“Top 5% of all Web sites!”

“Networking industry awards!”

“Awards for excellence!”

No, these accolades aren’t for GOV.UK. They’re for the much earlier 1994 central government site, open.gov.uk. Known by the exciting name of, er, the ‘CCTA Government Information Service’ it was the first attempt to provide a single UK cross-government website. The first common platform if you like.

By 1996 the site had brought together information from 180 public sector organisations, 79 of which were hosted on the central service itself. You can see it being celebrated in (silent) low-def video below.

This video is taken from the interactive CD-ROM government.direct“A prospectus for the Electronic Delivery of Government Services”, 1996*. It includes this opening animated sequence (ensure you have your sound on to maximise your immersive time-travelling experience).

The CD-ROM was a pioneering experiment at the time, providing an interactive version of the green paper (PDF) of the same name.

The introductory screen from the 1996 interactive CD-ROM ‘Government Direct’

As they explored the CD-ROM’s contents, citizens could make contextual notes and then email their consolidated feedback directly to government, an early example of using technology for more open and participative engagement. I wonder how many other government green, or white, papers have used technology to encourage such direct participation in the years since 1996?

Gathering citizen feedback, 1996 style

The government.direct CD-ROM includes several other videos, useful reminders of the state of play 23 years ago. For example, this one highlights the use of kiosks to ensure accessibility at a time when the internet was far less widely available.

This next video provides insight into the infamous Cab-e-Net spin doctor information management system and its role within government.

And this video from Australia talks about a ‘clever new system which puts the client first‘, emulating the direction of government.direct which similarly placed citizens at the centre and aimed for iterative design to meet their needs:

The Government wants, as far as is practicable, to tailor the new types of service to public demand … Immediately after the Green Paper is launched, the Government will initiate a series of pilot schemes, so that members of the public can try the new forms of service delivery for themselves. Their reactions will shape the arrangements which are eventually launched on a national scale.

government.direct para 1.5

One final video from government.direct – a reminder of how smart cards were once seen as the future. Substantial work with smart cards took place between government and the private sector, particularly the banks and Royal Mail, from around the mid-1990s onwards. Some of this work is referenced in this Smart Card News from 1997.

Smart cards were an important feature of the Government Gateway (an interoperable SAML identity hub and transaction orchestration platform) when it launched in 2001. Third party smart card providers carried out user verification checks to agreed standards accredited by t-scheme, with users then able to use their cards to access online public services.

The Government Gateway supported these third party credentials (and later chip-and-PIN cards) alongside user IDs and passwords to enable citizens, business and intermediaries to access and use public services. It’s an early example of a mixed economy of private and public sector identity players working to common, accredited standards – one still being actively discussed today.


* I still have it running in a Windows 3.11 virtual machine (yes, yes, I know)

[I happily acknowledge all copyrights in the above and I’m very happy to provide any additional acknowledgements on ownership, etc. The videos have all been taken from the government-published 1996 CD-ROM in my possession and are being used here for non-commercial purposes in the public interest and, I hope, reflect fair use]

The award-winning 1994 first cross-government website
Opening animated sequence from the government.direct CD-ROM 1996
The important role of kiosks in 1996
The UK Government Cab-e-Net system
Australian job centre trailer 1996
use of smart cards 1996

Original source – new tech observations from a UK perspective (ntouk)

social media free Sunday B&W.jpg

In our industry we talk a lot about screen breaks and spending too long online. This is nothing new. But for many of us we need to consciously work at better managing this issue for our own mental health, wellbeing and creativity.

by Darren Caveney and the Comms Unpluggers

So, I found myself at the top of the Lickey Hills looking out to the city skyline of the metropolis that is Birmingham, some 10 miles away in the distance, at 8am on a Sunday morning.

Why would you do that, you ask?

Good question. And the answer is two-fold.

Firstly, I have been giving out a lot of advice recently to people who I mentor and work closely with about the importance of taking lunch breaks and ideally with a walk in the fresh air.

