BIS give us a lesson in effective promotion with their sharing economy consultation

The Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) has recently finished conducting a call for evidence on an Independent review of the sharing economy. Feedback on the review is being collected in three ways:

BIS Independent Sharing Economy

What is the sharing economy and why is it important to conduct a call for evidence?

“The sharing economy is coming and it’s being driven by consumers” Debbie Wosskow

The sharing economy is a new set of business models, driven by technologies that are making it easier for people to share their property, time and skills. Examples include property sharing via services such as Airbnb and shared transport – for example Barclays Cycle Hire scheme. The call for evidence is being led via an independent review by Debbie Wosskow (CEO of Love home swap). Ms Wosskow’s tactics will be to ask for evidence both in the conventional government ways and digitally, aiming to produce an interactive report that will draw from the experience of workers and consumers too.

Effective survey design

In order to ensure the call for evidence was tailored to different respondents’ needs, the Citizen Space survey included the use of skip-logic to ‘route’ respondents to a set of questions relevant to them. Especially commendable was the use of survey routing by audience-type, with more open free-text questions for respondents from an organisation to enable extended commenting on the subject. The survey also included the use of fact banks, which enable respondents to view more information on the topic if needed.

Generate Twitter noise

The consultation picked up a large amount of traction on Twitter. The call for evidence opened on 29th September 2014 and on the same day attracted 806 tweets being posted within just 24 hours. Using the relevant hashtag #sharingeconomy in most tweets, it was easy to follow the conversation on Twitter.

BIS also tweeted the call for evidence at potential respondents who may be interested in the subject, which helped ensure a two-way conversation. A summary of some of the best Tweets which had been posted were also made available by BIS via a Storify post.

Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 16.13.12An extended period for comment with a sense of urgency created around the closing date

A sense of urgency was also created around the closing date of the call for evidence, with the consultation date being extended to enable more participants to take part.Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 16.08.53

Direct link and page through from GOV.UK

In order to ensure respondents could also find the call for evidence from GOV.UK a direct link through to Citizen Space was added under the call to action ‘Give your views on the sharing economy’.

Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 12.18.08A dedicated microsite and newsletter created as a hub for the review

The sharing economy review itself has its own dedicated micro-site, recently commended by Helpful Technology. The site links through to relevant posts about the review – namely a number of stories, sites and blogs . The site also provides an opportunity to sign-up to a dedicated newsletter for the review which links through to the call for evidence.

Inclusion of existing research and relevant infographics

BIS also included reference to previous research conducted by PwC on the sharing economy, which helped contextualise the consultation.

Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 16.12.09BIS aims to produce a report by the end of the year following the call for evidence and we’re looking forward to seeing the results.

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A month in the life of a secondee at Delib

As it’s (just over) a month since I started at Delib, I thought I’d do a quick post with some of the things I’ve learned in my first few weeks. So here are five:

1. How things are done in an SME

Having worked in a relatively large government department, coming to a small startup has brought an interesting change in atmosphere. Departments tend to be split up into a lot of specialised teams. Whatever it is you need to know about, there’s someone who will know a lot more about it than you, and so one of the most valuable skills you can have is being able to find that person and get what you need out of them.

In a small business, that person isn’t there – so the skills needed are different. It’s down to you to either work out the answer yourself; usually an answer that gets the job done, rather than a perfect one, allowing you to concentrate on what you really need to do. After all, every minute of work lost costs someone money, and if they’re in the same room as you…

2. Being outside of Whitehall and central departments: government is much bigger than you think!

Delib’s client base is very broad – going all the way from central government departments to small district councils. Coming into contact with all of these organisations is a real reminder of what it’s often easy to forget – that the public sector and government is huge, and does a lot of things.

3.Digital literacy is a big challenge in government

The need for greater digital skills in government is one of the mantras of the ‘Civil Service Reform’ agenda that has been advanced under the current government, to the extent of becoming a bit of a cliche – although that doesn’t necessarily make it wrong! From my experience of Delib, however – a business that to some extent depends on government being reasonably digitally competent – it’s not necessarily in the same way or for the same reasons that we assume.

The reasons that are most commonly given for ‘digital illiteracy’ tend to be an ageing workforce and ingrained organisational resistance to change. These are certainly factors – but these aren’t exclusive to local government, and I think there are others at play that perhaps aren’t talked about as much.

The equipment that people are given to work with is also a big problem. It’s very hard to develop digital skills if email systems, internet browsers and desktop machines themselves are several years out-of-date. From my own experience, this can often be the case in central departments – and the situation seems similar in local government (perhaps understandably, given the pressure on budgets).

