At the beginning of this year, we spoke about how FutureGov started and celebrated ten years of introducing the sector to a range of new ideas and approaches to making change happen.

Today marks an even bigger day as we are thrilled to announce that FutureGov has acquired top notch design agency Uscreates, joining the FutureGov family.

Over the last ten years, we’ve worked with public services in the UK and around the world, transforming organisations to better serve their communities. We have guided over 50 state, local and national authorities of all shapes and sizes through designing better services and technology that work for the people who need them.

Time for bigger impact

From small beginnings, FutureGov has grown to cover a broad range of work and a wide number of clients across the UK. Our ambition has always been to deliver change and impact at scale.

18 months ago, (when there were barely 30 of us at FutureGov) we sat down at an offsite in the Peak District and talked about what we wanted FutureGov to focus on. The resounding support was to do more in health and well-being, an area we’re seeing more need to support in our work in areas such as social care.

While exploring how we can continue to grow the impact we do, it became clear that what Zoe and Mary had created at Uscreates complemented how we work and would allow us all to benefit from what we had both built through our own organisations.

Thanks to the hard work and quality of work from our team, we’re in a position to be able to work with bigger clients as we bring Uscreates into the FutureGov family.

Excited, inspired and proud

It’s an exciting and inspiring time. We’re so proud to continue building on all we’ve done so far. Welcoming Uscreates onboard means we’ll now be over 80 people at FutureGov. We’re adding exceptional talent and expertise across the health and care sectors with our experience across local government, including; housing, social care, employment, transport and organisation transformation.

This next phase of the FutureGov story is full of big ambitions. Together, we will draw on the great talent we have to make a bigger impact on people’s lives. It’s been a great 10 years so far, but this is really just the beginning.

Expanding our offer as Uscreates joins the FutureGov family was originally published in FutureGov on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Original source – FutureGov

Opening video: Abridged version of Your very good health, Public info film (NHS) 1948

Cartoon baby from 'Your Very Good Health'

I wanted you to see that film – 70 years old this year – because its promise, of universal healthcare, free at the point of need, is as relevant today as in 1948. But much has changed in that time. 97% of people born in Britain since 5th July 1948 – myself included – have been born in the NHS. The cartoon baby at the end of that film is now himself a cartoon pensioner. He is living a longer, healthier life than his cartoon parents. Meanwhile medicine is transformed. We’re on the cusp of another revolution in genomics and personalised medicine.

I work for an organisation called NHS Digital. We’re the national provider of data and technology services for health and social care.

Our users are:

  • 53 million patients and the public across England
  • 1.3 million health and care professionals

We support:

  • the scientific research community who use NHS-scale data for research, and
  • the service community – the people who work every day to keep the health and care service functioning, and to make it more efficient.

As head of design, I’m privileged to work with a great team of designers, user researchers and others who together are designing and delivering some vital tools and services in support of that vision. I want to tell you about that design capability. I want to show you some of the things we’re making. And I want to think about the future of health and care, and how design has a vital role to play in realising its promise.

Design capability

Sketches of designers' faces

Let’s start with the design capability we’re building. Around 40 designers work on services used by patients and professionals across the complex health and care ecosystem. There are a few services – like the national NHS website – that we design and build as national solutions from the ground up. But for many others, the digital bit we deliver nationally is just a small part of someone else’s end-to-end service, including elements bought and built locally by NHS organisations or third-party suppliers.

The make-up of our design team reflects this:

  • 23 interaction designers
  • 10 service designers
  • 5 graphic designers

We have interaction designers working directly on the digital services we deliver ourselves. They also need a graphic design sensibility, because we’re working with one of the UK’s most trusted brands, the blue lozenge. Above this, we’re building our service design capability, to be able to design health and care services, as Lou Downe at GDS says, from end-to-end and front-to-back.

It won’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows UK government design practices that our designers work in agile, multidisciplinary teams, along with product managers, user researchers, developers and other specialist roles.

Working at health service scale gives our designers another responsibility – to talk to each other – individuals and interactions over processes and tools. As the team grows, we’re also investing in design leadership capability – to have a mix of experience and seniority, a career path, and job descriptions. I might be the only person in the team who’s excited about this, but we recently got organisational sign-off for a complete set of designer job descriptions on the same NHS pay scales as nurses, pharmacists, and managers.

When I’m explaining what we do to non-designers – and, believe me, I spend a lot of time doing that – I always fall back on Jared Spool’s wonderfully economical definition of design as “the rendering of intent.” Intent without rendering gives us a strategy but cannot make it real. Rendering without intent may be fun – may even be fine art – but is, by definition, ineffective. Every one of our designers must be able to explain the intent behind their work.

