Author: Ben Whitnall (Page 2 of 9)

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.

 

Ration Club – Newspeak House, London, Wed 7 Feb

We’re excited to be returning to Newspeak House’s Ration Club to do a bit more hosting/chef-ing. This time, we’re there on Wed 7 Feb.

Delib founders Andy and Chris cook spaghetti bolognese at Ration Club

Andy and Chris – two of Delib’s founders – hard at work rustling up a spag bol

For those who have never been, Ration Club is a regular Wednesday night fixture at Newspeak House where people from the political/democracy and civic tech community get together to eat and share ideas.

The format is based around a communal supper, where a Newspeak House member cooks a giant spread, with donations encouraged from the attendees.

Oct 2017 Ration Club menu – spaghetti bolognese or spaghetti and aubergine

The mix of people and conversation is always varied – and the event’s open to all, so come along if you’re free! (If you do plan to turn up, please just drop us an email, if only so we can make sure we cook enough food!)

Introducing our new communications person: Keri O’Donoghue

Delib keeps on growing – both in number of customers and number of staff. The newest member of the team is Keri, joining our UK office in a communications role. As is now standard procedure, she’s completed our comprehensive set of taxing questions about bands, bread and, of course, biscuits.

What’s your name and where are you from?      

My name is Keri O’Donoghue and I have the dubious pleasure of being from Swindon (yes, the location of Wernham Hogg’s second office). I lived in Brighton for uni before moving to Bristol about three years ago and have loved it here ever since!

Favourite band and/or artist?

Always a tricky question – at the moment I’m really enjoying Jessie Ware and have tickets to see her in Bristol next March! I also absolutely love Bon Iver and would like it if Justin Vernon could sing me to sleep every night. Heartbreaker by Ryan Adams is one of my favourite albums. As for the classics, my dad has instilled a great love for The Jam in me and we went to see Paul Weller together a few years ago; Down in the Tube Station at Midnight is one of my all time favourite songs. My mum, on a slightly different note, has given me a deep appreciation for Whitney Houston; I cried the day she died and many-a-night at my parents’ house ends with my mum, my sister and I belting out Saving All My Love in the kitchen with utensils for microphones (and wine).

Creature of habit or maverick thinker?

In my working life I’m definitely a creature of habit; I love a list, I love routine and I love to be organised (and to organise others). In my personal life I’d say I’m a bit more of a maverick thinker; I like to be spontaneous and hate to commit to anything too far in advance.

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?

My dad is a brilliant combination of Bruce Willis in Die Hard and Liam Neeson in Taken, with a bit of Ray Mears thrown in, so if people are allowed on the keep list, then him. If not, then definitely some way of playing music, because I’m rarely not listening to anything. Also, my trademark favourite red lipstick, because if I’m going to be starting a new life on this desert island, I might as well look good while I’m at it.

Biscuits – dunk or leave unsullied?

Dunk! Or, if we’re talking about my favourite biscuit, a caramel waffle, then put on top of the coffee cup so the heat melts the caramel a bit and makes it all lovely and soft!

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

I used to work for an academic publisher in the sales and marketing team, where I sometimes got to travel to the US and Europe for various events and conferences. My most recent role was at a not for profit which helps the UK education sector gain access to innovative technologies to help with research and teaching. When I was a student I worked at Starbucks, where I developed my love of caramel waffles.

Why did you want to join Delib?

I studied International Development at uni, and when met with blank faces on telling people that, always described it as a mixture of Politics and Geography, so have always had a keen interest in politics and the wider world. To work for a company that aligns well with that and is doing such positive stuff for democracy is a really exciting opportunity for me. Starting in a new role, I have a lot to learn and take on and I can’t wait to sink my teeth into it!

Any shout outs, comments or other musings?

It’s only been a couple of weeks but I’m already really happy at Delib, so a big shout out to all of the team for making me feel so welcome!

‘Better decisions together?’ – event round-up

A few weeks back, (October 27th) we held the second in our series of Practical Democracy Project events – this time, with a focus on the possible risks, benefits and methods of involving people in decision-making.

