DWP Digital software engineer Pooja Malhotra helps a student during a Code First: Girls session in DWP Digital's Leeds digital hub.

Pooja helps a student during a Code First: Girls session in DWP Digital’s Leeds hub.

For the past 8 weeks, I’ve been one of the instructors at the Code First: Girls coding sessions we’ve been hosting at DWP Digital’s Leeds hub.

Code First: Girls is a not-for-profit social enterprise which works with companies and women to improve the gender diversity in technology. It trains women in technology, digital, and IT skills and helps companies develop more female friendly recruitment policies.

I was keen to get involved in the coding sessions because I can really identify with the aims of Code First: Girls. It’s well known that there’s a need to have a more diverse digital sector, and I’ve always felt that in order to get more girls and women in technical roles, women already doing these jobs have to step up and be the role models. We have to show them that digital roles are not scary and if we can do it, they can do it too.

Learning basic web development skills

The Code First: Girls course was an introduction to the basics of web development. There were 25 women in the cohort and most of them were from a non-technical background. Some were postgraduate students, others were working but not directly in technical roles.

In the first six weeks we started with teaching the basics of topics like learning HTML, CSS, JavaScript, GitHub and then moving onto more advanced concepts like BootStrap and JQuery frameworks. In the final two weeks the women have had the chance to build their own websites using the skills they’ve learned. We’ve also had talks from prominent women in the industry talking about their experience, which were really inspirational.

As an instructor, I led some of the sessions and in others where I wasn’t the lead instructor, I helped the groups if they had any problems or if they were stuck with anything they were learning.

Pooja Malhotra and a Code First: Girls student look at a computer during a Code First: Girls coding session

Pooja works with a student during the Code First: Girls course

A passion for teaching and mentoring

I’ve really enjoyed it. From doing mentoring in my role at DWP Digital and in previous roles, I’ve realised I have a passion for teaching and helping others. Because the women had different levels of knowledge on the Code First: Girls course, my role as an instructor was to make sure that everyone was involved and noone was left behind.

Our team of instructors were all from different roles, and that was a good thing – it showed the girls that there are different roles available in digital, not just coding.

All the women were very dedicated and passionate – if people are like that it makes teaching them much easier. It was great to see them getting more and more confident every week and then moving on to build their own websites by the final week. Some of the sites they built were really impressive and really showed just how far the group had come during the eight weeks.

Facing the digital world with confidence

I started my career as a software developer 8 years ago after completing a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. It has been a very exciting and fulfilling career journey. Reflecting on my early days in technology, I think if I’d met more women role models in the industry it would have helped me a lot.

I really hope the Code First: Girls group are now ready to face the digital world with confidence. Hopefully we’ve showed them there is nothing to be scared of in digital roles. With the skills they’ve learned, they can hopefully see it’s not that hard to develop a website and if they have the basics, they can move on to learn more and more.

I also hope they realise there are so many career avenues women can explore in digital organisations these days. There are all kinds of roles available, from user researchers, business analysts to front end developers. The sky is the limit for women in technology now, and I hope that realisation is the main thing they’ll take away their Code First: Girls experience.

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Original source – DWP Digital


As I sat on the train scrolling on my phone for Brexit news, a curious landmark update dropped into my timeline. It was 10 years, the tweet told me since I joined Twitter.

It made me think and reflect on the journey I’ve taken and the lessons I’ve learned along the way. Many have been good and others not so good.

Ten years ago I went to Coventry as part of an audience of local government comms people to hear ex-BBC journalist Nick Booth talk about what the future would look like.

It was a future, he said, where allotment holders would blog, councillors would film themselves and reach 30,000 on YouTube and where Birmingham Post reporters like Joanna Gearey would check the news by asking her followers on Twitter. Joanna works for Twitter in New York now. Each of Nick’s points was backed-up with an example but the line that stopped me in my tracks was this…

‘We will no longer have to go through the Priesthood of journalists to talk to our residents.’

As a press officer, this spoke to me. There was a better way changed my life. But this is no happy ever after romance. There are jags in the story. But it made me think of the key lines and lessons I’ve learned.

The line became the first of several lines that became staging posts along my journey.

‘Facebook is where you meet people you went to school with. Twitter is where you meet people you wished you went to school with.’ In 2008, discovering you could connect with people you didn’t know through an app on your phone was genuinely life changing. For me, then discovering that you could meet them at the Birmingham Social Media Cafe that then thrived was even more amazing. For a few years it met downstairs at a cafe near New Street station. Once a month you could meet with people that you’d seen online.

Ten years ago there was something about the West Midlands that encouraged Twitter to take root. It was a place big enough to have a critical mass of people who gave a stuff about the place where they lived and who wanted to see where this new technology would take us all.