Because in health and care, intent is varied and complex. User needs for health and care services come in at least three flavours:

Overlapping circles of clinical, practical and emotional with user needs at the centre of them all

  • There are clinical needs – people expect the services we offer, and the tools we recommend, to be clinically safe and effective. But that alone is not enough.
  • To be adopted and used, services must meet people’s practical needs in the context of their lives. If that context is mobile, the service must be designed mobile first. If it’s to be used in the middle of the night, it needs to connect to services that are open.
  • Finally, it’s as important to meet our users’ emotional needs. Sometimes people go to the doctor not just for information, but for reassurance. Information could be clinically accurate, but if it doesn’t connect emotionally, the user need has not been met.

Every designer in the NHS needs intelligence and empathy. They must understand the true intent behind their services, reconciling diverse clinical, practical and emotional needs.

Text on slide: Stop disempowering people.

Too easily, people become disempowered by worry, illness, disability, or social circumstances, and (even though we don’t mean to) by the way we have designed and delivered NHS services in the past.

So we need to design for the positive role of patients and carers, to think about their assets – what they have and can do already – as well as their needs and deficits. We need to co-design with patients, staff, family carers and voluntary sector who all make up our service community.

Finally we need a continual focus on digital inclusion and accessibility, because the NHS is for everyone, and those with the greatest health needs are also the most at risk of being left behind digitally.

Hastings pier

This is Hastings, where our partners on the NHS Widening Digital Participation programme have been developing models of digital health interventions for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

Show the things

For a long time, we had this quote on the wall by the team working on the NHS website redesign:

“It’s just a website, We’re not going to the moon.” Mikey Dickerson on fixing

This summer, we transitioned the national NHS website to a new mobile-first, accessible platform. In 2018, this should be basic stuff really, but through a series of policy twists and turns, getting to this point was a big deal. We topped it off with a new name. In research, we asked people what they called it. And we used the words they used. So the site formerly known as NHS Choices is now simply “The NHS website.”

NHS website homepage on a phone - 48 million visits per month

It’s just a website – with more than 48 million visits per month. That’s a quarter of all health-related web traffic in the UK. People expect a different relationship with healthcare, as well as different channels to access it.

There’s good evidence that people in control of their own health and care get better health outcomes. So while we’re here as the NHS for you in the times of greatest need, we also want to help you look after your own health and wellbeing even when you’re feeling fine.

The NHS website has to be there for users in many contexts, needs and emotional states. We have to design for the end-to-end user journey – whether a short, acute, episode of care, or management of a long-term health condition. Making the whole journey visible to everyone involved is powerful, because otherwise no one professional or organisation ever sees the whole picture.

Rows of sticky notes on brown paper

One team looked deeply at the experience of people with Type 1 Diabetes. They mapped a whole journey from someone not even knowing they have a problem, through the trigger that leads to diagnosis, getting to grips with a potentially lifelong condition, and over time confidently managing their wellbeing. They found – and this has echoes in other conditions too – that the point at which the NHS website could help most is the first weeks and months after diagnosis.

NHS website page on phone: Newly diagnosed - things to help

Left: NHS 111 Online on a phone; Right: Paramedic using machinery in an ambulance

Another team has taken the triage pathways that underpin the 111 non-emergency phone service and turned them into an online service. The online service is designed to get people to the help they need while taking pressure off the telephone service. But the big picture here is important, if we get it wrong, we could send worried well people in greater numbers to accident and emergency departments.

National data opt out page on the NHS website

Confidentiality, trust and consent are big, complex issues we have to navigate. We have to understand them when delivering a simple, secure way for people to log in to NHS services. And we’re giving every patient control over how their data can be used beyond their own direct care.

Design doesn’t stop at the big picture. We also have to care about the details. Here, for example, is a page on the old NHS Choices website about paracetamol. The information on the old website was clinically safe and accurate. You’d expect nothing less of the NHS. But, in research, one group in particular – parents with young children – told us the way it mixed information about adults and children was disconcerting. They worried about accidentally giving an adult dose to their child. So we’re splitting the page in two – one about paracetamol for children, another about paracetamol for adults. That way we can meet not only the clinical need, but our users’ practical and emotional needs as well.

NHS website page on a phone: Paracetamol for children

We had to diverge before we could converge on a single set of styles. When I joined the team a bit more than a year ago, everyone was telling me we had to deal with the inconsistent styles that were springing up in different teams. But I worried we were in danger of getting stuck too soon at a “local maximum”, super-optimising the first designs the NHS alpha team had come up with. So I made myself unpopular by telling designers to spend a bit longer solving their own problems, designing solutions in response to user needs.

