Introducing our newest Account Manager: Chris Neil

As our customer base continues to grow, so does the need for us to take on more awesome people. The newest member of the team is Chris, joining our UK office all the way from sunny California as an Account Manager. We caught up with him in his first week on all the important things: civic tech, bands and biscuits.

1. What’s your name and where are you from?

My name is Chris Neil. I was born in Orange County, California and lived in Southern California on and off my entire life. I spent the last 4 years in Los Angeles but recently relocated to Bristol in March to live with my wife, a lifelong Bristolian.

2. Favourite band and/or artist?

My all-time favourite band is Bright Eyes. I think they are the only artist I have consistently listened to weekly for over a decade. Other favourites include The Smiths, Radiohead and Elliott Smith. If its slow and sad, I usually like it.

3. Creature of habit or maverick thinker?

A little of both I’d have to say. I am a creature of habit when it comes to structure and routine in day-to-day life; I love the process of hand writing lists and cathartically crossing out items. But I have been known to shake things up quite frequently and have always been hesitant to conform to societal norms and expectations.

4. You (and, for the sake of keeping it interesting, any spouses/partners/kids/significant others) get mysteriously transported to a desert island, with only time to grab a couple of precious things to take with you. What makes the ‘keep’ list?

I would definitely have to grab a surfboard in hope that there are waves on this hypothetical island. Also, lots of books to read while the waves are flat. Though if I had to only pick one book, I’d have to choose Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac; I think I could re-read that continuously for the rest of my life.

5. Biscuits – dunk or leave unsullied?

Usually leave unsullied but I have recently been introduced to the concept of biting off both ends of a Kit Kat Chunky and using it to suck up tea or coffee. It gets caught in the middle melting the chocolate making in warm and gooey.

6. Before joining Delib, how did you put bread on the table?

My last position was with a community engagement and relations agency called Consensus as an account manager, specializing in land use and transport projects and policy in the greater Los Angeles region. A few clients included WeWork, Westfield and the City of Los Angeles. Prior to this, I was introduced to the world of civic tech as an intern turned digital specialist at NationBuilder, one of the first community organizing software companies.

7. Why did you want to join Delib?

I have always been interested in the world of civic tech and have been following Delib’s work ever since I knew Bristol was a potential new home for me. I have worked in and with government for most of my professional life and have experienced first-hand the slowness and sometimes disconnecting nature between government and those who are governed. I believe it is crucial to give citizens the knowledge and power to shape the community they live in and believe Delib is doing a massive part to achieve this aim.

8. Any shout outs, comments or other musings?

 A big shout out to the team for being so welcoming and nice. Also, a huge shout out to Bristol as a whole for being an awesome place to land after my relocation across the pond.

It’s great to have Chris on board and we’ll be throwing him in at the deep end with various events, company away days and training opportunities in his first few weeks! If you’d like to chat more about Chris’s interesting use of a KitKat Chunky as a tea straw or perhaps about civic tech and democracy, you can always catch him on Twitter.

Participation with Impact: The Practical Democracy Project #5 in Bristol

On Friday 29th June, the Practical Democracy Project came home to Delib’s HQ city of Bristol, UK. With previous events having taken place in London, Edinburgh and Manchester, and a recent one in Wellington, New Zealand, it’s safe to say the Practical Democracy Project is going global, and this is just the beginning; the movement is growing and we plan to keep this momentum going.

With each event that happens, we’re aiming to get people together from the worlds of civic society, tech and government to discuss practical ways of improving democracy, opening up honest discussions and mapping out how to create a better democratic experience for everyone.

Keeping up with the locals

As the event was close to home this time, we got in touch with our friends at Bristol City Council and managed to secure some of Mayor Marvin Rees’ time to open up the day. The Mayor talked about his background and how he got into politics, stating that ‘the world is run by people who turn up’ and that activism can’t just be for the pursuit of social media likes and retweets but must work towards proactive and positive change.

We also heard from Jon Toy, the council’s Consultation and Engagement Manager, who talked about the challenges they have been facing in coming up with their new consultation and engagement strategy. Jon highlighted the issues around response rates, representation, accessibility and consultation fatigue and the team is working to address these. They are asking people to give views on how improvements can be made to these areas.

‘Bristol’s next big boyband’: a panel discussion

After Jon and the Mayor, we opened the dialogue up to the floor with a panel discussion, including Tim Borrett, the council’s Acting Director of Policy, Strategy and ICT. People were able to ask questions and Tim, Jon and the Mayor gave open and honest answers, giving an opportunity for real conversation that both parties may not usually have. Breaking down barriers between citizens and local government in this way can help to foster genuine discussion and can lead to real change and is ultimately what we designed the Practical Democracy Project to be.