We all know the importance of this for our mental health and wellbeing but I have a growing suspicion that fewer and fewer of us are doing this often enough. The benefits are multiple and proven. If nothing else it’s where you’ll have some clearer thinking time and the chance for your busy brain to fin a solution to a troubling problem. Even if you work in a city you don’t have to look too far to find a pleasant green space so there isn’t much of an excuse to be had.

Secondly, one of the core values behind Comms Unplugged is to spend less time online. I am fairly good at this now. But I do easily fall into bad habits when the work demands ramp up so I have to work at it.

March is proving to be a very busy month for me, with training, consultancy and workshops filling my weeks, and with some weekend working required to keep me on track I thought “practice what you preach” and switch off social media for a day. Sunday, in fact.

Hence my early morning trip to fresh air-filled Lickey Hills to reset and recharge.

I suggested (somewhat ironically via Whatsapp) that maybe some equally busy members of the Comms Unplugged group should try this too.

And many did.

Was it worth it?

For me, absolutely. And I was left wondering why I don’t do it more often.

But let’s see what my fellow Unpluggers made of it…

 

“Going social free for 24 hours with a few of my Comms Unplugged buddies was rather enlightening.  It really highlighted how much I reach for my phone – almost subconsciously and out of habit.  Pretty much as soon as I wake, almost any point I have a spot of downtime, I’m on it. For no particular reason other than “just to check”. I even opened one or two apps automatically, only to quickly realise what I’d done and shut them back down, pronto! After a couple of hours, I remembered the Unplugged liberation of not feeling the need or the obligation to be online at every opportunity. I got on with my Sunday.  I did miss chat on WhatsApp, as I had included this in my temporary ban, but other than the chat I would’ve had on there, I missed nothing.  Literally nothing of use or value, or certainly nothing that couldn’t wait until Monday morning. Many of us who took part have reflected – via WhatsApp!- on those 24hrs and all agree we’ll be doing it again.”

 

Georgia Turner, head of communications at Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council

 

“I did such productive things on SocialFreeSunday – I got my sewing machine out again, after several years, and made a new skirt that I’m so proud of. I fought the urge to share it with the world…and won!”

Helena Hornby is communications officer at Transport for Greater Manchester

 

“I know that staying away from social media does me good – I delete all my apps when I go on holiday and feel so much more relaxed when I come home – but I struggle to stay away from it the rest of the year. 

“So, when the Comms unplugged crew suggested the idea of ‘social-free Sunday’ I was in – knowing that I’d be part of a group doing the same thing helps me to stay committed.

“What I hadn’t expected was just how much of a difference one day away would make. I decided to help myself a little bit and moved all the social media apps (including WhatsApp) off the front page of my phone and that definitely reduced the pressure – no red circles flagging notifications! And then I stepped away from the phone and got on with the rest of my life. 

“By the end of the day I felt properly relaxed and present with my kids having been swimming, done some colouring and played a little carpet bowls. I nearly caved at bedtime and picked my phone up to have a sneaky peak – but was proud of myself for putting it down again and going to sleep instead!

“Now I’m thinking this could be the new way for me, especially as I picked my phone up on Monday and realised I really hadn’t missed that much…”

Saranne Postans is director at Fresh Air Fridays Marketing Director

“After a week of feeling that rising panic you get when there are too many things in your brain, the suggestion of #socialfreeSunday was very welcome. And actually, I didn’t miss anything other than WhatsApp really. I was aware how often I had the urge to check my phone, especially in the  morning – I mentally noted it. But that subsided throughout the day and pretty soon I had just left the thing – forgotten and unneeded – somewhere in the house. I walked the dog, read my book, listened to a podcast, went to the cinema, caught up on a bit of work (to calm my panic – I don’t normally do that btw), cooked with my daughter and slept really well. Being without the reassuring and friendly banter of the unpluggers was the tricky bit – but for one day, it was doable. Being unplugged is good for you – fact!”