Left: designers reviewing printed out screenshots; Right NHS website headings and colour palette

When we did come to converge, through a process of patient design diplomacy by Dean, our lead designer, I believe the results were stronger for this extra round of divergence.

While we’re getting our own house in order, developing a consistent set of styles and design principles for the nationally-delivered NHS services, patients the public, and professionals experience a patchwork of interactions commissioned and delivered in many different ways across the wider NHS family. We want to make experiences consistent, no matter whether you’re using the national website, or a condition-specific app, or a service built by one of your local NHS organisations.

interact slides.025

So we’re publishing our user-centred design standards, patterns and practices in a new NHS digital service manual. We’re working across the system to do this, and combining good public sector practice, such as the GDS design principles, with the things that make the NHS unique. The service manual team had hoped for a soft launch, but the beta has already been well-received, and I reckon we’re going to speed up this work in the near future.

Aside from the NHS website, we’ve had a team building a beta version of a new NHS app.

Design for the future

What role might human-centred design play in realising the promise of new medicine and technology? Look at the amazing trajectory of human understanding of DNA, RNA, enzymes, proteins, the genome, and the mechanisms by which they interact. This stuff will transform – is already transforming – our relationships with medicine. Crucially this generation of scientists are looking inside a black box, where their predecessors could observe its effects but not its inner workings.

Visualisation of RNA in a cell

At the same time, fuelled by petabytes of readily available data to digest, computer science risks going the other way in the framing of artificial intelligences: moving from explicable, simple systems to ones where it’s allowed to say, “this stuff is so complex that we don’t know how it works. You have to take it on trust.”

When we apply artificial intelligence (AI) to healthcare, transparency is essential; black boxes must be considered harmful. It’s not just me saying this. Here are the words of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE):

“Software engineers should employ black-box software services or components only with extraordinary caution and ethical care, as they tend to produce results that cannot be fully inspected, validated or justified by ordinary means, and thus increase the risk of undetected or unforeseen errors, biases and harms.” — Ethics of Autonomous & Intelligent Systems

Transparency must be the order of the day. It comes in (at least) two flavours: the first is clear intent; the second, understandable operation. Both are under threat, and designers have a vital role to play in saving them.

When any technology moves from pure to applied science, intent must be centre stage. If we fixate too much on the computer science of AI, and not enough on the context of its application, intent will always be unintentionally obscured.

Many discussions about the “ethics” of AI or genomics are really, I think, discussions about the opacity of intent. If we don’t know who’s setting the goals for the machine, or how those goals are derived, how can we know if the intent is good or bad? For health and care, we have a new code of conduct intended to make sure this doesn’t happen.

1. Define the user; 2. Define the value; 3. Be fair, transparent and accountable - Initial code of conduct for data-driven health and care technology

In the words of Professor Margaret Boden, “the computer couldn’t care less.” She says:

“…computers don’t have goals of their own. The fact that a computer is following any goals at all can always be explained with reference to the goals of some human agent. (That’s why responsibility for the actions of AI systems lies with their users, manufacturers and/or retailers – not with the systems themselves.)” — Robot says: Whatever

It’s time for designers to double down on intent – true human intent that can be difficult to encode. In a domain as complex as health and care, intent is rarely straightforward. It can be changing, conflicting and challenging to untangle:

  • a boy was triaged on first contact as in less urgent need, but has suddenly taken a turn for the worse
  • an elderly woman wants to get home from hospital, but her doctors need first to be sure she’ll be safe there
  • the parents want to help their children lose weight, but know that pester power always leads them back to the burger chain.

User-centred design must clarify who the service is for, what problem they’re trying to solve, and what benefits we expect them to realise.

Text on slide: Time for designers to double down on intent.

It’s time for designers to double down on intent, and – let’s be honest – this is not an area where design has always covered itself in glory. We know what design without intent looks like, right? It’s an endless scroll of screenshots presented without context – the Dribbblisation of design. If you think that was bad, just wait for the Dribbblisation of AI. Or the Dribbblisation of genomics.

Thoughtful designers on the other hand can bust their way out of any black box. Even if they’re only called in to work on a small part of a process, they make it their business to understand the situation holistically, from the user’s point of view, and that of the organisation.

Experienced designers are confident moving up and down the stack – through graphic design, interaction design and service design problem spaces. Should we point an AI agent at optimising the colour of the “book now” buttons? Or address the capacity bottlenecks in our systems that make appointments hard to find?

People looking at sticky notes on two walls

One of my team recently talked me through a massive service map they had on their wall. We discussed the complexity in the back-end processes, the push and pull of factors that affected the system. Then, pointing at a particular step of the process: “That’s the point where we could use machine learning, to help clinicians be confident they’re making a good recommendation.” Only by framing the whole service, could they narrow in on a goal that had value to users and could be usefully delegated to AI.