I watched it play out in my timeline.

The Brum Bloggers was the loose name for those early people who inspired me. Quick-witted, sharp and gifted they ran rings around Birmingham City Council. They worked not out of spite but because they wanted their city to be a better place. One of them had a website called ‘Birmingham its not shit.’ They made a website in plain English that translated what the city’s planners wanted to do and where you could comment was one idea. They decided to crowdsource a replacement council website in a day. Why? Because they thought the council one was crap and too expensive. And they started social media surgeries to help community groups share in this fun. Nick Booth was instrumental. They even ran a Twitter panto.

‘I trust my officers with a baton. Why wouldn’t I trust them with a Twitter account?’ Back then, it wasn’t comms people who inspired me. It was those who’ve never written a press release but knew what the internet was. Back then, non-comms people were the people who were doing the most challenging things because no-one had faxed them the rule book. The countryside ranger, the hyperlocal blogger, the coder and the resident.

Here’s an example. One day the Assistant Chief Constable of West Midlands Police turned up in full uniform at the Birmingham Social Media Cafe to ask what social media was and how it could be used.

That copper was Assistant Chief Constable Gordon Scobbie. A solid man with a strong jaw who you’d imagine would take a pace towards trouble rather than away. Like the Brum bloggers, he also gave a stuff. But his concern was the policing of the region not websites. Only a few years previous, West Midlands police officers were banned from using the internet to help with their work. Now things would change. He worked out how social media could be used and then in 2011 post-riots convinced the right senior people that the answer was not to ban it but embrace it. The man should be lionised.

Officers, are real people, Assistant Chief Constable Scobbie concluded.

‘Walsall Police Station at 19:11 today, not on fire. Look how not on fire it is. Very not on fire.’ When rioting broke out in the summer of 2011, rumours circulated across Walsall that the police station was on fire. Step forward PC Rich Stanley who shot the damaging rumour down in flames using his Twitter account and a pic taken on his smartphone.

Suddenly, the purpose for social media started to take shape. It was not the shortage of ideas. It was a shortage of time.

‘#jfdi just fucking do it’ And so started the era of #jfdi in local government. Seeking forgiveness was easier than asking permission. Don’t wait for IT. Just do it. I started testing and experimenting myself and through Twitter I found my tribe. We all found each other. But the people who thought that social media was driving people apart couldn’t be more wrong. But what was really surprising was that the bright ideas in local government comms were coming from the provinces. Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Derbyshire, Devon, Monmouth, Orkney and South Lanarkshire.

‘Organisations don’t tweet, people do.’ In my own corner of the world, we ran #walsall24, a 24-hour wall of noise on Twitter to paint a picture of the day-to-day.

‘I don’t go to unconferences any more. They’re boring’ In London, there too was a recognition that the world had changed but that Government hadn’t. Inspired by some US ideas, 20 or 30 met in a pub one Saturday to stage an unconference. Seeing as no-one was running events that were tackling how things are changing, they’d run their own one. There was no agenda. The attendees decide what they’d talk about. Ideas emerged.

John Peel once said that punk was realising that if you sold your brother’s motorbike and knocked over a phone box you had the £100 you needed to record and release a 7″ single. Of course, the first localgovcamp in 2009 was going to take place in the West Midlands. Twitter was connecting people in local government who also gave a shit.

I’ve said before that going to my first unconference changed my life. Instead of waiting to hear what people with powerpoints have to tell you you can do it yourself. Ideas can bounce and be improved to fail or fly. On the way back from one UKGovCamp I had to sit by myself on the train home because the inspiration was too much.

Unconferences said that we could do it. So, why don’t we?

So we did. It’s where the commscamp event I’m involved with first started. And the brewcamp meet-ups.

‘The answer is quite simple. Eventually, all the old suits will die.’ In 2010, a very senior government comms person announced that the future of communications that year was going to be the printed A-Z of Services. I spent years banging the table that it wasn’t if but how local government should use social media.

It didn’t matter what they said. Those of us who knew what the future would look like just carried on without them. It was exciting times. There were ski tracks in the snow we followed and learned from. When one decided to use Facebook to tell people election results we gasped at her audacity. When I started to tweet that the gritters are out on a cold night I did so after a fight. Quickly, all this became the norm.

There was a group of people, too many to name here, who pioneered things not to advance their career but because they knew it was the right thing to do. For several their daring was frowned upon. I’m still proud to know them.

The partnership – and it was a partnership – that build comms2point0 played a part in changing things. But change would have happened anyway.

‘Die press release die! die! die!’ A blog post by Tom Foremski fired me. One of the first presentations I ever gave in front of an audience was on this topic. After a few years blogging my thoughts I was starting to get asked to speak to people. The essence of it was that sending words all the time was a bit pointless. Some people were keen on this. Others were not.