For those who couldn’t make it along on the day, here’s a quick round-up. And we’re planning more events in the series so there’ll doubtless be other opportunities to talk digital democracy with roomfuls of interesting people.

People chat in the break at our Edinburgh Practical Democracy Project event

These events are designed to keep building the conversation around the interaction between technology and government, with a focus on the stuff that actually makes a difference to effective public participation in decision-making.

This particular gathering was in collaboration with The Democratic Society and New Media Scotland, and took place at the City Art Centre’s Alt-w LAB in Edinburgh (an amazing venue with all the coolness and great aesthetics you’d expect of a gallery, and some spectacular views to boot). As with the first event in London, there was a great mix of people present: academics, members of the pubic, civil servants, researchers, service designers – all sorts.

I was slightly thrown when the room was plunged into darkness just as we were due to start – though it turned out to simply be a deliberate, and rather snazzy, spotlight setup. Fortunately, I soon got to pass the literal limelight to our lineup of invited speakers, all of whom had excellent chat…


First up was Anna Grant from Carnegie UK Trust

Anna was sharing some insights informed by a recently-published report she’d been working on called ‘A Digital World for All?’.

Anna was keen to dispel some of the myths and assumptions that people can slip into when thinking about online engagement and inclusion – especially regarding young people. She repeatedly stressed that encouraging participation was not as simple as merely opening a feedback channel and then just waiting for people to magically turn up.

The report also made clear that it should not be taken for granted that all young people are automatically ‘digital natives’, completely comfortable and able to take part in any- and every-thing online. As more and more services move online, there remains a responsibility to equip everyone with the digital skills to ensure equal access. And when it comes to participation, it’s also important to give people sufficient motivation/reason to get involved.

Check out the full ‘Digital World for All?’ report


Then we heard from Wittin’s Dr Matthew Davis.

Wittin is a very new, and therefore still tiny, startup – formed specifically in response to a ‘CivTech’ challenge run by the Scottish Government. The founder, Dr Matthew Davis, told us about how he came up with a proposal to Stirling Council around opening up their data for citizens to analyse and interact with directly.

It was fascinating to hear about how the Council and Wittin are working to develop this scheme, and all the considerations that come into play when trying to get such a bold new idea off the ground: the work of getting buy-in; the need to balance anonymity, privacy, availability and insight; possible strategies for recruiting ‘early adopter’ citizens to see how people might start using Council data when given access to it…

Alongside that, it was great to hear about the appetite among public sector organisations for new and additional ways of hearing from their citizens and getting insight to help them provide better services. It’s a recurring theme in our experience: people in government aren’t averse to hearing from the public – quite the opposite, in fact. There’s no lack of willing: the main barriers are purely practical – so the more we can do to provide civil servants with affordable, viable, user-friendly ways of opening up engagement, the better.


Next up was Dr Ella Taylor-Smith from Edinburgh Napier University.

Ella has been involved in the digital democracy scene from arguably its earliest days, and is hugely well-versed in online participation/engagement. On this occasion, she shared some findings from an intriguing piece of research she’s recently been working on – about ‘knit-bombing’. Yes, you read that right: the central focus of this research was impromptu knitting.

Dr Taylor-Smith had studied the phenomenon of crocheted protest signs around Edinburgh, which had caught people’s attention both ‘IRL’ and on social media. Interested by questions of where such ‘ground-up’ movements come from, what causes them to catch on, what ‘counts’ as a participatory intervention and if/when they can be considered ‘successful’, Ella had interviewed a host of people involved in the production of these protest signs – generating a wealth of interesting findings.

Among these, I was particularly struck by her honesty about the sheer effort that democratic involvement can entail. As she observed, ‘participating in democracy is time consuming & emotionally draining – but community is a motivating value’


And wrapping up the morning was Tim Brazier from Good Things Foundation.

