Tag Archives: budget simulator

Delib Product Development Process

Here at Delib we are pretty happy that our products help make it easier for government to engage with citizens in decision making. We work hard to make these apps as good as they can be. Every once in a while we get suggestions from our customers on how we can make things even better.

Do you actually do anything with these suggestions?

The resounding answer to this is yes! When your account manager thanks you for the feedback it’s not just lip service. Your suggestion is included in our product forum where the account managers, developers and MD discuss how we can improve our apps. Product features we can crack on with are then considered for inclusion in upcoming releases.

Why can’t you quickly make changes to the apps if it is obviously a good idea?

Making changes to the apps isn’t something we do on the fly as any change will affect all our users. We investigate, test and discuss suggestions to make sure that an idea which makes a lot of sense on the surface works well in practice. We also look at the change from a customer perspective to make sure it improves user experience.

How long do suggestions take to develop?

We have a nicely structured calendar of two and four week development cycles, plus a bunch of feature-focused product updates each year.

There is no golden rule on how long developments take as each one is different. Development timeframes are entirely dependent on what the change is and making sure that the change works as well as we need it to. The questions we ask ourselves are: Is this good enough? Will this make everyone happy? Is it clear how it works? If the answer to all of these is ‘yes’ then, provided all else is good, we will ship it out.

We work on all three of our applications, so development cycles are also shared between the products – we may be focusing on Citizen Space one month and Dialogue App or Budget Simulator the next.

How do you prioritise these improvements?

The first priority is fixing bugs.  No software is free of defects and we want to keep ours as healthy as possible.  The second one on the list is fixing issues that aren’t bugs but will improve usability for customers. This helps to minimise support requests and let you guys, our lovely customers, get on with using the apps!  The third priority is scheduled items that are customer co-funded. The final developments we look at are improvements we want to invest in to make the product better.

What we call ‘housekeeping’ or upgrading the internal aspects of the software is kept separate to developing new features.  The reason for this is the two are quite different beasts and need to be focused on independently.

What are some examples of developments?

Developments can include:

  • improving the technical architecture of the system (for example, to improve performance)
  • improving user experience / usability of existing features
  • making more of the application’s behaviour customisable by admin users
  • features which add new capabilities to Citizen Space

Sometimes we have to make changes to the underlying infrastructure around our apps and this kind of work also gets built into our development process – a recent example of this was moving Citizen Space sites to a new hosting environment.

How we release new features

To release a new feature we run a formal QA process internally which tests for things like data integrity, cross-browser compatibility and accessibility. We test improvements and new features with our account managers and other staff to make sure we are considering the change from a customer perspective.

While this means that the total time to get features into the hands of customers can occasionally be quite long, it ensures that the quality is high, and we don’t drop nasty surprises on our users.

Who are these people that are beavering away behind the scenes?

We have a team of four developers – Alan, Richard, Tom and Jess (who is currently on maternity leave). They built our applications from scratch and if you ever want to be surprised about how much one person can know, come to our offices and chat to our devs.

We have two QA specialists – Hamish and Stan, who thoroughly check every angle of the development work being done, notice and care about the small things and keep us on the straight and narrow.

Our developer and QA teams also work on the other necessary technical aspects of our business, such as responding to some of the trickier support queries, doing day to day work for customers and all of the system administration and security work that comes as part and parcel of being a software company.

We hope that explains how we do things here and why, and if you’ve ever any questions you can find us on support@delib.net or by going straight to your account manager.

Your money your views? 3 British councils open up the public ledgers…

We like to take the time every now and again to talk about some exciting ways the people we work with are doing consultation. Citizen Space is our app that fits a standard consultation approach most closely – but our other platforms, Budget Simulator and Dialogue App, use technology to enable citizens’ involvement in policy in different ways. Read on to hear about what’s going on at the moment…

Budget Simulator

Budget Simulator is an app that lets organisations share the spending decisions they have to make with everyone.