If we consider our public servants who deal with information as ‘knowledge workers’ – which, in my mind, we should – I think it’s important to make sure they have access to the technology they need. This isn’t without cost, but it might be more justified than sinking huge sums of money into bespoke IT projects that often add little to the quality of public services.

There is also the tendency for senior managers in organisations to exert an undue influence over the way technology is used. Big projects become totemic parts of ‘change management’ and are cloaked in nebulous project management terminology, but with the disadvantage that the people in charge have little real understanding of how it’s actually going to work or what it will really look like. Maybe I’ve become biased at Delib, but it’s definitely given me the impression that smaller organisations do tech better.

4. Designing a web service: aesthetics do matter

At the end of the day web services are all about the users. Their value is in making things easier and quicker to do.

It’s for this reason that one of the foremost concerns Delib’s customers have with the product is ‘how does it feel for the user?’. And whilst we might rightly accuse some web products of putting form over function, a visually appealing interface can make all the difference for a site that is designed to publicly engage with citizens and, in some way, make their lives easier.

The online world should be thought of in the same terms as a real, physical environment. It’s both a working space and a space for dealing with visitors and the public. We think a lot about the design and construction of our public environment. In some ways, however, us citizens of the information age spend our lives between two worlds  Given how much cheaper, easier and quicker it is to create a pleasant online environment, it’s surprising government doesn’t spend more time making it so!

5. What running a support desk actually looks like – managing ‘failure demand’.

Like most people, my previous experience with using ‘support desks’ was often that of communicating with a somewhat disembodied presence at the other end of a phone or an email. Manning the support desk at Delib has let me see behind the curtain…and it’s been enlightening.

In any case, I’ll be (slightly) more sympathetic when I call someone at a support desk, tell them my problem and they ask me to ‘create a ticket’…

And now, back to work on a rainy monday!

 

Matthew

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The NHS Friends and Family Test – can we help?

6 years ago, public confidence in the NHS was rocked by the scandal emerging from the conditions of care at Stafford Hospital – administered by Mid Staffordshire NHS foundation trust, and making ‘Mid-Staffs’ a near-daily invocation in the corridors of the Department of Health , NHS England, and GPs and hospitals across the country.

The investigations and inquiries into the scandal revealed some of the conditions at the hospital, and the resulting media attention prompted a period of national introspection regarding the NHS.

When the current government came to power in 2010, it launched the inquiry to end all inquiries (following four under the previous administration) into failings at the hospital. The ‘Francis Report’ (named after its chair, Robert Francis QC) took three years to publish, and apparently considered a million pages of evidence.

Central to the report’s findings was the question of openness and dialogue: The culture of the NHS needs to be one of constant improvement rather than complacency;  Staff must have a duty to report failings; and – most importantly for our purposes here, patients must be listened to.

This – and a government that has put ‘patient choice’ at the centre of its health narrative – laid the backdrop for the introduction of the ‘Friends and Family test’ in 2013: a standardised survey, carried out by all NHS trusts, and centred around one simple question: ‘Would you recommend this service to friends and family?’

Alongside this, we are also seeing a growing range of digital applications aimed at improving dialogue around patient experience – such as Patient Opinion and iWantGreatCare – creating more and more of an expectation that health services are subjected to the same online scrutiny we are used to for other products and services.

Fast-forward to the present day, and the NHS is rolling out the Friends and Family test in GP clinics from December 2014, and next year will expand to more services, such as mental health, ambulances and dentists. Administering these tests will be a challenge for England’s 200 Clinical Commissioning Groups – and one that we hope Citizen Space might be up to the task of meeting!

How to implement the Friends and Family Test using Citizen Space

Inspired by our friends at Stockport CCG, who asked us how they might be able to use Citizen Space to implement the Friends and Family Test in their area – here’s a guide to how we think CCGs could use Citizen Space to carry out their Friends and Family tests, with links to our Knowledge Base articles to help you:

1) Set up each GP surgery as a department on your Citizen Space hub
2) Set up the person responsible for FFT at each GP as department admin for their surgery.
3) Create a single FFT survey on your hub for one surgery, then clone this survey repeatedly and rename each one until you have one for each of your surgeries.
4) Move each survey into their relevant ‘department’ and make your the relevant department admin the owner of the survey – so they have access to the responses and can manage the survey.
5) They can then share the F&FT link with their patients, and patients’ friends and families for them to fill in on their smartphones, or better still, on a tablet at the surgery
6) You don’t need to be involved beyond this other than for technical support and have no need to look at responses.