Tim is a senior Service Designer at Good Things Foundation, a charity committed to ‘building a digitally included society and supporting people to grow their essential skills’. Looking at the question of how to practically go about effectively involving people in decision-making, he made a fantastic case for the importance of the quality of interactions, and the ‘human’ side of conversations with citizens/service users.

He regaled us with several stories of projects where Good Things Foundation had conducted up-close-and-personal field research, striving to meet people ‘on their own terms’ (rather than in the potentially ‘artificial’ environment of a focus group session or similar).

And he also advocated strongly for the importance of listening well – not simply going in with a set of leading questions and set answers, but allowing space for suggestions or questions or ideas to arise naturally in the process of engaging with someone, to be able to respond to these emergent topics and themes that you as an organisation might never have predicted.


Tim also made some notes from the day. As you’d expect from someone with such a keen eye for design, they’re rather lovely – worth a look if only for that enviable penmanship:

We’re looking forward to hosting more Practical Democracy Project events in the new year – watch this space for one near you!

Ration Club – Newspeak House, London, Wed Oct 11

Ration Book

Delib are excited to be hosting/chef-ing at Newspeak House’s Ration Club, on Wednesday 11th October evening.

For those who have never been, Ration Club is a regular Wednesday night fixture at Newspeak House where people from the political/democracy and civic tech community get together to eat and share ideas.

The format is based around a communal supper, where a Newspeak House member cooks a giant spread, with donations encouraged from the attendees.

The mix of people and conversation is always varied (the last time we attended, for example, we got to meet a French entrepreneur who was had a built an AI-powered ‘political robot’…)

The event’s open to all, so come along if you’re free (and drop us an email, just so we can make sure we cook enough spag bol 😉

Introducing our newest researcher: Megan Tonner

Delib keeps on growing – both in number of customers and number of staff. One of the several new-ish recruits is Megan, joining our UK office as a researcher. As is now standard procedure, she’s completed our comprehensive set of taxing questions about bands, bread and, of course, biscuits.

What is your name and where are you from?
My name is Megan Tonner. I was born in Banbury, North Oxfordshire, with Scottish heritage. Growing up there meant I was lucky to live in a beautiful, picturesque village called Bloxham, with fields directly following my back gate – meaning I could escape in the countryside for a run with my gorgeous Hungarian Vizsla, Ede. (Which, by the way, often began as a relaxing stroll, until he’d decide to do a full “Fenton” on me and chase every sheep or pheasant we passed.)

I went to school in Bloxham, and even got to do a GCSE in Environmental and Land-Based Science – in other words, ‘Farming’ – where I literally had to sing to cows (email me for cattle-related tips). I moved to Bristol four years ago to study Graphic Design at UWE and fell in love with the city. Never had I lived in such a liberal place and I’m very excited about my future here.

Favourite band and/or artist?
I’m finding this extremely hard to answer – I’m rather peculiar when it comes to my taste in music! My favourite genre is Math rock (I know, it’s a bit niche and sounds like I’m trying to be hip.) It’s a genre that was influenced by post-hardcore and progressive rock bands. Try out Chiyoda Ku, a band from Bristol that I discovered on a trip to The Stag and Hounds. Or, if you’re super keen, come along to ArcTangent festival just outside of Bristol.

Moving on from that my taste ranges from anything like old school R&B to minimal techno and 140 Dubstep. Hit me up for a playlist. But if I were only allowed to listen to one band for the rest of my life, I guess it would be The Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Creature of habit or maverick thinker?
I really wish I were a creature of habit; I try, I make lists sometimes and then throw them away when I find them lost in my laundry basket a week later. I speak my mind, often a little too quickly but I do have to have some sort of routine to my life, that’s why I love working. Especially now I’ve found something I’m passionate about.

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?
If time allowed, a painting of my interpretation of a Chinese New Year that I did with my father when I was 14. It’s still one of my favourite pieces of art work I’ve done to this day, and it’s priceless, as painting with my dad is one of my most sentimental memories of my childhood. I’d also grab my electric guitar, that we built together too. Finally, my collection of Harry Potter replica wands, because they’re obviously the coolest things I own.

