know that on face value localgov is 400+ independent bodies all accountable locally…but who wouldn’t want to think the unthinkable given the current financial climate and if you were a local politician and you could potentially safeguard some frontline services by letting go of some of the issues around platforms, content and branding then would you consider it.
I’m not suggesting any of this would be easy because it won’t be…it isn’t easy now watching as local services get cut back and in some cases disappear…it isn’t easy watching colleagues lose jobs and communities suffer from the cumulative effect of a reduction in spending…
So let’s do the hard stuff because that will be worth it.
As a starting point I started to think about what some of the component parts of what a local GDS might or could do and consider how this might be progressed. This isn’t a comprehensive list of things but it would no doubt include the following:
1 content platform (public information, advice and guidance)
2 transactional platform (online services and self service)
3 capacity and skills development
4 quality standards
5 assisted access/digital
6 open data / linked data
7 democracy and transparency
What I think would be helpful is to work out how we would begs achieve these things and then do it.
Other people have more informed views on the first two but in my view it is less about a shared single platform and more about improving the quality of provision all round which links to four. It isn’t a bad idea or a good idea, what I do think is that this is probably one of the harder tasks to navigate so let’s focus our efforts on early value whilst we continue to work through those issues. I’ve personally been involved in attempted shared service arrangements around front end web and it failed due to lack of local political support and the perception someone else was always going to do something for free…this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try again as the context has changed and at least we have lots of learning
Number Five is a no brainer in terms of working across sectors in a unified way and the digital inclusion strategy has provided a good foundation for this and the work Go On are doing is a good example. The impacts of the Care Act mean that we really need to address this if we want a chance of creating sustainable options locally given the Act is quite prescriptive about what is expected.
Number Six is linked into one, two and seven and as I said others have better views. However this should not be seen in isolation and can help bridge gaps whilst we address the issues of one and two as well.
So it leaves number three and eight and I think these are linked not exclusively but in ways which I’ll explain.
2) what am I going to so
Well along with colleagues at the council here and a wider range of collaborators I’m committing to making the Change Academy happen in some form or another…this to me underpins all of the above and provides a level of sustainability which can reach out into our communities and have longer term benefits.
I also believe that this is one area where a single approach and a unified model would actually work and deliver value but is also creates local flexibility in terms of provision…so creates a model for some of the other components also.
I don’t claim that this is the right answer or even a good one, but I want to do something and this is what I feel I can contribute to the most at this point in time.
I am of course interested in the wider debate and discussion and I hope that this adds something to it.