How we work: Natalie Williams, Account Manager

Delib has got some awesome people doing some great stuff for digital democracy. We recently chatted with one of our Account Managers, Natalie, about what her job entails and how she works, to give you a glimpse into how Delib ticks.

How would you summarise your job in one line? What’s the overall goal?

My job in its simplest, most nutshell form is to support our customers. This can take the form of delivering training to build users’ confidence in using our products; providing consultancy & advice to help spread best practices; responding to support queries & solving problems; and listening to feedback so we can better understand our customers’ evolving needs. The ultimate goal is happy customers whose jobs are made easier by using our products.

What’s the thing you most get enthused about hearing/seeing from a customer? When do you get to go home feeling like ‘that was a good day’?

It’s always a pleasure to work with customers who are investing genuine time & effort into making a consultation easy to understand & respond to, and trying to put themselves in the shoes of a respondent. What’s even more rewarding, however, is seeing or hearing about what the outcome of a consultation was – how the information that respondents provided was used, and the change that was made as a result. We tend to hear from customers early on in the process and often don’t have visibility of the outcome further down the line, but it’s brilliant when we do get to hear about real world change that has been effected by a consultation run using one of our products. I’d love to see even more customers opening up the process & regularly reporting back in a transparent way.

If you could entirely solve one (work-related, don’t say ‘world peace’) problem with a wave of a magic wand, what would it be and why?
Right at this moment (you may regret asking) it would be a problem we’re experiencing thanks to an email security provider used by several of our customers treating Delib emails as spam & blocking them, which is very frustrating as it’s stopping me from communicating with customers & sending them useful information they’ve asked for!

But putting aside the trials and tribulations of the day, I’d say that a more long term problem I’d like to make magically disappear is a widespread lack of understanding in the UK about how our political systems work, both centrally and locally. Why is this stuff not taught in schools when it would serve us all so well? With a flick of my magic wand I’d add it straight on the curriculum to & get us all educated from a young age & hopefully therefore more engaged throughout our adult lives.

You work closely with customers to practically implement this stuff in the real world. How do you think the connection between digital tools and better democracy plays out in practice? Is it just a question of efficiency; is it an increased accessibility thing; does adopting new products somehow change organisational culture or is it something else entirely?

The primary benefit is definitely being able to reach a wider audience than ever before, including communities that perhaps historically wouldn’t have been involved in the engagement process. Another layer to this of course, as I mentioned above, is transparency – increased accessibility means increased opportunities to share what you’re doing and be open about your processes and the opportunities people have to influence them.

Efficiency is certainly another advantage of using digital tools, in terms of streamlining the consultation process, making it easier to achieve a consistent level of quality, and having all of your response data accessible in one place. I’m slightly more cautious about the idea of adopting new products as a means of changing organisational culture; while they can help to act as a catalyst, my general experience is that change will be more effectively achieved if organisations choose to adopt new tools specifically to support existing goals, rather than expecting a digital tool alone to make all the difference.

Thanks Nat, it’s always good to have an insight into what people do! For democracy-related stuff, excellent gifs or to chat more, catch Natalie on Twitter.

Increasing participation through ease of use

We work with a lot of people in government who want as many citizens as possible to be involved with consultation. They don’t want to see empty rooms at consultation events where people are supposed to give their views and nor do we.

There’s a genuine commitment to increasing participation. As a result, a common question from civil servants about our products is ‘will this help us open up our consultation to a wider audience?’

The short answer is ‘yes’. The slightly longer (more interesting) answer is that we have a guiding principle for increasing accessibility and participation: that the best way to open up consultation is to make it as easy as possible for people to get involved. Our conviction is that removing friction from the process of participation will increase the range of people who are willing and able to get involved.

Keeping things simple

When the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) published their consultations on the gov.uk website and Citizen Space simultaneously, they found that the average completion rate was much higher when using Citizen Space – 21% compared to 3%. 

In part, this was simply down to there being fewer steps in the end-to-end journey. Citizen Space lets you manage the entire consultation process in one place, from listings to survey to response publishing.

We do whatever we can to keep it easy to participate: people don’t have to register an account or login to take part, for instance. And we try to maintain a clean, simple interface design to help people remain focused on the matters at hand, rather than getting stuck on convoluted or overly-technical processes. We’ve consistently seen that keeping things simple delivers better results.

