Category Archives: News & thinking

News and thinking about digital democracy

A Digital Engagement Company That Has People at its Core… Meet Delib

In our birthplace of the UK, Delib is a company name that many people know well. Our commitment to developing, enhancing and championing community engagement practices is evident. And through our digital engagement tools – Dialogue, Budget Simulator and Citizen Space we provide accessibility for communities to provide feedback, voice decisions and ask questions of Government, departments and organisations.

Delib’s commitment to championing their clients and their innovation is well known, and this ethos has most definitely spread to Australia and New Zealand.

For our readers who may not know the name Delib – it was founded in 2001 in the UK by three Bristol University friends who were asked by the government of the day for their thoughts on how young people could become more engaged with democracy. From this, presentations to the Hansard Society, a series of highly successful digital democracy games for school-aged children and a series of serious and not-so-serious online videos were made.

Then a man called Barrack Obama phoned.

Well, one of his “people” really!

As he commenced his presidency, Obama was interested in how he could use a digital tool like Dialogue to engage with the American public, and for the first time in that government’s history- open up a digital space for people to participate in democracy.

The biggest “buzz” we get at Delib is when our clients utilise our digital tools and then spark their own innovations to enhance their interactions and engagement with their communities.

In Australia and New Zealand, our clients may not include the President of The United States but they are digitally breaking ground and transforming the online engagement space, and boy do we love it.

Clients like Metro North Health in Queensland are re-shaping their internal communication practices to create their own Super-User Groups to collectively get the most out of Citizen Space.

They are also taking digital engagement to their stakeholders, having face-to-face conversations, and then utilising the collected data to shape the way oral health is delivered to those who face significant health and wellness challenges.

And across the Tasman, Hamilton City Council is using Citizen Space to transform the way they interact with their residents. The accessibility of Citizen Space has ensured a record number of stakeholders have participated for the first time in an engagement program.

When our clients are shaping our own work through their feedback, ideas and influence- we can’t help but celebrate them.  We look forward to introducing more of our clients to you with the aim of creating even more ideas, discussion and conversations with us, with your communities and within your own workplaces.

We can’t wait to share.

But more importantly- we look forward to listening.

The Next Generation of Engagement

When the opportunity arose to be involved with and contribute to the Next Generation Engagement Project out of the University of Melbourne, we just had to say yes. When Project Director Kirsty O’Connell tells me that almost $20 billion in largely tax-payer funded infrastructure projects have been delayed, cancelled or completed and then mothballed over the past decade in Australia, then Delib wants to meet this challenge and be involved.

For a long time, there’s been a need in Australia for multiple disciplines who engage with their stakeholders to contribute in one place and to one strategy. And the Next Generation Project is providing that opportunity. With Dr Sara Bice and Project Director Kirsty O’Connell steering this project, and the industry support evident by the sponsors and partners the project has already attracted, it’s clear the industry at large believes the time is right to have a constructive conversation about the future of engagement in the industry.

It is bringing together various entities and organisations who may not have been able to coordinate a project of this scale and calibre. This project is starting and capturing a meaningful conversation that we are really happy to be a part of.

Dialogue is being used by the Next Generation Project team to identify various challenges and pressure points. Dialogue is allowing participants to contribute from anywhere, in whatever way they choose: providing feedback, commenting, asking questions or simply sharing on their social media. Meaningful contributions can be shared no matter the participants field of expertise and level of knowledge.

Throughout the Next Generation Project, Dialogue will be used in the digital space as the community meeting “butcher’s paper” – the feedback is visual and respondents can see their ideas and thoughts contributing to solutions and answers. It allows ideas identified in the room during discussion to be visible to the entire community immediately. And in turn it allows ideas from outside the room to be discussed face-to-face.

This is an opportunity for the collective to come together regardless of location, industry experience, profession or level of involvement in infrastructure projects.

It’s an opportunity to identify the issues that currently challenge us and provide feedback and commentary for other ideas. All of this is being done with the collective goal of improving the outcomes for all in the infrastructure industry.

I am personally looking forward to highlighting the opportunity and reward that the digital space provides for an engagement project of this scale in Australia and the learnings that arise for the international infrastructure community.

Designing for participation: some reading ahead of our Practical Democracy Project event

In just a few weeks’ time, we’ll be running our Practical Democracy Project event. We’ll be at Newspeak House in London on 27th June looking at the part design can play in increasing public participation in democracy.

To help you get the most from the day, here’s a bit of a starter ‘reading list’ – featuring a random little selection of just a few of the books and articles that we’ve found helpful, or have stimulated and/or shaped our thinking over the years:

What would be on your list?

