Rural bus services are often a life-line for citizens. Through our work over the last year, we’ve met with communities who rely on these services. They include families who require access to jobs, schools and childcare. They include young people just starting their career, older people who need access to shops and friends, and those with disabilities who need support to move freely.

The stark reality of public sector cuts is that many non-statutory, rural transport services are at risk of being cut. With cuts comes the very real truth of alienating communities and negatively impacting the economy.

It’s time for something different

FutureGov has been working alongside Suffolk and Essex Councils to understand the needs of residents to access rural transport, and understand the opportunities available.

Together, we carried out in-depth research speaking directly with the users who depend on transport to understand the challenges and identify opportunities, including interviews and ride-alongs with residents and local suppliers, as well as analysing wider data on the transport network and demand.

The challenge lies in increasing provision of viable transport options to rural communities while also reducing cost. We spotted an opportunity to help meet travel demand by improving existing demand responsive transport (DRT) — flexible routing and scheduling of shared-ride vehicles according to passengers needs.

These services were already operating in areas of Suffolk and Essex where we’d established latent demand, yet regularly ran with spare capacity and downtime. We found that the existing DRT programmes didn’t offer a seamless experience. Most local residents were unaware of how to use these services, or perceived that they ‘aren’t meant for them’. What could happen if we made these services more accessible and appealing to a wider audience? How might technology play a role in helping more people to access these services? How might clearer signals of the true travel demand help shape local services to be more effective and efficient?

With Suffolk and Essex, we developed the concept for a new digital booking platform, called RIDE. With a clear branding proposition and a user-friendly experience, the platform allows residents to discover and book local on-demand services offered by many local suppliers, and enables residents to request services to help identify new opportunities. For the last six months we’ve tested and developed this concept by partnering with local services to promote and run real journeys to underserved local destinations and events in rural Essex and Suffolk.

Time for growth

We are excited that Suffolk is growing this service by introducing a new route through a six month pilot programme. Beginning 1 August, the new route links the town’s local bus station with West Suffolk Hospital, a high-demand destination 18 miles away from the city centre. Thanks to our partnership, Suffolk is entering this new pilot route with the confidence and know-how to provide viable travel options that will help people make the journeys they need.

The creation and implementation of this new service signals a shift in how councils can become active investors in new services, rather than passive recipients of the old, big-bus services.

Now it’s your turn

With a creative outlook and a the willingness to learn from the community, we can create better, viable rural transport options with the tools and services we already have. We learnt a great deal during our 12 months of designing and testing alongside Suffolk and Essex, capturing an in-depth look at the challenges of rural transport in a paper written with Transport Catapult.

We know RIDE is only one possible solution to an increasing issue of rural communities being cut-off from opportunity. We are positive other solutions exist that are waiting to be uncovered and we’d love to hear more about what other councils are up to in facing this challenge.


It’s time to Ride was originally published in FutureGov on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Original source – FutureGov

DWP often works with other organisations and companies who help us deliver some of the services we provide. I’m a senior user researcher working on a new service that will help these third parties carry out their work delivering DWP services.

Jane Hall, user researcher, DWP Digital

Jane Hall, senior user researcher

The first release for this service will be for training providers contracted by DWP. When the DWP operational support team asked me to get involved in four roadshows to talk to these providers about how the service will work, it gave me an idea to try a different approach with our user research.

Getting creative with a different approach

Because we would have access to all the training providers (our end users) over a matter of a few days, my idea was to run parallel sessions of different research sessions at each event and have all the users take part in each session.

I jokingly referred to the sessions as ‘user research speed dating’. This is because the idea of quickly rotating around different research activities is similar to the concept of speed dating which, in case you’ve never heard of it, aims to introduce single people to large numbers of new potential partners in a very short period of time.

I’m a great believer in getting as much out of every opportunity as possible and the ‘speed dating’ approach meant that everyone at the roadshows could take part in each research activity. Also, doing it this way would provide me with a rich amount of data that I could then feed back to the wider team to help us to prepare for subsequent releases of our service.