Sally Northeast is assistant director of communications and participation at Dorset Healthcare

“I’ll be honest, I did not 100% switch off, but my screen time was less than 20% of what it normally is, and my social media minutes were barely out of single figures. Because I wasn’t posting, my mind wasn’t distracted, wondering whether I’d got any likes, shares or replies. I focused on my convalescing child, building Lego sets and playing helicopter chase around his bedroom (Jurassic World vs Mountain Police in case you’re interested).  I love social media, and the endless possibilities of connecting with friends and contacts across the country, but it’s refreshing to have a break every now and then. It’s also important to me to set the right example to my son, so the discipline of having a set ‘switch off’ time brings that added dimension.”

Josephine Graham is internal comms lead at Bradford Council

Want to be at the third annual Comms Unplugged event in beautiful Dorset and experience a completely different learning and development event?

Tickets for this not for profit event are on sale HERE

Darren Caveney is creator of comms2point0, owner of creative communicators ltd and co-organiser of Comms Unplugged

Original source – comms2point0 free online resource for creative comms people – comms2point0

Musselburgh Area Partnership & Crieff Community Trust have both successfully completed their first ever digital PB process with voting events completing on Saturday 16th March. Musselburgh, in East Lothian, and Crieff, in Perthshire, both received Community Choices funding from the Scottish Government and chose to involve citizens the power to make decisions about how budget […]

Original source – The Democratic Society

At the end of last year, our M.D. Dave Mann wrote a blog post about our plans to start a Returners’ Programme. We’re very happy to announce that we launched the programme today.

According to figures from the Government Equalities Office, at the end of 2017 there were 1.9 million economically inactive women, many of whom have professional or managerial experience.  The same report found just 40 returners programmes, which is scratching the surface given the scale of the issue and the amount of untapped talent organisations are missing out on.

Our programme offers return to work opportunities for experienced people of any gender, who are looking to re-enter the workplace after an extended period of time away. Generally, those who’ve been out of work for two or more years, are considered returners.

Initially this opportunity will only be offered within our London team, with a view to including our Leeds office as the team there grows.

dxw team sitting at a table

What roles are available?

To begin with, we’re running a pilot to see how this works for us and the people joining us. We’ll start by taking on one or two people for 3 to 6 months – depending on the role and circumstances.

We’ll be offering both client-facing and internal-facing positions. There will be opportunities available within our commercial operations, delivery and strategy teams, that will be tailored to reflect candidates’ previous experience.

Returners will be able to get involved in delivering services to the public sector whilst being fully supported as they refresh, test and build on past skills and experience.

dxw staff

Offering Support

From the individual’s first day, they will be assigned a mentor who will be their first point of contact for any support they need. This person will work within the same field, and if the returner is in a client facing role would also be on the same project. They will be be able to answer any day to day role/dxw related questions and offer support for extra activities like speaking at events or writing blog posts.

At dxw digital, we’re proud to be strong advocates for diversity and inclusion and aim to provide a work environment that’s accessible, welcoming, and empowering for all. We want everyone to feel supported and included in our wider community. The Returners’ Programme is one way we can encourage and support a comfortable way back into the workplace.

To find out more, please upload your CV here.

 

The post Launch of dxw Returners’ Programme appeared first on dxw digital.

Original source – dxw digital

6 people sitting around a table and talking, the table is covered with post-it notes

The team running a retrospective after conducting research in Indonesia

The Global Digital Marketplace aims to help international governments make their procurement more transparent, and to boost their digital, data and technology sectors. It builds on the success and expertise we have gained through the Digital Marketplace in the UK.

We’re working with national and regional governments in South Africa, Mexico, Colombia, Indonesia and Malaysia. We’re now in discovery, researching the digital procurement landscape in those countries. The aim is to figure out the most useful work to do in the next phase of the project, and – ultimately – to help tackle corruption globally. Warren Smith blogged about what GDS is doing in this area in January.

Our team set-up

Our team has about 20 people, from GDS and 5 supplier partner organisations. While that might sound like a recipe for mayhem, the project was set up this way on purpose. Here’s why.