A question from the floor about making consultation and its data accessible to people allowed the Mayor to speak about Bristol City Council’s budget consultation. They asked people to tell them what they were prepared to deprioritise, a task that the Mayor believes is a ‘test of a genuine activist’: when people are able to think not just about what they want from a budget, but about what they’re willing to give up in order to focus on their priorities. If children’s mental health is important to you, are you willing to take away from adult’s mental health, green space or buses to give more money to it? It’s a balancing act, and getting the public involved in these decisions informs the process and gives citizens an understanding of just how difficult budget setting can be.

We also thought about the role of elected officials in the democratic process, with Jon, Tim and the Mayor all agreeing on the importance of getting out there, engaging with citizens and being involved, not just being held accountable. They made the case that there are a wealth of democratic organisations in Bristol as well as the council; it is ‘easy activism’ to talk about the council and what they’re doing or not doing, but there needs to be conversation around the NHS, universities and police service too, to ensure everyone is working from the same page. They argued that mature democratic conversation is what Bristol needs, not just disdain for politicians and activism for activism’s sake.

A few people from the audience commented on what could be perceived as an ‘us and them’ approach where politics are concerned and there was general consensus that councillors are also citizens and that frontline engagement with the public and working together to inform consultation is the best way of avoiding silos.

Panel discussion captured by @LemonGazelle (thanks!)

The panel discussion ended with a question from a member of UK Youth Parliament in Bristol, who asked about the council’s plans to engage more young people to get involved with politics and consultation. The Mayor spoke again of the budget consultation where they went into Bristol College with their Budget Simulator on a tablet and got students to complete it, getting them talking and thinking about the decisions that go into a council’s budget, an enlightening experience for teenagers who might never have previously thought about local politics. Tim agreed on the importance of this, stating that while the panel may have looked like ‘Bristol’s oldest boyband’, they also needed to think of ways other than simply ‘putting things on social media’ to really reach the young people who aren’t currently ‘turning up’ to let their voice be heard in political matters. They spoke of how vital it is that youth parliament and youth mayors come along to events to be the voice of the next generation and to represent those who perhaps can’t get involved for one reason or another. Tim suggested that the discussion with young people should always be framed as ‘here is a problem, here are some solutions we think might work, but tell us what you think and lets work together on it’.

Finding Legitimacy with Nadine Smith

Next up was Nadine Smith from the Centre for Public Impact (CPI) who was speaking about their Finding Legitimacy project. Having started her career in Bristol, Nadine was happy to be back and believed it to be a city of great potential with a promising approach to consultation and engagement.

The CPI firmly believe that legitimacy in politics matters and that the relationship between citizens and governments is fundamental to achieving success. People can feel that government is just something that is being done to them, not with them and finding empathy and authenticity in government can be difficult.

Through the Finding Legitimacy project, Nadine and the CPI have been going to different cities and countries to speak with people about how they are feeling about their relationship with politics and government. People seem to agree that with the buzz around politics, and improved digital capabilities, feeling involved and closer to government should be easier, but wonder if it really is, or if there is perhaps a missing connection somewhere.

CPI came to Bristol to interview Bristolians at 8pm on a sunny Monday evening in a ‘stuffy room full of unstuffy people’ with no air-con and people turned up to make sure their views were heard and to share their stories. People want to be engaged but sometimes struggle to know how they can get there. Nadine believes that consultation and government should be brought to the people, and that citizens shouldn’t always be expected to seek it out. Perhaps, she suggested, there needs to be more middle ground and more grassroots action to make sure that the public and government can work effectively together, to ensure citizens feel like more than just a number.

Thanks to Nic Price (@nicprice) for this photo

After some tea, coffee and cake, it was time for our very own Commercial Director, Ben Fowkes to give a brief history of what Delib does and how it came about with a chance for the audience to both learn more about us and also ask questions about our work: 

Then it was time for the final speaker of the day.

Nicky Saunter on the power of the story

Nicky heads up Transform, an organisation working internationally to bring about the legal regulation of drugs. Based in Bristol, Nicky is positive that a lot can happen in the city which has great diversity and engagement and is ‘far away enough from London’ to be autonomous and its ‘own city’.

Transform argue that billions of pounds are wasted annually fighting the ‘war on drugs’, with drugs deaths at record numbers and drugs gangs more violent – so they’re campaigning for ways that drugs policies could and should change. Nicky compared drugs deaths with car accidents, arguing that cars are regulated and have certain standards they must meet, so car accidents are fewer. If drugs were legalised and regulated and had to meet certain standards, would that not mean the resulting number of deaths could decrease?

This sort of policy isn’t always popular with politicians, and even when you have facts on your side, it doesn’t necessarily get heard. So the direct participation of people is hugely important. Telling those stories that bring it home with emotional impact can bring about genuine participation from people and lead to change. Transform are running a campaign called Anyone’s Child, to try and highlight the people who are most affected by issues with drugs. By using emotional impact and real-life stories, they are educating people on why legal regulation of drugs could be a positive step in improving the current situation. Using the love of families who have lost sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, grandchildren and so on to show that there are people at the heart of these issues, not just criminals and gangs, they are highlighting that were drugs regulated, their relatives might have survived. The people of the Anyone’s Child campaign have taken to Westminster to be the voice for their lost relatives and loved ones and are hoping through the power of their stories change could happen.