Planning the sessions

It was a really simple idea on paper, but it did lead to a lot of things that I had to think about:

  • should I rotate the providers or the researchers around the sessions?
  • how many sessions should I run and how long should each one last?
  • what methods should I use to keep each session fresh and engaging, whilst answering the key research questions I had?
  • how big should the groups be?
  • how would I resource it?
  • what would be the best way to obtain informed consent?

As well as thinking about these questions, I also wanted to make sure each session used a different approach to help keep users engaged.

The research briefs I developed had to be really comprehensive and detailed as they were going to be used by others who weren’t that close to the project. And because I had different volunteers helping out across the four days, I had to run four briefing and debriefing sessions for the researchers, note takers and observers.

Organising and running the sessions

After much pondering, I decided to rotate the users around the sessions. By doing it this way, the volunteers I recruited to help run the sessions only had to familiarise themselves with one research brief, and by breaking the activities, it gave users a chance to get up, stretch their legs, and mentally take a break from each activity, before starting the next one.

I also decided that three groups doing half hour activities in parallel would work (this was based on the estimated number of attendees per roadshow) and would only amount to 1.5 hours of research. I asked other user researchers in DWP to help facilitate the sessions, and collected written informed consent before the start of the three sessions.

How the speed dating approach worked on the day

To capture the information I wanted on the day, I used the following techniques:

  • card sorting to prioritise user management functions
  • an exercise that involved each user drawing out their organisational hierarchy and populating that with information about which levels within the organisation should be able to perform what user management functions
  • a focus group discussion about the two-factor authentication and back-up approach for the minimum viable product

Despite all the preparation and planning, I still found myself flying by the seat of my pants at times! On two of the four days, fewer users than expected turned up so I had to decide on the spot how to manage this by merging two sessions in to one.

As expected, the sessions generated a lot of information. I designed the research with analysis in mind which is making it manageable to digest. But it will take quite a while to do all the analysis.

What I’d do differently next time

For starters I’d definitely take a similar approach as it was a great way of generating a lot of information. However, I would want more control over how close together the events were. One aim I had, but wasn’t able to fulfil, was to progress the ‘user management’ sessions from a card sorting exercise for the first two sessions, to developing a paper prototype to test out with the last two groups.

Using this speed dating approach to user research showed that it’s worth being experimental, trying something new and pushing the boundaries when it comes to new techniques. Working in DWP Digital allows you to be creative in this way. I’d say if you have an idea like this, give it a go!

Original source – DWP Digital

Two months ago, I started as a Project Director for FutureGov. Coming hot on the heels of an intense and rewarding couple of years at Doncaster Council, I’ve had the chance to reflect on what it’s like to go from being on ‘the inside’ to being ‘on the outside’. From bringing in creative people to help get stuff done, to being the person that’s brought in to do the doing.

I want to share some of the important lessons I learned. In part, in solidarity with those in local government, and partly because catharsis is a good and healthy thing!

Making the move

Doncaster Council is an amazing place to work — my experience there will live long in my memory. I had the opportunity to do a lot of great work and it wasn’t uncommon to work across 12 exciting projects at once pulling 70 hour weeks. Driven by a heady mixture of coffee, adrenaline and a desire to change things for the better, I pushed myself to do more and do it better than before. It was good, meaningful work that created tangible improvements in the lives of our residents.

I also had the opportunity to collaborate and work alongside some great agencies. Each brought depth and rigour to projects, which helped free me up to drive the wider case for a design-led approach to policy and strategy. They made my life easier and I wouldn’t have been as successful without them.

Looking back, I think I spread myself too thin. No one can be 100% effective with too much on the plate, and I am no exception. I’ve learned that I’d rather move three things closer to completion than 12 things to a lesser extent. One of the things I am most excited for in this new role is the ability to really focus on a couple of big projects, knowing that I can add more value to a select few than if I was spread across more.

Building meaningful partnerships

Working in Doncaster has made me more reflective about my choices and the impact good design can have. The questions I’m asking myself now, are: what does good design look like in a local authority? Is breadth or depth better? How can the public sector and agencies like FutureGov forge really meaningful partnerships?

It’s so important to help people see the change that’s possible. In Doncaster, it felt like I’d won the battle for discovery and prototyping, and that lots of people ‘got it’. But moving past that and into the realm of sustainable change feels pretty essential to me now.