And, if this is your kind of thing, (free!) tickets are available now: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-practical-democracy-project-tickets-34110722088

Hope to see you in London on 27th June!

Budget Simulator – now officially in 3 distinct editions (perfect for any occasion)

Budget Simulator is used by all sorts of government organisations, all over the world, to get insight into people’s priorities when they’re facing difficult decisions. No two decisions are exactly alike: sometimes, it’s about setting a budget to hit a fixed savings target. Sometimes, it’s about seeing where people make the trade-offs between tax and service level. Sometimes, it’s about getting a broad sense of people’s preferences when any resource (time, effort etc) is contested.

A simulator is supposed to be just that – a simulation, an accurate representation of the decision under consideration. So, to better support the different kinds of decisions Budget Simulator can, well, simulate, we’ve just formalised 3 main editions of the tool. So now it’s even easier to choose the configuration that suits your situation.

The three editions are:

Total budget

Screenshot of total budget edition of Budget Simulator

Users are presented with your total budget; they adjust spending in key areas until they’re happy with the overall balance of allocations.

Great for visualising your organisation’s spending, showing the scale of a budget challenge and giving people ‘the big picture’.

Personal bill/rates

Screenshot of rates edition of Budget Simulator

Users are shown a budget expressed as a personalised bill or tax rate – tailored to their situation. They adjust spending and see how these changes will directly affect their payments.

Great for helping people to understand the effect of choices on their own pocket.

Points allocation

Screenshot of points edition of Budget Simulator

Perhaps you want to understand people’s priorities in a way that doesn’t directly correspond to a financial figure. In this version, users are given a number of abstract points, which they can assign to their preferred areas.

Great for exploring the trade-offs between any set of options – budgetary or otherwise.

You can see some examples of how people have used Budget Simulator in different ways in our collection of customer stories.

And if you’re interested in using Budget Simulator yourself, or just want to find out a bit more about it, you can always drop us a line.

Citizen Space release announcement v3.1.15

We’ve just released our latest Citizen Space update. As with most of these smaller milestones, this one focuses on incremental improvements to the platform – a handful of ways we’ve identified to make it faster and smoother to use. Specifically:

  • Big downloads: sometimes, you’ll want to download a set of responses that includes files uploaded by respondents. This can make for some pretty hefty zip files – but we’ve improved the way these large files are handled so these downloads should now run noticeably quicker.
  • Security update: we’ve added in new protections against Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF) attacks.
  • Minor fixes: you can now reliably download response files even if a respondent uses a special character in the title (&, ! etc). And we ironed out a sporadic glitch in the ‘Skip to main content’ accessibility link (we found some odd edge cases where it would take you to a different page).

v3.1.15 rolls out today to all Citizen Space customers. If you have any questions about the new release, you can always get in touch.

Tips and advice

18 (!) lessons from our first two user groups of the year

In the past couple of months, we’ve had Citizen Space user groups in Edinburgh and Belfast. As always, we hear a heap of useful things from our customers sharing their experiences at these events. Check out our round-ups of the respective days:

A full meeting room at the Citizen Space user group in Belfast

Skip Logic: a quick start guide

Do you ever use skip logic in your surveys? It’s one of those things that can be daunting if you’re not familiar with it, but is incredibly useful once you are. If you’re not sure where to start, or want to help train up colleagues, our quick guide could be useful. There’s also a bunch of more detailed instructions for setting up skip logic surveys in Citizen Space on our knowledge base.

A little help?

We’re looking for outcomes…

We’re currently undertaking some research into consultation outcomes – how organisations track and report on their findings; what, if anything, happens differently as a result; how input shapes decisions, that kind of thing. So:

  • Do you have any success stories – a time when you felt a consultation went really well?
  • Do you have any examples of when consulting has driven positive change and/or delivered better services?

If you’ve got any stories along those lines that you’d be happy to share, please do get in touch with us. Thanks!

All aboard

Welcome to our new customers!

Our latest Citizen Space customers include Nottinghamshire County Council and Torfaen County Borough Council  – a warm welcome to them. And remember: you can search through all consultations running on Citizen Space via the Aggregator.

We’re hiring: outbound comms

We need some comms help. We’ve got a lot of things we want to say and a lot of people to whom we want to say them. There’s way more ‘saying interesting things to the right people’ to do than we can manage with our current capacity (we’re a small team, about 20 in total). So we’re looking for a full-time content writer/researcher/reporter to join us and do a whole bunch of high quality, proactive communicating.

This is first and foremost a new business/sales role. We’re expanding our efforts to grow our customer base and you’ll be working closely with our sales team. Your primary responsibility will be to increase the number of people interested in us and our products, and to increase the level of that interest.