The day ended with an excellent lunch from a local family-run business, Nico’s Kitchen and some networking. It was great to see a varied crowd there; a bunch of people willing to ‘turn up’, to get stuck in and to work towards making a difference in the way government and citizens interact. With various opportunities for questions and a panel discussion with the Mayor himself, this wasn’t an event to come to and be talked at, but an opportunity for genuine dialogue between the public and those working at the frontline of local government. A few people mentioned on the day (between mouthfuls of cake and sandwiches) that they really enjoyed the audience participation element of the day because it felt so inclusive. Well, participation (with impact) was the name and participation was the game!

Massive thanks to all of our speakers for making it a brilliant day and also to The Foundation at Triodos Bank for providing the perfect venue. One speaker, Anthony Zacharzewski of the Democratic Society, wasn’t able to make it due to a cancelled flight, however we are sure to be working with him again in the near-future.

If you’d like to see more from the event, check out the hashtag #PracticalDemocracyProject on Twitter or get in touch @DelibThinks. The Practical Democracy Project is back on the move and could be appearing in a city near you soon. Watch this space.

Charming People Required

I’m looking to hire a few charming people to, well, charm other people. Sound like your cup of tea?

Democracy is struggling a bit right now, you might have noticed. Increasingly, traditional electoral democracy polarises as much as it represents, dividing as much as it includes. But all is not lost: democracy is multi-faceted, ongoing and more than a simple vote for the least worst option. Is someone proposing to move your bus stop? You have a right to have a word about whether it’s a good idea. Concerned about how the council spends your money managing services in austere times? They’re duty bound to consider your opinion. The process is called consultation, a key pillar of our democracy that you’ve probably never heard of.

The problem? A lot of people don’t know you can influence all of these decisions. Have you heard about a consultation or merely the negative press surrounding the decision itself? And if you have heard, were you then confronted by a web experience so horrible you recoursed immediately to the warm understanding embrace of the private sector? You might want to fill out a response but if it involves downloading a Word form on your phone or trawling through swathes of government language, I imagine you, like most normal souls, would give up and quite reasonably do something more interesting.

Delib is helping to change all of that.

We make technology platforms used by hundreds of governments and public bodies around the world that actively encourage and support citizens to participate in democratic processes and decisions, for the benefit of everyone.

Governments can be a little tricky to cajole into changing the habits of a lifetime. In fact, their very nature, structure and thinking has been designed to resist change, so persuading them to use technology that actively subverts all of this is a job for charismatic people who are driven by a sense of purpose. Could you convince a turkey to vote for Christmas? Work with us.

The jobs are for people who’ve got a few years under their belt professionally charming people in any field, with demonstrable results. Applications will be judged against: past experience, attitude, aptitude to the role and the all-important cover letter outlining your charm in a compelling way.

Rewards? These roles are mid-level with the expectation of progression as your knowledge of democracy, technology and governance increases. Delib is a small team with a relatively flat hierarchy, reporting to me mostly (joy) and ultimately the MD, Andy.  We value autonomy, hard work, honesty and plain talking above all else. As such, if you’re a fan of ‘blue-sky thinking’ or want to ‘touch base’, I’ll 110% run your application up the flagpole and not salute it.

The job is based in central Bristol, England’s greatest city. Don’t live here already? Move, you’re missing out. We provide fruit, 25 types of (arguably pointless) tea, flexi-time, your own Mac, the odd company holiday and a simple dress code: wear clothes.

Salary is £24K-26K as a starting point.

Close date: 23rd July

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).

If you would like to apply for this position, please note that the covering letter that you send with your CV forms an integral part of our selection process. Please send your CV and cover letter to jayne@teamrubber.com and if we like the look of them, we’ll be in touch.

We’re hiring! Systems Developer/SRE

Hello, we’re looking for an experienced systems developer or SRE to join us in central Bristol, UK. We’re a small company but we build software that makes a difference worldwide. Delib’s products are used to connect citizens with government; our flagship product, Citizen Space, is used by over 100 government organisations around the world. Have a look at our Citizen Space Aggregator to see thousands of issues on which our customers are currently consulting the public.

Currently Delib’s engineering group consists of four generalist developers (some say “full-stack”; we find that a bit buzzwordy) and one test engineer. At the moment we spend a lot of time working on devops/systems things when we should be shipping features for our customers. We need an engineer who can own the underlying systems stuff and find technical solutions to eliminate toil across the company.

