All posts by AlexP

From Bristol #citizenspace to NYC #civictech, stopping at Nairobi #SiliconSavannah

Hello I’m Alex, or Pitkin, and I’m Delib’s latest travelling director (although more permanently than Chris :] ).  I’ve recently moved to the wonder that is New York City, and if anyone is interested in discussing any of the above hashtags, or digital democracy and digital dockets, and you’re in NYC we should do bagels and coffees!

After signing off on my last few blog posts back in 2012 I’ve been busy roaming the ‘Silicon Savannah’ that is Nairobi, the heart of East Africa’s tech and community engagement scene.

Back in 2012 I was focussing on some exciting projects like the famous DECC My2050 educational consultation game, and the huge Thames Tideway Tunnel consultation on site selection in London. While the tech and thinking has arguably moved on, interestingly both projects are still important today!

“Having your say” and “Exploring participatory branching logic”, safari style

My main focus in my time in Kenya was in continuing the great citizen engagement work that runs on the FrontlineSMS platform after working initially on Kenya’s Daily Nation election monitoring platform that provided real time election dashboards on the 2013 presidential election.  Lots of learning about how people and tech work together around the world to improve communication, democracy, health, sustainability, education and everything outside and in between…

Before my journey to Kenya and the US I was working amongst almost everything Delib since 2006, coordinating product development on all of 3 of our pioneering platforms for the UK government.  A few notable projects for the US government including the award-winning Department of Homeland Security’s Homeland Security Dialogue in 2009/2010.  I’m keen to compare notes here in the US and share experiences on 2017’s big initiatives.

I now find myself living in Brooklyn, and working at the heart of #civictech in the Civic Hall NYC community.  Always trying to help to improve and learn how governments and organisations can improve how they engage and connect with their citizens and customers.

@pitkin
linkedin.com/alexpitkin

Thames Tunnel consultation enters its latest phase

Thames Water have recent launched the next stage in their Thames Tunnel online consultation. The two new surveys are running once again on Delib’s WordPress and Quick Consult-powered site.

The latest phase of the consultation is based on some of the key feedback from the second phase that ran from 4 November 2011 to 10 February 2012 (view the summary report from Phase 2). Specifically, the consultation aims to gain feedback from Londoners on proposed amendments to the plan in four specific sites: Barn Elms, Putney Embankment, Victoria Embankment and Albert Embankment.

In adding this phase, Thames Water are actively listening to and utilising the feedback from stakeholders who have participated in the consultation’s previous phases.

The consultation has again made use of the ‘Fact Bank’ feature in Quick Consult which has been used to embed a PDF outlining proposed amendments. This helps respondents to understand the specific nature of the consultation before submitting a response.

Screenshot of question on Barn Elms with a PDF embedded using the Fact Bank feature

Amendments are proposed for these 4 sites in new ‘Supplementary site information papers’ created in response to comments about the sites.

The latest phase of the online consultation is open until 5pm on 4 July 2012. If you live in London, click on the link to have your say!

Awesome Citizen Space version 1.6.2 new features now out!

Citizen Space 1.6.2 has just been released with some really awesome new features. This is part of our commitment to keeping Citizen Space constantly improving and evolving with the ever-changing times.

Both current and future clients can now benefit from a range of new features, including these two great additions worth explaining in detail:

1) Generated graphical PDF reports

All Quick Consult consultations now include an extra link on the consultation dashboard to create a summary report in PDF format. Citizen Space administrators have the option to create a report which can be used to both track open consultations’ progress or provide a quick and easy to use summary report of closed consultations’ outcomes.

We are really excited about this new feature and have already been chatting to our current clients about some of the potential benefits and use cases. The analysis of results and subsequent consultation feedback loop back to the public can now be much quicker and easier. For example reports can be generated quickly for a meeting with stakeholders and policy makers to review/assess progress.

  • For questions where respondents can select at most one answer, such as radio buttons or a drop down, a pie chart is displayed:

  • For questions where respondents can select more than one answer, such as checkboxes, a bar chart is displayed:

2) Mailing list sign up for Quick Consult respondents

Respondents can now have the option to opt-in to a mailing list once they have completed a response. The email list can then be exported and used to keep respondents informed on consultation outcomes and results. The email address opt-in feature can be enabled on a per-consultation basis to ensure that it is only used on relevant consultations.

The text above the email opt-in option can be easily edited by the administrator to ensure that respondents will know how their email address will be used.

It is possible to view the number of email signups at any stage of the consultation on the dashboard without needing to download the list.

We also included continuous improvements across the app that many of our users will no doubt appreciate; such as a nice bright ‘Jump to a page’ bar on the ‘view response’ page:

For more information on Citizen Space or to request a demonstration please contact one of our Team on 0845 638 1848.

