Author: Keri O'Donoghue

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 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.

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:


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.


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!

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.

6 things that happened at my first Govcamp

Govcamp is into its 11th year and we were happy to be sponsors again this year. This meant we had two spaces to attend for the day so Louise and I went along to get stuck in. Here are 6 notable things that happened while we were there:

  1. My train was so delayed that I missed the session pitches, but luckily Louise was there on time and is a Govcamp veteran so was able to fill me in (Craig David style) when I arrived. I grabbed a quick coffee and got into the swing of things.
  2. I learnt a bit more about the ‘women in tech’ movement. My first session was on this subject and what is being done in different organisations to ensure that women are empowered and have equal opportunities. I was interested in this, still being fairly new to this industry and having come from a publishing background where two of the directors of the company were female and most of the editorial team was made up of women. It was really encouraging to see a very diverse group in the room and to hear that in most organisations, things are actively being done to ensure women and men have parity in the workplace and that women are well represented in tech roles.
  3. It became clear that people are very passionate about tech and digital not just being in London in the session appropriately named ‘#NotJustLondon’. People from all over the UK were in attendance to tell tales of all the good that is being done in their organisations in Yorkshire, Edinburgh, Sheffield, Manchester, Cardiff and, indeed, Bristol, Delib’s UK office hometown. We discussed how companies need to make it easy for people to be able to apply for jobs and work remotely, or from other offices, so that tech opportunities extend beyond the M25.
  4. There was an excellent lunch. Sometimes at events the lunch can be underwhelming. Not at Govcamp. Triangle sandwiches with loads of different fillings, cartons of apple and orange juice, fresh fruit. Did you even go to a work event if you don’t review the lunch offering afterwards? That’s a rhetorical question.
  5. We talked all things social media. Steph Gray from Helpful Technology wanted to get people’s views on social media at work but also in people’s personal lives, because he wanted some tips for how to deal with it at home with children who are reaching an age where social media could start to take a bit of a hold. It was really interesting to hear about people’s Twitter feeds becoming ‘polluted’ with celebrity news and overt political opinions and how that was affecting their experience/interest in it as a platform. People seemed to think that maybe Twitter was ‘over’. I thought this was a shame because in my experience, your Twitter/Instagram/Facebook feed can always be what you want them to be. If you don’t want to hear about celebrities, don’t follow them! It was also intriguing to hear about people’s experience of social media at work, with some companies being very particular about what their staff are allowed to share and others having slightly painful situations to deal with in their communications roles that involve using Twitter. The general consensus, both at work and in people’s personal lives, was to approach social media with a healthy dose of common sense. 
  6. I had a glimpse into the phenomenon that is Weeknotes! There were a group of people who knew each other from their Twitter and Medium activity around Weeknotes (see, Twitter’s not dead!), a weekly round-up blog post of what people have done with their time. It’s a chance to share triumphs and low-points with people and is a cathartic way of summarising a week’s activity. Support can be found where it may not have been before and a network of people has grown out of it, a self-professed ‘cult’. I am going to start my own (at some point, when I get around to it) since I love to write and am in a new role so want to share what I’m doing with people. Watch this space…

Govcamp provides a great chance for people to meet up and discuss/ponder/chat/vent about all things public sector and digital. For people to come together on a Saturday for the event means that it is a truly passionate bunch of people who just want things to work better. We had a great time and will look forward to next year’s event!

Dialogue – now with notifications!

You asked, Dialogue fans, and we have delivered. We are delighted to announce that email notifications are now here and ready to use in Dialogue.

Thanks to this update, users of Dialogue can get a daily notification delivered straight to their inbox if there has been any new activity on their ideas or comments. The optional notifications include links to any ideas they have submitted or commented on which have had comments added in the past 24 hours.

Screenshot of Dialogue notification email

We’re confident this new feature will further help to engage people and expand participation. The enhanced experience for users means ideas can be better developed and refined without people having to actively remember to check back on their contributions. In a fast-paced and busy world, even the most proactive people may not remember or have the time to keep checking in on their activity. These new ‘push’ notifications help to keep people involved in the conversation.

We thought carefully about the design of this feature and decided on deliberately ‘light-touch’ notifications. We’re only sending one email notification each day to make sure people don’t feel spammed, and also to ensure the thoughtful and productive nature of Dialogue remains intact. The lure of incessant, instant notifications can create an unhealthy dynamic and lead to less constructive exchanges. We have tried to strike the right balance here: keeping conversation flowing without it overflowing or descending into chaos.

Screenshot of Access and Participation Dialogue challenge ideas

We’re really proud of the important, intriguing, eye-opening conversations that public sector organisations have hosted on Dialogue. We hope that notifications will now make it even easier for people to get involved in decisions that affect them.

If you would like more information on Dialogue, or to have this feature enabled, please get in touch and we’ll be happy to help.

My first unconference – OneTeamGov Scotland

Three weeks into my new role at Delib I was lucky enough to be sent to the OneTeamGovScot event in Edinburgh with my colleague Megan, put on by the good folks at OneTeamGov. The event was a chance for policymakers, service designers, digital professionals and cross-sector experts to come together to discuss a range of subjects, from accountability, to citizen engagement, to artificial intelligence, and much more. It was my first unconference, which gave the attendees the chance to pitch their own session ideas and build the timetable for the day themselves. Having attended some big corporate conferences in the past, with quite rigid timetables, I really liked the idea of the audience being able to structure the day.