User-centred design

Visual design is another important factor which has been considered for every aspect of Citizen Space. From spacing, to font size, to line lengths, everything is centred around the user experience. In Reading Borough Council’s experience, well-presented content was shown to increase participation. By involving marketers and content-writers in the building of consultations, they made sure surveys were easy to understand and easy to parse – and response numbers improved as a result. If people can quickly and easily understand what is being asked of them, they are far more likely to participate.

Accessible to everyone

Accessibility has been meticulously considered in the building of Citizen Space which makes it available for anyone to engage with, including those who may need to use screen readers, have sight issues or other disabilities that might prevent them from taking part in consultations in person. Responsive design also means that consultations can be viewed and responded to on all devices, meaning that those who perhaps don’t have access to a laptop or desktop computer can still get involved using their tablet or mobile phone.

All of these factors combined make consultation easier for participants – lowering the barriers to entry and reducing the friction in the process – leading to increased involvement.

The aim is simple: we want to help people who are working to get more citizens involved in government and consultation. If that sounds like you, drop us a line to find out how we can help you.

More digital democracy and involvement jobs (UK, Feb 2018)

The cool jobs and exciting opportunities in the world of digital government keep coming thick and fast. Check out this veritable smorgasbord of roles being advertised at the moment, where you can get stuck into improving the connection between decision-makers and citizens:

Engagement, Consultation and Communication Officer
City of London Corporation
‘Hampstead Heath is a premier open space in North London; it receives more than seven million visitors a year and is nationally and internationally renowned.

The City of London Corporation Open Spaces Department seeks to recruit an enthusiastic and innovative Engagement, Consultation and Communication Officer who will develop and support a range of activities to ensure effective gathering and sharing of information takes place.’
Closing date: 23 Feb

External Relations Manager
Economic and Social Research Council
‘Our External Relations function engages parliamentarians, policymakers and other stakeholders to enable them to join and inform debates about current issues, raising awareness of ESRC and its research and providing evidence to inform decision-making.’
Closing date: 25 Feb

Head of Policy & Public Affairs
Basildon Council
‘By consulting with residents, Members and partners, you’ll set direction and develop strategies that will deliver our Corporate Plan. With the chance to influence resident satisfaction, as well as decision makers, you’ll be instrumental in achieving the future we want.’
Closing date: 25 Feb

Programme Consultation Manager
London Borough of Hillingdon
‘The Capital Programme and Planned Works Team lead​s​ ​on ​and manages all new build construction projects and refurbishment projects undertaken by the Council. This includes school expansions; new build supported living and general needs social housing;​ construction works on corporate building (libraries, sport and leisure centres, children centres etc). The Programme Consultation Officer will be responsible for working with colleagues to agree and implement consultation plans for individual projects.’
Closing date: 25 Feb

Delivery Manager
Legal Aid Agency
‘Are you passionate about high quality delivery aligned to users’ needs? Do you want to work at the forefront of digital transformation in government?

We are looking for experienced delivery managers based at our London HQ to lead the agile delivery of new and improved digital services right across the MoJ, our agencies and public bodies.’
Closing date: 26 Feb

Content Editor/Content Designer
Department for Education
‘Ideally you will have experience in writing content online (including in HTML), an understanding of meeting user needs, and experience of gathering and interpreting data and evidence to help make informed decisions.’
Closing date: 26 Feb

Senior Content Editor/Content Designer
Department for Education
‘In the DfE digital communications team we aim to make all of this work simpler, clearer and easier to find online, by managing and creating engaging written web content on GOV.UK and integrating this with wider digital communications…Alongside content experience, you will be able to understand and identify the needs of users, as well as map their journeys through content.’
Closing date: 26 Feb

Head of Data
Care Quality Commission
‘The Head of Data is a newly created and exciting role, forming part of our Digital transformation programme…Working in partnership with others you will define a strategy for the art of the possible, exploring best practice methods, tools and processes that will enable CQC to deliver its intelligence-driven ambitions, and drive this through to delivery.’
Closing date: 28 Feb

Head of Stakeholder Engagement and Research
Disclosure & Barring Service
‘…design and implement a best in class Stakeholder Engagement and Research function that informs DBS strategy and policy; enhances understanding of DBS function among stakeholders and informs the practice and guidance of partner organisations.’
Closing date: 4 March

Digital & Data Officer
Southwark Council
‘Southwark is committed to conducting and planning effective and efficient elections whilst improving service and quality standards and value for money.