‘But the revolution never happened like we thought.’ Social media was going to shine a light through the crap and give citizens a voice. It was going to let us talk with residents directly without having to go through the priesthood of journalists.

Well, it both has and it hasn’t.

Where I live in Quarry Bank in Dudley there is a nature reserve. There has been a planning application to build houses on part of it. It was opposed with a 10,000 name Facebook group who mobilised 1,000 objections in an unprecedented display of people power.

In the old days, a protest outside the planning committee would have been it. And if the Express & Star photographer was called away to a fire instead the protester’s voices would only have carried a hundred yards into the cold night air.

The revolution is on Facebook. But councils themselves are still as immobile. And then there’s Donald Trump. Trump is everything I thought was impossible in 2008. Negativity. Hate. Abuse. Echo chambers.

Waking up to hear he had been elected was a dark day. My own innocent belief in the optimistic positive power of social media died that day. That wasn’t supposed to happen. Bad people can use it, too. And win.

‘The future is here, its just unevenly distributed.’ While one part of the population are digital natives at the bow wave others are not.

‘It’ll get interesting when it gets boring’ was a throwaway comment I once heard a bloke called Dave Briggs say. Dave was a former local government person who in the early years of my journey became freelance to evangelise about how the web could be used by the public sector to make people’s lives better. He works in-house now rather than freelance making good the direction he spent years telling others about.

Dave’s line is something I’ve thought of often over the years. He was right. We now don’t have the excitement of the early years of the love affair but digital tools have become the norm. It’s not the shiny tool that’s exciting but the change we can make to people’s lives using it.

‘It’s the right thing in the right time in the right place.’ I check the news on Twitter. I download the meme and share it with my brothers on WhatsApp. I book workshop places on Eventbrite and what sparks me is the ideas that emerge on the Public Sector Headspace Facebook group. Thriving with almost 3,000 members and almost 11,000 comments, likes and reactions in 28 days.

I realise the other day that I try not to train people just about social media now. I just look at what works best. If that’s a bit digital, that’s fine. But the idea of running an event just about social media seems pointless.

‘I love newspapers but I’m still intoxicated by the power and possibility of the internet.’ In many ways, what I do now is just the same as I did 10 years ago before I joined Twitter. I tell stories and help people communicate. Just how I do it has changed.

I’m a director of two companies, comms2point0 and Dan Slee C2 Ltd and the work I do directly and indirectly comes from what I do on the internet. That’s a positive.

But the 10 years has cast the positive side of social media with the negative. It is no golden bullet, It has caused a revolution. Just not always the ones I thought. It can be good It can be bad. Twitter is no longer the place it was. The optimism has gone. But it has moved rather than dissipated and its got more realistic.

Not everyone I’ve met through social media has been a beautiful person. But that is life.

Over time, events like commscamp were around the day-to-day and how to make it better rather than the synapse blowing enthusiasm of the new shiny toy. And that’s fine.

Social media has become simply the way people talk to each other and communicate. The interesting stuff is how it can change people’s lives not the shiny of the channel itself.

But if anything, the gap between what people are doing and what large organisations are doing has got wider not smaller. It can be summed up by the council who posted a link to consultation on Facebook but then ignored the dozens of comments posted to the link.

Innovation is not running #ourday on Twitter once a year. Its doing things differently,  learning from it and doing it better next time around.

Ten years has felt like a long time. It feels like a different world.

Thank you if you’ve connected with me online or in real life.

Let’s do better.

You can find me @danslee on Twitter or on LinkedIn or dan@comms2point0.co.uk by email.


Original source – The Dan Slee Blog » LOCAL SOCIAL: Is it time for a Local localgovcamp?

This year we’ve celebrated FutureGov turning 10.

At the end of 2017, we faced the creative challenge of how to represent and celebrate our tenth birthday through our FutureGov branding. FutureGov 10 (FG10) was a great opportunity to revisit our brand assets as we started to plan events, communications and merchandise for 2018.

After 10 years, our brand identity has become recognisable and well known across the public sector. Our visual assets are a key part of how we spread the word about our work, making sure we’re seen and represented at events. And importantly, it makes us visible when working inside organisations across the public sector (our core work).

At the start of 2018, we launched a full brand identity refresh, built on FutureGov’s existing identity and assets. Over the course of the year, the work has proven a great success. So, as we reach our eleventh birthday in 2019, it’s a great chance to look back and celebrate the work produced by our creative team throughout the year.

I’ve had the privilege of art directing and providing direction for this work, but full credit for the creative development and visual design work belongs to Chris Evans and Jas Soh from our design team. They did an outstanding job of developing concepts and producing final brand assets in under three weeks (alongside an existing schedule of busy project work).