At the moment Enfield council are facing a budget gap of £30 million in 2015/16. There are no easy ways of making the necessary cuts – every reduction in spending will impact citizens in some way. Using Budget Simulator, residents of Enfield can see where money is currently being spent, explore the impact that a reduction or increase in each area will have, and submit their own budget

Enfeilf Council Budget Simulator front-page

 

Derby City Council have a similar job to do, and have also been using Budget Simulator to let people have their say. They’ve been working hard to get everyone involved in the discussion, especially those who might not be the first to add their voices in a consultation exercise. The Council have run a busy schedule of events, visiting schools, community groups, residents associations and others. Those attending events can go on the budget simulator while they are there and give their responses in real time.

Big Conversation logo  Proud of Derby logo

Respondents could also add comments to their budgets, giving them the flexibility to express other opinions related to the budgeting process. Throughout the consultation, they have consistently used the taglines ‘Your Money, Your Views’, and ‘The Big Conversation’, to create a recognisable brand. This has helped to take the exercise away from a traditional model of consultation, and make it a more exciting, innovative and involving process.

Edinburgh council’s budget simulator has gone live today. Edinburgh have taken an interesting approach to grouping the different services they provide. Rather than breaking it down according to the organisational structure of the council, they’ve tried to badge them according to how they affect citizens’ lives

  • An attractive city to live and work in
  • A strong economy for the city
  • Better services for customers
  • Opportunities for all to achieve their potential
  • A good quality of life for everyone

Edinburgh Budget Simulator allocation page

 

Dialogue App – North Futures

On the 7th of November, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg will be chairing the Northern Futures summit in Leeds. Leading up to the summit, the Cabinet Office are leading a multi-pronged program of engagement, centred around their dialogue app site. The site gives everyone the chance to submit their ideas, as well as to comment and give ratings to proposals others have put forward.

Accompanying the website, The Northern Futures team are also using twitter (follow them at @North_Futures!) and are convening ‘Open Ideas Days’ around the North on October 16th.

This kind of approach – creating a high-quality debate across society, using different media platforms, is exactly the kind of ‘Open Policy-making’ that we hope government will be doing more and more of!

Matthew is at Delib for 6 months, as a secondee from the Civil Service Fast Stream.

He’s featured here on our blog. You can also follow him on twitter at @Matth0rnsby 

Engaging with the budget cuts….

Back in November, nearly 8,000 people tried out Liverpool’s budget simulation exercise. We worked with Mayor Joe Anderson and Liverpool City Council; a city facing a £45 million savings target this year, with further cuts to come. It was Mayor Joe’s idea to run a mobile budget consultation, to not only gather valuable feedback from Liverpool’s residents, but also to communicate, and help create some understanding of the challenges they were facing:

Twitter: liverpoolcc.budgetsimulator.com/

Twitter: liverpoolcc.budgetsimulator.com/

‘This budget tool simulates the difficult decisions that councillors will have to make…/…There is no option other than to deal with the situation head on and make the decisions in the fairest way possible…/…their (residents’) comments give us valuable feedback on what people see as the priorities for spending over the next year.’

Mayor Joe Anderson, Liverpool Express

The Budget Simulator uses a combination of consequences and service descriptions; by presenting background information the tool enables participants to make informed spending allocations, whilst gaining a real insight into the reality of the task:

consequnces

The understanding gained through the project is a two way street of course; the meaningful, insightful responses collected from Budget Simulator ensure decisions can be made to better reflect the priorities of those they affect.

‘It’s not a formal consultation, and it’s not legally binding. But it is a hugely important part of finding out what the public wants regarding how the city copes with cuts. It builds solidarity with the public, because everyone can see just how difficult it will be to balance the books.’