Biscuits – dunk or leave unsullied?
I don’t have a sweet tooth really, let alone a soggy sweet tooth… Throw me a bag of salt and vinegar Kettle Chips over a biscuit any day.

Before joining Delib, how did you put bread on the table?
When I applied for this position, I was working in PieMinister, which I know sounds like the dream. I served pies, I made pies, I spoke all things pie. I loved the part of hospitality in which you were meeting hundreds of new people a week – but the job wasn’t too exhilarating, or pushing, and after a short while there’s only a certain amount of pie one girl can eat. I was also a games journalist, and just before that worked for Samsung, training staff in different stores on their new tablet releases. But I was a student, so until now I didn’t have the time to find something that tingled my taste buds and motivated me as much as Delib has. I’m a tech-head at heart, and it’s amazing to be back in that industry.

Why did you want to join Delib?
Delib is a company that’s truly doing something I believe in, something innovating, and something anyone would be lucky to be involved in. After a few interviews, and meeting the fabulous staff here, I realised it was somewhere I’d be comfortable being myself, excited about my day, and more importantly enthusiastic about the subjects we work in. As well as constantly learning and developing through the process of being here.

Any shout outs, comments or other musings?
Thank you Delib, and everyone within the company, that have kept me smiling since I started my position in January. What a load of beauties!

We’re hiring- Outbound Comms

This job listing is no longer current. Please visit www.delib.net/jobs to see our current vacancies and more information about working at Delib.

‘Well-designed democracy’ – event round-up

Last Tuesday morning (June 27th) marked the first in our series of Practical Democracy Project events – kicking off with a focus on ‘well-designed democracy’.

If you couldn’t make it along on the day, this right here is a quick round-up, including links to all the slides/talks from our speakers. And we’re planning more events in the series so there’ll doubtless be other opportunities to talk digital democracy with roomfuls of interesting people.

Well-designed democracy event at Newspeak House

These events are designed to get people talking about the interaction between technology and government, with a particular emphasis on the stuff that actually makes a difference to effective public participation in decision-making.

This one was at Newspeak House in Bethnal Green (a fascinating thing in itself – it’s a dedicated ‘community space for political technologists’). And it was a great crowd that turned up: a really interesting mix of civil servants, service designers, techy start-up types, local gov staff – all sorts.

After a slightly mad dash to grab the promised breakfast and some excellently buzzy conversations over coffee and croissants, the talks got underway.


First up was Temi Ogunye from Citizens Advice.

Temi was presenting findings from a piece of Citizens Advice research called ‘Going with the grain: why democracy needs to fit with modern life’. It was grounded in concern for the practical, everyday things that can make it harder for people to get involved in politics – often disproportionately across different groups.

I was delighted – but not surprised – to hear that one of the main findings was that in the UK, in general, people want to take part – but there are a load of barriers that prevent them participating as much as they would like to.

It’s one of the core tenets of Delib, one of the main reasons we exist: that if you make it easier for people to get involved in the decisions that affect them, they will take up the opportunity – and that makes those decisions, and democracy, better.

Temi gave a host of great examples/findings. I was particularly struck by his observation about financial security as one such barrier to participation. He talked about how it is often harder for less affluent people to get involved in government decisions – even though they may often be those most drastically affected by policy changes. He hypothesised that this might be a simple issue of ‘headspace’: if you’re worried about making ends meet, it’s tough to find the time for what feels like the ‘luxury’ of political engagement.

Have a look at Temi’s slides

Or check out the full ‘Going with the grain’ report


Then we heard from Involve’s Sarah Allan.

Sarah made a fantastically clear and compelling case for the benefits of involving people in decision-making (perhaps not surprising given that she’s the Engagement Lead for an organisation literally called Involve).

She then shared a bunch of great practical/at-the-coalface stories from her work with Involve (my half-remembering of the details won’t do them justice – check out the full deck instead).

