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

A fine example of a first consultation from the Canal & River Trust

The Canal & River Trust recently took the plunge into the world of Citizen Space for their public engagement activity. In the blink of an eye, they had set up their first Citizen Space consultation, asking the public for their views on planned improvements to 16 miles of London towpaths.

We asked Dick Vincent from the Trust a few questions:

Delib: How did the Canal & River Trust previously do consultation?

Dick: We didn’t have a standard system, but usually used Survey Monkey.

Delib: Why did you start using Citizen Space?

Dick: We looked at what was available and this was the one we liked best. Knowing that your servers are based in the UK was a big plus point.

Delib: What do you like about Citizen Space so far?

Dick: It’s easy to use and solid. Survey Monkey is like a Swiss army knife, but Citizen Space is more like a scalpel. Have you ever done an appendectomy with a Swiss army knife? It never goes well!

Delib: Has the Delib team been helpful?

Dick: Beyond compare. Amazingly so. They helped us pull off our plans in record time … it was a real joy. We had a really tight deadline (4 weeks!) so we didn’t even have time to do the proper training. Thankfully, it’s a pretty easy system to use and after a couple of hours of truly expert tuition via a web link with Alexis we could just ‘bash it out’, and then she did some last minute checks that made all the difference.  

A great first consultation

To return the praise, here are five things we really like about their ‘Better Towpaths for Everyone’ consultation.

1) Accessible language

Screenshot of an easy to read front page

Firstly, the Canal & River Trust have pulled off what can sometimes be a difficult feat – making a consultation readble and engaging. We liked the use of a video on the first page, and we expect respondents have smiled at their admission that: “Some might think that a great towpath is … well … a great towpath.”

They’ve avoided jargon and given concrete examples wherever possible too:

“… there are some small things you can suggest that will make all the difference. For example, you might know of a great place we could put in a new wheeling ramp or even a bench.”

2) Use of further info

Screenshot of a closed further info sectionScreenshot of an expanded futher info section with an embedded video

The Trust have made extensive use of Citizen Space’s ‘further info’ feature. This means you can include more background information about a particular topic or question that neatly concertinas away unless people choose to read it.

Using this feature is a great bonus because it means you don’t have to keep asking people to refer back to an earlier document to get more info on the current question – something that’s very offputting. It also means that nobody has to download big PDFs at the start of the consultation – instead, they can view the relevant part of the PDF embedded as they go along. This is especially important for mobile users.

Screenshot of an embedded pdf page in a further info section

The Canal & River Trust have done a great job of embedding PDF pages (and even videos) alongside the relevant questions, where they could have made the mistake of having a dozen planning and policy PDFs to download and refer back to.

3) Relevant sections

The Trust have made sure that not everybody has to trawl through all the sections of their large consultation – instead, they can just respond to the parts that concern or interest them.Screenshot of consultation section options

4) Events listings

The Canal & River Trust are making the most of their Citizen Space as an engagement platform by also running an events listing in the footer. Again, there’s optional further info to read about each event:

Screenshot of events section in the footer

5) Including other opportunities to engage

A consultation like this is a great time to engage further with an audience that’s already interested in the place or topic but may never have heard of your organisation before.

Throughout this consultation, the Canal & River Trust have seized the opportunity to tell respondents a little more about the Trust and flag up other ways they can get involved.

Screenshot of get involved section

All in all, we’re pretty impressed with this first Citizen Space consultation! And we even learnt the meaning of the word “gongoozling”.

A gongoozler is an old English word for a person who enjoys watching activity on the canals

A mini Scottish adventure of sorts

One of the best parts of my role as an Account Manager is to get out of the office and visit customers. When people first start using Citizen Space, they often want a day or two of training to help them make the most of it. When we train customers, we go to them – so when Falkirk Council requested an in-house training day, I got to jump on a flight to Scotland.

We’ve got lots of customers in that part of the world so I also thought this would be a great opportunity to stay on for a couple of days and meet other customers nearby. The last time I was in Scotland was for our annual Scottish user group back in Edinburgh back in April, so it was nice to pop in and see how people having been getting on since then.

View from Falkirk's offices
View from Falkirk’s offices

First up were Falkirk Council. Falkirk originally chose to adopt Citizen Space to improve their online consultation processes and centralise their consultations in one location. My role here was twofold: 1) to help users get to grips technically with the tool and 2) to help the organisation establish processes for consulting online effectively.

Training sessions are aimed for up to 10 attendees and people are often at really different starting points: some might be consultation experts but with limited digital experience; others might be really web-savvy but just not familiar with Citizen Space in particular – there’s usually a real range.