Cllr. Patrick Hurley

There are many reasons why Liverpool’s Budget Simulator was such a successful project, not least the tool’s ability to work on mobile devices, which helped to garner more ‘armchair involvement’.  Liverpool’s active approach to promotion and transparency, coupled with their clear commitment to ensure that the insight gained from the exercise informed the outcome, has helped to better prepare their residents for the tough options that lie ahead.

To find out how Budget Simulator could help your organisation meet its challenges, please request a consultation.

 

 

Delib holds local democracy event in partnership with the Democratic Society

This morning the Delib team, in partnership with the Democratic Society had the pleasure of welcoming a number of local individuals to Delib HQ for a unique opportunity to discuss democracy in Bristol, share past projects and explore the potential for future partnership working.

Delib event

While the group were able to ask questions and link to their experience, key attendees shared overviews of their background, favourite projects and goals for the future landscape of democracy in Bristol.

The group then discussed some of the key trends and challenges seen in the city over the last 18 months or so, with the view of identifying where networks could be bridged and new projects devised. Some key trends emerged from our discussions today;

Increasingly innovative engagement projects have been happening for years and successes should be shared

Sammy Payne from Knowle West Media Centre told us about the recent ‘Cardboard Living Room’ art exhibition, which explored innovative ways of collecting and representing data. The exhibit saw 100s of residents having fun engaging with local issues by interacting with 3D cardboard furniture connected to computers which logged their responses to survey questions. Paul Hassan from Ujima radio spoke about a recent project challenging local youth volunteers from Ujima to work in partnership with Bristol University and local politicians to curate a radio program. The project required volunteers to brush up on their knowledge of local politics and follow the mayoral election train whilst engaging their preconceptions and views around voting.

Delib event 3
Neighbor.ly discuss what they are about

Citizens are no longer just consumers, they are also producers

With the rise of crowdfunding and pledge sites, it is perhaps more possible than ever to take an existing partnership or community group and realistically garner funding to get that project off the ground without any Government involvement. In Bristol for example, partly thanks to the site Spacehive, Bristol will be showcasing their first ‘park and slide‘ through the use of a giant waterslide through the center of town.

Cities like Bristol have the opportunity to strive ahead in their own right

As European Green Capital of the year 2015, Bristol is at the forefront of European activity. Bristol City Council who were also in attendance, recently worked in partnership with Bristol’s mayor George Ferguson to run the citys’ first ideas lab through their Dialogue App. If you would like to find out more, we’ve just published this awesome guide on how to run an effective Ideas Lab.

There is an opportunity to bridge networks, the challenge just remains how

There are still some key challenges to address, namely how each of these projects can be effectively linked up via the bridging of networks. It is also worth considering how such a varied skills base can be more effectively utilised collectively perhaps via the use of a skills bank for example. The opportunities available in the next few years have only just begun, needless to say these are exciting times ahead.

Many thanks to the Democratic Society for coming all the way from their native Brighton to attend and present at the event and for Ben, Lorna and Jayne for organising.

Friday Consultation Round-Up

Another week and another host of interesting consultations being run by our awesome customers. Here are 5 nice examples and this week Liverpool and Bristol have been showcasing the capabilities of Budget Simulator and Dialogue App:

1) Liverpool City Council’s mobile Budget Simulator breaks response rate records!

Liverpool City Council have pioneered Delib’s brand new Budget Simulator this month, and the response has been record breaking. The tool is now accessible on mobile devices and has undergone a full face lift. Liverpool have done a great job at populating it with well written consequences and extending their effort through to effective PR. The Simulator has received over 1000 responses, a UK record for Budget Simulator, and the comments are still rolling in. Have a read of our blog to find out more about how Liverpool did it.

2) East Sussex County Council’s use of consultation cloning for ‘Safer School’s consultations.’

East Sussex are running a consultation to gather opinions and experiences of bullying behavior in schools and communities. They have made the most of the cloning feature to publish 23 identical consultations which allow residents of specific areas to submit responses directly relevant to their local school or community. One school in particular caught my eye, Priory in Lewes, the secondary school which I actually attended in my (much) younger days.

