Category: Events

OneTeamGov Wales 2018

Last Monday I had a good reason to hop on a 7am train travelling to Cardiff with Natalie Williams, a superb Delib account manager, who literally just taught me some Manx Gaelic – how useful!  I used to live in Cardiff and I miss it, particularly the local beer ‘Brains’, so any excuse to go back is welcomed (sadly I didn’t manage to fit a pint into my day, however I did inhale some fumes from the brewery on the walk to Cardiff Bay).  

The reason for the early train was to attend the OneTeamGov Wales unconference, a gathering with no set agenda, where people can pitch in and lead seminars, which are more of a discussion than a lecture.  Since I’m only four weeks into the role I had to look up what exactly an unconference is and was pleasantly surprised by the format of the day.  Roughly 100 people showed up at 9am, enjoyed the coffee and healthy selection of pastries before we heard the attendees pitch their ideas and decided which ones we wanted to go to.  

There were 30 talks to choose from throughout the day, all very educational, informative and topical.  I went to five, but I thought I’d talk about two of my favourites.

Policy-making in Wales

Whilst living in Cardiff, I noticed a genuine passion residents had for their local community, so I wondered how this crossed over into the world of government and Welsh policy-making.  This talk was particularly well attended as I noticed many people in Welsh government are keen to improve the way policy-making takes place.  It was apparent there were disagreements as to how policy-making should be and to what extent it should involve the public.  On one side of the fence were people who didn’t feel the public were qualified to make comments on policy digitally, whilst on the other side people felt an online majority public consultation would be far more valuable than an exclusive one.  Arguments would bounce back and forth, such as ‘have you ever read comments on the Daily Mail website?’  Esko from Satori Lab did a great job of leading an interesting discussion, which certainly got into the nitty gritty but concluded on a more positive note, recognising useful current trends such as Policy Lab.  Esko also shared some really interesting info about how other countries involve the public when it comes to policy-making, such as Estonia’s new platform called eCitizen.   

Procrastination

Just after lunch, whilst riding a wave of endorphins thanks to some deep fried chicken strips and sweet chilli sauce, I attended a talk on procrastination.  I almost felt as if I was off to see the headmaster to receive a telling off about how I shouldn’t procrastinate, however I was greeted with quite the opposite.  It was a little like an AA meeting for procrastinators and to save you from suspense, we could mostly agree it was a helpful thing!  However I did learn to not leave everything until the last minute, otherwise I would lose about 10 years of my life due to the effects of stress.  But also to use the right tools for every job, which I couldn’t agree more with.  Consulting online? We have the right tool for you.

To conclude, I really enjoyed the day with OneTeamGov in Wales and I’d recommend checking out their next event near you.  They are creating a movement of discussion and collaboration, across government organisations which seems like a very intelligent thing to do.  You will leave with a full tummy, inspired about democracy and making the world of government a better place. If you want to get in touch with me to hear more about the day, or our online consultation tools, drop me a line

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.

 

8 lessons learnt from the ‘design as a democratic force’ event in Canberra

I’m currently on secondment to the Australian arm of Delib for a couple of months to help train our new Account Manager Mick. I normally work as an Account Manager in our Bristol office, so it’s great to be part of the Australian team for a short while! To round up my first week in Canberra, I spent Friday morning listening to four brilliant speakers as part of the Design Canberra festival session discussing the idea of ‘Design as a democratic force’. The session focused on two key themes: addressing the decline of trust in Australia’s democratic institutions and how user-centered design can help rebuild this trust. Here are my key take homes from the event:

1) Trust in government and democratic decisions in Australia is at its lowest level since 1996

Mark Evans from the University of Canberra presented findings from a survey that he’s been involved in about public trust in government and democratic decisions. Despite 25 years of economic growth in Australia, the survey found that trust is actually at its lowest levels since the early 1990s. Mark’s team conducted both a survey and 14 focus groups to help explore this topic which included examining how Australians imagine their democracy and what they want from politicians. They found that Australians wanted politicians to keep their promises and be honest and empathetic.

2) Let’s not forget Maslow’s hierarchy of needs when it comes to democratic decisions

Damien from the Department of Human Services Design Hub spoke about the experiences of the Department of Human Services when it comes to political decisions. He advocated exploring what citizens are ‘aspiring towards’ rather than asking them what they ‘want’ right now. If citizens don’t have their basic needs met, then they don’t have the head space to start thinking about the next level up in terms of political participation and decisions.