In this job, your main responsibilities will include:

  • Developing and maintaining internal tools such as production dashboards and backup systems.
  • Working with off-the-shelf tools for building, testing and deploying our apps, such as Ansible configuration management and Jenkins CI test environment.
  • Maintaining and monitoring our staging and production fleet of around 200 (and growing) Linux VMs located around the world. For the avoidance of doubt, you won’t be responsible for looking after office IT, printers etc.
  • Sourcing and looking after vendor-supplied services e.g. VM hosting, monitoring, DNS, email delivery.
  • In general, if a task is too boring – find a way to automate it away.

You’ll get a fair amount of autonomy in your job, but we don’t want someone who will lock themselves in the basement and engineer everything in isolation.  The other developers will have to use, and sometimes maintain, the systems you’re responsible for, so it’ll all need to be version controlled, documented, and generally friendly for other people to work with. Where appropriate, we’d prefer you to use Python for developing internal tools, as that’s what we use to develop our products.

Typically we work well with people who’ve got a Computer Science degree and have been coding since at least their early teens. YMMV.  We prefer people who can communicate with humans as well as computers.

Speaking of which… all developers take rotating shifts as Developer on Support. For two weeks approximately every two months you’ll team up with an account manager to help our customers with their questions and problems. This means that, although you won’t be developing our products, you’ll need to know your way around them and generally know how to Internet.

Unfortunately being on support does also mean being on call. But calls/texts outside office hours are infrequent and if you do get called you get paid for it. Oh and don’t panic – you don’t get calls directly from customers.

You’ll be joining a group of developers who like going for lunches and drinking together – our city-centre office is super-convenient for nice lunch places and pubs.  We have grown-up things like Aeron chairs (or sofas to work on if that’s more your style), and you’ll get a decent Macbook Pro, or an equivalent Linux laptop if you prefer.

Hours and Salary

Full-time Monday-Friday is preferred for this role, but part-time Monday-Thursday is also possible. Currently all Delib’s engineers are part-time, with the option for scale-up days each month. We find that this arrangement suits our work/life/childcare/hangover requirements perfectly.

We’re offering £35k-£45k pro-rata depending on experience.

Closing date 31st June 2018

Contact Details

Sound interesting? Send us a covering letter and your CV to lorna@teamrubber.com.

We don’t place too much faith in CVs, the covering letter is really what we look at. 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).

No applications will be accepted via recruitment companies.

Cheers,

Andy (Director) and Jess (Developer)

 

We’re Hiring – Excellent Office Manager Wanted

Delib is a global digital democracy company of around 25 people, providing digital tools to connect citizens with government. We have staff based in central Bristol, Australia and New Zealand. We are a well-established and growing business. Here in Bristol we have a modern open plan office, which we share with our sister company.

We’re looking for an experienced office manager, who can nail the typical office management tasks, whilst being keen to take on extra challenges and responsibilities.

Typical Office Manager responsibilities:

  • Facilities management
  • Health & safety
  • Supplies and supplier management
  • General administration
  • Reception cover

Extra responsibilities:

  • Manage our devices (allocation, configuration and return)
  • Trouble-shoot Mac and other device issues for staff (you need to be tech savvy)
  • Human resources management and record maintenance
  • Manage various systems including password storage and supplier records
  • Calendar management for essential renewal dates and meetings
  • Manage the payroll and support the finance team as required
  • Work with the Information Security team to flag any risks, report and respond to security incidents and work to promote best practice.
  • Organise event bookings, trips, company away days and travel itineraries.
  • Be a master key-holder for the office and respond to emergency out-of-hours situations (this is just for our office floor, not the entire building)

You’ll have a big to do list and lots of autonomy and accountability. Your colleagues will be relying on you to keep all the plates spinning, so we need an excellent organiser. We have a welcoming and hard working team here; the working environment is open and friendly and you will work to support pretty much everyone across the company.

Delib is a registered company in Australia, New Zealand and the UK. Due to differing time zones and being an emergency on-call contact for the building, you will need to be flexible and adapt your working hours to accommodate early morning and late evening work when needed (this is not very frequent but is a key part of the role).

In a nutshell, your role is to support the company and the people in it. Therefore, it is essential that you have a positive and helpful attitude so that the team feel comfortable asking you for help. You must be able to keep calm under pressure, problem solve and re-prioritise your workload at short notice.

Knowledge & Experience

  • 2 years of experience in a similar Office Manager role or with managing teams. You should have experience in a role with high levels of responsibility.
  • HR experience – dealing with sensitive HR processes/issues and being entrusted with confidential information.
  • Highly computer literate, specifically experience with using Apple Mac laptops would be beneficial. Must be very confident with setting up and using Excel and Word documents and generally proficient navigating systems and databases.
  • Confident and professional telephone manner.