3) ‘George’s Ideas Lab,’ uses embedded video & the lab theme for a bit of fun.

Mayor of Bristol George Ferguson has launched a Dialogue app called Georges Ideas Lab, inviting the residents of Bristol to submit ideas for improving Bristol as a place to live and save the city money. Ahead of 2015 which will see Bristol awarded European Green Capital by the European Commission, the mayor and his team are looking in particular for green ideas to consider implementing. The site has been customised with lots of science-y, lab type images and an embedded video from the mayor himself making for a very entertaining welcome to the consultation.

4) ‘We are Camden’ uses RSS to integrate Citizen Space with their website.

Generating engagement with online consultations often starts before a participant even lands on the consultation overview. London Borough of Camden Council illustrates this really well by utilising RSS feeds to effectively integrate their Citizen Space instance with their website. Using RSS feeds, consultations from Citizen Space can be presented on your website which automatically updates as new consultations are added. The use of a custom RSS feed also adds further filtering power ensuring that consultations of interest are displayed.

5) Norfolk County Council tell us What happens Next with their ‘Putting People First Consultation.’

Norfolk have just closed their Putting People First budget consultation, and have really utilised the What Happens Next? feature to ensure their respondents are kept in the loop. This is a really important aspect of consultation, to ensure participants feel their contribution will make a difference and is appreciated. Norfolk have included dates and links to where results will be published and suggested alternative ways to get in touch with them now that the consultation is closed.

 

 

 

New Budget Simulator Lands in Liverpool

It’s Here! Budget Simulator v2.0 made its debut this month having been adopted by Liverpool City Council. The Liverpool team have been an absolute pleasure to work with (like all of our customers!) In particular it’s been a joy to have Mayor Joe Anderson personally champion the project from the very start; in fact it was his idea to run a mobile budget consultation…

Screen shot of Liverpool's Budget Simulator welcome page

Screenshot of Liverpool's Budget Simulator interactive page

Mayor Joe at the Heart of Participation

All over the UK , councils are facing financial cuts from the Government, some more than others. Liverpool City Council has been particularly hit hard, having the difficult task of finding £156 million of savings of over the next 3 years with £45 million of this in 2014/15.

photograph of Mayor Joe

Amongst other appearances, Mayor Joe has been seen on BBC North West news and the BBC Daily Politics Show speaking out on the importance of this consultation;

‘This budget tool simulates the difficult decisions that councillors will have to make…/…There is no option other than to deal with the situation head on and make the decisions in the fairest way possible…/…their (residents’) comments give us valuable feedback on what people see as the priorities for spending over the next year.’

Mayor Joe Anderson, Liverpool Express

v2.0 Optimised for Mobile

According to a recent summary from the Office for National Statistics, access to the internet from mobile phones has more than doubled between 2010 and 2013, rising from 24% to 53%, so the importance of enabling participation through these platforms is more prevalent than ever before.

With this in mind, Mayor Joe specifically wanted to run a mobile budget consultation to ensure engagement with as many of Liverpool’s 470,000 residents as possible. Budget Simulator has recently been rebuilt from the ground up to work on smartphones and tablets as well as desktops, so was the perfect solution.

Graphic of desktop computer, mobile phone and tablet computer

We are approaching the fourth week since the Liverpool Simulator went live and it has received over 4000 visits, of which 28% have been from a mobile phone or tablet and 72% from a desktop. 920 of these participants have submitted responses; a real win on the side of engagement.

Understand Through Engagement

The Liverpool team had a second key goal for this consultation: to inspire an understanding from residents of the challenges they were collectively facing as a community. Budget Simulator uses consequences and service descriptions to do just that. By presenting background information, the tool enables participants to make informed spending allocations while gaining a real insight into the reality of the task.