It’s about sticking around long enough to see things through, and focussing on the skills, vision and leadership that mean service design work can really begin to stick.

This is what a really great partnership between an agency and a local authority should look like. Bringing my local government experiences and design knowledge to a wider audience, I look forward to getting in more places, getting more people on board and helping us all become the creators of sustainable change.

In solidarity

It doesn’t matter if you’re on the ‘inside’ or ‘outside’. I don’t think there is really a difference. Regardless of our organisations, we are a group of people trying to make things better for the residents. There were times when it felt lonely doing what I was doing — I wasn’t always sure if my work was wanted, despite feeling like it was needed. But I’ve always been fortunate to have key people around me who wanted the same thing.

I’ve always been passionate about the potential of public service, and will always work in and around it as a result. What the move to FutureGov has brought home for me is the difference between work that has meaning, and making my work mean something.

There are plenty of agitators, innovators, Kaospilots — call them what you want! I’m excited about the future as we come together to share a collective energy, ideas and optimism in a way that can only mean good things for councils and citizens.

Want to talk more? You can find me on Twitter @ayredw.


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

Original source – FutureGov

GamificationThis post was previously published on 25th September 2014 at Collabor8now.com.  It is an abbreviated abstract from a research paper I submitted to Sage publications on the topic of  “Gamification”. The full article is available from the June 2014 edition of Business Information Review.

Introduction:

Gamification is about understanding and influencing human behaviours that organizations want to encourage amongst their workforce or customers. Gamification seeks to take enjoyable aspects of games – fun, play and challenge – and apply them to real-world business processes. Analysts are predicting massive growth of gamification over the next few years, but is there any substance to the benefits being touted? This article takes a critical look at the potential of gamification as a business change agent that can deliver a more motivated and engaged workforce.

This article seeks to explain what gamification is and answers the following questions:

1. Does gamification have a place as an effective business change agent?
2. Can gamification encourage knowledge sharing behaviours and better  employee engagement within and across the enterprise?

What is ‘gamification’?

The term ‘gamification’ has been used since around 2003 as a way to influence online and real-world behaviour. Software applications or mobile apps encourage people to
do a variety of things – sometimes play games, sometimes respond to particular stimuli or situations – with rewards for users exhibiting the ‘right’ behaviours. Gamification makes a game out of something – and game design has certain conventions. Every game has to have rules, tools, mechanics and players. Rules and tools are specific to each game, dependent on what outcomes are desired. The players are either employees or exist outside
of the corporate firewall. Therefore there are two main types of gamification – enterprise gamificationand social gamification.

The most common game mechanics are:

  • achievements (Experience points, Levels, Bonuses etc.);
  • exercises (Challenges, Discoveries etc.);
  • synchronizing with the community (Leaderboards, Collaboration etc.);
  • result transparency (Experience bars, Continuous feedback etc.);
  • time (Countdown, Speed etc.);
  • luck (Lottery, Random Achievements etc.).

The Science

Gamification is much more than simply rewarding points and badges; it’s aboutunderstanding and influencing the human behaviours that companies want to encourage among their users. Gamification is founded in the fundamentals of human psychology and behavioural science, and rests on three primary factors: motivation, ability level and triggers.

For a behaviour to change, 3 things have to be present: a trigger, the ability to do the behaviour, and motivation. And the last two, motivation and ability, are trade-offs. That means if you have low amounts of ability, you need to have more motivation. If you have low amounts of motivation you need to make the behaviour steps really small.

When done correctly, gamification provides an experience that is inherently engaging and, most importantly, promotes learning. The elements of games that make for effective gamification are those of storytelling, which provides a context, challenge, immediate feedback, sense of curiosity, problem-solving, a sense of accomplishment, autonomy and mastery.

Typical components of a gamified application include:

1. Points – points are allocated for specific high value behaviours and achievements.

2. Achievements – provide positive reinforcement for high value user behaviours. 3. Levels – signify levels of engagement and act as gateways into new challenges.