Thames Tunnel videos syndicated from our site

As I touched upon in my previous launch post we made the decision to host all of Thames Tunnel’s consultation materials on resources that allowed users to easily share, embed and generally syndicate them. One of these systems is the well known (and pretty, popular alternative to YouTube) Vimeo.

Whilst navigating the popular Londonist site on a recent excursion to the city I was pleased to see that they had taken one of the excellent explanatory videos from the site and embedded it on the site. I think this is a really great example of how the consultation can be explained quickly in one article using resources that were easily accessible.

Well done Londonist, and well done Vimeo.

Delib and Thames Water go live with phase 2 of Thames Tunnel consultation site

Today at 00:01 the Delib team deployed an updated site for Thames Water’s latest phase of their Thames Tunnel project. The update coincides with the launch of the second phase of the consultation which is running using our Quick Consult.

The site itself is built on the (much loved by us and others) Word Press platform and makes use of a number of excellent plug-ins to further enrich the presentation of the huge amount of information that is available on the project. Other technologies and services used include Scribd, Vimeo, Google Maps and some rather impressive cross-browser compliant Javascript libraries.

Screenshot of a site detail page from the consultation website
The site now contains a separate section for each of the 25 proposed construction sites providing maps, documents and news.

A lot of hard work has gone into getting this site live from teams at London Tideway Tunnels and Thames Water alongside some inspiring technical work from my colleagues here at Delib. We are very proud to be a part of the project and look forward to our app providing a platform for engaging the public gathering their opinions.

The importance of meetings, types of meetings and lack of meetings

I have been thinking about meetings, how they are useful and why they are so often misused ever since an interesting talk from the guys at Happy Cog when I was at SXSW. So I thought I would put a few of my thoughts out there.

Meetings are always important to have, sometimes. In some organisations, a ‘meeting’ can be a dirty word that fills potential attendees with fear of losing valuable productivity on their current work, boredom, irrelevance, falling asleep in front of the boss/client, faffy overhead and no clear goals or outcomes. Even 37Signals launched a campaign against meetings.

This is clearly no good and is thankfully not the case here at Delib.

So do I think meetings are any use? Not only are they good, they are absolutely essential and can improve everyone’s productivity, when done right.

To keep this short and sweet (as any good meeting should aim to be 😉 ) here are my key rules that we follow here to help us:

  1. Be on time and insist on it for all other attendees.
    The key part of this one is the ‘insisting’ bit. We are not at school, we work as a team together and rely on each other; we shouldn’t expect the meeting chair to have to be the ‘angry teacher’.
  2. If the meeting is a short catch up, stand up.
    Taken from the Scrum methodology we know and love, standing up ensures people stay focussed and everyone has a clear reward for keeping the meeting efficient.
  3. When you’re starting a new project, always, always, always have a face to face kick off meeting.
    Too often these are skipped due to busy diaries or unwilling travellers. This will only come and bite you during crunch periods when that previous human interaction really does help everyone in the project team understand each other and work together.
  4. Have an agenda.
    Probably a given for formal meetings (I hope) but even informal ‘gatherings’ will benefit from the loose goals being written up at the start on a whiteboard and ticked off as you go.
  5. Invite the minimum number of people.
    You don’t need everyone from a particular team or department to be present. Trust that team members can share and disseminate the output of a meeting to their colleagues.

To finish off here’s a good article by Kevin Hoffman similar in content to his talk at SXSW and based around the 37Signals campaign.

A new release of Citizen Space!

A culmination of investment and useful input from our current and future clients, and of course lots of great technical work from the development team, has led to a new release of our Citizen Space product.

Version 1.4 brings users and admins many useful additions to the system and you can read more about them over on our Citizen Space blog.

As the product is cloud-based, current Citizen Space users will have their systems updated for free and will be contacted to confirm their upgrade schedule. If you’re not yet using it then have a look around on our demo to see the changes live.

Delib and the Department of Energy and Climate Change launch My2050!

Today saw Chris Huhne and DECC launch My2050 at my2050.decc.gov.uk.

The front page and logo of My2050

My2050 challenges you to get UK CO₂ emissions below 20% by 2050 by setting how much effort is applied to areas both in the Supply and Demand sectors. The percentage is compared to 1990 levels of CO₂ emissions.

This is a project that I am excited about both personally and professionally. It’s a really interesting problem and one that everyone seems to have a different angle on. It has been 12 months in the making and involved a lot of great work from the team here at Delib and especially the 2050 strategy team at DECC.

Let’s hope it makes a great debate and once you’ve submitted your pathway be sure to check back here to see how it’s getting on.