Salary and benefits

  • This is a full-time position and we offer a salary of £22 – £26K per annum depending on experience.
  • 24 days of holiday, plus bank holidays.
  • Company pension scheme.
  • Enjoyable working environment in an excellent location.
  • Training budget.
  • Your own MacBook which you can take home if you wish.
  • Decent chairs and desk setup.
  • Fruit boxes delivered twice a week, bacon on Fridays and a kitchen packed with tea, coffee and snacks.

Recruitment Process

  • Initially, you may be invited to a phone interview, followed by a face to face interview and then a trial period in the office to give you a good feel for the role.
  • If you think you are the right person for this role, please send your cover letter and CV to Lorna@delib.net. We don’t accept applications without a cover letter.
  • 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).

 

Closing date: 30th May 2018 

We do not use or take calls from recruitment companies.

7 takeaways from our Edinburgh user group, April 2018

Last week, several members of the Delib gang headed out from our Bristol, England HQ and descended on Edinburgh, Scotland for the first Citizen Space & Dialogue user group of 2018. A great opportunity to meet some of our Scottish customers, hear how people are using our products and try haggis, naturally I jumped at the chance to go along.

For this user group, we were kindly hosted by the City of Edinburgh Council at their City Chambers headquarters. (Fans of the Avengers franchise may be as excited as I was to discover that the building makes a brief appearance in the latest film, Avengers: Infinity War. Not that I’m comparing the Delib team to the Avengers – but I bet you’ve never seen all of them/us in one room at the same time…)

Once we were over the grandeur of the building and had fuelled up on coffee, we got down to business. Here come some learnings I took away from the day:

1. GDPR compliance is the talk of the town
We heard from The City of Edinburgh Council about their extensive efforts to get ahead of the curve on GDPR compliance. Whilst they still have some things to tackle, it was clear from Emma Candy, the council’s Senior Policy and Insight Officer, that they have done some great prep.

She told us about how they’ve been collaborating closely with their Information Governance Unit to work out exactly how to archive and/or delete data from consultations in line with the new laws. And I can’t really not mention her appreciation for Citizen Space being GDPR-compliant, giving us some props for the work we’ve done to make sure that’s the case. (Thanks, Emma!)

2. Good practice needs cultural embedding
Sophie Marshall from Police Scotland’s Consultation and Engagement team told us about the ways they’re working to embed best practice within their organisation. For example, she talked about their commitment to ‘closing the response loop’ – making sure participants know what’s happened with their input at the end of an exercise.

She detailed the process they used in their 2026 strategy engagement exercise, which was spread over 10 weeks and split into a range of themes. She talked about how the flexibility of Citizen Space as a platform allowed them to both monitor outreach and manage internal needs in the same place. And she explained how the team are building a communications and engagement toolkit to educate staff on good consultation practice – so that it’s embedded in their culture and not a case of reinventing the wheel with each project.

This good practice includes encouraging proactive outreach and promotion of consultations – a habit which has already generated increased levels of responses.

3. The GDPR devil is in the details
Chris Connolly from the Scottish Government was determined not to let being ill stop her from helping people with GDPR! Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to join us on the day – but, in her absence, she still managed to send along a summary of her talk on everyone’s 4 favourite letters.

We kicked off a discussion around Chris’s suggestion that much of the purpose of GDPR isn’t new – a lot of it is simply about communicating how we store data. It became clear that people still aren’t quite sure on certain aspects of GDPR – which consent to seek when, for example, and whether or not it’s valuable to collect IP addresses – but it is generally understood that organisations must make sure they are collecting relevant information and handling it properly. Again, a consistent theme emerged from these conversations about the importance of forming organisational habits to handle data correctly once it is collected.

We were also pleased to hear from Chris’ colleague Lauren Tuckerman who kindly offered to tell us a bit about her work interning with the Scottish Government’s consultation team, which will form part of her PhD.

5. Centralising response data can have big benefits: from ease of use to response rates
We heard from Amber Souter at Food Standards Scotland about transitioning to running their consultations on a centralised digital platform. Compared with their previous methods of seeking consultation submissions via email or post, she said that switching to Citizen Space has led to increased response rates and a more professional feel to their engagement efforts.

When they needed to gather stakeholder views about a draft Regulatory Strategy, they had a wide audience to consult and Citizen Space’s ease of use and response publishing feature made it simple to engage people and feed back to them after.

5. Dialogue garners good ideas
Dialogue continues to be used in differing ways for some pretty cool ideas generating exercises. Delib colleague Natalie reported back on how the Isle of Man Government opened up an online conversation about their SAVE programme and HMCTS gave staff a voice on internal decisions. (My ears may have pricked up at this point as I’ve recently spoken with both organisations about their experiences using Dialogue!)