This means:

  • All responses are held in one place
  • They can all be analysed from one place
  • The survey can be carried out either online or on a terminal or tablet at the surgery (as long as it is connected to the internet!)
  • Quick, accurate response gathering, with the ease of using Citizen Space online analysis and results tools for reporting
  • By putting each surgery in its own department, responses are only accessible to the admins in that surgery (and overall site admins for technical support)
  • Surgeries could be benchmarked against one another if you wish

The Friends and Family test has not been without criticism from within the healthcare community (this report from the Picker Institute sums up some of these, as well as positive points around the FFT), but we believe that if administered effectively – and captures the views of a large and diverse proportion of the patient body – it can be a really useful tool for boosting patient engagement with health services.

As always, we’re happy to help all our Citizen Space users with suggestions on using the tool – so if you’d like us to work with you to solve a consultation need, then drop a line to your account manager (Louise or Rowena), call us on 0845 638 1848 or email support@delib.net.

 

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From the Valleys to Hackney, and sharing all the way

Hello again from Delib – we’re fresh from enjoying a slightly unseasonal Halloween – here in Bristol we celebrated All Hallows’ Eve at a positively tropical 20 degrees – leaving us unsure whether to gather round the bonfire, or put on our swimsuits and launch ourselves headlong into the Avon. However, a reassuringly brisk bonfire night got us back in an autumnal mood – and ready to knuckle down in the run up to Christmas!

In any case, here’s a round up of some interesting things happening in the digital democracy world:

1) The Swedish power company Vattenfall are using newsletters effectively to keep in touch with those who left their emails when responding to their Dialogue App on the Pen y Cymoedd wind farm in South Wales, which is now closed.

Newsletter from Vattenfall

Spending a bit of time and effort following up with respondents in this way can help keep the community going after the dialogue has officially closed. Getting information about how many people have been involved in the discussion shows people that what they have been involved in was something significant, and that their contribution had an impact. They’re also probably more likely to get involved if you ask them to respond to another consultation that affects them!

Read more about the ‘Power in the Valleys’ Dialogue here.

2) The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, or BIS for short (pronounced ‘bizz’ among government insiders…) are closing their consultation on the ‘sharing economy’ shortly.

The staunch capitalists among us might be offended at just the idea of ‘sharing’ and ‘economy’ appearing on the same sentence – but the fact is, services like Zipcar and Airbnb are becoming more and more popular, to the extent that they almost threaten their counterparts with more traditional business models. We all have stuff lying around, from spare rooms and cars to tools and dogs (see www.borrowmydoggy.com), so why not let someone else use it while we’re not?

The power of web technology to create new connections between people is what makes this possible – and incidentally, is also what makes the engagement facilitated by our apps possible. So BIS using Citizen Space to consult people on a new social benefit of technology is just what we like!

PS. for the opposite (or perhaps the dark side) of tech that enables the sharing economy, see “jerktech”…

3) Hackney Council in London has launched an online consultation on its draft transport strategy for the 2014-2024. The plan itself is a considerable document, with a set of six ‘daughter plans’ that focus on specific areas of transport – understandable perhaps, given that it’s a ten-year plan for a fast-growing area of London with a lot of specific challenges.

There are a few things we particularly like about Hackney’s consultation. The team have made good use of the events feature to publicise the public meetings they are holding on the plan. Users can see a calendar of events, and with a couple of clicks can download the event straight from the website into their own calendars.

We’re also impressed by Hackney’s rather nifty interactive transport map, which lets users raise local transport issues by directly pinpointing them on the map – a great way to help  citizens engage with local issues and make it easy for them to give feedback.

Screenshot 2014-10-31 16.53.47

 

That’s all for this week! Have a great weekend!

Matthew

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A ‘Few’ Thoughts from Ali Stoddart of Demsoc Scotland

At Delib, we’re big fans of the Democratic Society or Demsoc as pretty much everyone Ali_Sknows them. They do interesting, useful work that promotes and builds the wider democratic sector and, more importantly, they’re a thoroughly nice bunch of people. One of those people is Ali Stoddart, a surprisingly loud, ceaselessly keen and properly Scottish individual. Ali has just started Dem Soc’s first ‘regional’ office in Edinburgh which shows a remarkable, some would say foolhardy, amount of trust in him. Therefore, I thought we should hear a bit about his background, his thoughts on biscuits and his hopes for a post indy ref Scotland. Unfortunately, whilst Ali is a very bright guy he does struggle with brevity; you probably want to put the kettle on for this one.