An exciting opportunity has arisen in the Electoral Services Division to join a team currently working on the 2018 Borough council elections and planning for the annual canvass later this year.’
Closing date: 4 March

Director of Digital Services
Companies House
‘The Director of Digital Services will deliver the next generation of high performing digital services for our customers and staff, working with GDS, BEIS and wider government…Be customer focused to ensure that the Register unlocks the opportunities that digital data brings.’
Closing date: 16 March

People’s Tech Bristol

Here at Delib we like to support local events so were thrilled when Karin from Technotopia approached us about People’s Tech Bristol. Taking place on February 24th at the Engine Shed, a stone’s throw away from Delib’s global HQ, we jumped at the chance to help out.

The event is a chance for people of all ages and backgrounds to come together to explore and learn about new technologies and the opportunities that they bring to our lives. Attendees will have the chance to interact with virtual reality and robotics from a host of local enterprises. There will also be talks on the day from various local tech experts on topics such as A.I, robots and the internet of things.

We are providing our Dialogue tool for the event, to facilitate interesting and inspiring conversations around developing technology that will improve our lives. The site will act as a forum for people to share ideas on how technology should be developed in the city; people can comment on and rate different ideas allowing for constructive conversation to grow. It’s a chance for citizens to express their ideas and views about technology in Bristol, instead of simply being consumers.

To come along on the day, get your tickets now. The Technotopia Dialogue site is now open so if you’d like to suggest ideas ahead of the event go ahead and get the conversation going.

Work experience with Delib

This week we’ve had Hedley Butlin in on work experience, helping us out in the sales and marketing team. Hedley is a year 12 student currently doing his A Levels. It hasn’t all been tea rounds and photocopying either; luckily as a swimmer, he’s used to the deep end, which is exactly where we threw him from day one. Here are his thoughts on the week:

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This half-term I have had the fantastic opportunity to carry out work experience at Delib working alongside the sales and marketing team. I was welcomed into the office and given practical work from the get-go and have enjoyed producing work which will be used in future demonstrations by the team. I have learnt all about the services which Delib provide and the people and organisations that they work with. I have also learnt that marketing can be time-consuming; putting together demonstrations to help customers and finding content for newsletters all take time.

I have enjoyed all the work I have done this week but the most interesting part was researching and assembling the newsletter, which also helped to give me a closer look into the area in which Delib works and what it is that they do. Throughout the week I have also unintentionally improved my typing skills as I have done more of it than usual and have become much more confident and speedy. The worst thing that happened all week was that I ate my first ever Wispa Gold; it was awful and I will never eat another in my life.

Before this week I was unsure of what I want to do at university; I will be making my choices and submitting applications by the end of this year so it is something which I have been researching a lot recently. This week has helped me to decide that I am interested in marketing and it is something which I may consider as a career path. I will look into it further and widen the range of university courses I am researching as a result of this week’s experience.

From this brilliant work experience, I will take away a new-found interest in marketing and customer relations and it is definitely something I will look into more. Overall my work experience was very interesting and gave me a good insight into something which I may consider as a future career.

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It’s been great having Hedley in and he made an excellent addition to the team. We will definitely miss his help with our work as well as his constant supply of chocolate. Thanks Hedley!

Delib + Ration Club Currystravaganza

Ever keen to meet new people and make more friends in the civic tech space, Delib were the guest hosts at Newspeak House’s weekly Ration Club supper club again last night – cooking up a curry-based storm for a group of 20+ civic tech folk. 

If you’ve never heard of Newspeak House before, it’s a member’s club/space focused on building a community around the civic tech space, and runs a regular communal dinner on Wednesday evening called Ration Club. 

Chris Q and Nate hosted the evening, cooking up two different curries – a tomatoey chicken curry with a kick, and a vegetable dahl. Yum! By all accounts the curry went down a storm, testament to the two giant curry vats being decimated by the end of the evening.  