6. Experimenting & refining the approach to engagement is valuable
Kirsty Christie, Web and Digital Media Officer for Scottish Borders Council, told us how they’re using a trial and error approach to their use of Dialogue. Before, it was difficult to reach a broad spectrum of people due to a wide geographic spread in the area, but Dialogue allowed them to seek opinions online in a convenient and quick way. The communications team recognise the importance of getting the public involved in decision-making and found Dialogue to be an effective way to run quick experiments and test hypotheses. They found that contrary to their expectations, splitting their budget consultation out into discussions on specific topics and areas of interest did not boost response rates, so they’ve gone back to a more holistic approach of consulting on the budget as a whole piece.

7. Promote!
OK, this isn’t a new lesson but it’s a drum that always merits a bit more banging! In consultation, promotion is vital in engaging people. They can’t participate if they’ve never heard about the opportunity to get involved!

The folks at the Scottish Parliament – Ailsa Burn-Murdoch, Hayley Forrester and Steven Blyth – emphasised the importance of making consultation activity accessible and available to the public. The issues they’re dealing with can be complex and it’s vital to convey them to people in ways that they will be able to understand.

The Scottish Parliament chose to use Dialogue for their online engagement because it had been recommended by their peers (including the Welsh Assembly), and because it could gather views and opinions that wouldn’t be captured through other consultation activities. Similarly to Scottish Borders Council, they were also keen on the potential for a digital approach to more easily engage geographically disparate groups of people. They’ve been using Dialogue alongside offline outreach events, where they’ve found it’s added value and opened up more ways for people to get involved. They were also pleased to report that they’ve seen genuine discussion in the comments section of ideas!

So there we have it! User group number one of the year is complete and, as always, we learnt a lot from it. There’s just no substitute for hearing these at-the-coalface accounts of people’s experiences, so thanks very much to all the attendees and especially the speakers.

If you’re interested to see what people in your field are doing and are a user of Citizen Space or Dialogue, why not come along to our next one? It’s set to take place in Northern Ireland in September and we’ll release details closer to the time. If that’s too far away, we also have a training session at our Bristol HQ in July; there’s a handful of spaces still available but they’ll go quickly!

Introducing our newest Account Manager: Jessie Ashmore

Jessie AshmoreIn the least humble-braggy way possible, we do just keep on collecting more customers – so we’re delighted to bring another Account Manager on board to help look after them all!  Our newest recruit is Jessie, joining the team in our HQ in Bristol, UK. We talked to her about democracy, dodgers, dogs – and a contentious use of McFlurries:

 

What’s your name and where are you from?

HIYA, I’m Jessie Ashmore and I have lived everywhere… North, Midlands, South but now I’m very happily based in Bristol. My only regret is that I will probably never pick up an amazing Northern accent.

Favourite band and/or artist?

This is tricky because I basically like everything as long as I can (badly) sing along to it. For me, music is so mood-dependent but I usually listen to Kiss in my car – because feeling like you’re in a music video while you drive is a real thing, right?

Creature of habit or maverick thinker?

Routine bores me so I’d say maverick thinker. I dip my McDonald’s chips in my McFlurry (which is absolutely life-changing if anyone hasn’t tried it). But equally, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. (Stop trying to make chicken sausages a thing!)

You get mysteriously transported to a desert island, with only time to grab a couple of precious things to take with you. What makes the ‘keep’ list?

Kindle (always), my housemates (can they count as one thing?) and flip-flops because there is nothing worse than not being prepared for sand.

Biscuits – dunk or leave unsullied?

Now this very much depends on the biscuit. Chocolate hobnob: dunk. Bourbon: unsullied. Rich tea: dunk. Jammie Dodger: unsullied. I could go on!

Before joining Delib, how did you put bread on the table?

For six months prior to joining Delib, I worked in recruitment. I specialised in recruiting within the logistics sector across the South West. Before this, I worked as an Account Manager for a national waste management company so there isn’t anything I don’t know about recycling and flat-packed cardboard!

Why did you want to join Delib?

For lots of reasons! I think the people are great and after realising I’d talked about bins for so long being surrounded by great people, I knew that my colleagues were always going to be a really important part of any job. Striving towards a better, more democratic public sector approach to public communication is so important – why wouldn’t anyone want to be a part of that? Oh, and we get bacon every Friday!

Any shout-outs, comments or other musings?

To clarify the earlier question, biscuits are a pretty important topic for me so shout if you want me to run through my top 10… With explanations! Oh and I like dogs, more than I like people and biscuits… Put together.

Should you want to take Jessie up on that offer, or ask her a question about, say, effective online public consultation, you can follow her on the ol’ Twitter or drop her an email.

Casting the net wide: how the Environment Agency increased participation through online consultation

With declining salmon stocks in many English rivers, the Environment Agency needed to develop options to reduce the take of salmon by anglers and net fisheries.

As part of a wider project aiming to increase marine survival and tackle water quality and quantity, barriers to migration and poor in-river habitat, they wanted to seek views from those who would be affected by proposed new measures, to understand what impacts and benefits the changes would have.

