Welcome once more to our Friday blog, where we look at the interesting things happening in the exciting world of digital democracy.
Our Citizen Space user group
Last week, we took part in our first ever Citizen Space user group meeting for local government (after a successful central government meeting at the end of September). We had attendees from across the country – from Dorset to Cumbria – who took part in a lively discussion of what they are doing with Citizen Space, how they might use it in the future, and how we can help them with their digital engagement.
Four councils – Birmingham, Bristol, Leicester and Staffordshire – gave talks explaining how they have implemented the app in each of their organisations.
For myself, having recently started at Delib, it was striking to see the work that our local government partners have on their hands. Their challenge is not only to make their consultations engaging and easy to use for the public (it was great to hear that Citizen Space has made this much simpler for many), but also to make sure the rest of their organisation has the sufficient skills and familiarity with technology to ‘do’ digital. We’ll be following up next week with a post describing some of the stuff we learnt from the meeting.
Various councils seem to be trying different methods of getting everyone up and running on Citizen Space, but it looks like digital skills are an issue that’s not going away in a hurry. Improving digital competencies is a big priority for central government as well – in fact, that’s part of the reason I’m here at Delib, to pick up on some of my new colleagues’ tech expertise and take that back to government. It’s certainly something all suppliers of digital services to the public sector need to bear in mind.
Northern Futures shining bright
One of our Dialogue App customers – and we’ve talked about them on this blog before – is the Deputy Prime Minister’s ‘Northern Futures’ discussion. The Northern Futures summit itself is not far off now, on the 6th of November, and last week saw ‘Open Ideas Days’, run by the Cabinet Office’s Policy Lab, being hosted in eight cities across the North.
The Open Ideas Days were a great way of complementing the discussion and idea generation taking place on the Dialogue App in a ‘real-world’ context. Having the days creates a tangible point for the debate to work towards. As they get closer, they provide a way of building excitement about the discussion – and the Northern Futures team have been putting Twitter to good use in that regard. The ideas that get brainstormed on the days have been fed back onto the site, where they get run past a wider audience for comment – the two form a nice loop of engagement!
You can follow the discussion on twitter at @North_Futures, or look at the ideas on their Dialogue App site. This storify also captures some of the excitement the project has generated
A manifesto for open, transparent government
The Open Government UK Civil Society Network is crowdsourcing ideas for the UK’s next Open Government Action Plan. Whilst this is something we’d be excited about however it was being carried out, it’s particularly exciting that they’re doing it using our very own Dialogue App.
The Open Government Partnership is a kind of international pact between countries – now 62 of them including the UK, which was one of the founding members. These countries have committed to various actions, all aimed at opening up government to decrease corruption and promote participation and (you guessed it) openness in public life. You can find out more on the Open Government Manifesto dialogue site.
If you’ve as passionate about democracy and public transparency as we are, we’d suggested you get involved and pitch your ideas!
In other news…
The London Borough of Waltham Forest launched its Budget Simulator last week – you can check it out on the dedicated website, with pieces in local media from This is local London and a Waltham Forest local Guardian article.
Whilst not a Delib project, this article in the Guardian on Sunday attracted some attention on social media, drawing attention to the impact of the spending cuts being imposed on local government. We were particularly interested to hear about the council’s analog solution for engaging citizens in budget cuts ‘a monopoly-style exercise’, where players compete to make the necessary savings:
‘Players who select the arts, museums and theatres box save the council £3m. Players who land on residential and nursing care for adults wipe a satisfying £58m from the budget. Land on the street cleaning box – save £6m. Abandon housing advice and homelessness support – cut £19m.‘
As we enter the last six months before a general election, the volume of discussion around cuts to public spending will no doubt increase. That’s why we think it’s great to see local councils being candid and open about the reductions they have to make, and involving citizens in making those decisions.