All posts by Ben Whitnall

Health, involvement and digital: a UK perspective

Ben Fowkes, our Commercial Director, is currently meeting some of our customers and other movers and shakers across Australia and New Zealand. Among other things, he’s giving a series of talks on effective online involvement and consultation for government.

The first of these was last week, to around 100 delegates from various health bodies, looking at the idea of digital involvement in their field.

Very briefly, for those of us who couldn’t be there in person, here are some of the points he covered:

A bit of UK context

  • Local health is…complicated. CCGs, CSUs, lots of organisations merging or otherwise changing structure, frequent shifts in management, policy, priorities etc.
  • There are interesting initiatives like NHS Citizen and NHS Digital.
  • There are certainly steps towards increasing digital capacity/skills nationally but (as is almost always the case), culture change takes time.
  • It’s not always a straightforward environment in which to operate. And anything with a whiff of IT/software/infrastructure systems about it is seen as especially complicated.

Principle vs practice

  • And yet… Even amongst lots of complexity and caution, broadly, everybody ‘gets’ that public involvement is important; there is a desire to find ways for people to have their say in their healthcare.
  • The principle of public involvement is well-established (as are a decent number of standards, policies and processes as a result).
  • However, the ways in which that is undertaken – people’s practice in this area – continue to develop and change – especially as a result of digital tools.
  • That includes straightforward modernisations to existing mechanisms, such as traditional surveys being conducted online (e.g. https://nhs-digital.citizenspace.com/). But it’s also about the changes in culture/behaviour that follow with digital approaches.

Some notable developments we’re seeing

  • Online in general continues to become more the accepted norm – just look at the considerable growth in the number of consultations on Citizen Space (have a look at the Aggregator); we’ve also been seeing more desire for training in digital skills, including for engagement/patient involvement teams.
  • In particular, there’s an increasing recognition of the importance of responsive/mobile – have a look at any round-up of browser stats and you’ll see the same trend: tablets and mobiles have been quickly growing as the main way to access the internet. Health organisations are catching up to this reality and we’re seeing greater consideration for mobile users in their technology procurement and design processes.
  • As with government in general, GDS etc, there’s a definite rise in ‘design thinking’, and the importance of good quality, well-crafted content (see, for example, some of the lessons that the Department of Health shared at one of our previous user group sessions.)

If you work in public health and are interested to find out more, have a look at how health bodies, including Stockport CCG and NHS England, are already using our tools to improve their public consultation activity online – or drop us a line.

Top UK #localgov jobs – March 2017

As we do every month, we’ve rounded up some great digital, strategic and engagement/communications jobs from the UK local government sector. Here are some that may take your fancy this March…

District Councils’ Network Policy & Research Officer
Tandridge District Council on behalf of the District Councils’ Network
Closing date: 9 March 2017

Consultation and Engagement Officer
Dorset Councils Partnership
Closing date: 12 March 2017

Digital Media Officer
Erewash Borough Council
Closing date: 12 March 2017

Senior Consultation Officer
London Borough of Hackney
Closing date: 15 March 2017

Consultation & Communications Manager
London Borough of Hackney
Closing date: 15 March 2017

Communications Officer
Derby City Council
Closing date: 19 March 2017

Head of Councillor Support and Democratic Process
Cornwall Council
Closing date: 22 March 2017

Local Plan Manager
London Borough of Tower Hamlets
Closing date: 27 March 2017

Strategic Policy Leader (Corporate Policy & Community Planning Partnership)
Aberdeenshire Council
Closing date: 27 March 2017

Senior Planning Officer (Policy)
Epping Forest District Council
Closing date: 9 June 2017

Top Australia and New Zealand public sector jobs this February (2017)

Each month, we round up some great digital, strategic and engagement/communications jobs going in the Australian and New Zealand public sectors. Here’s our February 2017 collection – if any of them look tempting, click through to find out more…

Digital Communications Officer
National Library of Australia
Closing date: 5 Feb 2017

Digital Communications Officer
Baw Baw Shire Council
Closing date: 5 Feb 2017

Manager Digital Transformation
Adelaide City Council
Closing date: 8 Feb 2017

Democracy and Governance Manager
Southland District Council
Closing date: 8 Feb 2017

