laurel leaves logo.png

Some big news your favourite industry awards has dropped…

by Darren Caveney

The UnAwards – as well as being a prestigious and recognised comms industry awards event – have also become a rather special end of year celebration for the UK communications and PR industry. It’s become something of an annual pre-christmas pilgrimage for communicators from England, Scotland and Wales to travel to Birmingham to attend the big day.

I believe it’s the best industry networking and connecting day of the year. The cool cinema experience is unique and has become synonymous with the UnAwards.

The 7th annual UnAwards are to run on 11 December 2020. But, damned Covid.

Could they be run this year via Zoom or Teams? Yes.

Would it be the same without the buzz of the room, the tears when people win, the love and warmth seeing and meeting colleagues old and new each year?

To be honest, no not really.

So. as David Brent famously once said, there’s good and news and bad news.

First, the bad news

The full ceremony for the UnAwards 2020 won’t take place in December. I know. The UnAwards are a passion project, a not-for-profit chance to do my bit to fly a flag for creative communicators. So I’m sad about this.

But now the really good news

The 7th annual UnAwards are being pushed into 2021.

And there’s an exciting plan to make them even bigger and better than ever before.

I’m currently in talks with suppliers and sponsors about delivering something a little bit special.

With Covid restrictions of course it’s slightly difficult to plan but I’m looking at late May/early June 2021.

I’m really excited about delivering what would be a brilliantly different event, and chance for us all to get back together face-to-face when we’re able to once again. Wow, do we all need that to look forward to.

Keep tuning in here and on @comms2point0 official channels for more updates soon.

And there’s actually more good news…

The highly prized comms2point0 Guest Blog Post of the Year UnAward will still run on 11 December.

comms2point0 is home to 1.5k blog posts, sharing insight, case studies and lessons. The posts play an important role in our shared learning, as well as giving profile to the writer’s and organisation’s achievements.

So a special live Zoom webinar will take place on the morning of 11 December to celebrate the shortlistees and to announce the winner. The winner is selected via a public vote, all to be launched later on this month.

Would you like to take part in the ceremony?

Places will be limited so please email me at and I’ll add you to the list.

It should be lots of fun and the competition this year is white hot.

See you there.

*Sign up for the comms2point0 eMag*

The comms2point0 eMag features exclusive new content, free give-aways, special offers, first dibs on new events and much, much more.

Sound good? Join over 2.3k other comms people who have subscribed. You can sign up to it right here.

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

GDS colleague working on end to end user journey map

Earlier this year, we began work to make it easier to start a business in the UK. Rather than just looking at individual parts of the process, we are trying to use new data techniques to think about end to end journeys through both content and services. As our understanding of user behaviour becomes more detailed, we can evaluate how effectively GOV.UK is meeting users’ needs and apply this knowledge to our wider work. Our goal is to make it quicker and easier to start a business, supporting new entrepreneurs during a challenging time for the economy.

Using data to visualise and map the journeys

The ‘Start a Business’ team on GOV.UK has been working with data scientists and engineers on the GOV.UK Data Labs team to make better use of end-to-end user journey data, including to see if there are any software or programmes available that can visualise these end-to-end journeys and how we may be able to use them to analyse journeys further to gain a deeper understanding.

The traditional work of a performance analyst in GDS is using the analytical programme Google Analytics (GA). It gives us a lot of functionality in terms of anonymised user data (including the user’s device and their geo-location) and sessions (what pages they visit or elements they click on). However, the interface is limited in being only able to look at a 2 step journey (what page a user is on now and what page a user came from) and therefore is too basic for this work.

We’ve used the underlying data from Google Analytics to be able to see and analyse entire end-to-end user journeys.

Looking at end-to-end journeys, we were interested in all user journeys that went to or through the ‘Set up a [insert business type]’ step by steps. Step by steps on GOV.UK show the logical navigation needed to complete a process on GOV.UK.

To start, we looked at users’ journeys when going through the ‘Set up a limited company: step by step’ and the ‘Set up as self-employed (a ‘sole trader’): step by step’.

GOV.UK Step by Step for set up a limited company and set up as self-employed

Using different tools and approaches to understand journeys

We’ve combined two approaches to using data to better understand user journeys. The first approach is to visualise the most popular journeys. The second is to define a particular journey that we’re interested in, and to see how many users took that journey.

Both approaches examine large datasets to generate new information. We’ve been trialling a tool called Disco for the first approach and a tool called MAQUI for the second approach.

The first approach uses process mining to create an abstract model of the most journeys and interactions then visualises them. It shows clear routes into the step by step, as well as showing which pages users visit, and what they do on those pages – for example, what links they click on or elements (e.g. opening the step by step accordion) they interact with.

This visualisation allows us to begin to identify problem behaviours such as circuitous journeys and bottlenecks.

This is an example of the visualisation approach using the tool

The image above is an example of the visualisation approach using the tool "Disco", showing the most popular user journeys on GOV.UK involving a chosen step-by-step.

This is a visualisation of an example of the definition approach, using the tool MAQUI

The image above is a visualisation of an example of the definition approach, using the tool MAQUI

The second approach involves defining a journey we’re interested in and seeing how many people take that journey via an open-source tool MAQUI. This tool was developed by Terrance Law as part of their PhD ‘Automated yet Transparent Data Insights’, code available via Github.

