Category Archives: From Delib

Stuff we’re doing that’s worth sharing. Projects, apps, events, case studies, thinking.

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…

Practical Democracy Project

Practical Democracy Project: designing the ultimate democracy user-journey

The Practical Democracy Project is a series of events dedicated to looking at how technology can best be used to make every-day improvements to the democratic process – with a particular focus on policy-making at local and central government levels.

The overall aim of the Practical Democracy Project is to design the ‘ultimate democracy user-journey’.  On one side, we’ll be mapping out in practical terms how to create the best democratic user-journey for citizens, using technologies that dominate people’s everyday lives; on the other side, we’ll be mapping out the optimal user-journey for government officials/policy makers/elected officials.  The key point being that democratic processes are a two-sided affair, which need to be optimised for both citizens and government if they’re to work.

We’ll be running the Practical Democracy Project as an ongoing series of events held around the UK – with off-shoots (hopefully, if anyone’s interested!) in the US, Australia and New Zealand too.

Event topic ideas

  • Well-designed democracy: UX design in policy-making
  • Scale or no scale: how to scale public participation using technology
  • Security and identity in democratic processes: when to care the user isn’t really a dog
  • Process management: tips on running a rock solid policy consultation management process and how to avoid judicial review
  • Designing the ultimate democracy user-journey
  • Others??? (suggestions welcome!)

Event schedule

The first of the events in the series will take place on the morning of Tuesday 27th June (2017) at Newspeak House (London) – from 8.30am to 10.30am.

More event dates to come.

How to get involved

The Practical Democracy Project is very much a civic tech community project, and we’re looking for others to get involved.

Ways you can participate include:
  • Suggesting topics to run events around
  • Suggesting speakers
  • Participating in the events yourself

For more info or to kick in ideas, drop us a line on Twitter @delibthinks.
You can sign up and join us via Eventbrite

Climbing Arnstein’s ladder?

If you work in consultation, engagement or public involvement, you’re probably aware of Arnstein’s Ladder of Participation.

It’s a bit of social research theory from the 60s, most famously summarised in this little diagram – a perennial favourite of any kind of white paper or documentation about citizen participation, and still seen on presentation slides all over the place today.

You can also spot echoes of the Ladder in things like IAP2’s spectrum of participation.

In lots of ways, that’s laudable. We’re all for applying rigour and research-based thinking to the work of involving people in decision-making. It’s important stuff, after all. And building on work that’s gone before, or developing theories for effective engagement – that’s all good.

BUT (you knew that was coming, right?)…

There can be an issue with Arnstein’s Ladder. We’ve seen it a few times, where it actually causes more problems than it solves, or sets people on the wrong track. And it can be especially dangerous when it’s seen as the definitive guide for public engagement. Here’s why:

The thing with Arnstein’s Ladder is that it has a value judgement built into it. Things at the bottom of the ladder are ‘bad’. Things at the top are ‘good’. (Just look at the words used in the lower sections: ‘manipulation’, ’non participation’, ‘tokenism’. They’re deliberately pejorative).

Thus, the goal for ‘good’ public involvement work must be to get to the top of the Ladder ASAP. If you rigidly stick to the Ladder, logically, you can end up thinking things like: ‘I shouldn’t spend time on informing or consulting – they’re low-down and BAD. I need to find a way to get this decision directly into CITIZEN CONTROL, because that (the theory tells me) is the pinnacle.’

And this is where it gets people into trouble. Because Arnstein’s Ladder was developed in response to a specific social situation and issue, in a particular time and place.

It was developed in a time of systemic unfairness and exclusivity towards black communities of urban planning processes in cities in 1960s USA. It’s an attempt to identify what might be done to rectify this issue, so we get things like direct citizen control put forward as a defence against corruption or malicious political intent.

But that is also exactly why Arnstein’s Ladder shouldn’t be extrapolated into some kind of universal model for public involvement. Because good involvement is about what’s appropriate to the decision at hand. And that needs a careful evaluation of each decision on its own merits. You can’t outsource that thinking to a single diagram.

There are loads of times and decisions where informing people is an absolutely essential part of effective participation – it’s not tokenism at all, or somehow a ‘lesser’ rung on the Ladder. Ditto consultation.