1.  What’s your name and where are you from?
My name is Ali Stoddart, I come from Glasgow via Aberdeen. Spent my early youth in the Granite City but escaped the Haar and moved back West to Glasgow where most of my family are from. Where you are born is not necessarily where you are from…

2.  What do you do for a living?
I am Community Engagement and Scotland Lead for the Democratic Society (Demsoc). My job involves running projects and events that help make more participatory democracy a reality through small, repeated experiments. I have recently opened our office in Edinburgh, and make up the Demsoc team in Scotland.

I love my job as it is very eclectic: one day I am helping senior civil servants think about improvement to citizen engagement within their institutions; the next I am on my hands and knees helping to pump up a tire on a bicycle, disguised as an Elephant, to be used in a Village Fete Jousting Competition… I think that is what they mean by “on the ground community engagement!”  I’m not afraid getting my hands dirty when it comes to giving citizens the opportunity to get involved in decisions and services that impact on their lives. I feel Demsoc is as much about ‘doing’ as it is about ‘thinking’ when it comes to implementing participative democracy.

3.  Favourite band and/ or artist?
I would have to say Beirut. Zach Condon is an unbelievably talented musician who has managed to channel Eastern European musical influences into melodic alternative pop music. I had the pleasure of sharing a pint with him during the Edinburgh Fringe a number of years ago. He is, needless to say, a very nice guy.

In order to score ultimate hipster points I should declare that I am delighted, Edinburgh based trio, Young Fathers have won the Mercury Music Prize. Their song “Get Up” should be hard to listen too because of how low the bass is, but the catchy vocal hook transforms the song completely. Listen to it here.

4.  Android or iPhone?
iPhone

5.  PC or Mac?
PC, but that may change as the majority of the Demsoc team are all Apple Zealots… I may be forced to rebel from Emperor Gates.

6.  Creature of habit or maverick thinker?
That is tough. I would say I am creature of habit when it comes to theoretical stuff; I like to stick to what I know, which is participative democracy. However, when it comes to putting the democratic theory into practice I would say I am much more open to trying new methods and seeing what happens. All failure is learning and all that… Fortunately, most of the time things seem to work.

7.  Your house is on fire, what do you save?
Other than loved ones, it would definitely be my electric piano, Yamaha P-155 , which I have had for 11 years, and has graced many a stage in Glasgow and Edinburgh, when I was in a Blues Pop band called Alan Panther and the Energy Treadmill. That was fun.

8.  Biscuits – dunk or leave unsullied?
Chocolate Digestive – Unsullied.

9.  Best project you’ve worked on at Dem Soc and why?
There are so many to choose from but I will narrow it down to two: one for its direct, on the ground, impact; and the other for its huge potential.

The first is a project we did with Lewes District Council called the Zero Heroes Community Competition which was effectively an experiment to see if the council could use participatory budgeting as a carrot to encourage behaviour change around the not-so-sexy issue of waste and recycling. Although it was really hard work, as scheme covered the whole district, it ended up being incredibly rewarding. All of the areas managed to win some money for funding local projects chosen by the community and this resulted in over 140 ideas being generated, some of which will be funded and make a difference to the area. Furthermore, the project has encouraged the Council to be more confident when it comes to thinking about future citizen participation.

Secondly, I would have to say our work with the Scottish Government on Collaborative Government in Scotland. We have been working a lot with SG’s Strategy Unit and, former Delib Blog Interviewee, Christian Storstein, on thinking about how to improve the Scottish Government’s engagement and consultation techniques and create stronger a relationship between government and the people of Scotland.

We started the process in July with a workshop that brought together senior civil servants and members of civil society to discuss how the Scottish Government should go about creating a more collaborative ethos to their work and the attendees came up with a set of shared intentions about how to take the agenda forward. It is really exciting and hopefully the start of something transformative for Scottish democracy. It is early days yet but I really like the idea of government “collaborating to create collaboration” and establishing a lot more opportunities for co-creation with citizens on policy and other aspects of governmental work. You can read the report from the workshop here.

 10.  Now the dust has settled, what’s your feeling about the whole indy ref palava?
First off I have to say I was delighted about the level of engagement that came out of the #indyref discussion. It was a privilege to walk around the streets of Edinburgh talking to voters about their relationship with democracy which you can read about here and here.
I feel that the reason that the turn out was so high was because people actually felt they could have an impact on something, which is unusual in other electoral situations.