These tools and software have enabled us to answer much more detailed questions on user behaviours, such as:

  • What are the most popular routes into the content?
  • What pages do users visit between point A and point B?
  • How do journeys vary depending on the device used?

A simple example of leveraging these tools would be ‘how do users get to the step by step?’ and ‘can this journey be improved?’.

Using both tools, we were able to identify that 20% of users travel to the same three pages before getting into the limited company step by step: the Companies House organisation page, the start a company specialist topic page into the limited companies page (the first step of the limited companies step by step) and then finally users using the breadcrumb to navigate to the main step by step homepage for ‘Set up a limited company’.

A simple answer to ‘how can we improve these journeys’ would be to add a direct link to the step by step. This data driven design change could then be assessed using the scientific method with A/B testing.

A visualisation of a common user journey, which starts on the Companies House organisation page, moving first to the Start a company page, then the first step of the limited companies step by step and then the main step by step homepage for setting up a limited company.

The image above is a visualisation of a common user journey, which starts on the Companies House organisation page, moving first to the Start a company page, then the first step of the limited companies step by step and then the main step by step homepage for setting up a limited company.

Additional insights we have gathered include:

  • users re-using the same sidebar navigation for the ‘Register your company’ step, indicating that the start button for the service was not easy to find
  • users bouncing back and forth from the limited company content to the sole trader content – indicating confusion over how business naming rules work for different types of businesses
  • there are virtually no users (only 3%) using the whole step by step format for the sole trader content, meaning this format is not working effectively. The sole traders step by step has a large number of circular journeys back into multiple competing start pages. The page pointing to self-assessment has about half the click-through rate we’d usually expect from a page of this type.

What we’ve learnt about user journeys

This new way of visualising and conducting performance analysis has proven to be a real game changer for GOV.UK because it has allowed us to make better use of an existing dataset and to be able to analyse a whole problem space like never before. The next step is to see how well this fits with other teams, projects and content in GDS. We want to start applying this type of analysis to other areas, so that we can understand how users are reaching different types of content and evaluate if we are providing them with the best possible service.

Recently we looked at how users were reaching a set of specific content pages. By comparing them to the step by steps used in the first analysis, we have started to see clustering of different user behaviour depending on their routes into GOV.UK. This means that there are users who are using GOV.UK differently depending on the content they are looking for.

As a result, content, tooling and journeys can be better optimised based on the most popular journeys we know users are taking.

The next step for this work is to continue to work with the data scientists and engineers to create reusable code. This will eventually allow the performance analysis community to completely self-serve in being able to access the Big Query data required for their team or project and then to use this new tooling, in combination with the more traditional Google Analytics, to offer a whole new layer of data-driven analysis, insights and recommendations.

By bringing together deep data driven insights with the skills of multi-disciplinary teams, we can really start to apply this knowledge to make high-quality informed changes to user journeys and better meet their needs.

Original source – Inside GOV.UK

Now more than ever, we work alongside leaders who are committed to transforming their organisations and services, all with the aim of making the lives of residents and citizens better. Despite resources depleting at pace while social problems increase in scale and complexity.

Facing a global recession in the middle of a pandemic, we know this trend to do more with less will only continue. It would be easy to feel overwhelmed, but the leaders I know continue to portray the opposite. These are the people working with passionate teams and residents to reimagine their organisations, their services and their places, trying every day to support change in an age of huge uncertainty and change.

Unfortunately, we continue to see incremental change when we know that large scale, at pace change is needed. We’re maxed out on incremental change and the need for radical change is clear.

We have an opportunity ahead of us to set up a new model which seeds and keeps innovation firmly in the public realm. Using entrepreneurial approaches, we can work together to not only deliver better outcomes for citizens for less but ideate, create and build technology-driven, sustainable services that remain in public hands.

Rebooting public services for the 21st century

Conventional wisdom is that the private sector is best placed to drive radical change with its ecosystem of funders, appetite for risk and perceived ability to attract the best and brightest minds. In the private sector, digital companies have disrupted whole industries. Tech startups are usurping the incumbents, improving experiences and reducing costs before expanding and completely transforming the landscape around them.

We’re talking about the likes of Netflix who started a new model for movie rentals, turned streaming platform for TV and is now one of the world’s largest producers of media. Or Airbnb, which got its start renting a spare room and air mattress, turned one of the largest travel booking platforms and is now moving into building physical hotels and housing. Two organisations who saw an opportunity in a market, and have gone on to reinvent a full-stack service.

The entrepreneurial approach has driven rapid innovation in some fields, but private sector outsourcing for the public realm has rarely led to truly radical innovation. That doesn’t stop the practice, and profits remain in private hands. Old models of innovation, either internal and incremental or left to the private sector, aren’t working.

The public sector can, and does, drive innovation. And yet, we continue to see private profits take off from the runway of publicly funded innovation, the state receiving little of the financial reward for the private sector’s increased role in public service delivery.

“There is not a single key technology behind the iPhone that has not been state-funded.” — Mariana Mazzucato

We need a radically new model, which seeds and keeps innovation firmly in the public realm. We need entrepreneurial methods to create technology-driven services that deliver better outcomes for citizens for less and remain in public ownership.