There are so many decisions where consultation is a formal, powerful, even legally recognised process for citizens to hold governments to account (Rhion Jones has some good chat on this, too). And, while there are plenty of times where direct citizen control can be an amazing, appropriate and effective way to operate a decision-making process (things like thoughtfully-implemented participatory budgeting schemes, for example), there will equally be many times where actually it’s entirely the wrong way to involve people in the process.

And that’s the risk. A glance at the Ladder would make you think that ‘consultation’ is always lesser, or that ‘informing’ is just a rung on the way up to something more valuable. There’s a danger that the Ladder makes some activities appear inherently better or worse than others. This can get in the way of carefully planning the most appropriate forms of participation for each individual exercise.

It doesn’t always happen that way, and there’s a lot to be said for Arnstein’s theory. It’s just important to understand it for what it is, and not to see it as a universal panacea on the issue of ‘how do I best involve people in this decision?’

Lots has been written about this, so if you’re interested in getting more in-depth information, you could start with ‘Dare we jump off Arnstein’s ladder?’: http://oro.open.ac.uk/8589/1/Path_paper_Collins_Ison.pdf

 

Introducing our first ever Ireland, Northern Ireland and Isle of Man Citizen Space user group

We are very happy to announce our first ever get-together for Citizen Space users in Northern Ireland, Ireland and the Isle of Man on Wednesday 10th May in Belfast. Customer user groups have been running since 2014, and are always a high point in the calendar for us. Annual meet ups have already been established in London, Scotland and Australia so we’re really excited to add another pin on the map!

What are the user groups about?

User groups bring together anyone who works in public/stakeholder consultation to share best practice and inspiration; they’re always a great opportunity to hear what others in your field are up to. (For example, check out some of our lessons learnt from the recent Scottish user group in Edinburgh.) User groups are also an opportunity to meet other users who might have a similar job role or challenge within their organisation.

What will the day involve?

The user groups focus on talks and conversations on all things digital engagement (as well as chats over a free lunch!), and tend to include the following:

  • Show-and-tell of recent or upcoming engagement exercises by current users. Review of the process and challenges of how you do consultation
  • Citizen Space roadmap – we’ll talk through our plans for development and get your input
  • An opportunity to meet other Citizen Space users from across local and central government
  • Digital surgery on any questions/topics requested

In previous years, we’ve had talks on topics like building a quality consultation process, how to structure analysis, digital transformation, managing promotion and how to create great consultation content; we’ve also had reports of good consultations (and bad ones) and what has been learnt from them, and much more besides.

We’ve already sent out invites to customers for the day and spaces are filling up fast. If you are interested in attending but haven’t received an invite please email louise@delib.net. Watch this space for lessons learnt from the session 🙂

Top Australia and New Zealand public sector jobs this April (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 April 2017 collection – if any of them look tempting, click through to find out more…

Community Participation Coordinator
Port Macquarie Hastings Council
Closing date: 23rd April 2017

Communications Officer
Closing date: 17th April 2017 

Public Contact Officer
Commonwealth Ombudsman
Closing date: 30th June 2017 

Senior Hearings Advisor
Auckland Council
Closing date: 23rd April 2017

Head of Public Engagement / Auckland Art Gallery Toi O Tamaki
Auckland Council
Closing date: 30th April 2017 

10 lessons learnt at our 2017 Scottish user group

We kicked off our 2017 user groups in a sunny and spring-like Edinburgh this week. Hosted in collaboration with the Scottish Government (special thanks to the Digital Engagement team!), the day involved a fantastic array of speakers and lots of discussion. The user groups are a regular opportunity for customers to catch up, to see how others in similar roles are using their platforms to manage their online consultation and engagement activity, and hopefully to 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 10 things we wish you could’ve been there to hear. Without further ado:

1. Make time to consider the ‘total value’ of a consultation activity

During the morning session, we discussed what success looks like for online consultation. One of the topics that came up was considering the ‘total value’ of consultation activity – i.e. looking beyond just the number of responses. They may be less easy to track and measure but factors like the amount of time a citizen – or the organisation, for that matter – spends on a consultation, or the cost of the issues at hand, can give a richer evaluation of an exercise.