Happily, a training day on Citizen Space is not just about how to use the tool: it also helps teach attendees about consultation best practices and hone their digital skills. For example, one of the attendees on this session had come along specifically because he considered himself ‘not very tech-savvy’ and therefore if he could use Citizen Space, anyone could! So we were both pleased when he found it, in fact, pretty straightforward to successfully create an example consultation – complete with images, maps and videos embedded.

After training Falkirk, next on my list of customers to visit was Clackmannanshire (who’ve been using Citizen Space since 2013). Clackmannanshire – or Clacks as they’re often known – use Citizen Space for consultations on everything from customer satisfaction to local schools surveys. One of the things we chatted about a fair bit was reporting – not least because I said they’d done a great job with their report on the creation of a Tullibody South Campus (good transparency of data, nice mix of qual and quant content etc). It was great to pop in and meet the team.

img_0725
Stirling Castle

After visiting Clacks, it was time for a quick lunchtime walk up to the famous Stirling castle before heading to meet SEPA who have recently moved into some new offices. I trained SEPA back in 2012 when their Flood Risk Management Team originally adopted Citizen Space. Since then, their corporate comms team have adopted Citizen Space and a new director is putting digital high on the agenda.

As SEPA’s team are geographically dispersed, Citizen Space is a great way of providing a standardised consultation workflow which is shared across head office staff, colleagues working in smaller offices and people working remotely. It was great to stop by, meet the new contacts and chat them through some of the changes in the latest release of Citizen Space v3:

“v3 is great. It looks really inviting and helps make respondents feel like they are still on one of our sites” (Lorna Bryce, Campaigns and Marketing Manager, SEPA)

Chatting to SEPA, it was clear that it’s not all about the newest features we’ve released;  sometimes, it’s about reminding people what they already have available in Citizen Space and using these tools to their best advantage. For example, the PDF document viewer – which can be used to consult on plans or documents. Consultees can review the documents and then comment directly beneath, mitigating the need to download the information first. This feature was originally co-developed with SEPA when they were running their Flood Risk Management plan but the communications team hadn’t yet started using it to full advantage so it was great to chat them through how to include it.

Last stop was East Renfrewshire, who are based just south of Glasgow. East Renfrewshire are a small council who have primarily been using Citizen Space in their education team – but are now looking to roll it out more broadly across the council. Our main contact at East Renfrewshire actually works in two different roles so it’s really important that he can let colleagues ‘self-serve’ from Citizen Space.

In order to get people geared up to manage their own consultations, East Renfrewshire find it helpful to first sit-down with members of staff and give them a face-to-face run through before setting them up as a user. Recent consultations run on Citizen Space have attracted as many as 1 in 9 residents in the local area responding which is exciting.

screen-shot-2016-11-23-at-15-31-58

Having worked with a number of different Scottish customers in the past 5 years, I can say there’s a great ‘energy’ towards all things digital democracy in Scotland. There’s a real determination to actually get people involved in decision-making.

And on a journey to the station, I was reminded that when it comes to engaging with locals and getting an opinion on a recent or upcoming change, taxi drivers are often more than happy to give you the lowdown 😉

How to customise your Citizen Space support page, with some help from Edinburgh City Council

Lots of large organisations use Citizen Space to coordinate all the consultation activity across their many departments. That means there can be lots of users with varying levels of experience setting up consultations.

These guys often need a quick bit of help and guidance without having to call the person responsible for overseeing consultation activity every time they have a question. They’ll need guidance about internal protocols like consultation layouts and language use, as well as technical support.

Citizen Space includes a fully-editable support page in the back end for this purpose. We added this feature after requests from customers – and it’s a great idea. This is a page that a Citizen Space overseer can customise to provide help to the other admin users across their organisation. By default, it includes a link to our Citizen Space quick start guide and the Citizen Space knowledge base. But you can also add your own, organisation-specific help and guidance. That’s exactly what Edinburgh City Council have successfully done with their Citizen Space.

Since adopting Citizen Space in 2014, an increasing number of people and departments at City of Edinburgh Council use the platform. A team of four in the strategy and insight team oversees the use of Citizen Space, supporting nearly 50 users with a mixture of experience across different departments in the council.

Edinburgh have used their support page to clearly link through to their consultation framework and a list of service leads. Presenting this information at a point when users are starting to build consultations helps to make sure they understand the council’s consultation standards, and who to contact if they have any queries.

Screen Shot 2016-08-09 at 16.15.52

Edinburgh City Council have also taken advantage of the Citizen Space .pdf embed feature by including a ‘lessons learned’ log. This log lists all the issues that people have already identified with online consultation, and any recommendations or follow-up needed. This helps to prevent users asking questions that are already being addressed or have already been answered, saving everybody time.

The Citizen Space support page can also be used to link through to further resources that admins could use to make their consultations more interesting and engaging. The support page could link through to a bank of stock banner images or free stock images, for instance. You could also use the page to communicate about training sessions and meetings.