The GDS team wasn’t big enough to do the discovery on its own. We could have looked for a supplier to help, but the global scope and timing of the work probably would have limited bidding to large organisations, and we were concerned about being dependent on a single large supplier. We also wanted to open up opportunities to a broad range of potential partners.

We were also hoping to find specific and relevant expertise, and of course to get maximum value for the contracts. To do those things, it was important for bidding to be open and competitive, and not limited to big, global organisations.

Breaking the discovery into chunks

The solution was to break the discovery into smaller chunks, and enable suppliers to bid for each of them.

This opened up the bidding to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and 4 were awarded the contracts: Rainmaker Solutions, Caution Your Blast, dxw digital (who partnered with Oxford Insights), and Spend Network.  Each supplier has to deliver a specific outcome, and all the outcomes have to add up to a coherent discovery outcome.

This felt pretty daunting – none of us had experience with working as part of this kind of team before. We decided to approach it as an experiment to see if we can make multi-supplier delivery work.

Our findings so far

Here’s what we’ve found so far:

1. It can be done!

So far, our discovery has shown us that it is possible to bring people from different organisations together to operate as one team. Even if they and their organisations have different remits. But, unsurprisingly, this way of working needs to be approached differently from working as part of an in-house team.

Discovery team members sitting and standing around two tables in an open-plan office, working on their laptops and talking

Discovery teams going through their research findings and sharing what they learned

Each supplier team will naturally be focused on their own outcome, because their success will be measured against it. Therefore, our goal was to encourage them to focus on the overall outcome of the programme and to foster positive relationships between the different supplier teams. We did this by making sure that each team understood what the others were doing, and also through organising social activities, so that we could get to know each other better.

2. We found expertise, even where we didn’t expect it

Breaking the work into smaller, themed chunks helped us find expertise, even in areas where we didn’t expect to find it. For example, Spend Network is a specialist in open data and contracting, while Rainmaker has a strong presence in South Africa and is using it to support the discovery work there. The team is stronger for it.

3. Balancing central direction with autonomy is tricky

When working as part of a multi-supplier team, you need to balance the need for central oversight of the work with the different suppliers’ ability to decide how they deliver their outcomes. And this is hard to get right.

One example of this is the backlog: we have several – a central one and others that the suppliers maintain. Trying to merge or align them just hasn’t been practical, but it means there’s no place with a complete view of the team’s work. We’re continuing to look for a better solution to this one.

Another example is how we manage user research. Early on in the discovery, we decided that we wanted to have a common approach to research – use the same consent form, log our research participants and our findings in the same way. Essentially, we wanted to have common standards so that each team could quickly grasp what another team had found.

The suppliers we work with relied on the programme team to make that happen. This initially put a lot of pressure on our internal researchers, who could not dedicate as much time to their own research.

We are now much better at delegating tasks. We’ve already noticed the supplier teams supporting each other during the overseas research trips – through highlighting findings relevant to other teams and ensuring a consistent engagement with our stakeholders.

4. Overlaps can happen but that’s ok

Naturally, there are dependencies and overlaps between the suppliers’ work, and these are high risk – it’s easy to end up with two groups doing the same thing, or something falling between the cracks. To address this, we’ve run workshops focused on overlaps, and we have a wall in our team area dedicated to visualising them.

For each overlap, we decide collectively how we are going to manage it. For example, if 2 research teams want to interview the same participant, they decide whether they can team up or not. If they are going to run separate sessions, they decide how they will manage the participant’s expectations – making sure the participant understands why that’s the case and that they’re not asked the same questions twice.

5. A strong central presence is needed

Obviously, someone needs to facilitate the work of the team, and look at and manage the overlaps between the work of the team members.

But we’ve also found that the most important central function is setting clear goals and constraints, and keeping a focus on the overall outcome. This central role on our team is assigned to a product manager.

This is still a work in progress – our team is in Malaysia this week, and South Africa next week. The results so far are encouraging, though, and we’ll be back soon to tell you more about what we’ve found in the discovery.

