Recently, we’ve made some pretty big updates to one of our products, Simulator. We updated the admin dashboard, meaning it a) looks loads better, b) is easier to use and c) contains all the essential information an administrator needs at a glance. We also rebranded Simulator somewhat; now, rather than being solely a budget simulator, it’s a more multi-purpose tool.

We’ve realised along the way that Simulator can do more than simulate balancing the books. It can be used for less quantifiable concepts than hard numbers, like prioritising allocation of resources, or mapping trade-offs when updating a transport network. Its third iteration is a bill simulator, which can be used to understand public priorities when it comes to bills – like water rates in Melbourne, or property tax bills in Wichita.

An example of the new Simulator admin dashboard.

In all three models, Simulator helps the public understand the difficult trade-offs involved in complex decision making, while helping organisations understand the priorities of the people they serve. Its game-like interface on the respondent’s end, and its swish new administrator user interface, are designed to be simple and easy to understand while delivering meaningful data that directly influences decision outcomes. We’re pretty proud of it. So we decided we should celebrate, and what better way than having a party?

We booked out the upstairs bar at our favourite Bristol pub, the Famous Royal Navy Volunteer, bought some bar snacks, flamingo hats and party poppers, and asked as many people as we thought would fit in the room to join us.

The evening was very excellent, with lightning talks from Carolyn Hassan, of Knowle West Media Centre; Delib director Ben Fowkes; and filmmaker Tiffany Maddox. Here’s a little rundown of what they talked about.

Carolyn is the founder of Knowle West Media Centre, an arts centre and charity that runs community projects aimed at improving peoples’ lives with the use of technology and the arts. She and her colleague Zoe talked about some of the work they’ve been doing lately, from helping people with limited tech knowledge learn skills in an age of increasing automation; to developing a citizen-led housing project called We Can Make. They’ve even developed a pre-planning protocol, currently being piloted with Bristol City Council and the Park, wherein the community consulted (woo!) on proposed developments in the area before planning permission is granted. It’s all brilliant stuff and we’re lucky to have them in Bristol.

Carolyn gives her talk

We then had a talk from Ben, who gave a talk on the history of Simulator and how it came about. Basically, democracy is broken, and it needs to be better, but it is very complicated. Budgets even more so. Simulator was developed as a way for the public to have their say on these complex issues, whilst also learning about them (and just how complex they are) through the actual process of participation, thereby increasing public understanding and organisational accountability. We got to see some screenshots of V1, when it was Budget Simulator only. It looked about as early-2000s internet as you could get. (Every time a participant moved a slider, the whole page would refresh. Remember those days?)

The final talk was from Tiffany Maddox, who gave a brilliant and sweary presentation called ‘5 creative myths – and how to close the gap’. Being a creative director and filmmaker, she has to rely on her creativity to pay her bills, which means she can’t rely on ‘the muse’ to hit her whenever. She shared five myths that annoy her about the creative process.

  1. Creative intervention is divine: it isn’t. It’s a process that you have to work at. Here are some steps:
    • Gather material. Learn about, and be fascinated with, a wide range of topics. Fall down a Wikipedia/Reddit hole and force yourself to use what you’ve learned.
    • Forget about it. Let your brain have a break from it.
      Be prepared for the idea to come to you when you’re doing something mundane.
    • Tell people about it: it doesn’t have to be Yours and Yours Alone. Talking with other people about your ideas can be super helpful, but be sure they’re not ‘w****** with agendas.’
  2. Restraint kills creativity: actually, you need it. Make yourself harsh deadlines. Stick to them.
  3. It’s not a real job: it is, and it’s hard, but also nobody will die if you don’t meet your deadline. 
  4. You’ll never measure up: comparing yourself to others is useful to nobody. 
  5. I’m just not creative!’ Yes, you are. You’re a human.

After the talks, we popped our party poppers, donned our pink flamingo hats and had a bit of a good time. It was a glorious evening, so lots of people headed up to the roof terrace. We had a great time, so many thanks to our speakers and our guests for helping make it a success.