4. Missions – used to create a set of behaviours that will enable users to unlock specific rewards.

5. Contests – a combination of missions that reward those who finish most quickly or effectively.

6. Leaderboards – introduces a sense of competition by letting people know where they stand relative to their peers.

7. Notifications – to encourage engagement when users perform a desired action.

8. Anti-Gaming Mechanics – used to set limits on how often a behaviour can be rewarded.

Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic Rewards

Activities are intrinsically motivating if they help you fulfill your inherent desire for personal growth by achieving some kind of competence (“I am good, getting better, mastering this”); if they help learners feel they are working towards their own set of goals with some amount of autonomy (“I am in control and doing things that match my values”); and if they contribute to the sense of relatedness that learners feel by being part of a group, or some kind of purposeful movement larger than themselves (“I am a part of something here that I think is kind of cool or important”).

Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand is all the trifling enticements and punishments that are used to make subjects do what they are told to do: salaries, grades, threats of prison time, as well as points, badges, leaderboards, and other tools of gamification.

The following table gives some examples of extrinsic and intrinsic rewards.

Table 1 – Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic Rewards

Extrinsic Intrinsic
Money Recognition
Points/Badges/Trophies Personal Achievement
Prizes Responsibility
Penalties Power
Quests Fun
Progress bars Mastery

 

To further illustrate the difference between extrinsic and intrinsic reward mechanisms, we can look at an extract from Mark Twain’s Adventures of Tom Sawyer. In this scene, Tom’s aunt orders him to whitewash a fence as punishment for playing truant from school. He doesn’t relish this so he tricks several of his friends to do the job for him by convincing them that the task is so enjoyable that he doesn’t want their help. The boys beg him to let them take over – they even pay him with twelve marbles, a piece of blue glass to look through, a kite, a key that wouldn’t unlock anything, and a dead rat he could swing from a string. Twain wrote: “Tom had discovered a great law of human action, namely, that in order to make someone covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to attain”.

If Tom had money, he might have tried to buy his way out of his plight, an “extrinsic reward”. Although they would have benefited from the cash, their hearts would not have really been in the task, which they would have categorised as “work”. Instead, Tom served up an “intrinsic reward”, by convincing his friends that whitewashing a fence was fun. Having started the task, they would convince themselves that it was fun, and not work, and therefore avoiding cognitive dissonance.

(NB In psychology, cognitive dissonance is the excessive mental stress and discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time).

Gamification in the Workplace

Companies deploying gamification fall into two main categories: Consumer and service organisations that are looking for improvements to their loyalty solutions, and companies that want to find the right employee engagement tools.

These are just some of the benefits a company can hope to achieve through a well-implemented gamification strategy:

  • Increased motivation and productivity of employees
  • Alignment of goals and expectations of employees, stakeholders and customers with the company’s goals.
  • Employees fully engaged with new company initiatives
  • Employees converted into advocates of the company

However, a problem faced by many companies is getting things done within legacy structures and cultures that – often unwittingly – inhibit the free flow of knowledge and expertise. Resistance to change can be endemic; business processes remain locked and impervious to improvement. But there is growing evidence that, given the right incentives, people and behaviours will change. Perhaps surprisingly these incentives do not have to be financial; there are many other triggers that can deliver more effective knowledge sharing and encourage employee and customer loyalty.

A gamification strategy aimed at increasing employee engagement could consider the following triggers:

  • Visit specific pages on the company’s website (e.g. the corporate blog, a bulletin board…)
  • Share news of the company in social networks
  • Follow the company on social networks
  • Participate in surveys
  • Participate in a contest (photos, texts or images)
  • Comment on blogs and discussion forums
  • Download any type of corporate material

As mentioned earlier, it is best to avoid giving financial incentives and rewards since this is more associated with “normal work” as opposed to “fun” – an important element of any gamification strategy. However, the gamification software must be able to track and measure these activities, for example, number of “Likes”, number of comments, number of downloads etc. But don’t limit the incentives to extrinsic rewards such as points, badges and trophies, which are fairly one-dimensional. Consider also the behaviours that are driven by intrinsic rewards (see Table 1). Involving the users in the gamification design is essential, and should enable the right balance to be achieved between extrinsic and intrinsic reward mechanisms.