Brand mark, fireworks, colours and typography

The creative brief was to focus on celebration. With this in mind, we had to continue to be bold, while introducing fun, celebratory elements.

The FutureGov ‘FG’ brand mark has been used extensively over the past few years, so we made the decision to update this to an FG10 brandmark.

FG10 brandmark

For those interested in the detail of the final ‘FG10’ design, Jas custom drew the ‘0’ in ‘10’ to better match the ‘G’ in ‘FG’ — creating a better balance and overall effect.

The main application we explored was to introduce what we described as ‘firework’ effects, applied to the brand mark and as graphics for our website, banners and other types of media. To support this, we extended the colour schemes, using bright, bold colours to complement the existing brand.

FG10 firework motif

In terms of typography, the existing FutureGov brand uses Futura and Proxima Nova. We decided to explore introducing a new typeface to help set apart the new designs we were creating. We settled on Museo Slab. This slab serif was chosen to provide contrast to the two sans-serif typefaces that have represented the FutureGov brand for the past 10 years. It was then used specifically on things like pull up banners and print advertising throughout the FG10 campaign.

The FG10 brand identity in application

We produce a lot of pin badges and stickers at FutureGov. Everyone loves a badge and sticker, so they travel with us to most events and workshops around the country and the world.

For FG10 we produced a range of circular stickers and pin badges with the updated brand mark, using colour variations from the full expanded colour palette and varied sizes. A treatment for the sticker designs that worked particularly well was a version with are ‘FutureGov’ logo used as a repeated pattern in the background.

Colour and pattern variations of the brandmark.

We developed these designs further throughout the year. My personal favourite is the rainbow version commissioned before London Pride. Chris tweaked the colours slightly to tie in perfectly with our FG10 brand pallet, and we were very pleased with the result.

FG10 rainbow edition sticker/badge artwork

Limited edition special foil (silver) badges were produced for the FutureGov team with ‘FutureGov is 10 Est. 2008’ as an ident.

Silver foil stickers — FutureGov is 10, Est. 2008

We also produced some custom cut FG10 pin ‘3D’ style badges that proved to be popular with the team.

FG10 pin with a variety of badges created throughout the year

The branding was then used in lots of other places. We produced pull up banners for the sponsorship of events like LocalGovCamp and a branded notebook using a ‘FutureGov is 10 stamp’.

FG10 banner at LocalGovCamp
FutureGov is 10 stamped notebooks

The final part of any brand identity change is to update all the day to day assets we use like presentation, speaking and sales templates. These were all redesigned and updated for use in Keynote and Google Slides.

Finally, we refreshed our website and social media presence with the new brand assets, supported by new messaging.

The FG10 branded image prominently featured on the website

Uscreates joins FutureGov

For the announcement of Uscreates joining FutureGov, we worked with a freelance designer to develop a motif against both company logos, incorporating both brand colours in the design. We used this alongside FG10 materials to make the company announcements back in October. This worked really nicely with the idea that the two companies were greater than the sum of their individual parts — represented by an ‘X’ motif (‘X’ also representing ten).

Moving into 2019

Brands and visual identities always evolve and FutureGov is no different. For the obvious reasons of turning 11 in January, we’ll be moving away from our FG10 branding. As we step into our second decade, we’re starting to think about how we evolve the FutureGov brand identity again, which means we’re already looking ahead and planning for 2019. Watch this space!

We’re hiring ambitious and creative designers who want to make a difference in public services. Find out how you can join the fun.

Designing FG10 was originally published in FutureGov on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Original source – FutureGov

As dxw grows, we want to build an inclusive, diverse company based on our values.

Simply put, we believe that diverse teams create better services. The diversity of thought we get from teams of people from different backgrounds means we can approach problems with greater empathy. One of the ways we can create more diverse teams is to look beyond the usual recruitment channels.

The numbers

While there are men who end up economically inactive, the vast majority of potential returners are women. Generally, you’re considered a returner if you’ve been out of the workforce for two years or more.

According to figures from the Government Equalities Office, at the end of 2017, there were 1.9 million women economically inactive, many of whom have professional or managerial experience. From the same report though, they’d found just 40 returners programmes at the end of 2017, which seems wholly inadequate given the scale of the problem.

Starting a returners’ programme

In 2019 dxw digital will launch a returners’ programme so we can access a largely untapped talent pool.

As with any work, we plan to do this in the open and are starting with discovery to understand the needs of the people who might enter the programme. We are keen to talk to people who’ve been on career breaks, perhaps women who’ve taken career breaks after starting families. Other people might have stepped out of the workforce to care for someone.