Therefore, the independence referendum has energised Scottish Democracy and provided a fantastic opportunity for a more involving and participative democracy in the future.  The issue is now harnessing all of that potential democratic energy.

Furthermore, I don’t think it should be about Yes/No or 45%/55% any more as that is divisive. It should be about all citizens in Scotland deliberating and working together to create policies they feel will improve Scotland. You can read my short submission to the Smith Commission here. You can read more thoughts on the #indyref here and here.

11.  Where do you hope Scotland will be in 10 years in terms of public consultation/ digital democracy/ open governance? Opportunities and pitfalls.
Wow… In ten years time I would hope that Collaborative Government in Scotland, or something like it, is the norm. A Scotland where people feel more connected to politicians and civil servants; where there are a range of digital and offline tools available for people to co-create with the people they have elected to represent them; and where there is a political culture that shares power with people, as opposed to wielding power over them. Basically, the utopia outlined by, Demsoc governor, Andy Williamson and Martin Sande in their book From Arrogance to Intimacy: A Handbook for Active Democracies.

The opportunities are the growing, but fragile, desire from the public and government to explore the participation agenda further, and the potential of technology available. (I am not a technological determinist, more a digital democracy potentialist).

The pitfalls are the traditional political pressures of time and the need for constant success. Once more people realise that monumental change, like reshaping our 19th Century Representative Democracy into a more Participative system for the 21st Century, takes a lot of time, effort and learning, we may have a better chance of making it a reality and being part of something more.

12.  Best gov site you’ve seen and why? Other than GDS.
I’m going to go with the Paris city council participatory budgeting site. The new mayor Anne Hidalgo has got all the bits right – commitment from government (€450m over five years, in increasing amounts), a “participation charter” that sets out what people can expect, an attractive easy-to-use interface, open voting rules (anyone who lives or works in Paris can vote), and even publishing the results as open data! The fact that the money available will increase each year shows that they are experimenting and learning as they go. So, by the time there are very large sums of money for Parisians to play with the Council will know what works best when it comes to city-wide participatory budgeting.

So there you have it, an exhaustive interview with the man behind Dem Soc Scotland. If you want to talk to Ali about how he can help your Scottish organisation or initiative, you can find contact details here and his Twitter account here. If you do call him, just remember to hold the phone away from your ear…

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We’ve some important work going on behind the scenes….

Over the past couple of months we’ve been focusing our development efforts on improving our hosting and associated product environment via an appropriately titled ‘production infrastructure sprint’.

Although this doesn’t sound as exciting as adding features to our products, it’s a vital part of Delib’s service to our customers, as it helps to ensure that we continue to meet our uptime and performance commitments.  Here’s a little overview of what we’ve been up to.

Photo of our sprint calendar

What we’ve been doing

Up until recently we hosted all our customer instances on large multi-tenancy servers. ‘Multi-tenancy’ means that several Delib customer sites run side-by-side on the same machines, although all their data is stored in separate databases.  These servers live in secure data centres, physically located in the same territory as the customers they serve.  The data centres are responsible for providing Internet connectivity for the production servers.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been moving customers slowly and carefully in batches from our current hosting providers to new providers who can better meet our service and uptime requirements.

Why we’re changing our hosting infrastructure

The reasons for migrating to new hosting providers are threefold:

1. Improvements in availability

In the UK, we are moving all our hosting to Rackspace, the market leader in cloud hosting, which offers a 100% uptime guarantee.  Since our uptime is necessarily bounded by that of our upstream providers, it’s important to use the best that we can get.  We are researching the best providers in other territories, to ensure that we continue to meet and exceed our commitments for all our customers.

We use a server monitoring service that notifies our account managers and developers by text message whenever a customer’s instance is unavailable for any reason (even if it’s in the middle of the night) so we’re all keen to ensure that these improvements pay off as soon as possible!

2. More hosting options for customers

After migration, every Citizen Space and Budget Simulator instance will live on its own virtual machine.  This allows us to offer different hosting packages for different usage patterns: we can now tailor the system specification (RAM, disk space, number of processors) to the requirements of the customer.  Furthermore, large spikes in one customer’s traffic can no longer adversely affect the response times of other customers’ sites.

Dialogue App instances will continue to run on a multi-tenancy setup by default.  However, customers with heavy usage requirements (eg large, heavily-publicised national dialogues), will have the option to host their Dialogue App instance on its own machine.