Companies that want to boost their internal training programmes are also looking at gamification as a way to increase engagement and friendly competition. The willingness to play, to fail, and to try again, could be said to be the essence of what makes learning a compelling activity. These types of rewards need to be much more frequent than the annual review/award, and encourage staff to always be working towards achievements. The engagements need to focus more on emotional experience in order to keep people with short attention spans properly interested. When done well, gamification can be used to shape user interactions and to push people to go further, to build up streaks of learning, and to condition behaviour.

Some examples of where gamification is being used for business improvement or environmental change:

  • At Google, engineers have been able to spend an in-house currency called ‘Goobles’ on server time — often a scarce resource at Google.
  • SAP created a game to encourage workers to carpool in order to reduce the company’s carbon footprint.
  • DirecTV introduced a gamification portal to encourage knowledge sharing through “lunch and learn” presentations.
  • Foldit engages users in a collective for querying and analysing data to solve scientific problems
  • DevHub  applied gamification techniques by giving rewards to participants who completed certain tasks on the site. They increased user engagement by 70%
  • Deloitte training programs using Gamification took 50% less time to complete and kept more students involved than ever before (source: Huffington Post)
  • Marketo layered Badgeville games on their community and achieved 67% more engagement, 51% more active members and 10% more engagements per member
  • Recycle Bank and Opowerl increased recycling by 20% and reduced carbon emissions
  • Engine Yard increased the response rate for its customer service representatives by 40% after posting response-time leaders for employees to see (source: Society for Human Resource Management)
  • JOIZ, a Swiss television network, increased sharing by 100% and social referral traffic by 54% with social infrastructure and gamification technology (source: Gigya)
  • Spotify and Living Social replaced annual reviews with a mobile, gamified solution. Over 90% of employees participated voluntarily (source: Huffington Post)
  • Halton Borough Council has introduced RFID tags on bins to provide accurate tracking of the recycling efforts of each household. Points are awarded based on the weight of recycled products. The points can be redeemed at local businesses for goods and services.

One obvious question about gamification in the workplace and the examples given above, is whether these behaviour changes are sustainable over the long term? The jury remains out on this point – unless you know differently – any evidence gratefully received!

Implementation Good Practice

While gamification has the potential to become an integral part of the workplace, it must be done right. Considering how difficult it is to build a hit game, it should come as no surprise that building successful gamification within a work environment is no different; there are many more ways to do it wrong than right. From small mistakes that waste your time to disasters that can turn users against you. Gamification should be well understood and planned out prior to implementation. Some points to consider during the planning process include:

  • Be sure your organisation’s goals for using gamification are clear. This is an especially important step to take before getting too deep into the effort. It is far better to determine all of the goals of a gamification programme during the beginning stages.
  • Think carefully about your company culture. What types of rewards will motivate employees, andhow can you build out a recognition programme that ties into the prevailing culture.
  • Focus on what behaviours you are trying to encourage or discourage first, and work backwards from there. Identify the activities and triggers that are most likely to influence the behaviour change you wish to achieve.
  • Changing the rewards system periodically will ensure employees remain engaged and not get bored with the same-old options.
  • Don’t develop game mechanisms that dole out points and badges like sugar pellets every time the user hits the right lever.
  • Don’t “game” the workers. Companies need to design game systems that enhance work rather than exploiting their workers.
  • Don’t use money as a motivator. Research, as summarized by Daniel Pink’s famous TED talk[, states that extrinsic rewards rarely work. Introducing money automatically makes the activity about money—other motivations, such as taking pride in a job well done or collaborating as part of a team, are set aside

Conclusion

Gamification is being touted as a way to immerse more enterprise users more deeply in business processes and tasks. Gamification borrows heavily from interactive and reward & recognition elements from online games, and – if done correctly – maps them to business goals to drive engagement, interactivity, participation, and (hopefully) better results. The thinking is simple: the more interesting it is, the more likely people are to engage.

However, there are two conflicting trends emerging: on the one hand analysts are predicting that organisations will allocate 2.8 billion USD (1.7 billion GBP) in direct spending on gamification by 2015, and yet also predict that 80% of Gamified applications will fail to meet business objectives (Gartner).