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Original source – Government Digital Service

Portrait photo of Luiz pointing at a computer monitor

Luiz

Just over a year ago, I’d never have imagined I would be living in a foreign country. I’d only ever lived outside of my home country, Brazil, for a couple of weeks – but when I saw the vacancies in DWP Digital, looking for somebody with my experience and background I decided to apply. And here I am, working as a lead portfolio manager in our Newcastle hub.

Changes

It’s been a big change, not least because of the different culture here in the UK, its people, the weather and driving on the UK roads!

Of course, I miss Brazil. I mostly miss the food! The special black beans also known as Feijoada and a good churrasco (barbecue). Generally, I’ve found that people in the UK like spicy food which I’m not used to.

There are so many differences work wise. The shell is the same, but the detail is interesting to note. For example, people here work 37 hours a week whilst in Brazil, it’s general nearer to 48 hours. However, it feels more productive because the 37 hours are better used. I quite like the UK productivity because it seems a healthier work-life balance, people work hard, but also get to have a good amount of personal time.

Imagining the future

The huge transformation of services DWP is involved in is amazing and I’m very proud to be a part of it. I guess the best part of a transformation is imagining how the future will look. It’s evolving at a rapid speed and I can barely imagine what it was like before the transformation began. Although with advances in technology it’s an ongoing process and I don’t think we can look to a time when we are ‘transformed’ as we’ll always have something new and innovative to welcome in.

The best part of working here has been the people. Everyone around me is embracing the transformation journey, willing to hear new ideas and opportunities, willing to support and contribute, willing to make it happen, and willing to embrace this exciting new environment.

Proactivity in portfolio management

My role is to look across the totality of our projects and help the organisation understand the full picture of our portfolio to deliver our main objectives.

We are promoting a shift in mind-set within the portfolio management community to be more focused on proactivity and becoming enablers. We’re doing this by moving to preventative measures, rather than just being reactive or purely reporting.

Primarily we’re making closed connections with the delivery organisation. In addition, we’ve set some dynamic dashboards to highlight the critical projects. All the projects report in alignment with the projects’ sprints on a fortnightly basis, and this is setting the foundation for a more insightful overall view.

And, within the portfolio practice we’re ensuring our competencies reflect the organisational objectives so that we are joined up as one seamless team.

My advice for people who are not from the UK but thinking about applying for our vacancies, is to go for it. You’ll be impressed by how we’re transforming the way projects are delivered in DWP Digital and the people that are making this digital transformation happen.

We’re recruiting portfolio managers now. If you’re interested in working with us, take a look at our current vacancies.  You can also have a look at our LinkedIn page, and find out more about what’s happening in DWP Digital by subscribing to this blog and following us on Twitter @DWPDigital and @DWPDigitalJobs.

 

Original source – DWP Digital

2 people looking at a digital service on a computer screen. Only their hands are visible

The team on GOV.UK is working to make it easier for users to find the information they need on the site. That’s why we’ve developed a topic-based taxonomy for the site and used supervised machine learning to tag content to this taxonomy.

This means content on the site can now be divided into broad topics like ‘transport’, ‘education’, and ‘entering and staying in the UK’.

GDS has worked closely with departments throughout this process, to make sure the taxonomy meets user needs and to make sure the content is as good as it can be.

Here’s how GDS helped the Home Office’s UK Visas and Immigration team (UKVI) with research on their taxonomy.

Starting the work

The UKVI team are the primary voice of authority for services and information for visas and immigration.

The team at GDS wanted to work closely with the UKVI team to fully understand their user groups, user needs and common problems. To start the project, we held a workshop with GDS, UKVI and the Home Office to identify what these were.

Kicking off this project with a workshop was a useful way to start engagement – to make sure that everyone from all 3 organisations was equally involved.

The research process

Once we’d started the project, our next step was to hold the first round of research – a series of contextual interviews.

These interviews told us about the motivations users had, as well as the types of problems they were having with UKVI services on GOV.UK.