Edinburgh also hold their own Citizen Space user group on a bi-annual basis which enables them to bring all of the council’s Citizen Space users together regularly. That’s a great way to make sure everyone across a large organisation is on the same page, share tips and best practice, and address any difficulties anybody is experiencing.

A big thanks to Edinburgh City Council for their fine example. If your organisation has found any other innovative uses for the Citizen Space support page, feel free to drop us a line!

Top UK #LocalGov jobs this November (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…

Resident Engagement Officer
Thurrock Council
Closing date: 6 November 2016

Communications & Information Officer – Web (Dorchester)
Dorset County Council
Closing date: 6 November 2016

Digital Communications Officer
Brighton & Hove City Council
Closing date: 7 November 2016

Digital Media Manager (2 posts)
National Assembly for Wales
Closing date: 9 November 2016

Head of Communications and Strategic Engagement
Hertfordshire County Council
Closing date: 9 November 2016

Public Engagement Officer
Epping Forest District Council
Closing date: 11 November 2016

Youth Voice and Participation Coordinator (2 posts)
Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council
Closing date: 11 November 2016

Digital Audience Development Officer
Stevenage Borough Council
Closing date: 11 November 2016

Community Engagement Coordinator
London Borough of Newham
Closing date: 13 November 2016

Communications and Engagement Manager – HS2
Camden Council
Closing date: 13 November 2016

Digital Democratic Engagement Officer
The Democratic Society
Closing date: 14 November 2016

Head of Planning
Brighton & Hove City Council
Closing date: 14 November 2016

Account Manager
Delib(!)
Closing date: ASAP

Top Australia and New Zealand public sector jobs this November (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 November collection – if any of them take your fancy, click through to find out more…

Australia

Senior Advisor – Engagement and Education Strategy
Seqwater
Closing date: 4 November 2016

Team Leader – Partnerships and Community Engagement
Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (SA)
Closing date: 7 November 2016

Manager – Digital Solutions
Queensland Government Department of Main Roads
Closing date: 11 November 2016

Digital Experience Coordinator
Water Corporation
Closing date: 13 November 2016

Social Media Adviser
Austrade
Closing date: 13 November 2016

Environmental Planner
Toowoomba Regional Council
Closing date: 14 November 2016

Coordinator – Community Development
City of Greater Geraldton
Closing date: 18 November 2016

General Manager – Communities
McArthur, Queensland
Closing date: 21 November 2016

New Zealand

Senior Advisor, Contracting Services and Support, Community Investment – Wellington
Ministry of Social Development
Closing date: 10 November 2016

Senior Communications Advisor
New Zealand Defence Force
Closing date: 10 November 2016

Communications Manager
Victoria University of Wellington
Closing date: 11 November 2016

Asset Planner, Hamilton
Department of Conservation
Closing date: 14 November 2016

We’re hiring – excellent Account Manager wanted

We’re looking for a full-time Account Manager to join our software company in central Bristol. 

100+ government organisations around the world use our products to consult the public and involve citizens in decision-making. Your job will be to retain and grow that customer base by building relationships, identifying new opportunities for people to use our tools and services, and by providing fantastic support to our current users.

This role is equal-parts reactive and proactive work: often, you’ll be responding to incoming enquiries or helping admin users when they flag up an issue. However, it’s also essential that you’re able to actively go out and engage with our customers and market. We need you to have an eye for new business, an understanding of how to expand a network and an enthusiasm for introducing more people to what we do.

You’ll be responsible for ensuring customers are happy, retained and would refer us on to other organisations. If we get this right, it’s an all-round win: we’re happy, our customers like working with us and together we’re helping citizens connect better with decision-making.

Delib is a small company (there are about 20 of us in the whole team) and account management is key to the business – sitting between our customers, and the sales and software development teams.

A ‘typical day’ is varied and isn’t always ‘typical’: it might involve meeting with our developers in the morning (we have a morning ‘stand-up’ each day), responding to support requests and chatting with customers to ensure their needs are met and that they are happy. Alternatively, you might find yourself walking around Whitehall to visit some government departments or flying up to Edinburgh to present at a conference. To do this role, you need to be driven, inquisitive and open-minded, and happy to be flexible to ensure that customer needs are met.

You’ll need to learn product knowledge and also, in time, become an expert in the market we work with – digital in government. It helps if you have a hook of interest in Delib – whether it’s an interest in government, in digital or just generally in doing a worthwhile job. We have teams in Australia and New Zealand and we often work with public sector organisations in Canada and the US as well, so your customer-base will be nicely varied.