We need public service entrepreneurialism for the internet age, taking the best of our current public services (public interest, accountability and scale) and blending it with an entrepreneurial mindset to leap our current model of local government into the 21st century.

Radically-disruptive public services

At the end of last year, we brought together a group of forward-thinking leaders in local government to ask a bold question: can local authorities work together to design greenfield, full-stack, ethical, scalable ventures that are better than current services and cost less?

Alongside eleven councils from across the UK, it was the beginning of an incubator for radically-disruptive public service ideas, owned and driven by public bodies.

We call this, the Institute of Impossible Ideas.

Working with local authorities and social entrepreneurs, we looked at the most pressing social challenges we currently face. Drawing from our collective years of experience, starting locally and thinking nationally, we wanted to co-design services that would save money in the short term and transform the system in the long term.

Together, we developed propositions for three digitally-native ventures with people at their centre, that aim for financial self-sufficiency within the first three to five years. These ventures will create a Minimum Viable Experience, creating an initial service to prove cost-savings are possible, build a full-stack service, replacing an entire cost centre of a local authority and challenge the wider system by breaking down silos and focusing on root causes.

Our first ventures are:

  • a digitally native social lettings agency, built to scale and building strong, trusted relationships between vulnerable tenants and landlords
  • a new way to provide a stable home for children through smart matching to find the right placement for children and families and support that makes it easy for caring people to become and continue as foster carers
  • a demand-driven health and wellbeing subscription platform, helping people build the relationships and access the services they need to stay strong, healthy and happy at any point in their lives

We’re asking you now to get involved. Join us on this journey to create radically-disruptive public services, driven by public entrepreneurs and owned by public bodies. Together, we can transform the system so that it works for the people and deliver truly impactful, sustainable change for decades to come.

Find out more about the Institute of Impossible Ideas.

Introducing the Institute of Impossible Ideas was originally published in FutureGov on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Original source – FutureGov

Screen shot of a prototype page on the website showing an improved service journey

Prototype example of improved service journeys on the GOV.UK website

I’m the Design Lead of the Shared Channels Experience Directorate at DWP Digital.

DWP is the largest public service department and at some point every citizen will come in to contact with us at some point in their lives. Everything we do is about changing lives by providing security, extending opportunity and giving people in our society the support they need.

I joined in 2015 and since then we’ve come a long way in terms of transforming service journeys for our users.

We’re not there yet, but I recently spoke at the GovTech Digital Government conference about the journey we’ve been on to transform services for our users and I’d like to share the seven things we’ve learned along the way.

1. Keep the end goal in mind

In any organisation, embedding new ways of thinking and operating is not easy. There are often competing cultural and technological challenges, ways of working and even legacy commercial agreements in place which mean digital transformation of service journeys is not something you can achieve overnight.

During the past five years, and especially after COVID-19, it’s been important to keep in mind why we’re doing what we’re doing and the drive to make people’s lives better through our work, whatever the challenges may be.

But ultimately doing the work to make a difference to people’s lives is a privilege not to be taken lightly.

2. Do incremental change

In 2015 we set about our ambitious digital transformation plans, initially taking the likes of paper forms and making them digital. Whilst that doesn’t sound very transformative, it’s in the context of government organisations using paper forms for tens of years.

Introducing user-centred design as part of the overall culture was an important stepping stone to this, and in those early days it wasn’t easy to show the benefits to other areas of the business when we didn’t have ready-made success stories to share. But we focused on making incremental change, breaking down those large pieces of work into smaller parts and showing the benefits.

3. Iterate the strategy

Recently we’ve done more work to think and put into practice what we’ve learned about transforming journeys for users. It’s been the case that our products and services for citizens have reflected our organisational structure and our product silos. Research shows users don’t expect to communicate with government like that.

So in the past year we’ve created a new directorate in the department called ‘Shared Channels Experience’ which lends itself to the direction we’re headed. It’s all about validating our service journeys and enabling users to go through a service through channels of their choice and choosing, rather than via specific benefits or products. This will be a better experience for them.

4. Stay user centred

To transform service journeys, you need to live and breathe user centred design. Back in 2015, we started introducing this in DWP, hiring designers and embedding them in areas that hadn’t had them before. Building up this capability is a gradual process.

But we’re a 57-strong design team now, amongst a wider team of nearly 200, designing around user needs.

Central to this is the need to communicate on a user’s terms across our entire journey. If someone starts on paper, email, or a digital journey, we should be able to continue that so we are more helpful through a user’s moment of need.

We also need to simplify journeys so we go from many individual services to do with bereavement support which users have to find, for example, to a simplified experience, where a service journey exists to get support when someone has died.

It’s about validating those user needs through research and focusing on user-centred success measures. For example, at the moment on GOV.UK, we are expecting uses to navigate 28 different entry points when searching for information on retirement, often written in complex policy language. Joining up these services into one journey so it’s easier to navigate is essential.

Screen shot of a prototype page on the website showing an improved service journey

Prototype example of improved service journeys on the GOV.UK website

5. Balance user needs and business needs

Wherever you go in large organisations there are different motivations for doing things. We should always work towards user needs, but it’s a delicate balance between doing what’s the user needs are telling us from data and research, and what different business priorities or motivations are.

For example, there may be different contracts in place which mean full transformation of a service is not possible at a particular time. There can also be a complicated policy landscape to navigate as well, so adapting to that is really important.