Screen shot of Budget simulator, the word 'consequences' is circledThe understanding gained through this project is a two way street of course; the meaningful, insightful responses collected from Budget Simulator ensure decisions can be made to better reflect the priorities of those they affect.

Embracing the Principles of Consultation

The simulator sits within a wider scheme of events and promotion, all geared towards understanding what really matters to the people of Liverpool. The campaign is transparent and accessible, for example the Mayor’s Budget page is a simple and clear port of call for all important dates, how to take part in the consultation and easy access to supporting information and reports.

This is such an important facet to Liverpool’s approach; making it easy for people to participate and clear how their input will make a difference. The concept of government consultation sometimes comes under scrutiny where the public feel their contribution makes no difference to the outcome. The government consultation principles document highlights the importance of reforming this perception;

‘It [the consultation guidelines document] is not a ‘how to’ guide but aims to help policy makers make the right judgments about when, with whom and how to consult. The governing principle is proportionality of the type and scale of consultation to the potential impacts of the proposal or decision being taken, and thought should be given to achieving real engagement rather than merely following bureaucratic process. ‘

Consultation principals: guidance, 2013

Mayor Joe represents an increasing number of visionary leaders making steps towards consultation practices which connect them to citizens in meaningful ways. Delib’s online tools facilitate these connections by enabling policy-makers to:

1) Engage with residents directly in an open and transparent manner.
2) Provide a forum for residents to interact with each other and have meaningful dialogue.
3) Engage with residents anywhere – Budget Simulator can be used on mobile devices and is responsive, opening up a wider market for engagement.
4) Create lasting policy partnerships between residents and decision-makers.

Digital tools at the centre of Mayor-led engagement projects

Liverpool Showing Us How It’s Done

There are many reasons why Liverpool’s Budget Simulator has been such a successful project so far. The tool’s ability to work on mobile devices, Liverpool’s fantastic approach to promotion and transparency, along with their clear commitment to ensure insight gained from responses will inform the outcome.

It’s likely to be a combination of all these factors, but one thing is for sure, the Liverpool team have set the bar high for engagement and best practice, and we couldn’t be more proud of how they have showcased the capabilities of shiny new Budget Simulator.

» Find out more about Budget Simulator


Friday Afternoon Consultation Review

A round-up of some of the innovative ways our customers have been using Citizen Space for their consultations this week:

BBC Trust’s use of tables:

The BBC Trust is reviewing News and Current Affairs and used tables in its overview to explain what the consultation is about and provide lots of ways for respondents to take part.

It’s not difficult to do and can make things clearer – we’ve written an article on how to add tables to a consultation

Scotland’s National Tree

Forestry Commission Scotland has put in some lovely images and a video to capture the imagination of respondents in their bid to choose a National Tree.

Guess what? We’ve also written an article on how to embed rich media such as videos and slideshows into a consultation

Norfolk County Council’s two-pronged approach to budget consultation

Norfolk are running a detailed non-linear Citizen Space survey alongside the use of our Budget Simulator for maximum local input on its current budget consultations. Get in touch if we can help with budget consultations, we’ve just the tools for this job.

NHS England’s registration form

In an innovative use of its Citizen Space hub, NHS England is not just using this for consultations and surveys, but also as a registration form for some upcoming webinar events. Nice!

Birmingham City Council’s Twitter

Using more than one avenue to encourage communication is a great idea. Birmingham has employed the use of a dedicated Twitter account and hashtag to further engage local citizens in an important consultation on Sexual Health Services.

 

Digital tools at the centre of mayor-led engagement projects

This week sees the first anniversary of George Ferguson coming into office as Bristol’s first independently elected mayor. He believes that local decision-making is better, and that success at the city level translates into a national economic benefit. As mayor he wants to open a dialogue with residents of Bristol in order to best approach the challenges that the city faces, and he is uniquely placed to do it.