Designers are well placed to show the workings of their own (and others’) processes, in a way that proponents of black box AI never will. This is my second flavour of transparency, explainability, clarity of operation. Show what type of algorithm you are building, why that algorithm, how you check if it’s working the way you intended.

How might we:

  • communicate probabilities and uncertainties to help someone decide what to do about their disposition to a form of cancer?
  • show someone exactly how their personal data can be used in research to develop a new treatment?
  • involve people waiting for treatment in the co-design of a fair process for prioritisation?

In a world of risks and probabilities, not black and white answers, we should look for design patterns and affordances that support people’s understanding and help them take real, fully informed, control of the technologies on offer. This is not an optional extra. It’s a vital part of the bond of trust on which our public service depends.

Fifty iterations of DeepDream, the network having been trained to perceive dogs CC0 MartinThoma

The cultural ascendancy of AI poses both a threat and an opportunity to human-centred design. It moves computers into territory where designers should already be strong: exploration and iteration. I’m critically optimistic because many features of AI processes look uncannily like a repackaging of classic design technique. These are designerly machines.

  • Finding patterns in a mass of messy data?
  • Learning from experiments over many iterations?
  • Sifting competing options according to emerging heuristics?

User-centred design does all those things too.

interact slides.042.jpeg

"Double diamond" model of design process - Design Council 2014

Some diagrams explaining AI processes even resemble mangled re-imaginings of the divergent/convergent pattern in the Design Council’s famous double diamond. The threat is that black box AI methods are seen as a substitute for intentional design processes. I’ve heard it suggested that AI could be used to help people navigate a complex website. But if the site’s underlying information architecture is broken, then an intelligent agent will surely just learn the experience of being lost. (Repeat after me: “No AI until we’ve fixed the IA!”)

Designers should embrace the new, more design-like metaphors of rendering intent. As a profession, we have a great story to tell. We should talk more about our processes for discovering and framing problems, generating possible solutions and whittling them down with prototypes and iteration. Sure, we’ll need new skills, to change and evolve our methods – we’ve already mastered web, mobile, assistive tech. As Ursula le Guin wrote:

That’s the neat thing about technologies. They’re what we can learn to do.

Text on slide: Pair designerly machines with collective, human intelligence.

As the title of Ellen Broad’s wonderful book has it, AI is ‘Made By Humans’. We can pair human intelligence with artificial intelligence, and harness the combined power of us all, through collective intelligence.

How might we give power to the communities of health and care (and help them understand each other better in the process)?

  • Patient community – taking advantage of collective knowledge and data
  • Clinical community – integrating machine learning into clinical practice
  • Scientific community – extending existing modes of collaboration
  • Service community – co-ordination problems and realtime system status

(Credit to Stefana Broadbent for framing the first three categories at a recent Nesta event on Collective Intelligence.)

Some people say that the pace of change in accelerating, and that big organisations like the NHS can never keep up. I don’t believe that. For 70 years, the NHS has known nothing but change. Back in 1948, Nye Bevan, the founder of the NHS said something remarkably prescient. I think this attitude is one of the reasons, against the odds, we’re still here as a 70-year-old institution today.

“We shall never have all we need. Expectations will always exceed capacity. The service must always be changing, growing and improving – it must always appear inadequate.” — Nye Bevan, 2 June 1948

Original source – Matt Edgar writes here

At the Ministry of Justice (MOJ), we have thousands of different systems running on many different types of hosting, from modern, hyper-scale cloud providers like AWS and Azure all the way through to physical servers in data centers and server rooms.

We want to move all of these systems to public cloud hosting. This post sets out why and how we’re going to do this, and what we will do once it’s done.

By moving to public cloud hosting we predict we can reduce overall hosting costs by 60% over the long term, presenting the department with a multi-million pound saving opportunity. As well as saving money, moving to the cloud makes us better able to manage, change, improve, and secure our systems and the data they hold, as well as making it easier to make them more resilient to failure.

We need to understand what we have before we can work out how to move it to the cloud

To help us identify the right tools and techniques to apply to the various systems within our estate, we’re grouping our infrastructure under three headings:

  • Retirement infrastructure is infrastructure we don’t want to continue running, usually because the systems hosted on it use technologies that are no longer supported, or aren’t able to easily scale or be managed automatically. This is where most of our most expensive contracts and oldest systems are. Some of these systems are built in ways that make them hard to move off of this sort of infrastructure, so we have to identify which systems require that extra care.
  • Modernisation infrastructure is infrastructure that’s in the public cloud, but the applications running on it are not cloud native yet. It allows us to take advantage of the cost savings of public cloud hosting, but may not be able to be easily managed at scale (for example, applying security updates to all the underlying systems at once, in a predictable manner).
  • Cloud native infrastructure is infrastructure that’s able to be managed all at once, with clear separation between the applications and the infrastructure (using containers), is resilient to failure, and can easily scale. We, like much of the rest of the industry, are using Kubernetes as the basis of our cloud native infrastructure.