“Do the individuals who have been consulted feel that they have been considered?”
Eachann Gillies, Digital Engagement Manager,  The Scottish Government

2. Citizen Space helps organisations run an end-to end process

Police Scotland gave a fantastic and candid presentation reflecting back on their first couple of months of using Citizen Space. Prior to using the tool, reporting and results from consultation exercises weren’t always well-integrated (for example, surveys and the feedback on those surveys would often be on entirely separate sites). Now, using Citizen Space, it’s possible for the organisation to create, analyse and report back on the consultation all in one place.

3. Effective promotion is key

Police Scotland also talked about effective promotion. In order to ensure their consultation was a success, they drew up a timetable of thematic weeks of engagement which helped with their overall vision of getting to much-talked-about but hard-to-reach communities. During the process, they even used the admin side of Citizen Space to report back internally on the effectiveness of their outreach activity. (It’s always great to hear about people finding new and creative ways to use our platforms!)

4. Make reporting meaningful

There was general recognition that, sometimes, what is useful and meaningful to a chief exec might not be what citizens are looking for when it comes to reporting. We also talked about how the success of a consultation is not necessarily about big numbers (especially not if they become ‘vanity metrics’) – it should be about the substantive changes under consideration and their implementation. Reporting needs to be tailored to its intended audience, but should always focus on meaningful findings and actions (not telling people what you think they want to hear).

5. Trust your community managers and enable them to make decisions ‘on the fly’

If a community manager needs to go away and check that a post is OK before approving it, it can kill the flow of the conversation. Ensuring that they are well equipped and trusted in their role is key. If there is more than one person moderating ensuring they are in agreement on what can and can’t be moderated out is of paramount importance for quality control.

“What a beautiful thing to have these conversations in the open”

(Leah Lockhart, DemSoc)

6. Create welcoming online spaces

Online conversations are happening right now; government departments can choose to listen and be involved in them – which means offering a welcoming space. There was unanimous agreement that if you don’t give people the space to have their say, they’ll end up expressing their views somewhere else anyway. The conversation is going to be happening whether you as an organisation are listening or not – so better to be actively engaging!

7. Think carefully about scale

Sometimes going online and asking ‘huge’ questions about a topic isn’t as useful as taking ‘bite-sized’ chunks and breaking them down into digestible consultations or chapters. Something smaller and interactive might be more useful in the long run than asking broad questions.

8. We’re seeing a move towards ‘continuous democracy’

Whilst discussing trends in digital democracy in Scotland, Ali from The Democratic Society noted how we’ve started to see a move away from one-off engagement initiatives towards more ‘continuous democracy’. That is to say, involving citizens and stakeholders in decisions is increasingly part of business as usual – a default expectation of democratic organisations.

As a result, it has become more important to establish and refine the processes by which this continuous democracy operates. Rather than reinventing the wheel in a haphazard series of ‘one-hit wonder’ projects, consistency is key: repeatability, standardisation etc all make it easier to effectively involve people on a daily basis.

9. Analysis needs planning

Getting the right results for analysis stems from asking the right questions. For colleagues in policy teams, how can we make sure effective analysis is borne in mind – especially at the early/planning stages of a new policy or decision?

““Running a consultation and not thinking about analysis before you start is like getting in a car without knowing where you’re going””
Eachann Gillies, Digital Engagement Manager, The Scottish Government

10. Context is king

It needs to be easy for respondents to participate (people’s time is precious, after all). Small details to reduce the ‘friction’ of consultative processes can make a big difference. For example, The Scottish Government have had some really positive feedback from respondents on their practice of using carefully-placed ‘fact banks’ in their surveys – giving contextual detail/background information immediately alongside each question. This helps people give informed responses, which in turn hopefully leads to better decisions in policy-making.

 

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 most certainly be holding more user groups in 2017 (In 2016, we ran no fewer than 5 user groups around the world: kicking off in Scotland before heading to Australia and back to London.) Up next this year is our first user group in Belfast – on May 10th.

Until next time, Edinburgh 😉

 

 

 

Top UK #localgov jobs – April 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 April.

Consultant
NPC London
Closing date: 25 April 2017

Communications Manager
KANTAR London
Closing date: 15 April 2017

Senior Officer
Cotswold district council
Closing date: 27 April 2017

Leisure and Community Officer
Fareham Borough Council
Closing date: 7 April 2017

Stakeholder Engagement Specialist
Black & Veatch
Closing date:  N/A

Kent Planning Officer
Natural England
Closing date: 14 April 2017

User Researcher (Government Department)
City of London
Closing date: 30 April 2017