3) Young Australians are participating in politics more than ever before

Mark Evan’s research also found that the ‘baby boomers’ generation are the most disillusioned about politics; but there is a strong interest and knowledge in politics amongst young Australians. Although this participation isn’t always traceable by ‘traditional’ means, it’s definitely prevalent.

4) The future is in efficient citizen-centric digital services

During the event breakout sessions, Australian civil servants described how their roles have been traditionally blocked or hampered by the need to move off ‘X old system’ or towards purchasing ‘Y tool’ which will help speed up service delivery. Meanwhile citizens are already moving full steam ahead and using digital services natively. Citizen expectation is growing when it comes to digital tools and services.

During the event Mark Evans from Canberra University said “Our research shows that Australians are enamoured with digital services: especially those which have been co-designed”

5) Social sciences are increasing in importance and helping to drive human-focused services forward

There is a resurgence in the importance of social sciences in political decision making. No longer are decisions made simply by economists or based on numbers. Instead, social sciences and human-centred research methods such as working directly with and observing citizens in situ are becoming increasingly important.

6) Co-design is a powerful strategy in helping leaders to get ‘ahead of the curve’

Over the past decade, governments around Australia have become increasingly open to experimentation, and have matured their design capability. Co-design helps solve problems beyond the realm of politicians. However, we need to be mindful not to almost become too user-centric in this approach and leave out the political leaders who have the power to push these changes forward. We should never underestimate the importance of strong leadership in government.

“It’s great to have co-design. But sometimes the overall decisions need to be made by a really strong leader,” stated Nina Terry, Think Place Global.

7) Ideas need to originate from Citizens

The Department of Human Services talked about how an idea is sometimes ‘handed down’ rather than suggested from the ‘bottom up’ by citizens. This can mean that instead of working with a problem which has been organically suggested, you end up building on an existing idea which can increase the chances of the idea going wrong further down the line.

“The challenge we’re having at the Department of Human Services is that we’re working with ideas that have already been suggested and handed down to be worked through. We need to step back and gather ideas from citizens first” Damien Tobin, The Department of Human Services.

8) Government needs to become an enabler rather than a ‘top down’ force

One of the themes discussed towards the end of the session was about whether the type of democracy as we know it today is still valid for Australia in the 21st century. Related to this, is the question of re-positioning government to work more directly for its citizens.

Despite the disillusioned sentiments towards politics, it’s clear that with the right leadership and tools there is an opportunity to effectively connect citizens with decision making on a level which works for both government departments and citizens. As one of the participants in my break-out session pointed out: “Maybe we don’t want everyone to trust government and we do want to keep some tension in that space”.

Massive thanks to the Design Canberra Festival, Think Place and the Department of Human Services Design Hub for hosting such a thought-provoking session.

8 lessons learnt from Web Summit 2017

Last week, I was fortunate enough to attend Web Summit (one of the largest tech conferences in the world with 60,000 attendees) held in Portugal’s lovely capital Lisbon for the second year running. I was able to attend thanks to purchasing one of the heavily subsidised ‘women in tech’ ticket a few months back: which makes it much more affordable for women to get involved.

Web Summit is by far the largest and most international conference I’ve ever been to. To be honest, the first day was actually a little overwhelming, as there are four large arenas of stands and talks; but I soon got into it. As with most conferences, despite the long list of amazing talks I was fortunate enough to attend, it’s often the conversations with fellow peers and new acquaintances over lunch, or after the conference, which leave you feeling most inspired. We had a buzzword bingo board running for the event, and the term ‘disrupt’ was well and truly awarded the most overused word during the summit!

Standout talks for me were from representatives of Lego, Reddit and Stack Overflow. Key themes of the conference included consumers taking back control over their privacy, the opportunities presented by AI and new technologies such as Blockchain and the importance of digital literacy and de-mystifying the world of tech. The conference left me feeling inspired and excited to be working as a ‘woman in tech’.  Here’s a few of my take home points from the talks I chose to attend:

1) We need to be mindful of ‘echo chambers’

Steve Huffman (CEO of Reddit) talked about the importance of being mindful of ’echo chambers’ (a metaphorical description of when beliefs are ‘amplified’ by communication inside a defined system such as Reddit and social media). Social media is increasingly fuelling such echo chambers, and is causing users to reinforce their own political opinion. Companies like Reddit are however, working hard to make users more self-aware of this.