We’re saving millions of pounds by closing down and consolidating retirement infrastructure

We’re working to move as many systems as we can out of retirement infrastructure and into modernisation infrastructure, and turning off systems that aren’t needed anymore. As we do this, we’re ending contracts for that infrastructure and identifying ways to better support them.

We’ve achieved a lot already. We’ve moved (or turned off, where appropriate) all of the systems that support Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service to modernisation infrastructure. We’re also in the process of moving many of the Legal Aid Agency’s systems.

Where systems can’t be moved directly to modernisation infrastructure in the public cloud, as is the case with some of the Legal Aid Agency’s systems, we’re moving them to new, more cost-effective retirement infrastructure environments that give us more control. From there, we can work out how best to move them to the cloud or eventually turn them off.

We’re making our modernisation infrastructure cloud native

We will keep improving the systems in our modernisation infrastructure until they’re cloud native and, when they are, move them onto our Cloud Platform. We’re trying to reduce the amount of manual administration we do on every system, making them easier to run and update. Doing this makes us able to more respond quickly security threats and bugs and spend more time improving our systems and making them more resilient.

Many of the systems we’ve moved from retirement infrastructure into modernisation infrastructure weren’t built to be cloud native, and we’re working to automate management of their infrastructure and deployments.

Some of our other systems were built in the cloud and have some automation around them, but aren’t what we’d consider cloud-native. We’re gradually making them better, and moving them to the Cloud Platform when we can.

This improves our ability to operate our systems en masse, makes us better able to respond to incidents, control access to data they store, and allows our teams to focus more on delivering the best services they can.

We’re making our cloud native infrastructure evergreen

The modern platform of today is tomorrow’s legacy. We’re working to make our Cloud Platform evergreen, constantly improving it and changing it without impacting our users.

We’re building the Cloud Platform around Kubernetes, because that’s emerged as the industry standard for this kind of work. The Cloud Platform’s first tenant (the LAA fee calculator, part of the the system used to manage claims for criminal legal aid) went live a few weeks ago.

We’re also keeping an eye on other architectures (like serverless computing) to make sure we’re always ready for what’s coming next, and can keep moving our systems into the best hosting infrastructure the future has to offer.

We’ve made great progress, but there’s more to do

Like any government department, we have lots of old systems that are in need of attention. We’re working hard to make sure we can look after them more effectively alongside building new things.

We want our teams to be able to deliver the best services they can, and continually improving our hosting estate helps do this while dramatically reducing how much we spend to run all of our services.

We’ve made great progress on this so far. We’re saving tens of millions of pounds moving things out of retirement infrastructure and turning off things we don’t need. We’re also modernising our cloud infrastructure, and building new things with longevity and ease of maintenance in mind from day one.

Got questions or comments? Then please get in touch below or speak to Steve on Twitter. You can also Subscribe to the blog for updates on our work, or follow us on Twitter.

Want to work on things that matter? Find out more about working at MoJ Digital & Technology or visit our careers site.

Original source – MOJ Digital & Technology

A screenshot of the Apply for your first provisional driving licence step by step page

The ‘Apply for your first provisional driving licence’ step by step navigation page

Since GOV.UK launched 6 years ago it has been the home of government’s online content and the starting point for online services.

Every week millions of people use GOV.UK to do complex and sometimes life-changing tasks, such as learning to drive, registering a birth or starting a business.

We want to make these tasks as easy as possible – by making content simple and user journeys intuitive. This is good for users because it makes it quicker to get things done. And it’s good for government because it reduces unnecessary contact and casework.

Why we need to look at end to end services

We know users face challenges carrying out tasks. There’s a lot of information to find for a start. Depending on the task, there might be appointments to book, forms to fill in, applications to be made and tests to take.

And what makes this even harder is that each step needs to be done at the right time and in the right order.

That’s why government needs to look at every step of this task. From the first thing the user does, to the last thing they need to do. We need to look at services from end to end.

The difficulty government faces when trying to make this easier is that people’s real-world tasks do not always fit neatly with the way government is organised into departments and agencies.