These insights were combined with findings from previous GDS research, as well as results UKVI had from past sessions. They also allowed us to learn the words our users use – a necessity for this project.

We then moved on to remote tree testing. We did this by asking users to tell us where they would look for answers in given labels in tree testing.

We could then get rid of categories in the taxonomy that were performing well, and identify those that weren’t. And following that, we could test those with users to find out why they weren’t working.

And finally, we conducted a survey to discover what top tasks were relevant to the topic.

Working together to recruit research participants

We found throughout the process that it takes a long time to find research participants.

Our research plan was ambitious in scope and timing, so we knew recruiters would struggle with our deadlines. There was also a cost implication – using recruiters costs more.  

This is where close collaboration became beneficial.

We got in touch with the UKVI customer insight team to ask if they could help us find participants. They gave us a list of 300 people who represented typical UKVI users. Out of those, 54 agreed to be participants and successfully completed a task, which is a really good completion rate.

Getting this data saved us a lot of time and money, and meant we could stick to our tight deadlines.

The top tasks survey

We needed some 400 participants for our next round of research – a survey to discover top tasks. Once more, the customer insight team came to our aid. They emailed 1,000 UKVI customers worldwide, inviting them to take part in research; 120 people completed the survey. This was enough to close the gap of missing responses and bring in the results.

Building a sustainable relationship

The relationship built during this project helped the GDS team access data and information, get specialist advice, and recruit research participants. This resulted in a better-quality project, fewer mistakes, and saved time and money.

This collaboration was a good opportunity for the GDS team to share findings from top tasks and the taxonomy project with UKVI, who used insights to enhance their knowledge base about their users.And we will continue to work together.We will repeat the top tasks survey each year, which will benefit UKVI by letting them know how various services are performing on GOV.UK.

UKVI and the Home Office also found contacts at GDS to work on other projects that needed support from different GDS teams. It also gave the opportunity for researchers from both departments to talk about their research methods, approaches and tools.

Following the project, UKVI is also considering how to use the GOV.UK platform to survey its users as well as improve its customer satisfaction survey.

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Original source – User research in government

Post-it notes on a whiteboard with writing on including 'your conditions', 'voluntary work', 'employed?', health insurance'

In DWP Digital we design, build and deliver a range of services that provide financial support for people with health conditions or disabilities.

Two of those services, Tell us Your Patient is Terminally Ill and Send Your Fit Note , are currently in public beta and help health professionals and citizens provide information about health conditions digitally, securely and quickly.

They have used technology to reduce the user journeys of those services from days to minutes and delivered positive outcomes for vulnerable users.

But this is only the start. In this blogpost I’d like to explain about our strategy to design services that help make things easier for users across our health transformation area of work.

Our users need different types of support

The majority of our users are applying for or claiming Personal Independence Payment, the health element of Universal Credit or Employment Support Allowance.

In most cases we write out to them for more information or to verify what they have told us by providing documentary evidence. We then work with organisations like NHS to validate the info we’re given.

But often our users have more than one health condition that affects them or multiple health conditions and a disability. They need a wide range of support from income replacement to help with the increased costs of living with a health condition or disability.

It’s clear that the processes users currently go through to provide information to us about their health conditions or disabilities could be improved.

We know that users are often asked multiple times for the same information if they are applying for more than one type of benefit or financial support. This is stressful for users and inefficient for us.

We also know there are better, more efficient ways for us to work with other government departments such as the National Health Service (NHS) to validate the information users give to us.

Developing a strategy to improve user journeys

There are a number of important elements to this strategy to improve user journeys and the way we work with other stakeholders:

  • citizens should only have to tell us once about their circumstances / health condition
  • a focus on creating tailored solutions and developing more intelligent services for users
  • a risk-based predictive approach supported by sound medical evidence
  • reducing the information we ask of the citizen

Using technology to make the strategy real

Our users have different lives. They are not all the same. Their circumstances and needs are not ‘one size fits all’. But at the moment, they have to go through a ‘one size fits all’ journey.