About you

There are three key things we need from someone to excel at this role:
  • exceptional at being articulate. You need to turn thoughts, facts, opinions and information into engaging content – quickly, repeatedly, with a good understanding of your audience and subject matter, to a consistently high standard, without a load of prompting or hand-holding.We get that digital democracy is quite a specific niche; we don’t expect you to know it inside-out before you apply and we will bring you up to speed but some interest in politics, civic society, democratic participation etc – and, more importantly, a capacity to learn fast – is pretty key.The exact form of the content will be up to you: it might include images, graphics and video but it will always include words, so we’re looking for an excellent writer.
  • relentlessly ‘outward-focused‘. You must be keen to engage with the outside world, happy making noise in public, energised by looking for new people to talk to. This job isn’t about refining internal company strategy or quietly working through a backlog of essays that need writing. It’s all about getting to know people in our network and market, understanding what they’d enjoy hearing from us and taking the initiative to bring those two things together. You need to get a buzz from getting stuff out into the world, seeing people share it and talking about us more and more.
  • sufficiently organised and driven to actually make it happen. This job isn’t about writing a certain number of words or researching a certain market segment and then handing the result on to someone else to do something with. Lots of the initiative and responsibility will rest directly with you. You’ll be researching material, writing thoughtful stuff about it and disseminating it to interested people yourself. So you need to be good at things like scheduling and contact management as well as ideas and words.
Beyond that, there are many possible ‘nice to have’ qualities: team player, nifty with statistical analysis, GSOH, frequent cake-baker etc etc. But if you can do this job, you can figure out things about yourself that add value and sell them to us in your application.

About the job

This is essentially a content production and dissemination role. Your primary responsibility will be conceiving, making and sharing interesting material, to build our presence, profile and influence and, above all, to provide our audiences with good service – stuff that makes their lives easier, helps them do their jobs better and ultimately improves civic society.
Specifically, your regular work will include things like:
  • Content research, news monitoring, regularly reading relevant books/studies/articles etc
  • Identifying and participating in relevant events
  • Planning content and contact campaigns
  • Producing timely thought pieces
  • Arranging interviews/content contributions from relevant experts/leaders in our field
  • Writing customer stories/case studies of our work in action
  • Producing documents, landing pages and other supporting material for new business campaigns
  • Producing a regular newsletter and other recurring email activity
  • Reviewing effectiveness of content, monitoring analytics
Our office is a professional-yet-relaxed open plan environment. We’re a small, smart, hard-working team and you’ll be working closely with our senior sales consultant, our team of account and territory managers and our marketers.
Exact salary depends on experience but it’ll likely be somewhere in the region of £23k-£27k.
If this sounds good to you, please get in touch. Send us a cover letter (to Jayne@delib.net) and your CV. We’re more interested in covering letters than in CVs. If we like the look of yours, we’ll get you in for a standard hiring interview.
We follow the HMG Baseline Personnel Security Standard and you will therefore need to satisfy basic eligibility criteria/certain conditions of employment (e.g. nationality rules/right to work); and provide appropriate documentation to verify ID, nationality, employment and/or academic history, criminal record (unspent convictions only).

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

8 lessons from our first Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Isle of Man Citizen Space user group

After kicking off our 2017 user groups in Scotland last month, next up was our first Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Isle of Man Citizen Space user group. The event was kindly co-hosted with Belfast City Council, who, alongside the Government of Northern Ireland  presented their experiences of using Citizen Space on the day. The user groups are a regular opportunity for customers to catch up, see how others in similar roles are using their platforms to manage their online consultation and engagement activity, and hopefully pick up some interesting tips and insights.

So, for the benefit of those who weren’t at the event, we’ve a quick round-up of eight things we wish you could’ve been there to hear. Without further ado:

1. The need to consult online is stronger than ever

During the morning session, Patricia Flynn from Belfast City Council spoke about the journey which led them to adopt Citizen Space, as well as lessons learnt since adoption. One of the key messages which came up in both Patricia’s talk and throughout the day was the need to be ‘consistent and sophisticated in approach’ towards online consultation. Using Citizen Space has helped Belfast City Council to highlight the importance of keeping the public’s trust through running effective consultations for example. Emma Penney from Gov NI also echoed this in her afternoon talk:

““It feels like the public are expecting to be consulted more with the advent of social media etc”
Emma Penney, Digital Transformation Consultant, Department of Finance and Personnel, Government of Northern Ireland

2. Software is only part of the picture

Adopting Citizen Space often helps customers to evaluate their associated consultation processes. For some customers it provides an opportunity to start afresh, for others it’s a chance to build upon lessons learnt previously.