For example, a business wanting to hire their first employee needs information and services from 5 different areas of government before they can hire them:

Step Government department or agency
Check you can afford to take on an employee Department for Work and Pensions
Register as an employer HM Revenue and Customs
Check a potential employee’s right to work in the UK Home Office
Check a potential employee’s criminal record Disclosure and Barring Service
Set up a pension scheme The Pensions Regulator

Organising GOV.UK by topic and task

Rather than organise GOV.UK around the structure of government, we’ve been working to organise content around user needs at scale. So, rather than being organised by department, content on GOV.UK is now organised into a single site-wide system of user-centred topics.

This topic structure will power new ways to search and browse the site, making things much easier to find.

But we want to go further – we want to make things easier to do.

So about a year ago we started experimenting with a new way for users to navigate GOV.UK. These experiments evolved into what we now call step by step navigation.

It looks like this on GOV.UK:

A screenshot of the 'Learn to drive a car' step by step page

This page outlines the process for learning to drive a car

It means that, for the first time, we can show the user everything they’ll need to do to complete a task, whether that’s Learning to drive or Employing someone.

The navigation follows you throughout your journey, indicating what to do now and next. It also shows you previous steps you might have missed. For example, getting a provisional driving licence before booking a driving theory test.

A screenshot of the 'Apply for your first provisional driving licence' step by step page

Step by step navigation appears alongside content of each step

Step by step navigation is designed to work with all existing content types and transactions on GOV.UK. Where appropriate, transactions can be broken down further using the separate task list pattern.

Developing the design

The design evolved over 8 rounds of research and iteration, including an in-depth review at the brilliant Digital Accessibility Centre in Neath.

Around half way through the lab research we began testing the pattern on GOV.UK. Analytics data showed that the first examples of step by step navigation were getting a lot of traffic. For example, learn to drive a car was used 1.24 million times in the first 6 months.

We ask users for feedback with the ‘Is this useful?’ survey banner at the bottom of every page on the site. This showed users were finding it useful.

A screenshot of the 'Is this page useful?' banner

The ‘Is this page useful?’ banner

We also ran a remote user research study where we asked users to complete a series of tasks before and after 3 step by step journeys were published.

The study showed the step by step navigation resulted in a significant increase in users’ successful task completion, as well as an increase in confidence they could use GOV.UK to find what they needed.

Scaling the approach

With encouraging data coming in, over the past 6 months we’ve been working to scale this approach so it can be used for the more complex tasks users need to do. These include:

Step by step journey Departments involved
Visit the UK on a standard visitor visa UK Visas and Immigration
What to do when someone dies Department for Work and Pensions
HM Courts & Tribunal service
HM Revenue and Customs
Land Registry
Employ someone HM Revenue and Customs
Home Office
Disclosure and Barring Service
Department for Work and Pensions
The Pensions Regulator

As this table shows, the content that sits within these journeys often crosses multiple government departments and we need a collaborative approach to make these journeys better for users. Creating a new process for cross-government working to support this has been equally as important as designing a new way of navigating.

Over the past 6 months we’ve collaborated with more than 15 different departments to publish 25 step by step journeys.

We’re also indebted to the team at the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency who helped us map the first journeys: Learn to drive a car and Become a driving instructor when our work was still in prototype form. They’ve written a great blog post about the process.

Next steps

We’ll be continuing to work with departments to map and publish step by step navigation for some of the most high priority and complex user journeys within government. As we do this we’ll keep a close eye on performance data to ensure this approach is still working well for users.

If you’re in a department or agency team and want to work with us to put together step by step journeys, we’d love to hear from you. Send us an email at

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Original source – Government Digital Service

In the early 1970s, only one in twenty people in the top five US orchestras were women. Now that figure is more like one in three.

As Harvard Professor Iris Bohnet explains in her book on ‘what works’ to reduce gender inequality, one of the reasons for this shift is the way that US orchestras approached their recruitment. Selection processes used to involve seeing as well as hearing the musician.

Despite the belief that hiring decisions were based on a musician’s skill alone, ‘unconscious bias’ resulted in men often being given the roles.

Then blind auditions were introduced. Musicians could now be heard, but a screen prevented them from being seen. It had a dramatic effect upon hiring decisions. Women were now being judged on their musical skills, and were much more likely than before to be chosen.

A few years ago, the Behavioural Insights Team wanted to see if we could learn from this research and change the way we ran our own recruitment practices. We introduced ‘name blind’ recruitment processes, removing names of individuals from application forms.

But as we got deeper into the literature, we realized that the problem required a more fundamental solution. And with the support of our partners at Nesta, that led to the development of a nascent online platform, which in 2016 was turned into the first BI Venture.

The platform – Applied – led by Kate Glazebrook and Richard Marr, transformed BIT’s recruitment process through dozens of changes to the standard hiring practice.

Alongside name-blinding, for example, the platform randomizes the order in which different reviewers mark individual questions. This is because reviewers typically give the first application a higher mark than those that follow.