Beyond the curry, a lot of good conversations were had & new friends made. Roll on the next Ration Club!

Interesting digital democracy/government jobs, Feb 2018 (UK)

Digital democracy is a super-interesting field and one that’s growing all the time – check out this host of exciting job opportunities, all about better involving in the public in policy/decision-making, around the UK:

Transformation Officer, Blaby District Council
‘…help us re-design services for digital delivery. You will be involved in individual projects from concept to execution, helping services to create efficiencies, encouraging innovation and inspiring services to switch customers to digital.’
Closing date: 7 Feb (yes, literally today, sorry)

Head of Digital, Buckinghamshire County Council
‘We’re looking for someone with innovative ideas and embedded knowledge of the capabilities of digital technology, not just to digitise records but to help forge a vision of convenience for the customer’
Closing date: 8 Feb (so be quick!)

Service Change and Digital Transformation Project Officer, London Borough of Lewisham
‘…Lewisham Council is undergoing a significant digital transformation and these roles will work within multi-disciplinary project teams to deliver organisational and cultural change, underpinned by new digital capabilities.’
Closing date: 11 Feb

Head of Role Content Design, Department for Work and Pensions
‘…few other organisations globally provide the same opportunity to apply next-generation digital technology on a massive scale to issues which touch the lives of so many.’
Closing date: 11 Feb

Assistant Director, Policy Lab, London Borough of Waltham Forest
‘…create, shape and lead a trailblazing service that enables fast-paced, people-centred design approaches to policy and strategy development. We will design for delivery with approaches that are insight led, co-created and digitally based, pushing collaborative working and igniting creativity.’
Closing date: 12 Feb

Digital Delivery Manager, Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy
‘You will play an integral role in the digital transformation of government services in BEIS. You will have a vision for BEIS services and communicate this to digital teams and business alike. Be a digital ambassador for BEIS and help drive change in the department and raise awareness of both technical and non-technical staff of the new digital landscape.’
Closing date: 13 Feb

Social Media Officer, House of Commons
‘…play a leading role in articulating both internal and external user needs to increase public understanding and participation in committee work.’
Closing date: 18 Feb

User Engagement Lead, House of Commons
‘…work with Members in the House of Commons and House of Lords, and their staff, and administration staff from the both Houses to prepare them for the changes that will come with the implementation of new technology, and to support them through these changes.’
Closing date: 4 Mar

3 useful examples of online consultations open right now

People working in government often ask us for examples of how others are running their public consultations/involvement activity online. (For all the ‘best practice’ guidance and training courses in the world, sometimes there’s no substitute for just seeing what other people actually do).

So, in case you’re in that boat, here’s a few interesting real-world examples, from our customers, that are live on the internet right now. (You can also take your pick from 12,500+ examples any time via our Aggregator.)

Police Scotland – Annual Police Plan Survey

Screenshot of Police Scotland's Annual Police Plan survey on Citizen Space

A linear survey on this major strategic plan for a national organisation – ‘a significant opportunity to improve how we serve the public and our communities’.

London Borough of Camden – Be a part of Camden’s future

Screenshot of Camden's Dialogue

The council ‘are committed to making conversations about Camden’s future wider than ever to make sure residents stay involved in the decisions that affect them.’ They’re using Dialogue to invite people’s ideas and comments on what Camden should be like in 2025.

London Borough of Hackney – Hackney Hate Crime Strategy

Screen shot of Hackney's Crime Strategy survey on Citizen Space

Another linear survey on an important issue – the council’s ‘strategy for working with our partners and communities to make sure that Hackney is no place for hate.’ The council want to hear from residents about how their plans could make a difference in their community.

 

100 years of votes for women

It’s hard to imagine that there was ever a time when women couldn’t vote in the UK, and even harder to believe that it changed only 100 years ago. As a woman, I am hugely grateful to the suffragette movement for fighting and campaigning to allow women in the UK to partake in the democratic process. I feel proud to go to the polling station when an election rolls around and can’t even begin to imagine not being able to have my say at those times.

I hope they realised that future generations of women – me, my friends, co-workers, mother, sister and perhaps one day, daughters – would appreciate their commitment and dedication to a fight that is so easy to take for granted now. Those radical women gave up so much – in some cases, their lives – to ensure that women of the future could exercise the right to vote, and it is important that we recognise, remember and celebrate that.