At its core, gamification is about engaging people on an emotional level and motivating them to achieve their goals. One way to motivate people is to present them with compelling and personalised challenges; encourage them as they progress through levels, and get them emotionally engaged to achieve their very best.

This all sounds very good, but I strongly suspect that implementers will place more focus on aspects of the technology and the mechanics (bells and whistles) of gamification applications than engaging with (and understanding) its potential users.  After all technology is relatively simple to understand whereas people are far more complex. The long and painful history of failed projects usually stems from the tendency to focus on technology first and people (users) second.

So, to answer the two questions I posed at the beginning of this piece:

  1. Does gamification have a place as an effective business change agent?
  2. Can gamification encourage knowledge sharing behaviours and better employee engagement within and across the enterprise?

I believe the answer to both is ‘yes’…but as with any new product or service, it really comes down to how it is implemented. User involvement in the design and implementation of a gamification strategy is essential. Otherwise users (employees, customers, stakeholders) risk being “gamed” or manipulated, which could ultimately bring about the opposite behaviour to what was originally intended, e.g. mass defections.

Until and unless organisations begin to focus more on motivating people – customers, stakeholders, employees – to achieve their own goals and less on the organisation’s goals, I’m with the analysts in predicting that within 5 years, gamification will be nestling within the ‘Trough of Disillusionment’. Perhaps the secret here is for organisation’s to work towards aligning their goals with those of their employees and customers.

Any organisation considering introducing a gamification strategy must, as a minimum:

  • understand the target audience they intend to engage;
  • recognise the behaviours they want to change;
  • understand what motivates their audience and maintains their engagement;
  • define how success will be measured.

I’m also sure there will also be some amazing success stories, where gamification has delivered better user engagement, increased employee satisfaction and advocacy, or opened up opportunities for innovation, but this will depend largely on how willing the industry is to share good practice. And only time can tell whether or not these desirable behaviour changes are sustainable over the long term.

Whatever happens over the next 2- 5 years, we’re all going to hear a lot more about gamification.

Further Reading

  1. Gamify — How Gamification Motivates People to Do Extraordinary Things” (Bibliomotion, April 2014), Brian Burke
  2. Gamification by Design” (O’Reilly), Gabe Zichermann and Christopher Cunningham
  3. Play at Work: how games inspire break-through thinking. (Amazon Media EU) Adam L Penenberg
  4. Game Frame unlocking the power of game dynamics in business and in life (Simon & Schuster 12 May 2011. Aaron Dignon
  5. The Gamification Research Network
  6. The Bartle Test of Gamer Psychology
  7. A theory of goal setting & task performance: Locke, Edwin A.; Latham, Gary P.Englewood Cliffs, NJ, US: Prentice-Hall, Inc. (1990)

The post Gamification: making work fun, or making fun of work? appeared first on Communities & Collaboration.

Original source – Steve Dale online

Last week, techUK hosted a group of digital service suppliers to inform them on how to make the most of DoS3 and all three speakers shared some great insights for anyone looking to do business on the framework.

CCS

Firstly we heard from Niall Quinn, the director of Strategic Technology for CCS, who discussed the functionality of DoS3 and ways to further implement this within the framework. “Not everyone who registers actually completes it,” says Niall. In fact, about 10-15% don’t. “It’s important to get everyone through who will contribute.” Completing the application for the framework has proven to be difficult for some – reasons for this include suppliers filling in the wrong application, or simply disqualifying themselves by making mistakes such as not being attentive to qualifying questions. Niall emphasized that in order to pass the application, one probably shouldn’t answer “Yes” to ”Are you employing slave labour?” Either the suppliers truly are felons, or they rushed through the questions and accidentally clicked the wrong option. If the answer is the latter, then it’s very advisable to pay attention to details going forward (and avoid looking like a war criminal!)

Niall also touched on the fact that in September, they will begin thinking about Dos4 and looking at the feedback on the current framework and make begin to make relevant iterations.

 

Following Niall’s talk, was Chris Farthing, founder of Advice Cloud. “This is a groundbreaking piece of work,” he says proudly of DoS3. He explains that the contract is very simple and reasonably small. This is something of great importance for suppliers who are tired of reading through a long, drawn-out contract, or who worry about missing critical information in the fine print.