6. Deliver something of value

It’s important that there’s a shared understanding of what it takes to transform service journeys, and the value an organisation gets from that. As mentioned earlier, we’ve done a lot of work to show the value of the incremental change we’ve been delivering in the last five years.

Crucially, building products and services around more holistic user journeys rather than in product silos is now part of our digital objectives in DWP. This means we can demonstrate the value of the outcomes for users and the business. This is an important step in embedding user centred design inside an organisation.

7. Remember the cross-channel experience

A service is the interactions which take place between a user and provider towards an outcome regardless of channel. The last three words here are significant. A lot of government services are not just one channel – they could be web, telephony, mobile. Their journey could start in one way and end in another, but regardless of how they start their journey, a user should get to their outcome via a simple user journey.

More often than not, a user of government services will encounter cross-departmental journeys, from DWP to HMRC and then back again. We must focus on users not having to do too much to get what they need.

I’m proud of the teams that have been doing all this work. We’re still on our journey but the future for users finding our services, understanding them and having their needs met is our goal. We’re headed there.

Original source – DWP Digital

Ada Lovelace Day is an international celebration of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). One of its aims is to raise the profile of women in STEM. So we asked 3 women from dxw to write about their careers and how they ended up working in tech (and some of the other letters in STEM along the way).

Leanne Coker, Service Design Lead

Engineering seemed an obvious career choice to me as a teenager. In school, I loved design and technology and got good grades in maths and physics. I also had a general sense that studying engineering would lead to “a good job” and financial security.

I was the first person in my family to go to university so this was important to me. I went to a girls’ school that became an engineering specialist school when I was there. I sometimes wonder whether that had an impact on my career choice. But given only 2 out of 180 students in my year went into the field, I’m not so sure!

What did make a difference was having access to great facilities. The school design, technology, and science labs were very well equipped and it was an inspiring place to learn. A sixth form careers evening presentation from the Institution of Civil Engineers also stands out in my mind. They played a video of impressive bridges, highways, and railways and I remember thinking, “Wow, imagine leaving that kind of impact on the world.”

That video probably had a part to play in what happened next. I went on to complete a Masters Degree in Civil Engineering and worked as a Civil Engineer for several years. I worked on big transport infrastructure projects including train depots, stations, signalling, and asset management systems.

My days were spent doing structural analysis, calculations, drawings, working onsite, and eventually managing projects. I learned about different engineering disciplines and became fascinated by the interfaces between them. I also came to understand that humans were the most complex component in every system I was designing. Their behaviours weren’t predictable like steel or concrete, yet they were just as vital to a successful scheme.

To me this presented an irresistible design challenge that I went on to pursue via a postgraduate degree in ergonomics and human factors. It was nerve wracking moving into a new field several years into my career, and there were a few discouraging voices around me at the time. But I did my research, went with my instinct, and have never looked back. I also never needed to take a pay cut or time out of work during this transition – change is always possible.

I got a job as a Human Factors Engineer and spent a further 4 years designing train control systems. During this time I developed further interest in digital technology and agile working which led me to join dxw to broaden my experience in this area. As a result I’ve helped design and launch several digital services for the public sector and establish service design as a practice within the company.

I’m currently working in a very different area to where I started. But my previous experience and training helps me do the job I do today. Studying any STEM subject gives you a versatile set of skills that you can apply to new areas as your career unfolds. This is helpful in a world where technology moves so fast and new fields are emerging all the time.

Service design has only become established as a discipline relatively recently and it certainly wasn’t a career option I was aware of as a student.  But through project experience, changing jobs, and continuous learning I’ve moved with the times and found my way into a specialism that I really enjoy. Who knows where my career will take me next – I’m excited by the possibilities.

For me the best thing about my job is the impact you have. It’s satisfying to work on things that address problems and make things better for people. And it feels good when I walk through a particular station, travel on a certain train, or visit a government website and think, “I helped make this real.”

Lorna Harwood, Junior Developer

I think I’ve attempted to have a career in all the letters of STEM at one point. I didn’t go to university straight after school and got a job instead. After a few years of working, I decided I wanted to be a research scientist and did an access course so that I could go to university. I went on to study maths and physics and was particularly interested in climatology. During my time there, I discovered coding and was inspired by other women working in tech.

There’s a couple of things I would tell my younger self. There are no limits if you put in the hard work and effort, and don’t be put off by male dominated environments. Being underrepresented is obviously a challenge and can take up more time and energy as you have to exert yourself to be heard and seen. However the flip side is that you often get a lot of support whether that’s a formal arrangement or something more informal.

I’ve been on the receiving end of mentoring from Ada’s List and also did coding courses with Code First: Girls. I wouldn’t be where I am without them. Especially my mentor. She helped me to learn how to code by recommending loads of resources and checking in with me weekly. She also offered emotional support and we’re still in contact 3 years later.

I’m proud to be able to shape and change the tech industry for women who join it after me.

Clare Young, Director of Delivery

I fell into STEM a bit by chance after a degree in geography and various internships in the third sector. After applying for the Civil Service Fast Stream as a Generalist, I was offered a place on the Technology in Business programme (since renamed to DDaT). My lightbulb moment happened on my placement at the newly formed Government Digital Service (GDS) where I saw the impact that user centred design thinking and accessible technology could have on public services.