Applied has just reached two historic milestones. The first is how many people are now using the platform to remove implicit bias from their hiring decisions. 50,000 people have now applied for jobs through the platform.

The second is that Applied has just completed a £1.5m fundraising round, led by Blackbird Ventures, that will enable it to scale the platform over the coming two years. The Behavioural Insights Team will remain a shareholder in the company.

We are delighted that Applied, through which BIT has itself recruited around 100 people, continues to be able to support lots of other companies to remove bias from their own hiring decisions.

Original source – Behavioural Insights Team

Announcing: mySociety will be at Mozilla Festival (MozFest) this year in London!

Mozfest is the open internet conference which is hosted annually and seeks to bring open web advocates together to collaborate, discuss, and hack together. mySociety previously presented at MozFest in 2013, 2014, and 2015 and we’re excited to return this year!

We’ll be presenting during MozFest Weekend (26-28 October) and are looking forward to sharing our work, learning, and collaborating during the festival. We’ll be presenting in the Decentralisation space about our Democratic Commons work with Wikidata and political data within civic tech.

Our interactive session will cover the power and possibilities of Wikidata when complete political data is added to the site and continuously updated. Participants will learn about how they can upkeep this data in their own region or how to use it for research purposes. Most importantly, our session will demonstrate how political data on Wikidata can promote active citizenship and civic engagement. We look forward to our session and hope to gain insights from those who attend as well in our breakout discussion session.

Our presentation Empowering Active Citizens: Political Engagement through Wikidata, will be on Sunday 28 October at 11:00 in room 602.

Keep up with us on social media for updates throughout the festival — and you can find general festival happenings via @mozillafestival and the #Mozfest hashtag.

Image: Mozilla in Europe (CC by-sa/2.0)

Original source – mySociety

CIPR at 70.jpg

As the CIPR celebrates its 70th birthday one member reflects on the past 20 years and has contributed a passage to a new book to mark the occasion – Platinum.

by Ruth Fry

1998. The year the Good Friday Agreement was signed. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was published. Blair was Prime Minister, Princess Diana conspiracy theories were still coming thick and fast, I was studying history at a Scottish university not yet synonymous with a future monarch, and the CIPR turned 50.

Of course, it was the IPR back then, and I wasn’t yet a member. It would be another few years before I found my way into public sector communications, and I found the CIPR.

From my first foray into the formal study of public relations as a CIPR Diploma student, the CIPR has consistently set the standard high, urging members to earn respect for our profession by respecting our audience and, crucially, to make our field count as a management discipline.

When the call went out to members for submissions to a book to celebrate the CIPR turning 70, the themes I found emerging in my chapter were those that had remained constant throughout my career: building trust and relationships; accessibility; and evaluation.

Amongst the huge variety of essays in Platinum, Celebrating the CIPR at 70, published this month, these core values of the organisation shine through.

That isn’t to say that a lot hasn’t changed over the last 20 years. When I moved into local government communications, best practice was still a regular residents’ magazine. Now, digital channels take precedence, not only because fewer local authorities can justify expensive print runs but also because it means we can target information better, communicate more quickly, learn what our audiences want and interact with them in ways we never dreamed would be possible back in 1998.

And being really good at telling people what we do is no longer enough for councils. We need to work with people, tapping in to their local knowledge and experience, to create new solutions together. In my chapter ‘Community co-creation as a means of public relations’, I look at how communications professionals can lead the way in this emerging practice.

Public relations will always be evolving. Like the CIPR, we need to keep learning and growing, applying our key skills and attributes to new challenges and environments. I can’t wait to see what the next 20 years will bring.

Ruth Fry is corporate communications manager at Perth and Kinross Council

Image via Bixentro

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

Local government is running out of time to think about how to make services better and prototype options. There is a greater need to take a radical approach and everyone needs to act.

What future do we want?

It’s a truism to say people feel disenfranchised with democratic structures and leaders, voting for any kind of change rather than staying with old models.

Meanwhile technological advance means many tools we’ll use in 2028 won’t even exist in 2019. Data will increasingly be the currency of choice. And homes are becoming more and more automated via Google and Amazon.

But rather than bring us together, access to technology is seen as separating us further. It’s a dismal glimpse at what could be a dystopian future. There is hope, but fulfilling that requires bold leadership.

Reinvention and transformation

The trouble is that austerity is not going away, and small pockets of transformation have only gotten us so far. We need to look hard at the structures of our organisations and fundamentally reinvent them around the needs of citizens.

But organisation transformation at scale is achievable. We already see this happening across central government departments such as the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency and some councils, including Essex CC and Hackney LBC.

Local government has always survived change. Now, it needs to adopt that attitude into transforming itself by working together, focusing locally and learning from other sectors.