Anecdotally, we know that it is surprisingly easy to fall out of the workforce and increasingly difficult to re-enter. Apart from the difficulties of finding a role that offers flexibility, it is hard to maintain your self-confidence after a prolonged period out of work.

Sometimes, people take on lower-paid or freelance work to get back into work but this can be a barrier to return, particularly in digital roles. There is often a perception that you need to be up to date on the latest tools and techniques to be employable. Part-time working could be important and for others, flexibility around working hours.

Rebuilding digital capability

For some people, looking to return to a full-time role, there could be opportunities to work in delivery teams shadowing and pairing with teammates. Over time, as their confidence grows, they would step up and take on more responsibility from their partners.

This model would likely suit anyone wanting to return to a practitioner role in a delivery team, perhaps as a developer, delivery or product manager or researcher.

In an agency, it is easier to fund this model if the returnee is going to move into a billable role. So to fund the role, initially, they could be billed at discounted day rates during this capability-building phase.

For people with experience in more senior roles, these are more straightforward to do on a part-time, say three or four days a week basis. Again, there would be an opportunity for a returnee to start the role as part of a pair and step up as their confidence grew.

Business operations roles

As dxw grows, so does its business operations capability which is supporting teams across multiple client locations, two dxw businesses (dxw digital and dxw cyber) and dxw offices in London and Leeds.

This creates opportunities for a larger range of potential roles that could be included in the returners programme. Also, given these roles are not billable to our clients, this opens up options for part-time working, job shares and flexible hours.

It also raises the possibility of a supported programme for returners, where we offer shorter-term, paid work experience to get people exposed to working life and rebuild their confidence.

Design with real people

As ever, it is best to design things based on the insight and experience of real people.  We would love to talk to people who are looking to return to the workforce and understand the kind of support they’re going to need. Please share this link and encourage anyone who might be interested to get in touch.


The post dxw returners’ programme appeared first on dxw digital.

Original source – dxw digital

The Democratic Society is helping councils and communities in Scotland to hold participatory budgeting processes online. What is participatory budgeting?  Try the 60-second guide at PB Scotland Our work is part of a national programme to help more people take part in decisions about how public money is spent in their communities.  The support we […]

Original source – The Democratic Society

Making votes easier to understand

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Parliamentary votes (or ‘divisions’ as they’re known in the lingo) aren’t always the easiest things to understand; yet, as we know from our email inbox, they’re often what our users want to know about most.

Supported by a grant from Open Society Foundations, we’re now displaying  MPs’, Lords’ and Scottish Parliament votes on TheyWorkForYou more graphically, making them easier to understand at a glance:

(Click the image to see this vote in situ.)

For a long time TheyWorkForYou would display divisions as a plain list, usually at or near the end of a debate. When a user wrote to ask us how they could see how a specific representative had voted on the issue of the day, we’d point them towards the relevant section of the right page — but of course, it’s much better if you can find the information for yourself.

Things improved a little when we created the Recent Votes page, and separated out information for each vote onto their own pages. At that point, though, we were only displaying votes which counted towards the topics we cover on representatives’ Voting Record pages: in other words, those which helped us assess MPs’ and Lords’ stances on issues such as university tuition fees, fox-hunting, etc.

Now, with this new tranche of work, we’ve been able to make the following improvements:

  • All votes are included on the Recent Votes page, not just ones feeding the voting records.
  • The voting breakdowns are shown graphically, so you can see straight away what the rough proportions were, and to what extent each party’s members made up each side. It should also be easy to see immediately when a representative votes differently to the majority of their party!
  • As we blogged recently, we’re including information on voting for anyone subscribed to MP alerts.

If you’d really like to understand the full context of each vote, we hope you’ll click through from these pages and read the preceding debates.

We hope you’ll now find it a lot easier to understand votes — and this certainly feels like a timely addition, given the interesting voting activity of recent days.

Image: Katie McNabb

Original source – mySociety

Last month, I headed up to Manchester for Hack the North – I love taking part in hackathons, especially if they are dedicated to social good and solving important problems. It’s a fun way to meet and work with new people, co-create and build stuff together. Also, it was my first time in Manchester, so it was good to wander around the city a little.

The challenge

DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) digital wanted to identify where hand-offs between organisations cause difficulty or hardship to individuals, and to explore how support services offered by organisations in and around Manchester could be brought together most effectively for the benefit of people in the region.

Using a variety of data sources, we hoped to generate ideas and co-create solutions which could make a difference to real people’s lives – whilst also helping Manchester thrive both socially and economically. The overarching theme was how to help vulnerable people accessing and using services in Manchester.

Some of the questions to consider and think about were:
* What makes it likely for someone to slip through the gap?
* Where are the gaps in the services around Manchester area?
* How to best link up central government, local authorities and the charity sector.