Communications Officer (Digital)
TasWater
Closing date: 10 Feb 2017

Audience Research Manager
National Museum of Australia
Closing date: 12 Feb 2017

User Experience Designer
Department of Internal Affairs (NZ)
Closing date: 15 Feb 2017

Top UK #localgov jobs this February (2017)

As we do every month, we’ve rounded up some great digital, strategic and engagement/communications jobs from the UK local government sector. Here are some that may take your fancy this February…

Community Development Officer
Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council
Closing date: 3 Feb 2017

Policy Officer
Westminster City Council
Closing date: 6 Feb 2017

Communications and Engagement Officer
Plymouth City Council
Closing date: 6 Feb 2017

Communications and Engagement Officer
Plymouth City Council
Closing date: 6 Feb 2017

Insight and Consultation Manager
London Borough of Waltham Forest
Closing date: 12 Feb 2017

Digital Communications Manager
London Borough of Barking and Dagenham
Closing date: 12 Feb 2017

Website and Digital Media Officer
Waverley Borough Council
Closing date: 13 Feb 2017

Head of ICT
London Borough of Hillingdon
Closing date: 20 Feb 2017

Planning Policy Officer
Harrow Council
Closing date: not specified

Head of Digital
Buckinghamshire County Council
Closing date: not specified

 

Top Australia and New Zealand public sector jobs this January (2017)

New year, new job?

Each month, we round up some great digital, strategic and engagement/communications jobs going in the Australian and New Zealand public sectors. Here’s our January 2017 collection – if any of them look tempting, click through to find out more…

Australia

Senior Communications and Engagement Officer
Department of Justice (Victoria)
Closing date: 6 January 2017

Director, Community Engagement
Department of Premier & Cabinet (Victoria)
Closing date: 6 January 2017

Communications and Project Support Officer
Department of Premier and Cabinet (Tasmania)
Closing date: 9 January 2017

Stakeholder Engagement Officer
Department of Natural Resources and Mines (Queensland)
Closing date: 17 January 2017

New Zealand

Senior Engagement & Communications Adviser
Ministry of Transport
Closing date: 12 January 2017

Senior Communications & Marketing Adviser – Students
Victoria University of Wellington
Closing date: 16 January 2017

Agile Project Managers
Te Papa
Closing date: 23 January 2017

Communications Advisor
The Treasury
Closing date: 25 January 2017

Top UK #LocalGov jobs this January (2017)

The New Year inspires many people to look for a change of scene, so, as we do every month, we’ve rounded up some great digital, strategic and engagement/communications jobs from the UK local government sector. Here are some that may take your fancy this January…

Customer Insight and Data Officer
Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council
Closing date: 6 January 2017

Communications Assistant
Christchurch and East Dorset Councils
Closing date: 6 January 2017

Specialist Communications Officer 
East Sussex County Council
Closing date: 8 January 2017

Senior Data and Spatial Analyst
Chelmsford City Council
Closing date: 8 January 2017

Community Engagement Assistant
London Borough of Sutton
Closing date: 9 January 2017

Senior Sitecore Developer
Islington Council
Closing date: 16 January 2017

Communications and Campaigns Advisor
Southend-on-Sea Borough Council
Closing date: 23 January 2017

Assistant Director – ICT and Digital Services
Birmingham City Council
Closing date: 24 January 2017

2016: our year in review

Tonight’s the night of the Delib Christmas party, which means only one thing: the hotly-anticipated Secret Santa gift exchange! (I’m hoping for some kind of novelty mug.)

Oh, OK, it means two things: it’s also time for our annual look back at how the past year has gone.

So: 2016, eh? Let’s leave world events to one side for a moment – there’s been no shortage of those this year (both the events and the leaving of them to one side to focus on oneself, you might say) – but that’s for other people to cover. Here’s a few snippets of what 2016 has looked like for us:

Some numbers

We’ve hit some pleasing milestone figures – including:

For us, these are encouraging signs that – even in the midst of incredibly stretched budgets and unpredictable political climates – public bodies remain committed to involving people in the decisions that affect them. And that ‘digital’ continues to become more ingrained as just an obvious and important channel for public involvement (you might be surprised how much this is not to be taken for granted!)