Services don’t start and stop in a directorate. It’s a combination of teams, the user and the ongoing support needed to keep them working.

To implement this means more than just resolving the technology used, or sorting things at an individual scale. It’s all interconnected.

The time is now

The right skills to support 21st-century organisations revolve around design, technology, and invention. The right culture and environment will be open, flexible and encourage sharing. And the right ways of working will be collaborative, iterative, and involve data.

Local government needs to be equipped with these things to become the engine of change, promoting better tech and new ways of doing things, supporting the organisation to transform.

It’s never been about selecting technology and building it to save a few pennies, but investing in how we get the right future outcomes for residents to have better lives, businesses to thrive and communities to flourish.

There are no more excuses to why we can’t be proactive to set ourselves up to be more resilient, adaptable and focused on delivery.

This post was first published by Local Government Chronicle.

No more excuses was originally published in FutureGov on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Original source – FutureGov

Hi, I’m Steph. I have been working at dxw digital as the Office Assistant for 8 weeks now and loving every part of it!

I’m thinking back to my very first day when I came into the office and found a computer screen filled with warm welcome notes from the dxw digital team. I had never experienced anything like this before and it was very touching!

Previously, I had always worked in customer service in offices and retail. Digital technology is new to me, and while working at dxw digital, I’m hoping to gain a better understanding of it.  It’s a different world from what I’ve done before, so it will be a great learning experience while I grow as an office assistant. I’m hoping that this role can lead me to new opportunities within the company.

My partner and friends always joke that I am their personal assistants since I’m obsessed with efficiency and organisation. This makes this role perfect for me. I’m looking forward to keeping the office organised and making new changes to maintain a happy workplace. I want to be the person that if anyone needs anything in the office they know they can come to me and I would be able to help!

One of the terms I picked up on soon after joining dxw is the word agile and ‘working in an agile way’. I learned how to develop an agile working method which has assisted me in the office and in day-to-day life. Working with an agile methodology has greatly helped me while planning my wedding. Before, I would work flat out, have no time to assess what I had done and snowball if something went wrong. I now plan my wedding in short bursts where I action an idea, see how it works and evaluate it after a week which is helping me to be less stressed and avoid being a bridezilla!

I love working alongside this fantastic team who are helping me understand my role and find my feet. Without them, I would be lost – ha! I’m excited for what’s to come here at dxw digital.


The post Introducing Steph appeared first on dxw digital.

Original source – dxw digital

Earlier this year, we were fortunate enough to be contacted by Brian Keegan, Assistant Professor in Information Science at the University of Colorado Boulder, who specialises in the field of network analysis.

Brian and his team were planning to mine the official biographies of every legislator published by the Library of Congress – going back to the first Congress in 1789 –  and add the information as structured data to Wikidata. Having heard of our involvement with  WikiProject Every Politician, they wanted to understand more about contributing.

The research team, which included professors from the Libraries, Political Science and Information Science departments, planned to combine this biographical data with more common data in political science about voting and co-sponsorship, so that interesting questions could be asked, such as; “Do Ivy League graduates form cliques?” or, “Are medical doctors more likely to break with their party on votes concerning public health?”. With the hypothesis that the biographical backgrounds of legislators could play an important role in legislative behaviours.

However, the first big step before questions could be asked (or SPARQL queries made) was supporting undergraduate students to enter biographical data on Wikidata. The biographical data of every member of Congress (going right back to the first) has not generally made it into the datasets that political scientists use to study legislative behaviour. As they began to enter data about these historical figures, it quickly became apparent why: non-existent nations, renamed cities renamed, and archaic professions all needed to be resolved and mapped to Wikidata’s contemporary names and standardised formats.

Nine months on, the team and ten undergraduates have revised over 1,500 Wikidata items about members of Congress, from the 104th to the 115th Congresses (1995-2018) and the 80th– 81st Congresses (1947-1951), which is 15% of the way through all members dating back to the first Congress in 1789!

They started running SPARQL queries this summer.

Joe Zamadics, a political science PhD student who worked on the project explained the potential of combining these data:  “One example we tried was looking at House member ideology by occupation. The graph below shows the ideology of three occupations: athletes, farmers, and teachers (in all, roughly 130 members). The x-axis shows common ideology (liberal to conservative) and the y-axis shows member’s ideology on non-left/right issues such as civil rights and foreign policy.  The graph shows that teachers split the ideological divide while farmers and athletes are more likely to be conservative.”


The team are keen to highlight the potential that semantic web technology such as  Wikidata offers to social scientists.

For the full Q + A with Brian and Joe see the mySociety Medium post. 

Photo by Jomar on Unsplash


Original source – mySociety