The first speaker, Amul Batra, (@amul5, @northcoders ) showed some crushing numbers and facts about Greater Manchester, such as 620,000 citizens are living in poverty – 180,000 are children and 1.6 m people will slide into poverty.

Amul showed numbers on investment and money poured into the Manchester areas – and then asked: “Where is that money going?” How can we have these resources available and still have such high numbers in unemployment and poverty? How can we get people out of vulnerable positions and elevate and empower them?

The second speakers were Irene Musker and Tim Haworth, from Job Centre Manchester @JCPinManchester – both of whom are passionate about changing peoples’ lives.

Some topics that were covered:

  • Barriers in Job Centre services, high rates of unemployment and “lack of qualifications”
  • Vulnerable people – how can we help in cases of dementia, Alzheimers, or autism?
  • Older people or those with weak bladders who may have problems with not knowing where public toilet facilities are or have problems accessing them.
  • Going to a hospital appointment and having trouble getting a parking space, and then the added stress of being late
  • 1 in 4 people in Manchester can experience mental health problems
  • The struggles people encounter with appointments – booking, remembering, and attending.
  • How can we help benefit claiming individuals to find and move into work?

Discussions with the audience

After the talks, the audience asked clarifying questions to help them understand the scope of the hackathon and main challenges.

We learned that biggest challenge with joining support services together is politics and sharing information between organisations.

Some of the main blockers preventing people from going to Job Centres is a fear caused by the bad reputation and negative press coverage.

One of the speakers also spoke about their son who is diagnosed with autism and their challenges. Simply put, we need to enable a better strategy for accessing services.

The Hack: What we were asked to do

  • Show ‘the thing’
  • Code / user journey / clickable stuff
  • Explain how to measure the success of the thing, how to prove it’s helping to solve a problem
  • Most importantly – can everyone use it?!

Pitching time!

It was great to see that they had pitch by proxy available and invited everyone to stand up so that the people who were pitching felt more comfortable.

The participants who wanted to share their ideas were asked to pick up a prop that would be an indicator of their team and had 3 minutes to explain it.


1. Big Ben: Adam described his problem and difficulties with the process of claiming DLA (Disability Living Allowance) benefits for his disabled young daughter. How difficult and time-consuming it was to claim for DLA blue badges, a service that was really needed. He had to fill in 40-page paper form, wait 12 weeks for assessment, only to learn that the papers send had been lost. He wasn’t the first one and not the only one in such a stressful and frustrating situation. Adam asked how could we combine information from NHS with Local Council, DWP and DLA to make that process easier without having to fill in the same information over and over again.

2. Cheesecake: Help in managing job centre appointments for vulnerable people using new tech like Alexa and Augmented Reality

3. Reindeer: Automated systems of warnings on how long people were unemployed and giving access to Mental Health help apps like “Calm”, Future Learn, Coursera.

4. Mug: How to improve customer experience where web pages were voice enabled. (Similar to Alexa.) The team went with a different idea of using a chatbot to answer common questions related to public services and stuff on gov.uk

5. Hat:  How to tackle issues with loneliness, mental health issues and depression by building a web app.

6. Umbrella: People want to talk to somebody, lonely, elderly people that mainly want to the phone. How to join up tech used by youngsters such as instant messenger, video with phone conversations.

7. Leaflet: Job Centre app sign on and collaboration with the Council to help people with learning disabilities and pre-populate some of the information.

8. Reindeer headband: Spoke about helping with loneliness for people with mental health problems, especially schizophrenia. The idea here was for a web page where you could log in once a day and get paired with someone else and have a one-minute conversation. Have a text to speech converter available to overcome barriers of not being able to directly talk to someone.

9. A bag: A type of image recognition that would go through scans and an AI to detect early-stage cancer.

Our team

Chris Pugh and I decided to join Adam and the Big Ben team. We formed a group of six people on day one, continuing as a team of four on day two.

User Research

We began with a session of user research and asked questions to better understand Adam’s problem. Next, we mapped out the user journey of applying to DLA for a child and find out the main pain points of the process.

It turned out there are many.

Frustrations and comments from the user (Adam):

Explain the situation 100 times.

No one understands the process.

1000s of forms to fill in to receive support.

Annoying paper forms. Writing the same thing again and again.

Health  Advisor’s advice to people claiming is

Make sure you fill in the details of the worst/most problematic situation when you send it to DLA.

The DLA form has issues, such as:

  • Confusing language
  • You don’t know all the answers straight away
  • Emotionally difficult (You want to be hopeful for your child, but you need to describe the worst day they may have.)
  • Some of the questions required very detailed answers (for example, “If a child has seizures, describe exactly how often, for how long, what happens…”)

DWP / DLA decides what level of disability, allowance and mobility you have based on the form and medical proof you send them.