These groups were varied and dispersed, from angling clubs to non-governmental angling organisations to netsmen with licences all around the country. EA’s aim was to reach a broad spectrum of people and so they chose to use Citizen Space.

Photo: Jason Dale

Previously, in order to consult people, the Environment Agency would have put a paper to regional fishery committees – who represented different groups – for feedback, as well as using local angling forums as a way of people giving their views. This was limiting as the reach was not as wide as it could have been and it meant that people weren’t able to get involved at an individual level.

With the increase in technology, social media and online activity in the past 10 years, digital platforms like Citizen Space have proven really useful in opening up participation to geographically diverse groups.

For EA, this meant that those who would be affected by changes in byelaws could help to develop measures that would form them, creating more of a bottom-up approach to consultation.

People from all over the country will travel far and wide to fish salmon; Citizen Space gave them all the opportunity to participate and created an atmosphere of transparency around the exercise. The feedback was representative of large groups of people, with over 1,100 responses given.

The proposed changes were, at times, incredibly detailed; the ability to include documents throughout the consultation, at the point of question, was invaluable in allowing people to make informed comments and suggestions. Participants were able to fully understand the situation and the potential consequences of the issues being consulted on.

Enabling people to give views on their phones and tablets as well as laptops made responding easy and accessible which led to increased numbers of participants. It also meant that people were more likely to give a quick answer showing their support, which gave a balanced view of how people felt about the proposed measures.

People are often more likely to engage with something if they are opposed to it, but the ease of giving feedback meant that people who wouldn’t necessarily log on to a computer could quickly express their support using their mobile phone. Even a two word response is more valuable than someone just not getting involved at all and Citizen Space provided the platform for light-touch as well as more in-depth feedback.

The surveys were intentionally lengthy to include all of the information in one place. Though they covered a vast range of fisheries in many different parts of the country, the Environment Agency chose to have all of the options covered in one consultation. Being able to split topics down into different sections of the survey meant that people were able to dip into the ones that were relevant without having to trawl through sections that didn’t apply to them. This kept response rates high and there was not much of a drop-off rate throughout the consultation. The last few questions saw response rates of around 80%, showing that most people remained engaged throughout.

The consultation was put together by The National Salmon Programme team. This was the first time they had set up an online consultation, and the first time they had used Citizen Space. They told us they found the system intuitive and easy to use, making the whole process straightforward. They could work collaboratively on different parts and were able to update documents in real-time once the consultation was already live, meaning it was completely up to date at all times.

The results of the consultation have fed into new proposed byelaws which have now been formally advertised, again using Citizen Space.

Manx views: refreshing public involvement on the Isle of Man

We recently got to chat with the Isle of Man Government about how they changed the way they communicated with citizens using Dialogue. Here’s what they told us:

The Isle of Man Government is continuing to modernise the way it interacts with citizens, as part of a commitment to openness and transparency.

Embracing digital media, enhancing web-based services and inviting public feedback via a new consultation hub are encouraging more people to have their say on important issues and to conduct their business with Government online.

Credit: Andy North

Many of the Island’s residents are active online, with an estimated 60% signed up to Facebook. A lot of discussion of political issues takes place on digital media channels and online forums and Government was keen to provide an official platform for people to air their views.

The Isle of Man Government first used Dialogue to help generate broad public engagement in its Securing Added Value and Efficiencies (SAVE) project. It was considered a good way to connect with the public in a space that could be monitored and regulated and where ideas could be formally recognized, reported and acted upon.

People were invited to submit ideas to help Government achieve multi-million pound budget savings and deliver public services more effectively.

The response was overwhelming. By the end of the first week the Dialogue site had 414 registered users who submitted 401 ideas and 770 comments. One individual contributed no fewer than 80 ideas during the course of the challenge – a level of engagement the SAVE team had not expected.

People also used the Dialogue site to communicate with one another and to collaborate on their ideas. Submissions could be refined and improved by combining suggestions. 

Screenshot of Isle of Man Dialogue

The SAVE team opted to moderate posts, but found that the site was largely self-policing and the conversation was mostly constructive.

A weekend working rota enabled responses to be checked outside of normal office hours. This proved particularly helpful as people were very engaged on Sunday evenings – possibly on account of being on their ‘downtime’, when they had an opportunity to really think about their ideas.

People could also feedback to the SAVE initiative on postcards and cut-out coupons from the local newspaper. Postcards were available at public locations around the Island and members of the SAVE team were on hand to encourage participation and answer specific questions.

Postcard and coupon responses were input to the Dialogue site, so that they could be viewed and commented upon by the majority of people who were contributing online.

The manual responses were not as detailed as those submitted online, suggesting that people found it easier to share ideas on the Dialogue site and were perhaps deliberating over matters more when they could provide their ideas in a considered way.