Of course, equal voting rights is far from the whole story. 100 years on and we’ve got a way to go to achieve equality between men and women, both in the workplace and society as a whole. In many industries, women are still paid less than men for the same work. Within the digital democracy arena, we have things like the #womenintech movement to try to improve the opportunities and representation of women in tech roles. Whether it’s in the world of technology, politics or Hollywood, we still see examples of women being treated as inferior. So our participation in democracy remains vital – at the polling station and beyond.

Seeing as Delib is all about improving democracy, I asked some colleagues and friends of mine for their thoughts on this landmark centenary. Here’s what some of them had to say:

Louise Cato, Delivery Director at Delib

Were it not for these people, society would not be where it is today. They personally sacrificed an awful lot to create significant public progress; they spoke up and broke rules and took action when others would not and our democracy is so much better for it. But it’s also true that 100 years is not that long and I think that’s reflected in the gulf of inequality which still exists. To be a woman, even in 2018, is often to not be treated as an equal. And I want to recognise that we’re talking about women today, but women are not the only marginalised people in society, there are layers and layers of inequality and in some ways in 2018 this feels more obvious than ever. There’s a lot of work to be done to redress many imbalances and I hope to have even half the courage that those people had 100 years ago to do my part today.

Natalie Williams, Account Manager at Delib

I’m conscious that it’s a great privilege to grow up and live in a country where women having the right to head to the ballot box doesn’t even feel like a privilege, it feels normal and right and unimaginable for it to be any other way. And yet it hasn’t always been that way, and is a right still denied to women in some other countries today. I was fortunate to go to a school where we studied both the UK women’s suffrage movement and the American civil rights movement in History lessons, and though I didn’t realise it at the time that education was so valuable as it helped me to better understand and appreciate these hard-won rights that many of us take for granted & sometimes don’t even utilise when we’re given the opportunity.

I often feel frustrated or get down-hearted about the many smaller but no less valid inequalities & general mad stuff still faced by women in the UK. Only today I saw a news article about the female contestants from Love Island being paid less money for appearances than their male co-stars, for no reason other than their gender (god dammit this thing goes deep). But looking at things in a more optimistic light, 100 years is a fairly short timespan in the sweep of history and it’s super encouraging how much has changed for women and been achieved since 1918. I’m optimistic that in the next 100 years we’ll make even more progress towards ensuring that everyone across our society is accorded the same respect, dignity and worth, including hopefully seeing the introduction of equal pay for male and female BBC reporters, reality TV contestants and all other professions besides.

Samuel Mason, Accessories Pattern Cutter at AV Studios London

Working in an environment, surrounded by talented and creative women, where I feel both supported and challenged is a true joy; the idea that these inspiring individuals haven’t always been afforded the same enfranchisement as me is baffling. We work best when we all share and decide the next step together.

Ben Whitnall, Communications Director at Delib

100 years seems like a bizarrely short time ago to think that half of the country’s adult population simply weren’t allowed to vote. I guess there’s some encouragement in the fact that, for a lot of people – just within a few generations – a world of such overt inequality seems unimaginable now. But it’s also a reminder never to get complacent about these things. It’s hardly as if the extension of the vote to (some) women suddenly ‘solved’ the question of a just and inclusive society! There are still all sorts of ways in which the democratic process and the workings of government aren’t open equally to everyone – and that still needs people to strive and fight and call for change.

(I’m always intrigued to think what the things will be that people will look back on 100 years from now and be amazed that we were just blithely perpetuating…)

Jade O’Donoghue, Senior Content Manager at Retail Week

When I was growing up, I never even questioned whether I’d be able to vote or not because it’s obvious: of course I would! But then, a lot of things are obvious, aren’t they? Like that parliament should be representative of the people they make laws for… except it’s not, and the ratio of male to female MPs is still 2 to 1. Or that women should be paid the same wage as men when working in the same roles… except they’re not, and across the UK men are still earning 18.4% more than women.