The user had to do a lot of extra research to find out how to fill in the form and acknowledged that quite often, people feel isolated and don’t know how to do it. Also, it’s time-consuming. As Adam mentioned, what if they’re a single parent? They might just give up.

The user journey as described by the user

  1. Testing and diagnosis process – there would be appointments every single week. Would have to go through a lot of tests (lumbar puncture, MRI scans, etc) and waiting for results (2 weeks for MRI scans). There would be countless appointments and it could take years to get an accurate diagnosis. The main touchpoints are visits at GP, hospitals, Health visitor.
  2. “Taking it in” – accepting the diagnosis and working out, “What does this mean for us and our child now and in the future?” The users are overwhelmed with a lot of information at a very emotional time.
  3. Accessing services – filling out countless forms, mainly paper.
    • DLA – to assess mobility level
    • Evidence required: medical letters, assessment and outcomes, physiotherapy reports, child’s psychologists report, speech and language report
    • Council to get Blue badge – a separate service, resubmit similar info
    • Special needs help
    • Education plan
    • Social services support
  4. Chasing up the progress with DLA (by phone, on hold for a long time)
  5. Waiting for assessment: 12 weeks
  6. Receiving Letter of Entitlement – unlocks access to services, blue badge
  7. Re-assessment every few years for a child.

Before Adam left, we asked what part of the process could be prioritised for improvement. Gradually filling in an online form and getting an instant submission confirmation was a number one priority. Number two was to get updates on DLA evaluation progress.

Next, we had a brainstorming session and mapped out potential ways of improving the user journey/process. It wasn’t easy to focus on any smaller part of the journey to improve just yet. As a quick win to reduce users pain point, turning a DLA paper form into something digital seemed like something we could start working on. So we would need to understand what the form is about and where are the duplications and unnecessary questions.

Day 2: The Hack

Reevaluating the problem, our options and prototyping

With a smaller team size, we needed to distribute the tasks. Chris and Hannah began working through the Disability Life Allowance form. After reviewing the content they discovered a lot of multiplications and questions that could be simplified or skipped completely based on the type of answers.

The problem in itself was quite complex, so we had to focus on a smaller part of it.

We had a lot of good guidance from our facilitators to help us focus and shape “the thing” better.

Chris sketched out initial user flow so that Miruna and I could start to build it

We decided that we could improve the user journey starting from when the user goes through diagnosis process and enable them to own their data and give them the ability to share parts of it with other public services like DLA, local council, DVLA.

Once the user starts going through the process of diagnosing a disability, they would get signed up to a service that helps them manage the process and digitally send the required information to relevant parties. This is a very stressful and emotional process for the parents and they should receive the necessary guidance and help to access services they need easily and quickly.

As an example of the service, we presented the part where the user receives a link to join the service (email or text message) from a medical practitioner. The user then confirms their account details, sends through NHS records, consents to use the service and chooses their preference of communication (email, text message). After those two steps, the user can access their medical records related to diagnosis, apply for necessary services and read help guides. The service also included an easier way to fill in the ‘Health Diary’ which is requested by DLA.


Sadly we didn’t win, but we did get we got a recognition from the jury 😀 Our Prototype can be found on heroku.

Health Diary Prototype

Our prototype

Thanks to the organisers for arranging a great event 🙂

The post Hacking the North appeared first on dxw digital.

Original source – dxw digital


It’s Christmas and you can almost taste the mince pies in the air.

But aside from that the air is filled with that glorious commodity…. creativity.

My timeline is filled with imagination and experimentation.

There are videos, advent calendars, tips, jokes and things that grab my attention. Content that tries harder and flies higher than at other times of year. It’s almost like the shoes have been kicked off and the blow football has been cracked out on a school night.

It’s great to see.

The thing is, where is this spirit of experimentation for the rest of the year?

Creativity is for life. Not for Christmas.

Make yourself a New Years resolution to stay creative.

Picture credit: Tyne and Wear Museums / Flickr.

Original source – The Dan Slee Blog » LOCAL SOCIAL: Is it time for a Local localgovcamp?

Healthy Start logo

Hi, I’m Colin and I’m working on improving the Healthy Start service. This blog post is about a survey the team did with retailers to understand how they administer Healthy Start and their feedback about the service.

What we did and why?

Healthy Start currently requires retailers to sign up to the scheme. They are crucial partners to how the service works – namely claimants exchange their paper vouchers for eligible items. There are other interactions such as Healthy Start needing to reimburse retailers for accepting the vouchers.

The team had identified from previous research efforts and assessments that retailers were a group we needed to speak to more. Our colleagues at GDS suggesting we focus some of our “research activities with retailers that accept the vouchers – understanding more about their needs and pain points and how the experience can be improved for them and the end user.”

