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.
Author: Keri O'Donoghue (Page 2 of 3)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Twitter – @IOMDigitaleng
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
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 onto the curriculum & 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.
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 was meant to be federal budget consultation in Mt. Pearl. But there's no one here but media and MHA Paul Lane pic.twitter.com/pLWzlQAVl8
— Danielle Barron (@daniellebarron) February 1, 2016
There’s a genuine commitment to increasing participation. As a result, a common question from civil servants about our products is ‘will this help us open up our consultation to a wider audience?’
The short answer is ‘yes’. The slightly longer (more interesting) answer is that we have a guiding principle for increasing accessibility and participation: that the best way to open up consultation is to make it as easy as possible for people to get involved. Our conviction is that removing friction from the process of participation will increase the range of people who are willing and able to get involved.
Keeping things simple
When the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) published their consultations on the gov.uk website and Citizen Space simultaneously, they found that the average completion rate was much higher when using Citizen Space – 21% compared to 3%.
Interesting stat about @beisgovuk consultation conversion rates – Citizen Space: 21% vs gov.uk: 3%. That's a huge difference.
— Ben Fowkes (@ben_fowkes) October 4, 2016
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.
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.
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.
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!
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:
- Building a fairer world is a long march, and victories (even big ones) are only steps along the way.
- 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.