Something I’ve learned over the years is that it’s important to pass on knowledge and skills, but perhaps more important, to pass on confidence and aspiration. Being successful and happy at work is part knowing things and continuing to learn, and part accepting you have a place and can add value. If you can’t see exactly where you fit in then ask for help to make space (many will thank you afterwards).

Tackling hard problems and delving into new areas (which many jobs in STEM do) takes many different skills and being part of a diverse team is the best feeling, especially when you’re learning and achieving new things together.

A personal challenge for me is still finding it difficult to talk about what I do. I have a habit of oversimplifying things or dismissing the importance of my work. It can feel uncomfortable to be proud and talk about your achievements, especially when there are many assumptions about STEM. But the more of us that do that, the better for everyone.

Finally, I’ve listed some unsung heroines whose work, I think, is changing the future face of STEM:

  • I love everything that Lauren Currie is doing about building confidence for women
  • Katy Arnold for her investment in interns, apprentices, and graduates at the Home Office
  • I find Daisy Onubogu‘s writing on racism and social justice clear, kind, and very helpful


The post dxw women and Ada Lovelace Day appeared first on dxw.

Original source – dxw

Decoupled websites can be pretty great. The idea is simple: make pre-rendered static webpages ahead of time and put them on a web server. The result is speedy, secure and trendy.

The advantages come from doing the hardest, slowest work at build time rather than request time. In a traditional app, databases and APIs are queried within the interval between the user clicking a link and the new webpage appearing. For a decoupled, static site, all that work happens as part of a build process, which is re-run whenever the site needs to change. This doesn’t work for highly personalised or fast-changing apps, but most of the web is still relatively long-lived content: a great fit for this approach.

Despite this simple promise, lots of tools for making these kinds of websites are surprisingly complicated or opinionated. Gatsby, arguably the most popular framework to embody this JAMstack approach, is highly opinionated and strings together several bleeding-edge technologies, including React and GraphQL.

Gatsby can be enjoyable, but there’s no denying that you need to buy into React to use it, even if your website is simple enough to gain no benefit from it. You shouldn’t need to know React to start making static, pre-rendered websites, and making do with unnecessary front-end JavaScript is a great way to accidentally compromise the accessibility of your website.

So, can we take a minimum viable approach to making decoupled websites? Yes!

Introducing Eleventy

Eleventy is a static site generator that’s getting a lot of positive attention. It has a few features that make it a good fit for us:

  • it’s terse, complicated tasks like programmatically generating pages from data can be done in 2–3 lines of configuration
  • it has an unopinionated data layer. Eleventy calls it a “data cascade” and you can inject whatever data you like into it, from local data files or APIs. If you know how to fetch the data using vanilla JavaScript, you can bring it into Eleventy. No need to learn a whole new query language like GraphQL

Let’s consider an example where we fetch posts from a WordPress API and display it in an Eleventy website. Nowadays, WordPress comes with a built-in API. The URL will look something like

In an Eleventy project’s directory, we can create a folder called /data and add a different file for each data source we want to use. We could add a file called posts.js and fill it with:

const fetch = require("node-fetch")  
module.exports = async () => {
const res = await fetch("")
return await res.json()

That’s it. That’s the whole file. The only dependency isnode-fetch, which lets us make API requests with the familiar browser syntax.

Now, in our website templates we’ll have access to a variable called “posts”, which will hold whatever the file exports. The variable comes from the filename. In this case, it’ll be an array of all the posts on our website. We can use the data in our templates like this:

We can even use Eleventy’s pagination features to programmatically create pages based on the data. When we come to define a template, the config at the top of the file would look something like this:

data: posts
size: 1
alias: post
permalink: "post//"

This is a very simple example, but we’ve done a great deal with a very small amount of code. There’s no reason we should limit ourselves to one data source either: decoupled websites really come into their own when we need to marshall data from many places.

It would take only a modest extension of what we’ve learned here to show products from a WordPress WooCommerce store, schedules from Airtable and blog posts from Medium, all on one website.

A working example of an Eleventy site that calls a WordPress API.

Toward the minimum viable decoupled website was originally published in FutureGov on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Original source – FutureGov

This is a refresh of an earlier blog published here in 2016

Ants collaborating

My experience of knowledge sharing in organisations stems mainly from my involvement in setting up Communities of Practice (CoPs) for UK local government. This was part of a broader Knowledge Management strategy that I was commissioned to deliver for the Improvement and Development Agency and Local Government Agency. It has since migrated to the private sector and continues to thrive as the Knowledge Hub. When I left the project there were over 160,000 users on the platform. The following paragraphs encapsulate what I learnt from this journey.

What does a successful CoP look like?

Success will of course depend on the purpose of the community. Some CoPs have been set up as networks for learning and sharing; others have a defined output, e.g. developing new practice for adult social care.  It is clearly more difficult to establish success criteria for a CoP dedicated to knowledge sharing than it is for – say – a CoP that has a tangible output. Success for the former will rely on more subjective analysis than for the latter, where there will probably be more tangible evidence of an output, e.g. a policy document or case study.