3. Consistent configurations and automation

As our number of customers grows, our developers have been spending more and more time engaged in administrative tasks such as rolling out new instances and upgrading existing customers.  While this is vital to the business and to our customers, developers would much prefer to spend their time developing new features and fixing bugs in the products.

At the same time as moving customers to the new hosting infrastructure, we’ve been improving our suite of developer tools so that more of the day-to-day tasks can be done without developer intervention.

For our customers, this means that planned maintenance should soon be able to take place, as far as possible, outside working hours.  It also means that developers will have more time to spend on improving our products, resulting in a better user experience for our customers and end users.

Find out more

If you are interested in finding out more about the improvements we are making please feel free to get in touch with either Louise or Rowena.

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10 key learnings from our first local government Citizen Space user group

Our fledgling Citizen Space user groups have offered an opportunity for some of our customers to get together and learn what each other have been up to, how different organisations use the software, as well as being able to discover and discuss our future plans for Citizen Space.

Citizen Space user group

Following the success of our first ever central government meet-up, hosted by the Department of Health back in the summer, we were excited to take the opportunity to chat to more of our customer base from all over the country at our first local government group, kindly hosted by Birmingham City Council. If you missed the sessions this time we thought we’d put some of the main nuggets of consultation gold in a lovely blog, and here they are:

1) Aim to promote Citizen Space effectively internally

“As Birmingham is such a large council, it is great to be able to link everything up via Citizen Space”

Steve Rose – Head of Strategic Research

Citizen Space is essentially unlimited. This means that as many users, departments and consultations as an organisation requires can be created – but to get the most out of this the tool is promoted internally. Both Birmingham City Council and Staffordshire County Council discussed the benefits of their approaches to promoting Citizen Space internally.

Kristian Walker from Staffordshire often takes the time to pop round and talk to colleagues about Citizen Space when they are about to use the tool, which has been a proven approach used in other government departments in the past. With effective internal communications, and a network of Citizen Space champions, Birmingham City Council have been able to successfully roll Citizen Space out across their organisation and reinforce their standardised approach via a councillor mandate.

2) Decide on an adoption approach that suits your organisation

Most Citizen Space customers choose to adopt either a de-centralised or centralised model of working when it comes to using the tool. Which model to choose often depends on an organisation’s set-up or team structure. The user group presented an opportunity to discuss the pros and cons of both approaches, with some councils such as Bristol City Council choosing to switch between the two modes over the past few years, adapting to the needs of staff availability and the council’s structure.

3) Using other digital tools alongside Citizen Space can help with process

Citizen Space plays nicely with other digital tools. This means that rather than using Citizen Space as a hub in isolation, it is possible to combine it with a variety of applications. In order to help ensure that consultation owners and the team are aware of consultations going live, Bristol City Council have created email reminder notifications using an Excel document. With lots of organisations slowly moving towards using Gmail, Google Docs is also an option available to many more organisations for creating custom work-flow processes. Both tools can be used in order to set-up reminder emails, supplementing the email notifications already available in Citizen Space.

Leicester City Council also use an email-based reminder system, referring to this as a  ‘consultation tracker’, which is sent out to all service leads on a regular basis. Jay Hardman from Leicester City Council explained to the group how their Citizen Space and work-flow processes combined had worked to ensure the organisation was consulting effectively. The tracker lists a ‘forthcoming’, ‘done’ and ‘close-down’ section which, if not completed within 12 weeks, will flag the consultation owner’s name. This helps encourage consultation owners to complete their full consultation cycle, providing a better result for respondents.

4) Create Citizen Space champions to lead the policy area 

In a de-centralised approach, some customers choose to assign Citizen Space or consultation champions within each team. This helps ensure that there is always someone knowledgeable on-hand to help out, who also has an in-depth knowledge of the area of policy being consulted on. Birmingham City Council have chosen to adopt this approach with a further consultation lead as the main point of contact for all of the department champions.

5) Provide users with any additional guidance they may need, at a point when they need it

In order to ensure colleagues have all of the information in one place at the time when they will be running a consultation, consultation leads will sometimes choose to link to guidance from their intranet pages.  Jay Hardman from Leicester cited two key documents/principles which he normally links users to for an overview of online consultation:

Cabinet Office guidelines
– The Gunning Principles (the idea that a consultation must take place at a formative stage with sufficient reasons to allow for a considered response. Adequate time must also be given to respond and the feedback should be conscientiously be taken into account)

We at Delib also run an online knowledge base and an active blog, both with useful information for a variety of user levels.