“At the end of the day the software is only part of the puzzle. We need to make sure managers understand that a consultation should meet certain standards”
Patricia Flynn, Strategic Planning & Policy Officer, Belfast City Council

3. Make time to close the feedback loop

A consistent theme and challenge throughout the day was the need to report back on both consultation results and the final outcomes (i.e what has actually changed as a result of the consultation). Emma Penney from Gov NI suggested that perhaps it’s useful to have a team or individual responsible for prompting reporting back. She’s found that this can help remind colleagues to report back who may have simply forgotten to add a report back onto Citizen Space, or ensure feedback is public for example.

4. Citizen Space can form a central piece of your consultation tool box

A question we often get asked is about supporting a variety of needs of different respondents. For example, if broadband is patchy in an area, or respondents would prefer to have a variety of response mechanisms, how can this be supported by Citizen Space? Luckily Citizen Space includes features like the ability to add offline responses, which means that any respondents who would prefer to complete a paper copy can still use this method but have their response centralised alongside online responses.

“Citizen Space is one tool but it helps you grip and hold everything that happened around that consultation in one place”
Patricia Flynn, Strategic Planning & Policy Officer, Belfast City Council

5. Consider the ‘total’ consultation cost

It can be useful to critically review how much a particular consultation or project has cost an organisation. Often it’s easy to quantify the cost of events or software, which might have fixed costs associated with them. However, it’s often difficult to accurately report on the number of officers involved in a consultation and how much of their time was dedicated to the project.

6. Online tools like Citizen Space can help to reach a larger demographic

Using demographic information in consultations and surveys alongside data from services like Google Analytics can help to critically evaluate the ‘reach’ consultations are getting. A couple of the attendees remarked how they felt that using Citizen Space compared to previous methods had helped to improve the demographic spread of respondents.

“We’ve found that Citizen Space has helped to access a much bigger demographic than what we had seen before”
Patricia Flynn Strategic Planning & Policy Officer, Belfast City Council


7. It’s OK to switch back and forth between a centralised and de-centralised model of use for Citizen Space

We often talk to customers about the benefits of either a centralised or de-centralised approach to using Citizen Space. There often isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ approach and Emma Penney from Gov NI spoke about their experiences of first using a centralised then de-centralised approach, before choosing to re-centralise their departments and use of Citizen Space. Being flexible and agile in your approach and associated processes can help ensure that this is easy to do.

8. Consider the media that is most relevant to each type of respondent

Citizen Space includes the ability to use rich media such as images and videos in a flexible way. Sometimes consultation documents are written, copied and pasted into Citizen Space and published in haste as text. Gov NI are pushing the boundaries by getting colleagues to think about what media might be most useful for respondents – do they prefer visuals and videos over text for example? Emma Penney from Gov NI also spoke about her vision for a digital content creation team in the future which would help with using appropriate media for the audience and context. Such a team could be used to help support such exercises in the future.

As ever, big thanks to everyone who attended and for the customers who agreed to speak at the event. We hope you enjoyed the user group as much as we did – and if you didn’t have time to attend, don’t fret! We’ll be holding more user groups in 2017. (In 2016, we ran no fewer than five user groups around the world: kicking off in Scotland before heading to Australia and back to London.)

 

Top UK #localgov jobs – May 2017

It’s time for the monthly round-up of great digital, strategic and engagement jobs from the UK local government sector. Take a look at our picks for May.

Head of Technology Services
Horsham District Council
Closing date: 22/05/2017 12:00 PM

Transport Planning Officer
Brighton & Hove City Council
Closing date: 22/05/2017

Parks Community Engagement Officer
Enable Leisure & Culture
Closing date: 14/05/2017

Assistant Communications and Policy Officer
Oxford City Council
Closing date: 21/05/2017

Part Time Community Engagement Officer (24 hours per week)
Castle Point Borough Council
Closing date: 16/05/2017

Planning Officer
Milton Keynes Council
Closing date: 26/05/2017

Planning Officer
Waverley Borough Council
Closing date: 22/05/2017

Prevent Community Engagement Development Officer
Westminster City Council
Closing date: 18/05/2017

Communications co-ordinator
One-Eighty Children’s Charity
Closing date: 17/05/2017

 

 

Democratic hero – Andrew Greenway

Welcome back to our Digital Heroes series – it’s been a while.

In the latest instalment, we hear from Andrew Greenway, a former civil servant turned independent consultant, who, in his own words does ‘a mixture of hacking bureaucracies and writing about them’.

Andrew has some fascinating insights on the future of digital democracy as well as some clear views on music tastes and biscuit dunking.