That’s why predictive analytics (identifying the likelihood of future outcomes based on historical data) could help us to spot patterns in customer circumstances.

This will simplify the process and work out where we can personalise journeys for users and find out what support they need instead of making them go through an inefficient and common approach.

We want to use digital services such as ‘apply for health benefits online’ to allow citizens with a health condition to apply for relevant benefits digitally, securely and quickly.

The Send Your Fit Note service

The Send Your Fit Note digital service

Reducing the number of users who have to undergo a medical assessment as part of this process is also important.

But where a user does need to have an assessment, we’re developing a digital assessment tool that people can use to choose and book their own appointments to provide more flexibility.

We also want to make the process of digitally applying for Employment & Support Allowance, Personal Independence Payment and the health element of Universal Credit much more streamlined and as light-touch as possible.

Working across government to collaborate

Improving data-sharing across departments to access health information at source is also important. This will reduce the burden on stakeholders such as GPs who we need to interact with in order to deliver our services.

In DWP we focus on one aspect of the health agenda: paying the right benefit to our users who have a health condition or disability. But other departments and organisations across government are concerned with different aspects of this agenda.

The NHS want to transform how they deliver patient care and they have their own internal systems and challenges to deal with. Collaborating with them more effectively will lessen the burden on partners and improve outcomes for users.

It’s a complex area and will require lots of thought, creativity and partnership. But getting it right means a very real and tangible outcome that will make things better for users.

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Original source – DWP Digital

TICTeC logoAs we speak, several excitable members of the mySociety team are on their way to TICTeC 2019 via the channel tunnel. We’re so looking forward to catching up with the Civic Tech community and hearing all about the research you’ve conducted since last year.

Whether it’s your first time at TICTeC or you’re returning, we know there will be much to enjoy. We’re especially eager to hear the view from France’s Civic Tech movement. Speakers will include our hosts at OECD; MP Paula Forteza; Secretary of State for the Digital Sector Mounir Majoubi; and Pauline Véron, Deputy Mayor of Paris.

We’ve shouted a lot about our two keynotes, Alessandra Orofino of Nossas and James Anderson of Bloomberg Philanthropies: if you need a refresher on their inspirational backgrounds, follow those links to read the relevant posts. But there is plenty more to engage you, too.

This year we’ve noted strong themes coming through in the selected sessions, including the potential for Civic Tech to tackle political polarisation, fake news and civil unrest; women in Civic Tech; and the impacts/practicalities of participatory budgeting, among many, many other strands. You can see the full rundown via our Twitter feed, which we’ve been using to trail every session over the last couple of weeks.

If you’re now kicking yourself because you can’t make it, do watch out for our live streaming of key presentations. You’ll be able to see these on YouTube. If you’re a YouTube user, you can visit the links listed below now, and click the ‘set reminder’ grey button so that you’ll receive a nudge to watch:

Or if you’re more habitually on Facebook, we’ve also listed ‘events’: follow these to make sure you receive a reminder before we go live (they’ll remind you to go to the YouTube link, where the actual streaming will be taking place):

No need to fret if you can’t make the livestreams, either. As always, we’ll also be posting permanent videos of all the main presentations, along with slides and photos as soon as we can after the event.

And for now, on y va!

 

Image: Benh Lieu Song (CC by-sa/4.0)

Original source – mySociety

whatsapp as a communications channel.jpg

Have you seen your personal use of WhatsApp shoot up over the past year or so? Well you’re not alone. So how can public sector organisations maximise this as an opportunity to engage?

by Lauren Kelly

WhatsApp… it’s a top, high usage channel that is hitting all polls and leader boards as a channel to be getting on-board with. Only how does a public sector body and in particular a local authority do this?

It’s a question that’s been whirling round and I’ve seen numerous posts about it recently in various forums. Who’s using it, why and how?

About 12 months ago we started a pilot to use WhatsApp with our youth support team. Admittedly this wasn’t without risk, as it’s a highly encrypted popular off the shelf channel. However, we considered the risks and deemed them acceptable enough to see how it goes.