“Variety is the spice of life, we want our users to see other peoples’ opinions” Steve Huffman, CEO of Reddit

This talk got me thinking about the importance of ‘neutrality’ and starting with a ‘level playing field’ when using digital tools in government. By using tool such as Dialogue to host a conversation, users are hopefully able to break away from such echo chambers.

2) The future of work is changing but we’re yet to fully embrace it

Upwork presented some really interesting findings following a recent survey they conducted with freelancers within the ‘freelance economy’. Both North America and Europe have seen a huge growth in the number of freelancers over the past five years: enabling more people to adapt work around their lives rather than life around their work. Finding number one, was to move away from calling it the ‘gig economy’ which has negative connotations and instead call it ‘the freelance economy’.

Upwork also noted how we’re living in an age of paradox when it comes to where we work: we choose to live our lives in expensive cities even though we no longer have to due to technological advances in communication, for example. With the advent of the internet, we are also living in an era of lifelong learning. Employees and freelancers are choosing to build their own individual ‘skills banks’ rather than honing in on a singular skill set and career.

3) Platforms don’t always need a ‘full overhaul’

Steve Huffman and Mark Mayo (SVP of Firefox) were both humble and honest about the fact that their products haven’t been the ‘top of their game’ over the past couple of years. Both were open about the time taken, challenges and plans to make them better. Central to this was the importance of placing their users at the heart of the re-design process. Reddit for example, have chosen to keep some of the same look and feel that users love, and Firefox are designing their new browser experience for a 300 USD Acer computer because that’s what the majority of its users have.

4) We need to maintain active and effective channels of communication 

Stuart Butterfield, CEO and co-founder of Slack, gave a fantastic talk on the importance of continually innovating and re-inventing ‘channel use’. Slack itself has thousands of channels which they actively use internally: including handy ‘triage’ channels which help direct queries and unblock communication between teams. Tools such as Slack are helping to re-invent the way people work: and this isn’t just down to the features included in the product, it’s down to the way that their users are adapting processes around the tool.

5) We need to re-build consumer trust

There were lots of talks and comments during discussions at Web Summit about ‘taking back’ and re-gaining consumer rights over privacy. However this message of distrust is also having a negative effect on the demand for new features and innovation. Joel Spolsky (Co-Founder and CEO of Stack Overflow) noted how consumer curiosity drives the demand for innovation, but if users increasingly want their information to be out of view (Stack Overflow are in the process of building an internal view for example) technological advances will suffer as a result.

6) Women need to ask for promotions more

During a talk on diversity in tech, Blake Irving (CEO, GoDaddy) spoke about how women are far less likely to actively push for a promotion. Blake talked about the importance of peer reviews and effective channels of communication to help enable this. This was also a theme I overheard three different groups of people talking about during the conference. Women in tech: let’s encourage each others to push for promotions!

7) We need to ‘de-mystify’ technology


Rebecca Parsons (CTO, Thoughtworks) gave a fantastic closing speech titled ‘everybody code now’ where she advocated for the importance of ’empowering more people to understand exactly what it is that we’re doing when it comes to tech’. She noted how we’ve lost touch with how computers work and have been built: citing how the inventor of the Raspberry Pi wanted to create something that his students could use to grasp how computers work.

“If we can think of technology as something that we play with then you can empower people.” (Rebecca Parsons, CTO, Thoughtworks)

Not everyone needs to learn to code, they need to learn to ‘appreciate code’: if you can understand what it does, then that gives you the power over it, rather than the other way around.

8) We need a diverse workforce 

Lars Silberbauer (Global Director of Social Media, Lego) talked about the fantastic diversity used in their approach to marketing in his talk titled ‘levering the creative power of communities’. By using real life metrics and a diverse work force, Lego are able to use different channels and tools to help drive their global brand experience. Rebecca Parsons also echoed the importance of having a diverse workforce, noting that “real problems will be solved by a diverse group of people coming together and using technology as a tool.”

The best thing about Web Summit for me? Having 170+ nationalities all in one conference centre and genuinely feeling part of a global tech community. Massive thanks to WebSummit for offering the women in tech tickets for a second year in a row and to Delib for letting me take time out to experience such an amazing conference.

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