So while procuring a supplier to help us with private beta, we decided to see if we could get some feedback from our retailer contacts and decided to run a survey. Not unlike our survey with local authorities and other stakeholders.


We had 36 anonymous participants and we asked 11 questions.

No questions were mandatory.

The survey was open from October 2018 to early December 2018.

Across the 11 questions the median response rate was 29.

Free-text questions had the lowest response from participants.

Summary of what we found:

Who were the participants?

  • 75% of the survey participants worked at Small supermarket/convenience stores (e.g. Tesco Metro or Express, Sainsbury’s Local), 12.5% said they worked at larger-sized supermarkets
  • 93.3% said they accepted Healthy Start vouchers

Experience with customers?

  • when asked ‘How often do staff check that a customer using Healthy Start vouchers has bought fruit, vegetables, milk or formula?’ 77.4% of respondents said always
  • when asked how they check if eligible items are being bought they told us that this mostly happens at checkout by a member of staff
  • when asked ‘How often are those using the vouchers trying to buy non-eligible items?’ respondents said 30% never did it, 30% sometimes, 23.3% sometimes and 16.7% always
  • respondents told us that training/guidance does take place with staff about how to administer the Healthy Start scheme. Nobody responded to say that zero training is given.

Piechart of how retailers train their staff about healthy start

Experience of claiming for reimbursement

  • when sending vouchers back to be reimbursed most respondents (65.4%) told us that they send them back to us via our freepost address
  • 76.9% said they bundled up vouchers for reimbursement and sent them quarterly
  • 65.5% of respondents said it costs them less than £3 to send vouchers to us per year.

Satisfaction and pain points of the Healthy Start service

  • 71% of respondents said they were very satisfied or satisfied with their overall satisfaction of being part of the Healthy Start scheme
  • we asked respondents to tell us the biggest pain points of the scheme from their perspective they told us about “damaged vouchers”, “not being paid for expired vouchers”, “void vouchers” & “sending them off to claim”

What next?

The team continues to be passionate about learning what is needed to make the new Healthy Start service better. We will continue to seek feedback and advice and be approachable in the wider community that surrounds & supports Healthy Start.

This survey gives us some clues about further questions to ask our retailer partners. More research will be conducted so watch this space.

If you want to get in touch, be involved with research or have any questions you can email us at: nhsbsa.healthyfoodbeta@nhs.net

Original source – Stephen Hale

Technology is evolving faster than ever and as a Civil Service, we are keeping pace with this change.

Our commitment to make government work better for everyone by harnessing digital and new technologies to build effective services is supported by our aspiration to have one of the most digitally skilled populations of public servants in the world.

But digital skills alone are insufficient. Digital understanding is paramount to the success of government transformation. We believe that an understanding of technology – both present and emerging – should be core to the practice of the Civil Service.

So following a successful pilot in early 2018, the GDS Academy has launched the Emerging Technology Development Programme. It’s now open for applications from across the Civil Service until 5pm on 11 January 2019.

What the first cohort will be doing

The programme will create a deployable team of specialists with the skills, knowledge and confidence to advise on the application of emerging technologies to solve government’s most difficult problems.

Investing in small cohorts of qualified civil servants through a bespoke 10-week curriculum of learning and supervision, the programme partners individuals with world leading specialists from academia and industry.

The first call for applications focuses on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning. It’s planned that future topics will include distributed ledger technology, augmented and virtual reality, biotechnology, geospatial technology and quantum computing.

“Thanks to its versatility, AI and machine learning can be used everywhere to accomplish services and enhance the quality of their provision across sectors like health, energy, environment, transport, housing, manufacturing,” says Prof Hamid Bouchachia, Professor in Data Science and Intelligent Systems at Bournemouth University, as well as one of the academic tutors on the programme.

The text on the image reads: GDS Academy, Emerging Technology Development Programme, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

The programme is designed to significantly enhance government capability. It will help departments make the best use of emerging technology and build internal capability within GDS and wider government to stay ahead of the transformation curve.

Dr Wenjia Wang, a senior lecturer at the University of East Anglia’s School of Computing Science, and another programme tutor, said: “AI can help government improve its services to its citizens in a number of ways.

"For example, to have a better and evidence based understanding of the concerns or the problems the citizen has with the services government provides, by analysing the service data and finding the patterns.”

The new programme reflects the wider expansion of the GDS Academy’s curriculum to cover the breadth of new technologies impacting public services.

Find out more information including how to apply for the Emerging Technology Development Programme.

If you’d like more information on all our courses and programmes visit the GDS Academy. You can also follow @GDSacademy for updates.

Subscribe for blog updates.

Original source – Government Digital Service