Linda Hunter provided fantastic illustrations throughout the day

Kicking off with some lightning talks were some of the volunteers from OneTeamGov, covering topics such as policy, service transformation through digital and using design to make the world work for us.  We then had a welcome from Sarah Davidson, Director General for the Scottish Government, who said to “put a bomb under your ambition”, a line which really resonated throughout the day, before it was time for some sessions.

Devolution of power and shared accountability – Manira Ahmad, NHS National Services Scotland

The first session we attended was held by Manira Ahmad, Head of Local Intelligence for NHS National Services Scotland. There was a lot of talk around data and accountability, as well as a heavy focus on power and ensuring everyone in society is empowered to engage with democracy, including those who are usually unrepresented and not proactively involved. People can have all the passion and will to participate but if they do not have the power, they will not be able to influence change. 

Scotland – great stories, how do we get action? – Richard Whatman, Consultant

Richard started out with a thought-provoking question: how do we actually get stuff done?! In large organisations it can often take a long process to make any small decision, and so we discussed how this could change; it was agreed that there needs to be a change in culture in these institutions to avoid the frustration of decisions taking longer than necessary to be made. We spoke about how shared experience can foster confidence that doing things differently can work and change can happen. There was also a lot of discussion around failure and how mistakes should be celebrated. Someone used the phrase “proceed until apprehended”, which was met with a nervous laugh from the room, but essentially meant that people should be able to take control of their work, and not seek permission and approval on every small thing they do. People were very keen on having safe (or dangerous, perhaps?!) places to discuss things that have gone wrong, learn from them and support one another.

Citizen engagement and consultation – Barbara Chalmers, Final Fling and Chris Connolly, Scottish Government

During this session we spoke a lot about engagement and empowerment of citizens. Everyone agreed that engagement should start long before consultation, so that views can feed into the whole cycle from an early stage. Keeping communication channels open could be a way of helping this, as well as managing expectations so that people understand that even if they do get involved, the outcome won’t always be what they wanted, but that it’s more likely to benefit them if they have their say. Someone mentioned that consultations are often centred around the banning of things but that we should encourage positive change and trust in governments, not only involving key stakeholders but a wider cross-section of society. Megan mentioned the Break the Silence campaign which the Ministry of Justice ran using Dialogue, where victims of male rape were able to anonymously suggest ways of helping people who have experienced abuse. This led to £1million being provided to specialist rape support organisations in England and Wales, to help victims through dedicated phone lines, support centres and an online community.

Why do you need a website? – a collection of disgruntled people

This session was an interesting one to attend from a small company’s point of view because it was mostly attended by people working in government or other large institutions who were frustrated with the technology they have to contend with in order to do their jobs. People thought that it would be more beneficial to collaborate with people who have already created useful technology, rather than compete with them and add another website to the internet where it may not be needed. It was clear that people wanted to see an improvement in digital experience in the public sector, with better IT systems and support and without bad tech getting in the way of people performing their jobs well.

Artificial intelligence – Michael McTernan, Bemo Ltd

We started this session by giving our names, why we were at the session and one word to describe how we feel about AI. There was an interesting spread of words, starting with some students from Glasgow School of Art saying things like “opportunity”, “smart” and “great” and then moving around the group to some of us saying “daunting” and “scary”. This exercise demonstrated well that AI is increasingly becoming more of a reality, that we all interact with it all the time, but that we have varying levels of knowledge of it. We discussed how the use of AI can make us more capable and can assist greatly with the analysis of data, but that it must be controlled well, and ultimately requires a human element for that. A lot of people seem quite wary of AI and the question of whether we can trust it was raised: Megan told us about an example of a US military drone mistaking a wedding party for a gang and shooting at people. Whilst this is a slightly dark example, it goes some way to justifying why people are slightly scared of the prospect of moving even further towards AI. There is also the issue of it putting people out of jobs by automating processes, which was an understandable concern. We all seemed to agree that we should use AI for things it’s good at such as data analysis, but keep a firm human hold on it.

The day came to a close with Ken Thomson, Director General at the Scottish Government, telling us all to “keep calm and start a revolution”. We had to write down what we had learnt from the day, and what we would do tomorrow as a result. We then screwed up the pieces of paper, threw them up and around the room and had to catch someone else’s, sharing our thoughts and actions with fellow attendees (thanks to Dougie Shirlaw for the video). It was quite a moment and such a brilliant way of concluding the day (before heading to the pub!). Of all of the conferences I’ve been to throughout my career, the OneTeamGov Scotland event was probably the most engaging and the most involved I have ever felt at one. It was a great open forum where nothing anyone said was wrong or judged and you could talk freely about some really interesting subjects. Instead of one or two people stood on a stage talking at an audience, it was group discussions that were inclusive of everyone and motivating. I met a lot of new people, ate a LOT of cake and came away from the day feeling positive. Massive thanks to all of the volunteers for having us and we’ll be sure to attend again! If you’d like to catch up on the event or have any questions, feel free to find me on Twitter: @Keri_OD.