The team bought a single pay as you go phone with a SIM card for the phone number and I set them up with a small amount of training to help them use the desktop access. For those who haven’t seen this, it’s a fantastic feature – it enables you to send messages as if they were a BCC email from your computer to the WhatsApp groups. Multiple people can log on (meaning those going on leave can have these service covered) and it means people who don’t physically have the phone (like our teams in Macclesfield and Crewe – about 25 miles apart) can both use the same number to deliver the messages on.

At Cheshire East Council, WhatsApp is used by our youth support service. It means conversations take place where the young people are and on a platform they are familiar with.

Since we started the trial, we’ve had many positive outcomes, where young people are more informed about activities taking place local to them, or are in more regular contact with their youth support worker.

In one example, the use of WhatsApp has been attributed by the team for keeping a young person on track and helping them during a time of crisis. By having direct contact with this young person, the support worker was able to coach them through difficult situations in a way that suited them.

They have said that this young person’s confidence was too low to answer phone calls and they rarely have credit but via Wi-Fi, can access WhatsApp. 

There is also power in the ability for the youth support worker to see when that young person has read the message. During the trial, we feel that the use of WhatsApp is helping us to communicate better with young people and be there during times of need.

So what are the benefits?

  • WhatsApp is completely free to use

  • We can instantly send a message to anywhere

  • It’s easy to use

  • Voice call support

  • Video calling available

  • It shows that your message has been sent or not and that the receiver has received or read the message

  • Free calls to other WhatsApp users are supported

  • WhatsApp started providing an end-to-end encryption feature, which makes your WhatsApp communication highly secure

  • You can send broadcasts – we use this a lot when communicating with young people who attend our groups. This is a way of sending the same message without other young people seeing each other’s details

  • Some young people can only communicate using WhatApp as they very often don’t have phone credit

I can’t help but feel that this channel needs to be treated like Twitter and Facebook. It reminds me exactly of the last blog I wrote ‘Beware of the tick box Twitter account’. As how do we govern such a channel?

We have options to consider if we were to roll out WhatsApp wider, but these have potential monster-like issues lurking within them too. So, do we have?

  • A) One phone number for the whole council, with different groups run via it, which the services then access to send messages

  • B) Each service runs off, buys their own phone and SIM card, and sets up independently

  • C) A mix – a corporate and some selected service channels where appropriate

Option A) leads to control over your messaging but could be difficult in terms of audit trails and trust – those who have access could send something to all channels. 

Option B) is a potential free-for-all: messages not signed-off before being sent.

Then we have option C) This could be the best way forward but has a mix of both issues!

Perhaps there is a happy medium or something I’ve not considered? I’d love to hear if anyone else has managed to map out how they will govern WhatsApp and widen its use across their authority.

In the meantime, we continue with our trial with one service, but I strongly feel this is a channel to watch out for in the future. A channel where people subscribe and we can deliver our comms messages direct to resident – now that could be extremely effective in the years to come, and has the potential to save money.

It’s not just messages such as:

  • We’re gritting in your area tonight

  • Bins weren’t emptied in your town today due to weather- they will be emptied tomorrow instead

  • Traffic issues currently being experienced on the M6 – please check before you travel

There is also the potential for messaging like; we are consulting on…, what do you think? Snap polls, key campaign messages being directed to people in a certain area, emergency messaging and/or self-help options to help people remain independent in their homes. The options are endless really.

The potential to deliver these messages directly to people’s phones and have the opportunity for developing an engaging conversation with them is huge. In fact there are many opportunities coming over the hill with WhatsApp.

We just need to tackle the monster issues that come with it, like governance, audit trails, and getting it cleared by our ICT teams…

Let me know your thoughts and insights on Twitter at @Comms_Kelly and cc @comms2point0 in.

Lauren Kelly is a senior marketing and social media officer at Cheshire East Council

Image via Pascal Maramis

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