6) Create a culture of continuous improvement and learn from past consultations

Leicester City Council have recognised that each consultation can present different challenges and outcomes, and as a result are learning how to operate a culture of continuous improvement. If a consultation doesn’t go exactly as planned, and especially if there are follow-up consultations, it is useful to ensure that challenges and learnings are acknowledged before running the next engagement exercise.

7) Help build users’ general digital skills via Citizen Space

Creating consultations in Citizen Space can help improve upon general digital skills. Being able to successfully set-up and then digitally promote a consultation encompasses many skills – from copy-writing through to general online dexterity, such as being able to upload images. Having trained a variety of organisations on using Citizen Space and running online consultations, we’re learning that becoming confident with using Citizen Space is linked to confidence in web-skills generally.

8) Encourage colleagues to plan consultations in advance 

Leicester City Council have created what they call a ‘public consultation tracker’ – if colleagues fill if in the key information about the consultation well in advance (12 weeks beforehand) then the consultation team will help out. This helps ensure that support is at-hand, but only if teams are organised enough to call in assistance early on in the process. The completion of an ‘intention to consult’ form means that the consultation team can advise early-on in the process.

9) Use Citizen Space to monitor performance 

Citizen Space is often used by a number of departments across an organisation, so some customers choose to provide their research team with access to key statistics in Citizen Space, as this can help with performance monitoring. Taking forward best practice from these investigations and making sure all departments reach the same level of consultation expertise can only be good for respondents across the board.

“Citizen Space helps monitor best practice so that we can help maintain the council’s reputation”

Kristian Walker, Staffordshire County Council

10) Create your own expert panel of consultation advisers

Online consultation requires a variety of skills ,which one individual alone may not be expert in. One way of ensuring that all the skills are in one place is to create a consultation panel/steering board, who may be able to provide oversight of all consultation happening within an organisation. This might not necessarily be solely a consultation team – it may also include a member of the web or communications team.

We’re hoping to continue running two user-groups a year in collaboration with customers. Watch this space for the next event!

Rowena

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Top Local Government Jobs this November

Community Development and Engagement Manager – Horsham District Council (closing date: 6th November)
This is a new post that combines project work, leadership and management responsibility. If you enjoy thinking strategically, want to build on your management skills, but still like to be at the sharp end when it comes to making things happen, this post is for you.

Research and Information Officer – Reigate & Banstead Borough Council (closing date: 9th November)
Reigate & Banstead are looking for a Research and Information Officer with excellent analytical, numerical and communication skills, to join their Planning Policy and Economic Prosperity Team.

Performance and Policy Officer – Mole Valley District Council (closing date: 10th November)
Mole Valley DC are looking for an enthusiastic and motivated Performance and Policy officer, with an interest in health and safety to join their team. You will be supporting a wide range of corporate planning and governance roles, including business planning, performance and project management.

Director of Finance and Resources – London Borough of Redbridge (closing date: 10th November)
In this role, you will provide strong leadership and help shape the strategic direction of the council. At a time of shrinking resources, LB of Redbridge are are seeking a strategic thinker, who can take managed risks and assist in corporate management and financial governance arrangements.

Finance Manager – Harlow District Council (closing date: 10th November)
Harlow DC are looking to appoint a determined individual to the key post of Finance Manager. You will focus on helping the Council meet its challenging efficiency targets, whilst supporting service managers in their delivery of the council’s change agenda.

Group Leader, Transport Planning & Policy – London Borough of Enfield (closing date: 15th November)
Enfield Council are looking for a Group Leader to manage a small team to help develop Enfield’s future transport strategy; shape development in the borough; promote sustainable means of travel; and undertake a range of statutory functions relation to highways and rights of way. There will also be an opportunity to get involved in the delivery of the councils £30m Cycle Enfield project.

(3 different roles) Digital Communications and Design Manager, Deputy Head of Communications, Communications Manager – London Borough of Hounslow (closing date: 17th November 2014)
The London Borough of Hounslow is an ambitious council with a passion and desire to provide the very best services for its residents. Hounslow have 3 roles available and are looking for talented people to join their busy communications team.

Web and Online Services Manager – London Borough of Brent (closing date: 17th November 2014)
In this role, you will be responsible for the Brent website and will play a key role in supporting the implementation of the channel migration strategy, which looks to increase the delivery of effective online services to its customers.

Policy Planner – Dartford Borough Council (closing date: 24th November 2014)
In this role, you will be part of a team ensuring that a planning policy framework is in place which requires the highest standards of development, promotes innovative solutions and results in sustainable and cohesive communities. You will shape new planning policies that will apply to the majority of the proposed Ebbsfleet (Garden City) Development Corporation area.