However, rather than argue and debate the criteria for assessing the “success” of a CoP (or other organisational learning system), I think it is better to consider how we monitor and assess the “health” of a CoP. For this approach we should consider a CoP as an analogy to a living and breathing organism. A healthy CoP will show clear signs of life; this can be assessed using various quantitative indicators, such as:

  • Number of members
  • Rate of growth of the community
  • Number and frequency of documents uploaded.
  • Number and frequency of documents read or downloaded.
  • Number and frequency of new blog posts
  • Number and frequency of forum posts
  • Number and frequency of comments
  • Number of page views per session
  • Time spent on the CoP per browser session


Not that any one of these indicators in isolation will indicate the good health of a CoP, but taken together they can give a general perspective of how vibrant and active the community is.

Continuing with the analogy of a living, breathing organism, different CoPs will have different metabolisms, some may be highly active; others may be fairly sedate. Understanding the community ‘rhythm’ is a key aspect of knowing when any intervention is required in order to maintain this rhythm.  Not all CoPs are going to be vibrant and active all of the time; there may be periods of relative inactivity as a natural part of the CoP lifecycle. But it’s important to know the difference between a CoP that is going through a regular period of inactivity and a CoP that is moribund.

A point to note: inactive CoPs may not necessarily be a cause for concern. One reason for inactivity could be that the CoP has served its purpose and its members have moved on. In which case the knowledge assets of the CoP need to be published and celebrated and the CoP either closed, or (with the agreement of the members) re-purposed to a new topic or outcome.

So, understanding the vital life-signs and metabolism of a CoP is a fundamental part of ensuring the continued good health of the CoP, and therefore more likely to achieve its goals.  And the key to the continued good health of a CoP is knowing how and when to intervene when one or more of the life-signs begins to falter.  Without wishing to labour my analogy of the living, breathing organism too much, it’s the equivalent of knowing when someone is not feeling too well and administering the appropriate medicine.

The Online Facilitator

Where does the CoP facilitator or e-moderator come into all of this? There is clear evidence that facilitated CoPs, i.e. that have full or part-time facilitation, are much more likely to succeed and be self-sustaining than those that rely entirely on self-organisation or community networks where there are no clearly defined roles or responsibilities.

The most successful CoPs (and I should clarify here that I’m using “success’ to mean “in good health”) are those where there is more than one facilitator and where interventions by the facilitator are frequent and predictable.  This may take various forms, such as regular polls of the CoP members; regular e-bulletins or newsletters; a schedule of events (face to face or virtual); regular input to Forum posts and threads, seeding new conversations; back-channeling to make connections between members of the CoP; etc.

In other words, show me a good and effective CoP facilitator and I can show you – in all probability – a healthy and successful Community of Practice.

Attributes Of A Good Facilitator

I’ve often been asked “what makes a good community facilitator moderator be taught, but the good facilitators that I have met bring another dimension to the role, i.e. empathy with, and understanding of, human behaviours and personalities. Something that I suspect comes with experience rather than a pedagogical approach. What I do think is important is having some knowledge (not necessarily ‘expert’ status) and enthusiasm for the topic or theme of the CoP (also referred to as the ‘domain of knowledge’).  This will help where interventions are necessary, and the community members are more likely to appreciate the facilitator as one of their own.

There have been various papers and blogs published about the role and responsibilities of an online CoP facilitator but maybe the following diagram captures the essence of the role.

Facilitator Role
Facilitator Role – click to enlarge

(Reworked from an original by Dion Hinchcliffe)


The conclusion? Based on a significant body of evidence, coupled with personal experience, if you want to ensure the success of your Community of Interest or Practice, make sure you’ve invested in in a team of good, experienced community facilitators.

The post Tips for Building Successful Communities of Practice appeared first on The Future Of Work.

Original source – Steve Dale online

Screen showing the Digital Voices members listening in to the recent hybrid event

Digital Voices members join the recent hybrid event via online tools

Our Digital Voices network reconvened recently with a necessary twist on our usual learning events. After the programme was paused in March due to the global pandemic, we came together for our first ever #DigitalVoices hybrid event.

Without being able to meet face-to-face, our speakers were presenting from studios and offices across the country to provide a more virtual learning experience.

In its third year, Digital Voices aims to equip women with the skills and confidence to tell their story, inspire others in DWP Digital to find their voice and build an inclusive platform to tackle gender equality.

Gender equality and where we are now

Digital Voices programme lead Joanne Rewcastle is shown presenting in front of television cameras and monitors

Digital Voices programme lead Joanne Rewcastle presents at the hybrid event

Programme leads Joanne Rewcastle and Claire Metcalf kicked off the day by welcoming back our Digital Voices and reiterating the aim of the programme –  for more women to have the confidence to tell their story, to be credible role models, encourage and inspire others to speak up and create a gender-inclusive environment.

One clear message throughout the day was that, although our work, home, social spaces and the world may have changed, our goals and aspirations towards equality have not. The fact that women have felt the burden of COVID-19 was underlined throughout. A recent study found that women’s jobs are 1.8 times more vulnerable to this crisis than men’s, and women make up 39% of global employment but account for 54% of overall job losses.

Telling our Digital stories with pride and an open-heart

The stories shared from across the Digital Voices community stories painted a vivid picture of the commitment to our services, colleagues and citizens. When describing the last six months of work, words like exhausting, disjointed, stressful, intense and most common, challenging were often used.