We will expect you to:

  • be responsible for a specific set of our customers, and also assist our other account managers as needed.
  • Work with the sales team to pitch and win opportunities, then take those customers through our on-boarding process. Maintain the account relationship and ensure we retain the customer. 
  • Build profile with our customers and the wider digital democracy/gov community by sharing news and thinking via Twitter, blog posts, presentations, events etc.
  • Communicate with customers by phone, email, and face to face as needed. 
  • Deliver product training when required, both face-to-face sessions and web-based screen-shares.
  • Identify and grow opportunities within existing accounts where additional products/services can be useful to the customer. 
  • Manage feedback on product improvement.
  • Help resolve support and account admin issues. 
  • Work with the production team to get customers’ needs met; be able to understand and translate technical queries between customer/developers and vice-versa. 
  • Seek references, recommendations & case study opportunities from customers. 
  • Be aware of legal frameworks and statutory information pertinent to our products.

To be considered for this role, you almost certainly will have worked in account or project management for at least a couple of years, with a good understanding of how the job works. We’re not looking for a fresh graduate (although we do hire those for other roles) or anyone else who needs the basics explained, so please don’t apply if that sounds like you. 

We need you to be good with words and have a desire to learn. This is a consultative role, so warmth and personality count for a lot. All our jobs are pretty autonomous, so you’ll also have to be self-motivated, positive and determined.  

Working with other time zones means, sometimes, your hours will shift (your day won’t always be a conventional 9-5).

Our office is a professional-yet-relaxed open plan environment. We’re a small, hard-working team and you’ll be working closely with our senior sales consultant, our team of account and territory managers and our marketers. 

We’re offering £27-30k depending on experience.

Contact details

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).

We will not accept applications via recruitment companies.

5 transferable digital skills people learn through using Citizen Space

We get all sorts of customers using Citizen Space. Some of them specialise in the digital realm, and they’re happily creating consultations as soon as they first log in. For others, it’s one of the first digital tools they have used, because their job role up until now didn’t involve much online activity. These people are learning digital skills as they go when they create consultations in Citizen Space.

Most of these skills are transferable, so the tricks people learn using Citizen Space can be used for other applications and platforms, like WordPress and SharePoint to name just a couple. That means more members of staff in an organisation developing the skills to work confidently online.

Here are 5 transferable digital skills that people have learned using Citizen Space…

1) Working with rich media
Screen Shot 2016-03-17 at 17.02.03

To create innovative and engaging consultations, some of our customers choose to embed rich media like images, videos, maps and audio. In order to add this content effectively, our customers need to gain confidence with image manipulation and embedding rich media content. Since it’s so important to add images that are an appropriate size for consultations, we find Citizen Space users becoming more and more adept at image editing and uploading too.

2) Building ‘readable’ web pages

People read differently on the web

People read differently on the web, and the government jargon you use every day is unlikely to mean much to your audience. The skill of translating complex documents into accessible, readable online content can take some practice – but if the public doesn’t understand what a consultation is talking about or what they’re supposed to do, the response rate will be low. Writing with a specific audience in mind is a very useful skill that Citizen Space customers learn to master in order to make their consultations successful.

The Government Digital Service have some handy guidance on writing for specific audiences on the web, which we like to signpost our customers to as a starting point. Citizen Space also includes a number of set and optional headers which can be used to help promote best practice on structuring a consultation in a user-friendly way.

3) Using basic HTML

Have a look at the HTML

You don’t have to know any HTML to use Citizen Space, but there’s easy access to the ‘source’ button in the text editor for customers who’d like to take a look at the code. People who are learning some basic HTML can practise and use their new skills to make simple changes like adding tables, line breaks or padding around images.

4) Building accessible content

Accessible to all?

Building accessible content that everybody can use is an important skill when working with any web application. Citizen Space meets W3C, WAI, WCAG 1.0 & 2.0, Level AA and aims for the enhanced AAA accessibility standard where practical. It also prompts users to add some vital accessibility elements to the content they input themselves. Our customers become familiar with these, along with learning some other tips and tricks that will come in handy for other digital projects. For example:

  • Adding in accessibility labels
  • Using alternative text with images
  • Using videos and other media to help people with low literacy levels

5) User testing

User testing

User testing is an important step in designing any website or online service. We encourage Citizen Space customers to do all the testing they can, from using the preview function while designing a consultation, to sending the preview link out to other people, and setting aside a testing period with some real users from the target audience before going live.

We see our customers coming to appreciate the value of user testing in making their consultations more successful, and learning how to best carry out this process. That knowledge will serve them well in any future projects to develop online services.

We like to help teams tool up

Our account managers frequently help Citizen Space customers with all these little functions and many others, talking them through how to do things and proudly watching them develop a good repertoire of digital skills. We provide a lot of user-friendly written guidance too that doesn’t assume any prior digital experience. Our quick start guides and comprehensive knowledge base allow users to work through the steps they need, while soaking up best practice guidance and teaching themselves some simple skills that will come in handy beyond Citizen Space.