Planning Policy Manager – South Bucks District Council (closing date: 28th November 2014)
Chiltern & South Bucks District Councils are sharing services and are looking to appoint a Planning Policy Manager to lead and manage the authorities Planning Policy service. You will play a key role in ensuring that high quality and effective local plans are delivered and adopted.

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Citizens, Summits… Solutions?

Welcome once more to our Friday blog, where we look at the interesting things happening in the exciting world of digital democracy.

Our Citizen Space user group

Last week, we took part in our first ever Citizen Space user group meeting for local government (after a successful central government meeting at the end of September). We had attendees from across the country – from Dorset to Cumbria – who took part in a lively discussion of what they are doing with Citizen Space, how they might use it in the future, and how we can help them with their digital engagement.

Four councils – Birmingham, Bristol, Leicester and Staffordshire – gave talks explaining how they have implemented the app in each of their organisations.

Citizen Space user group image of live presentation

Kristian from Staffordshire Council talking us through how they use Citizen Space

For myself, having recently started at Delib, it was striking to see the work that our local government partners have on their hands. Their challenge is not only to make their consultations engaging and easy to use for the public (it was great to hear that Citizen Space has made this much simpler for many), but also to make sure the rest of their organisation has the sufficient skills and familiarity with technology to ‘do’ digital. We’ll be following up next week with a post describing some of the stuff we learnt from the meeting.

Various councils seem to be trying different methods of getting everyone up and running on Citizen Space, but it looks like digital skills are an issue that’s not going away in a hurry. Improving digital competencies is a big priority for central government as well – in fact, that’s part of the reason I’m here at Delib, to pick up on some of my new colleagues’ tech expertise and take that back to government. It’s certainly something all suppliers of digital services to the public sector need to bear in mind.

Northern Futures shining bright

One of our Dialogue App customers – and we’ve talked about them on this blog before – is the Deputy Prime Minister’s ‘Northern Futures’ discussion. The Northern Futures summit itself is not far off now, on the 6th of November, and last week saw ‘Open Ideas Days’, run by the Cabinet Office’s Policy Lab, being hosted in eight cities across the North.

The Open Ideas Days were a great way of complementing the discussion and idea generation taking place on the Dialogue App in a ‘real-world’ context. Having the days creates a tangible point for the debate to work towards. As they get closer, they provide a way of building excitement about the discussion – and the Northern Futures team have been putting Twitter to good use in that regard. The ideas that get brainstormed on the days have been fed back onto the site, where they get run past a wider audience for comment – the two form a nice loop of engagement!

Image of a tweet about the Northern Futures project with a video of Nick Clegg

You can follow the discussion on twitter at @North_Futures, or look at the ideas on their Dialogue App site. This storify also captures some of the excitement the project has generated

A manifesto for open, transparent government

The Open Government UK Civil Society Network is crowdsourcing ideas for the UK’s next Open Government Action Plan. Whilst this is something we’d be excited about however it was being carried out, it’s particularly exciting that they’re doing it using our very own Dialogue App.

The Open Government Partnership is a kind of international pact between countries – now 62 of them including the UK, which was one of the founding members. These countries have committed to various actions, all aimed at opening up government to decrease corruption and promote participation and (you guessed it) openness in public life. You can find out more on the Open Government Manifesto dialogue site.

If you’ve as passionate about democracy and public transparency as we are, we’d suggested you get involved and pitch your ideas!

In other news…

The London Borough of Waltham Forest launched its Budget Simulator last week – you can check it out on the dedicated website, with pieces in local media from This is local London and a Waltham Forest local Guardian article.

Whilst not a Delib project, this article in the Guardian on Sunday attracted some attention on social media, drawing attention to the impact of the spending cuts being imposed on local government. We were particularly interested to hear about the council’s analog solution for engaging citizens in budget cuts ‘a monopoly-style exercise’, where players compete to make the necessary savings:

Players who select the arts, museums and theatres box save the council £3m. Players who land on residential and nursing care for adults wipe a satisfying £58m from the budget. Land on the street cleaning box – save £6m. Abandon housing advice and homelessness support – cut £19m.

As we enter the last six months before a general election, the volume of discussion around cuts to public spending will no doubt increase. That’s why we think it’s great to see local councils being candid and open about the reductions they have to make, and involving citizens in making those decisions.

Matthew

 

 

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