We discussed openly what we were most proud of from the last six months and our day-to-day coping mechanisms at home and work. There’s been hungry kids, caring responsibilities, no toilet rolls, new babies and new starters to factor in alongside our regular work commitments.

One of our Digital Voices, Angela, said that her team at work were her squad and was proud that they really coped with challenges, bonded and solidified themselves as a group. Another Voice, Alison, was proud of how quickly her family got into a routine that worked for them. Anne, vocalised what most of us were thinking – “I’m just glad we are getting through it”.

Followed by the most uttered phrased of 2020 – “You’re on mute!” we talked about how energised, uplifted and motivated we were to get back on track with our Digital Voices journeys and for the day’s activities.

Blogging, understanding our roles and communicating with confidence

Lisa Mason and Andrew Ellis from DWP's Digital Engagement Team lead a session during the Digital Voices learning event sat at a table in front of a monitor, surrounded by cameras

Lisa Mason and Andrew Ellis from DWP’s Digital Engagement Team lead a session during the Digital Voices learning event

During the event, we discussed practical ways to build the skills and confidence to communicate across all platforms effectively. Since lockdown, the Digital Voices community has contributed two external blogs, five internal blogs and countless social positive social media posts and discussions.

Speaking of how she felt after seeing herself on screen in a video interview a few months ago, Digital Voice Judith talked about putting herself out of her comfort zone and even said she didn’t recognise herself. Blogging and social media mentor Andrew agreed that “getting started is often the hardest part” when posed with the question of “How do I get started with blogs when you have no oomph?”.

The Voices reflected on whether their learning needs had changed during the last six months – 34% of them agreed that their  priorities had changed since lockdown began.

One clear shift was how the Voices can create and optimise our presence in a virtual environment, and how they can be more effective when presenting and engaging by video.

Some of the suggestions included implementing new structures, working with technology and being smarter around digital channels in order to work better together away from physical locations.

‘It’s OK not to be OK’ – learning resilience

In the final part of the Day of Learning, we were joined by former DWP colleagues Jane Reid and Janice Hannaway. Jane and Janice met 35 years ago at DWP in Glasgow and since then Janice has trained as a psychodynamic therapist and Jane has held various roles in user research with a focus on gender.

One of the main objectives in Digital Voices is building confidence, and this session was a great opportunity to explore some of the theory behind that. Janice ran us through some of the psychology of why we are possibly feeling so exhausted, demotivated and overwhelmed, comparing our experiences similarly to the grieving process. Both Jane and Janice also spoke about the feeling of mental and physical exhaustion, a collective feeling of tiredness even when we don’t know why.

The overarching message from this discussion was about acceptance. Accepting that is actually how we are all feeling, it is OK to not be OK and it’s OK to own it, accept it and share it.

It was emphasised how working in multi-disciplinary teams, it’s easy to encounter imposter syndrome and we heard tips on how to challenge this by separating feelings from fact, celebrating successes, practising saying thank you and talking about how you feel.

What the future holds for our Voices

After such an interactive and inspiring first hybrid session, it really felt like the Digital Voices’ energy was well and truly back.

Our aim is for the Voices to shape the future for their further development by creating content, learning, practising and reflecting on their experiences while keeping the conversation going. In the meantime, we will be online in our Share and Learn sessions and for the Digital Voices graduation, but there is sure to still be cake and tears (virtually!)!

Original source – DWP Digital

Across the UK there are 130 Universities with two million students.

Chances are, if you have a University in your area you’ll be coming face-to-face with locking down a hall of residence or a block of flats.

In Manchester, two Metropolitan University blocks with 1,700 have been locked-down for two weeks after more than 100 positive tests.

Alun Ireland, Manchester City Council head of comms, in a Zoom chat on the Public Sector Comms Headspace Facebook group ran through the early learning. In Manchester, the episode drew national attention. 

Shots of angry students unable to leave their flats dominated coverage.

So what do you need to know? 

As Alun is one of the good guys he’s keen to share what he learned.

Alun’s halls lockdown check list

Build relationships with partners in peacetime.  If you’re local government this means building bridges with the University ahead of time. It helps makes things go more smoothly.

Expect little notice. The Manchester lockdown came in with only a few hours notice. There will be little time to act so prepare well ahead for the eventuality.

Expect enforcing the lockdown to be difficult. Much of this is appealing to people’s better nature. There’s every chance the police will be telling people they won’t enforce the restrictions as it puts them in a difficult position too – so try to agree your lines in advance. 

Be clear on the decision making. Be clear whose decision the lockdown was and the reasons for it. You will get asked.

You will get targeted by no-win no-fee solicitors. Within 12-hours of the decision being made students were being targeted by solicitors eager to try and win compensation. 

Support the students: with food. If there is a supermarket around the corner that students usually use, talk to their head office to arrange a block booking of delivery slots. If you’re offering to help with food deliveries you need to have this help ready immediately.

Support the students: financially. If there is a package to offer to students be clear on what it is immediately.

Support the students: testing. The lockdown hinges on the eventual testing numbers. You need to work with Public Health England to block book a batch of tests and prepare how to get the results back to people.

Students who have part-time jobs will worry about working. If they stack shelves during term-time they’ll be worried about their job. The good news is that providing a headed letter confirming their status will help protect their jobs and their pay.. They’ll need to know this and where they can get the letter from.