I particularly enjoyed her report of the ‘IWOOT’ phenomenon – where someone will ring up from an organisation wanting to do some public engagement and say ‘we saw this fantastic exercise from so-and-so. We want to do one of those, too!’. As Sarah explained, whilst the enthusiasm is laudable, that’s not really the best way to settle on a participatory process.

Instead, she argued for approaching involvement as a design challenge. This is something we’re forever banging on about: good engagement is about finding what’s appropriate to the decision/situation and effective for the people who need to be involved – and what works for one situation often won’t be the right fit for another.

Download Sarah’s slides (PDF)


Next up was Dr Michael Hallsworth from the Behavioural Insights Team.

He rapidly shared an amazing wealth of stats, stories and insights – all around a common theme of how ‘small things can make a big impact’. Again, these were fantastically detailed and thoroughly-researched case studies: the Behavioural Insights Team run lots of real-world control tests to get measurable evidence on changes that make a difference to people’s actions. Have a look at the detail for yourself in Michael’s slides.

And it’s a point that definitely bears repeating: small things that remove ‘friction’ from the process of participating can end up making a massive difference to people’s involvement. (It also reminded me of some of the stats we heard from BEIS at one of our Citizen Space user groups – about going from a 7% to a 25% completion rate on online consultations). The more people come to appreciate and get accustomed to this design-led approach to policy and participation (design in its truest sense – not just ‘making things pretty’ but elegantly crafted and perfectly suited to their purpose), the better.

Download Michael’s slides (PDF)


And wrapping up the morning was Glyn Britton of ad agency KBS Albion.

Glyn gave a really eye-opening account of the creation of GiffGaff – ‘the UK’s first democratic brand’ (in that user participation was central to its business model and how decisions were made).

The whole story was packed with great examples of learning the value of testing and iteration, user feedback, community interaction and designing decisions around the people they affect – as Glyn put it, ‘in the wild’. (For example, the fact that they extensively tested incentives for people getting their friends to switch to GiffGaff: apparently, straight-up cash was by far the most effective [no great surprises there, perhaps] – but there was no major difference in the amount of cash offered. £5, £10, £20: the response rate was the same. So it seemed to be more about the sense of fairness/getting something back/not being exploited, rather than just a money grab.)

Whilst there are obviously differences between the world of government and private business, especially when it comes to ‘rewards’ for participation, I think there’s a lot of overlap in the process of learning to function in a more emergent, iterative, responsive way – especially online. It was great to hear some of those parallel challenges and opportunities from a fresh perspective.

Read the transcript of Glyn’s talk


There was one other thing that Glyn said that stuck with me, just near the end of his talk (and he was the last to speak, remember). Namely, that he felt ‘a bit of a fraud’ and ‘inexpert’, giving thoughts on designing democracy in a room full of people who are specialists in exactly that. While I think that’s far too modest of him, he was right to remark on the room. Here was a whole group of people who are passionate and knowledgeable about how to make it easier for government and citizens to connect with each other online. In fact, a good number of them work in government and are paid to think about this stuff as their actual job. That certainly has not always been the case and it’s surely something to celebrate.

As Tom Steinberg argued recently, this stuff – this user-led, design-based approach to public involvement – is (finally, thankfully) becoming established, mainstream, the norm. It’s an idea that can’t be put back in the bottle. And that is excellent news: the more it becomes embedded, the more it will genuinely improve democratic involvement. And we hope we can continue to grow the conversation, refine the practice and keep making public participation better and better.

Well-designed democracy sign (in the rain)

Designing for participation: some reading ahead of our Practical Democracy Project event

In just a few weeks’ time, we’ll be running our Practical Democracy Project event. We’ll be at Newspeak House in London on 27th June looking at the part design can play in increasing public participation in democracy.

To help you get the most from the day, here’s a bit of a starter ‘reading list’ – featuring a random little selection of just a few of the books and articles that we’ve found helpful, or have stimulated and/or shaped our thinking over the years:

What would be on your list?

And, if this is your kind of thing, (free!) tickets are available now: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-practical-democracy-project-tickets-34110722088

Hope to see you in London on 27th June!

Page 2 of 9

www.delib.net