Some consultations

We love seeing the huge range of topics that are consulted on using our tools. From headline-grabbing national issues to hyperlocal pilot schemes; entire city spending priorities to early experiments in participatory budgeting – whenever there’s a decision that matters to people, we’re proud to see it opened up on one of our platforms.

Here’s a smattering of examples from this year:

Austin Texas Budget Simulator
The City of Austin, Texas asked for public input on spending priorities using Budget Simulator

 

DoH consulted on how to improve support for carers
The UK Department of Health used Citizen Space for their consultation on improving support for carers

 

 

The Environment Agency's consultation on a new nuclear power station design
The Environment Agency used Citizen Space for their (bilingual) consultation on a new nuclear power station

 

TfL consults on individual bus routes
Transport for London make extensive use of Citizen Space – including for consultations on a host of proposed local route changes

 

'Shall we put a new ramp here?', asks the Canal and River Trust
The Canal and River Trust started using Citizen Space in 2016, with an excellent consultation on Better Towpaths for Everyone

 

Motorcycle security trial in Southwark
Southwark Council (UK) use Citizen Space for a host of consultations, including this one on a trial scheme about motorbike anchors

Some development

As every year, we’ve continued to work on improving our products. The biggest development for us in 2016 was probably the release of Citizen Space v3. A huge amount of work went into this major overhaul, which makes it more responsive, more customisable, easier to use and just straight-up prettier. The vast majority of our 100+ Citizen Space customers are now using the new and improved v3, and it feels good to see their sites looking great and being well-used. Celebratory tapas were had.

Some events

We had our first Dialogue user group in April, up in Scotland. We also had a whole round of user groups for our Citizen Space customers in Australia and New Zealand.

We got to go to some excellent events and meetups – including, but not limited to, Demfest, GovCamp Cymru and the DigitalNI consultation event.

And, of course, that whole Boaty McBoatface thing happened – without dampening our enthusiasm for public participation. 

We also picked the hottest few days of the year to have our annual team holiday in Dorset (who said 2016 was short on reasons to be cheerful?!)

Some thanks

Lastly, a quick thank you to our customers. There’s been plenty of despair and vexation washing around about politics, government, democracy and so on – perhaps more so this year than usual. Be that as it may, we do lots of work with public bodies and government organisations and the vast majority of our experience – with civil servants, local government officers etc etc – is of people who are deeply dedicated to their work, to serving the public and the common good and who work hard to improve government and civic life generally. So thanks especially to them, for keeping our chins and general levels of optimism up 🙂

Here’s to 2017…

6 things to read in the Christmas wind-down

Are things starting to wind down as Christmas approaches? You know: the office gets empty of people and full of tinsel (fire regulations permitting, of course). The emphasis is more on finishing the communal tub of Celebrations than the to-do list. There’s that end-of-school-term vibe, when every lesson becomes a quiz, game or the first half of some retro-tastic film (in my case, it was always Labyrinth for some reason).

We know the feeling – and that it’s not really the time to try and embark on a trailblazing new project. So, to save you staring at an inbox where nothing’s going to arrive (except out-of-office messages), here’s a few suggestions of things you can usefully read.

These are some perennials of our bookshelves: things that make for helpful primers, or that we frequently reference in passing. Reading any of them would be a good investment of time – a great way to make the most of that pre-Christmas quietness.

Orwell: Why I Write

Self-reflection, pithiness and a side-order of championing democracy – plus it’s only, like, 2 pages long. Can’t be bad…

‘Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism, as I understand it. It seems to me nonsense, in a period like our own, to think that one can avoid writing of such subjects. Everyone writes of them in one guise or another.’

The Cluetrain Manifesto

This was the book about ‘the digital revolution’ back at the turn of the century. And there’s still lots to learn from its central premise that ‘markets are conversations’. But it’s not on our list because we see it as some kind of internet gospel. It’s more just that it’s interesting and instructive to revisit it, 15+ years on, and reflect with curiosity on its analysis and insight. Always intriguing to see how some things have dated, while others look really prescient – and useful to consider the big principles of internet, culture and social interaction.