Students’ mental health will be a genuine concern. Many will be away from home for the first time worrying about University life, bills, making friends and their course. This adds a huge extra layer. Work out ahead how you will prepare for this. The support offer will be needed immediately, out of usual hours, and for the duration  

Leaflet the neighbours and businesses. Explain that some students have been asked to take part in a local lockdown and explain why. Also explain that people will still see students on the streets and in the shops. They may not be affected.

Yes, there will be protest signs in the windows. No you won’t like them all. No, there’s not much you can do about them.

And then there are elite athletes. If you have an elite athlete they have a special arrangement that allows them to go about their business unhindered. Be aware of this. 

Thanks to Alun Ireland for sparing the time to take part in the session.

Picture credit: Flickr / Documerica.

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

Sketches made by the GOV.UK team

GOV.UK is always working on ways to make it simpler to interact with the government online. That means we want to improve journeys that can be complex and to help people do what they need to do as quickly and easily as possible. We know that users don’t go to GOV.UK to browse, they go because they need to find things out and get things done. We are committed to making sure users can access what they need, when they need it.

Jen Allum introduced the idea of the GOV.UK account in her recent blog post. I would like to give a bit more detail on this work so far and what you should expect to hear about next.

We’ve spent some time over the past year investigating how GOV.UK might become more personalised for users. We reviewed how the banking, entertainment and shopping sectors approach personalisation. We talked to international governments who are considering some of the same challenges that we are. And we reviewed some previous research from GOV.UK to understand some of the challenges users are facing.

Then we began to design and test concepts around the idea of a GOV.UK account. We know that for complex tasks that are delivered by multiple services and departments, it can be difficult to navigate government. And at the moment we do not provide much continuity for the user at all, so most visits to GOV.UK feel like starting from scratch. We think an account could be a way to further improve how public services are delivered online. It would join together GOV.UK and the many services that sit on it, providing a personalised experience of GOV.UK to the user.

What we are looking at now

From our research and conversations with users, we’ve seen that there’s a real need here to provide a personalised service on GOV.UK. There are many things to think about in this space: technology, architecture, data, privacy, digital identity. These are all areas that teams are working on, or working with other teams on, but we also need to understand how users feel about a GOV.UK account and whether they would use one.

User research and prototypes

In the past 2 months, we’ve been talking to users about how they currently interact with GOV.UK. We began with some broader exploratory research, looking to understand in more depth how users navigate the site when dealing with interactions that are more complex than one-off transactions. We tried to recruit participants who had multiple needs of GOV.UK information – for example, people using GOV.UK both for their family as well as for a business.

Through this research we were reminded of some familiar issues, like how having to navigate through a lot of information and multiple services to find what they need can be a common experience for a lot of GOV.UK visitors.

Think about understanding something like coronavirus and what it means for you; there are, as one user put it, “a lot of roads to go down”. It was also a helpful reminder that people go to GOV.UK for functional needs, not because they want to spend time on the site. We’re thinking a lot about how an account could help with both of these things too.

We included a prompt in this round of research too: an image of GOV.UK’s header with a sign-in link. That led to some interesting conversations, where we learned about the separation many people feel between their business and personal interactions with government; some users questioned the relevance of their family circumstances when they’d considered themselves to be acting in a business context. We also learned more about the role of trust when comparing accounts held with government and private sector organisations.

Since that exploratory research, we’ve developed more prototypes with some end-to-end journeys of signing up and using an account. We’ve done further rounds of research with users using these prototypes so we can better understand how they feel about:

  • accounts in general
  • having a GOV.UK account for their personal and business interactions with government
  • having a way to manage their data
  • reusing information they’ve provided across different government services
  • seeing content that’s tailored to them
  • getting updates about stuff that’s relevant to them

Some of these prototypes were intentionally speculative and contained ideas that will take time to design and develop. However, all of this research has helped us test our ideas and assumptions about how we can progress our work to create a GOV.UK account.

Live test of accounts

The next step is a small, live test. This will be a test within the GOV.UK publishing platform; for now, we aren’t sharing any data between services run by departments. We want to do a live test because it is a powerful way for users to interact in “real world” scenarios, we can rapidly iterate on anonymised analysis, and we can trial users getting early value. We are looking at areas that:

  • cut across many user groups, and multiple areas of someone’s life
  • give the team real experience of the technical and operational aspects of building and managing an account, data architecture, and processing and managing data
  • could be developed further, incorporating other features and expanding the user base
  • start to test our assumptions of user attitudes about privacy, consent and personalisation
  • build a richer picture of the value users could get from an account

What we are hoping to learn from our first trial

We think this first trial will help us learn:

  • if users are willing to take part in this trial, based on the value it will give them
  • how to surface content and service recommendations and be transparent about the user-provided account information that is powering them
  • how we can help users make informed decisions about what they consent to
  • how users think a GOV.UK account relates to existing government accounts

We plan to test the first version of an account in late October. We’ll write another blog post after that about our findings from the trial. Based on the findings, we’ll then iterate our plans.

Next steps

We will keep posting updates as we progress with our work. Look out for posts on our design approach, how we are ensuring privacy by design, the relationship between digital identity and accounts, and how we are thinking about technical architecture.

Please leave us comments or ask us any questions.

Original source – Inside GOV.UK