We still have a way to go to make things fair and the issue is far more complex than I could put into a few words but the one thing I think we can learn in 2018 from the suffragette movement is: it takes a village. It wasn’t just the Emmeline Pankhursts and the Emily Davisons that fought to make this happen. It wasn’t even just the suffragettes. It was the men who fought alongside these women (and remember, only 58% of them could vote before the Representation of People Act was passed) and the other, more peaceful campaigners who had been at it for years before. Everyone needs to get behind the concept of equality because that’s when we really have the power to make change happen. From the Time’s Up movement to the work being done by campaigns like 50:50 Parliament, groups of people are really coming together to fight for what is fair. Together, we can all play a part in shaping the next 100 years… and I think, when our children’s children look back at 2018, the view is going to be very different.

Ludwig Kayser, Consultant at Delib

The Representation of the People Act 1918 was definitely a landmark moment, but actually only enfranchised women over the age of 30 who met minimum property qualifications, and it also abolished property requirements for men. It would take another ten years for the 1928 act of the same name to establish universal suffrage. There are two lessons I think we can learn from this:

  1. Building a fairer world is a long march, and victories (even big ones) are only steps along the way.
  2. Both by definition and in practice, we’re all in it together.

Here’s to the next ten years.

Megan Tonner, Senior Consultant at Delib

Women’s suffrage in the UK, 1918 acted as a catalyst to the rights that I, and my fellow women have today. It’s easy to temporarily forget the superwomen who made that happen (I read earlier they were trained in Jiu Jitsu so they’re just getting cooler and cooler). We do however need to use this celebration as inspiration, to carry on pushing forward for female empowerment.

Xavier Snowman, Academic Outreach & Project Development at Adam Matthew

Aside from it being a major hurdle for women in their fight for equality, I think it’s important to recognise that there’s a long way to go to fight voter suppression. As a Brit living in America, it is clear that around the world there are still obstacles in place that prevent many people from being given a fair chance to vote, which is the foundation of democracy. Here in the US, registration and identification processes are overly complicated and early voting is under attack. I am proud to come from a country where women and men can vote as equals, however it is clear that there are many issues that need addressing, before we can say there is complete equality.

Katherine Rooney, Account Manager at Delib

The 100 year anniversary of women getting the vote is a nice way to see how far women have come. However, it is also a sad reminder of how long it has taken, and how much further we still have to go! May the fight for equality continue.

It’s intriguing, exciting and scary to see what the next 100 years will have in store for equality, democracy and participation. I think I’m fundamentally looking forward with hope – including the hope that people will continue to remember and be inspired by the suffragette movement. And the hope that we can keep taking small, immediate steps to make democracy more accessible, inclusive and fair.

How the City of Austin are involving citizens in budget decisions

For the past two years, Delib has worked with the City of Austin, Texas, to enhance their budget involvement process.

The city is in a fortunate position of having a choice around where spending should be allocated and can even increase spending in some areas if they want to. They wanted to get public input on their budget priorities in order to understand which service areas were most important to citizens and why.

The desire to hear from citizens was nothing new to Austin. In recent years, the budget team have improved on their outreach efforts and increased citizen engagement, but wanted their digital offering to match up to these improvements; they wanted to ensure they had an effective way of getting people involved online.

Austin’s budget team got in touch with Delib and in 2016 started using Budget Simulator as part of what is known as their ‘open engagement’ process; the part of budget involvement where they invite the public to get involved.

For their 2017 open engagement exercise, they produced an introductory video to help generate interest. By sharing it on their social media channels they racked up over 50,000 views and drove significant traffic to their Budget Simulator site. With 1,200 people submitting a response, Budget Simulator gave them a wealth of insight into their citizens’ views and priorities for the city and uptake was vastly improved.

Austin had previously used a very technical online tool, which became an obstacle to participation for many users. They were receiving a lot of comments and negative feedback on the tool itself, rather than getting insightful input from citizens. With people confused about how to use it or what the process for participating actually was, the focus was shifted away from the important decisions at stake.

In contrast, by using Budget Simulator, participants were far more able to engage with the actual content and decisions being made, instead of struggling with poor technology. By providing a response mechanism that was easy and appealing to use, significant barriers to entry were removed and Austin were able to get quality input from citizens.

Austin are using Budget Simulator again this year for a third time, on this occasion focusing on questions around government bonds.

If you’d like to know more, or see Budget Simulator in action, get in touch.

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