“We need to be more responsible for keeping our own lights on”

Direct, local engagement

There are now 16 directly elected mayors in office throughout England, with powers that range from the ability to influence local development frameworks to the authority’s annual budget. With their focus firmly on local affairs, the opportunity to involve residents at all levels of decision-making has never been more apparent. The high-profile nature of the mayoral role translates into an increased ability to open up a dialogue with residents in a way that hasn’t before been possible. Delib’s online tools and wealth of experience in consultation can help to structure this dialogue, and can enable policy-makers to:

1) Engage with residents directly in an open and transparent manner.
2) Provide a forum for residents to interact with each other and have meaningful dialogue.
3) Engage with residents anywhere – Budget Simulator can be used on mobile devices and is responsive, opening up a wider market for engagement.
4) Create lasting policy partnerships between residents and decision-makers.

Delib’s tools at the centre of mayor-led engagement

Liverpool’s budget consultation

Like many cities in the UK, Liverpool’s budget has seen massive reductions due to government cuts. In order to best reflect the priorities of the residents of Liverpool, as well as giving them a chance to understand just how difficult the decisions involved will be, Mayor Joe Anderson launched a high-profile budget consultation using the new Budget Simulator. Liverpool’s mayor wants to tackle the budget with the help of its residents, and Budget Simulator’s accessibility, flexibility and mobile-friendly nature make it the perfect tool for the job.

George’s ideas lab

Launched by Bristol Mayor George Ferguson, the ideas lab is a project designed to bring together Bristol’s best ideas on how to make the city “a better place to live, work and play.” Using Delib’s Dialogue App, the ideas lab has already seen a wealth of ideas within its first day, and allows for an open discussion between residents. The best ideas will then be discussed by the mayor and his team, and the most achievable of those will be implemented, giving the residents of Bristol a real say in the policies of the city.

Going global

George Ferguson’s international vision for Bristol has taken him to 21 different countries in the last year, spreading the word on what Bristol does well, whilst also looking at how other global cities are solving problems to improve the day-to-day lives of their citizens. Ferguson recently extolled the virtues of ‘community and culture-led regeneration’ at the Remaking Cities Congress, and recent mayor-led projects reflect this trend towards bringing residents to the centre of the decision-making process.

5 Interesting Links about Police Authorities and Elected Commissioners

Police Authorities are going through an era of unprecedented change, and the challenges faced by those working within them are numerous. Ever since the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill was first announced people inside and outside authorities have been trying to ascertain what all of this will actually mean in real terms. I thought it wouldn’t hurt to look at some of the many articles and blogs which discuss the challenges and opportunities faced, whilst also casting an eye over some of the interesting work that is being undertaken currently.

The Guardian posted this article last week looking at some of the issues around transferring power, and the less than visible public nature of Police Authorities as they currently exist.

As the volume of noise around Police Commissioners builds, somewhat inevitably candidates have begun to poke their heads above the parapet. This piece from Channel 4 suggests a few, namely New Labour dinosaurs, who are out for another crack of the whip.

The BBC also stuck their oar in last week with a look at the balancing act between occupying a political position and maintaining a supposedly neutral stance. It also raises a lot of concerns as to the nature of manifesto promises against operational needs.

If you work in a Police Authority, or indeed any aspect of the emergency services, why not share your misgivings, challenges, and even dare I say it, positive experiences with others who work in similar roles? On Sunday the 15th of April BlueLightCamp will be happening in Manchester, an ‘unconference’ style event allowing attendees to pitch sessions of their own design. If it’s anything like UkGovCamp12 it’ll be well worth attending.

And what about Police Authorities who are already doing things well and preparing for a change of leadership? One of our recent blog posts covers just that, looking at the way Avon and Somerset Police Authority have utilised their instance of Citizen Space to tie together all of their consultation activity.

Finally, why not take a look at how Police Authorities have used our Budget Simulator to help engage stakeholders more effectively around their budget consultation? It’s had many happy users which you can read more about here.

Avon & Somerset Police Authority Fridge Magnets