Chris explained, “People buy from people.” This statement made a significant impact and was referred to throughout the rest of the seminar. He expressed the importance of understanding how people go about winning business, as the marketplace is busy and many suppliers are vying for the same opportunities.

Chris’ tips

  • Get to know buyers and how they buy: Understand how the buyers will be evaluating the framework
  • It’s fine to ask the job title or name of the decision maker/s
  • Build relationships: Network! Attend events; get to know your potential clients and how they work
  • Pick your battles: Start small and grow from there
  • Understand the Government Service Standard
  • Ensure your organisation is agile

Why Chris favours the framework:

  • It’s SO easy to apply – takes on average 15 mins to apply ( and only six to reapply)
  • Opportunities are published out in the open  – you can see who’s buying from whom, what trends are and exactly what is being bought.
  • Spend data is open
  • The opportunity it provides for suppliers, with over £333m spent so far
  • Target: £2.5bn worth of spend planned for DOS and G-Cloud by June 2019
  • 2000 suppliers
  • A great CCS team who are constantly increasing buyer capacity and capability.

Pros and Cons of DoS3

dxw digital’s own Harry Metcalfe was up next. Harry stayed honest with his view of DoS3, and explained that although it is a great framework, there are still some aspects that need fixing. He shed light on the blurred communication with buyers, explaining, “It’s often hard to understand what the buyers want, and therefore difficult to properly meet their needs if we don’t know what they are” drawing on some of the findings from our Great British Digital Outcomes Armchair Audit of last year .

 

Specific challenges included buyers not clearly explaining why the work is being done, not providing a clear summary of the work, and not clearly stating their budget. In order to fix this, Harry explains that as suppliers, we must ask if the buying teams need help, as they find this framework just as strange as suppliers do. “If you understand the buyer, you will do a much better job.”

Another point that Harry stressed was to give good feedback when the government does well. It’s important to acknowledge this, as they are working hard to make better technological decisions.

Improving the framework

He touched on a few points where DoS3 could be improved, these being:

  • The buyer shortlisting too many suppliers. Ideally, they should be shortlisting around three rather than 5 or 6
  • 100 word answers: these can cause problems, for example, if you have 6 or more ‘essential skills’ it’s very complex to squeeze these into 100 words
  • Government can also get involved. If they see a dud opportunity on DoS, they should help the buyer rewrite it. At the same time, we, as buyers, when we see government doing good work, should give positive feedback and shout about it.

Encouraging suppliers to “Hang in there!”, Harry gave reassurance that losing a bid in no way means giving up. It’s crucial to ask questions and get feedback from buyers. Challenge them. If you don’t win, ask them who did. Look at the people who won it and see how you could have done better.

Q&As:

The floor was opened up to (quite a few!) questions, so we’ve summarised the answers to those here:

Registered/being accepted isn’t the end of the process. You need to understand the process, understand buyers’ language and the language and culture of government organisations. If you don’t get shortlisted, you need to ask questions.

There’s no harm in asking who won a piece of work that you missed out on (that information will become public knowledge in due course so take a look at their site and read up on how they work. If they’re a health-specialist supplier and the project was for a health organisation, then that may be a good indication of why they won.

Learn the language used by buyers in their bids and reflect that language back when you’re making your bid. Answer the questions that are being asked – this IS an exam!

And finally, if you’re a supplier and see something wrong with a published opportunity, or if the buyer refuses to answer your questions or give you feedback, get in touch with CCS, or Tweet Emilia (@EmiliaCedeno82) who will get in touch with the buyer on your behalf.

 

Original source – dxw

It was great to turn on the Today Programme this morning to hear Tracey Crouch, Minister for Sports and Civil Society, talking passionately about the new Civil Society Strategy, and her commitment to working with grassroots organisations to address some of the biggest challenges we’re facing in society today.

The strategy is subtitled ‘Building a future that works for everyone’ – a mission that chimes well with me and my work at Good Things Foundation since our vision is a world where everyone can benefit from digital.