From Arrogance to Intimacy

We often give this book to new starters as a way to quickly familiarise themselves with the world of public engagement and ‘active democracy’. It’s a great, short summary of lots of good thinking about the importance of citizen involvement in government. Also has plenty of useful stuff about digital in particular (including the principle, which we’d entirely endorse, that ‘what’s wrong with democracy can’t be fixed with a new app.’)

The Toyota Way

‘Lean’, ‘agile’ and similar methodologies have really been gaining ground the last few years, which is great to see. We’re big fans of lean approaches and have been trying to embed them into our thinking since the early days of Delib. And our starting point was to get the whole team studying this book (perhaps the ‘original’ book on lean processes). Now, staring at a literal factory production line for 8 hours isn’t something that applies directly to our work – and probably won’t to yours, either – but we’ve found the principles incredibly helpful. Try it: you’ll be reading about car parts and suddenly you’ll start seeing all sorts of ways to make your organisation radically more efficient. And, soon, ‘genchi genbutsu’ or ‘little up’ will become part of your vocabulary and you’ll be wondering how you ever ran things otherwise…

A Technique for Producing Ideas

You can finish this whole ‘book’ in about half an hour. But it packs a huge amount of brilliant, really practical instruction into its few short pages. It’s an invaluable little guide – especially for anyone who says ‘oh, I’m not creative’. It prescribes a practice – one that you can literally practise – for thinking about things in new and different ways. It’s so straightforward that you’ll probably put it down and think ‘surely, that’s just common sense’ – and yet, for many people, it will be brand new information. And it codifies and clarifies the ‘technique’ into a few simple steps that will help it stick in your head – and you’ll find yourself using it all the time. To be honest, by the time you’ve read this ‘summary’, you could probably have read the actual book. So just go do that!


East of Eden

No, it’s not a business book but I read it for the first time this year and totally loved it so I’m putting it on my list. And you know what? I daresay it will challenge you and possibly inspire you and generally leave you less likely to be OK with simply letting the world drift on by. And even if it doesn’t do those things, you can just be fascinated by the striking characters, gripped by the intriguing plot or revel in the fantastically crafted and lyrical sentences. Seriously, this book is great.

Top Australia and New Zealand public sector jobs this December (2016)

Each month, we round up some great digital, strategic and engagement/communications jobs going in the Australian and New Zealand public sectors. Here’s our December collection – if any of them look tempting, click through to find out more…

Digital Marketing & Communications Officer
City of Ballarat
Closing date: 9 December 2016

Digital Engagement Officer
City of Busselton
Closing date: 9 December 2016

Communications Advisor
Department of Transport and Main Roads (QLD)
Closing date: 14 December 2016

Head of Communications & Government Relations
Sydney Water
Closing date: 16 December 2016

Engagement, Communication and Marketing
Department of State Development, Infrastructure and Planning (QLD)
Closing date: 16 December 2016

Senior Communications & Marketing Adviser – Students
Victoria University of Wellington
Closing date: 30 December 2016

Top UK #LocalGov jobs this December (2016)

As we do every month, we’ve rounded up some great digital, strategic and engagement/communications jobs from the UK local government sector. Here are some that may take your fancy this December…

Service Design Analyst
London Borough of Waltham Forest
Closing date: 9 December 2016

Digital Transformation Web Officer
London Borough of Lewisham
Closing date: 11 December 2016

Communication Officer – Regeneration
London Borough of Hackney
Closing date: 12 December 2016

Community Boost Officer
London Borough of Waltham Forest
Closing date: 12 December 2016

Apprentice – Community Engagement
Torbay Council
Closing date: 16 December 2016

Equality and Engagement Officer
East Sussex County Council
Closing date: 18 December 2016

Community Council Development Officer
Southwark Council
Closing date: 18 December 2016

Technology Consultant – Solution Architect
Thurrock Council
Closing date: 18 December 2016

Senior Public Affairs Officer
London Borough of Newham
Closing date: 21 December 2016