So, without further ado, let’s get on to the questions.

1. What’s your name and where are you from?

My name is Andrew Greenway, and I live in London. I grew up in Huntingdon, a town that I wrote the entry for in the book ‘Crap Towns 3’. It wasn’t all that bad.

2. What do you do for a living?

I’ve never been very good at answering this question.

I help governments and other big organisations run in ways that respond better to our rising expectations of what’s possible. Usually that involves some combination of freelance strategy, governance, capability building and design.

In practice, I do a mixture of hacking bureaucracies and writing about them. In the not too distant past I was a civil servant, and worked in quite a few bits of the UK government, including the Government Digital Service, Government Office for Science and three other departments.

These days I work with international governments and some UK organisations. I also write about Whitehall in various places, trying to play the role of critical friend.

3. Who is your favourite band or artist?

I have a soft spot for Radiohead, Pink Floyd and John Lee Hooker, which I recognise as the tastes of someone twice my age.

I basically struggle with any music made after about 2004. My memory of anything made after that point is retained solely for the purposes of future pub quiz questions.

4. Android or iPhone?

iPhone – I am a fully-paid up member of the Apple cult. 

5. PC or Mac?

See above…  


6. Creature of habit or maverick thinker?

Context is all. I was told more than once by ex-colleagues: ‘you’re not a typical civil servant are you?’. The tragedy of it is that I probably am, but I was saved from going down the usual paths by good luck and working with a lot of brilliant people who showed me the value of openness, agility and actually getting stuff done.

I would say I’m a creature of habit, because it turns out that almost nothing that I’ve written about the reform of the civil service is radically different from what similarly-minded people have been saying for at least fifty years. It is quite deflating to think you’ve come up with something new, only to find someone like Peter Hennessy got there before I was born. He’s a Lord now, so there’s surely ermine in my future somewhere. 


7. Your house is on fire, what do you save?

Assuming my fiancee is already long out the building, I’d grab a box of sentimental old letters, a laptop, and my passport. You may as well go and travel after something like that. 


8. Biscuits – dunk or leave unsullied?

Unsullied. Soggy biscuits? No.  


9. Best project you’ve worked on and why?

During my time in the Cabinet Office I was product manager for the UK’s digital service standard and design manual. The idea was to set the bar not only for what digital public services should look and feel like, but how they were built too – the shape of the team, the data they cared about, and so on. The second challenge was to help teams around government meet that standard. 

It was great fun for lots of reasons. Everyone on the team brought something different to the mix. We worked in the open, and iteratively – getting the chance to draw on expertise from hundreds of people within and outside government in a very short space of time. We knew our management and minister trusted us. That gave us the space to do the right thing, and politely ignore any unhelpful conventions.

The idea of government digital service standards and manuals have since been copied all over the place – Australia, the US and parts of Canada have something very similar, many others are dabbling with the idea. It directly helped make millions of online government experiences simpler and quicker for people. I’m proud of that.

10. Where do you hope the UK will be in 10 years in terms of online consultation/ digital democracy?

The gap between those thinking deeply about how the Internet-era is changing the role of government versus mainstream democratic debate seems to be getting wider. That’s a great pity, I think, and I would like to see it narrow. 

A lot of political argument focuses on levers – spending more on x, y or z, regulating this or that, running public services via the state or private companies, leaving the EU – that actually have a debatable impact on the reality of our daily lives.

They all sound important, transformational. But I’m increasingly sceptical that turning the money taps left and right in our public services really makes an appreciable, long-term difference to outcomes. Ditto Brexit. The real structural challenges in democracies run much deeper, and the current level of public debate largely distracts from that. The civil service’s internal discussions are not that much better. 

Failing to confront this kind of big, knotty problem is arguably making conventional politics and democracy more fragile. People can say with some justification, ‘What’s the point of all this? We always end up in the same place’. That is a worrying place to be. 

Closing that gap will require a lot of things to happen. One is our political and official class becoming far more comfortable with technology and the digital age. Much of that world still thinks in paper, even when it operates through the web.

11. Any shout-outs? 

There are lots – really, LOTS – of interesting and inspirational thinkers about civic tech, design and the like to be found on Twitter. A very small selection of them: Richard Pope, Kate Tarling, Janet Hughes, Sarah Gold, Ben Holliday, Matt Edgar, Kit Collingwood, Dan Sheldon. There are many more.

You should obviously follow me as well, but I’m rubbish at Twitter. 

 

So, there you have it: a journey into the mind of Andrew Greenway. You can see more insights on his Twitter feed (he’s not rubbish). And if you do ever meet up over a cup of tea, just make sure your biscuits aren’t soggy.

Until next time…