Users may have also been more engaged using the Dialogue tool where ideas and comments are shared, unlike conventional methods where suggestions are submitted in isolation.

By the deadline, there were more than 1,300 responses and over 2,300 comments – a fantastic result in terms of public engagement.

The Isle of Man team updated the site to confirm the exercise had closed and to inform people about the next steps in terms of assessing the ideas and selecting a number for further consideration.

Several suggestions submitted the SAVE challenge via the Dialogue site are currently being developed in partnership with the relevant Government Departments.

The Isle of Man Government is using Dialogue again to generate public feedback and ideas to improve road safety.

It has also been inspired by HM Courts and Tribunals’ use of Dialogue to generate internal staff suggestions and may consider a similar challenge to improve staff engagement in the future.

Overall, the Isle of Man Government’s experience of Dialogue has been an extremely positive one.

https://consult.gov.im

www.gov.im/consultation

Twitter – @IOMDigitaleng

‘Growing Ideas That Matter’: giving employees a voice at HMCTS

HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) is committed to giving its employees different ways of expressing their views within their organisation. This is fundamentally about giving employees a voice and seeing them as central to coming up with ideas and solutions to improve the way that HMCTS works. Employee voice is one of the key pillars of HMCTS’ approach to employee engagement; through the many channels that employees have to give their views, HMCTS hopes to create an environment where people feel engaged and committed to their work. HMCTS wants people to be able to suggest ideas that matter and that will be put in to practice to help the organisation be more effective in delivering justice.

Previously, HMCTS had tried a ‘Bright Ideas’ scheme, where people could suggest ideas by filling out a form on an internal intranet page. However, there was a perception that ideas would often sit on the platform and not be actioned, falling into an organisational ‘black hole’ with no feedback given and little sense of transparency. HMCTS wanted to enhance the way people could put forward their ideas for improvements and change to show staff that their opinions really did matter. 

They ran a survey to see what sort of scheme people would like and to gain insight into what employees wanted out of it; how they would want it to work and what they thought it should be called. A colleague suggested a working group that could work on ideas for functionality, a name, a logo and who could represent the wider HMCTS team. They looked at a few different systems and consulted cross-government networks to see what other departments were using for this type of exercise. 

They were aware of the Ministry of Justice’s Dialogue site, which had proven to be a huge success when used for a pioneering public engagement exercise (asking how to best allocate a fund provided by the government to support victims of male rape and sexual abuse). This challenge received so many thoughtful and constructive responses via the Dialogue platform that funding was reviewed and increased as a result, helping victims across the country through new support networks. HMCTS saw this success and the level of participation the challenge received, and through the outcomes of their working group and survey found that Dialogue fitted all of their criteria for functionality.

Using Dialogue, they created a new site called ‘Growing Ideas That Matter’, using an acorn growing into a tree as the logo to represent the idea of conversations developing. Ideas can start small and be built upon by everyone involved until a workable and beneficial proposal is generated. The team is making it as easy as possible for staff to get involved, encouraging people to contribute at any time, even on the bus on the way home from work using shortcuts on their phone. With responsive design, Dialogue has allowed employees to access challenges from anywhere, on any device, meaning conversations can carry on continuously. 

Under the previous scheme staff became frustrated at the lack of organisational response to ideas that were being submitted. This led to people taking to other channels to raise issues that were often off topic and therefore lost. HMCTS set up their new Dialogue in a way that would encourage genuine and positive interaction.

To ensure there is clear ownership, employees registering on Dialogue are asked to enter their name in a certain format. This is monitored to ensure people are commenting on ideas as themselves, which improves the quality of conversations. The underlying rule for suggestions is to make them count, make them matter, and to own them. 

New challenges are posted every four weeks and members of the Senior Leadership Team have been allocated as sponsors for them, commenting on ideas and ensuring the conversation is heard, and acted on where possible. Teams also have ‘team information board’ meetings where they can talk about issues with one person in charge of posting it on Dialogue and monitoring the level of response it receives. With 450 locations across the country, this has proven to be a great virtual workshop for geographically dispersed colleagues to have meaningful discussions. 

HMCTS has found that the new notifications function in Dialogue has enhanced conversations by keeping people updated on the ideas they have submitted. The single notification per day means that people can keep up-to-date on how their ideas are moving forwards, without being overwhelmed by email updates.

The current challenge is to gather ideas around updating internal guidance and it’s working well. The success of using Dialogue has already led to some ideas being taken forward and organisational changes which may have gone otherwise unheard and is helping HMCTS employees to feel valued and able to have a genuine input in improving their place of work.

“Dialogue has given HMCTS a platform to build our engagement and help take a broad spectrum of ideas and experience into account when delivering change. We feel like we’ve only just scratched the surface of what we could achieve with Dialogue and are excited to see where this leads.”
Lauren Waters, Customer Innovation Manager, HMCTS

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