So I eagerly read the Strategy and one of the things that struck me most is the recognition for the great work civil society is already doing, and a Government commitment to doing more to support this. Meeting with a number of Online Centres when putting our consultation response together I heard an overwhelming air of positivity and ambition about what we can achieve together. It is great to see the strategy committing to building on this aspiration.

There’s so much in this strategy to be happy about.

A key theme that comes through is the need to support community organisations, charities, and other organisations with a social purpose to strengthen communities, and to ensure people can have their say about the things that matter to them, combat loneliness, and drive inclusive growth. The Online Centres Network, who are based in thousands of communities across the UK, are already doing this on a daily basis. Tick.

And it’s about putting people and communities at the heart of decisions and decision making. Tick.

The Government will also be launching ‘Innovation in Democracy’ pilots, giving local people more of a say. I’m hoping our #VoiceBoxCafe pilots will get some local people – especially local women – ready and interested in taking part. Tick.

The Strategy commits the Government to a return to grant funding which we know provides greater security, particularly for smaller charities and organisations. We are also pleased to see again the plans to release £145 million of funding from dormant bank accounts to fund activity, particularly around financial inclusion. We know that inclusive prosperity is an area in much need of investment. Tick.

I’m really happy to see the Strategy’s desire to explore how technology can be harnessed to address complex social issues. As you’ll know if you read my blog often – this is something I’m passionate about and it’s right at the heart of what we do at Good Things. The strategy talks in detail about the role of tech for good, and the importance of using technology to solve complex social issues, like loneliness, healthy ageing, online safety, and digital inclusion. You’ll not be surprised to hear that this is music to my ears! Tick.

To do this, the government has committed to working in partnership with experts in both technology and civil society. As an organisation working at the intersection of these two sectors, I’m looking forward to the important role we can play in this. Double tick.

For me, the strategy hits the nail on the head when it says ‘digital technology does not bring progress when it simply creates efficiency. It brings the most progress when it puts the user first, and when digital services are focused foremost on meeting human needs’. We don’t need to get hung up on searching for clever tech solutions and building new platforms – sometimes the biggest impact can be had in using existing, and freely available tools – like using Facebook to bring communities together.

It’s important we don’t think of tech for good as a separate element of the Civil Society Strategy, removed from the people, places and partnerships that make our society thrive. Digital needs to become part of what everyone working in civil society does every day, and for every solution civil society develops, we should always be asking what role digital can play. Tech + people can bring holistic and scalable solutions. How can it be embedded by more civil society organisations more often to help to achieve an even bigger impact? This is something we will keep championing, along with our partners working across the civil society space.

There’s definitely a lot in it to be happy about. As Tracey Crouch said: “Our strategy builds on this spirit of the common good to help create a country that works for everyone. I want people, organisations and businesses to feel inspired to get involved and make a difference. .. Through collaboration, we will unlock the huge potential of this incredible sector, help it grow, support the next generation and create a fairer society.”

As with everything, the actual success will be in the delivery and I will be interested to see how the new strategy develops quickly into tangible action. As a resetting of the relationship between Government, and those driving social action, I think it sets all the right tone. I look forward to hearing more of the detail, and to playing a role to help with that and with the implementation both as Good Things Foundation and as a voice for thousands of community organisations across the Online Centres Network.

The first civil society strategy in 15 years. So, let’s get on with it.

Original source – Helen Milner

Assistive technology in the user research labOn 23 September, the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) Accessibility Regulations will come into force.

They’re important because they state every public sector website and app must be accessible to all users, especially those with disabilities.  

Website owners will have to publish a statement saying whether they have met the accessibility requirements or not. It will also contain a feedback mechanism for users to say if something is not working for them.

Part of our job is to work on these incoming regulations. We created some example accessibility statements to test with users to see if they were clearly understood and satisfied their needs.

To do this, we ran 6 pop-up research sessions and 8 lab-based testing sessions, which gave us a good understanding of what information users need from an accessibility statement.

A close up of an example accessibility statement which focuses on the words "Known limitations", suggesting the website has failed to meet requirements because it is missing captions on images and videos do not have subtitles

Preparation

We’ve personally not had a lot of experience researching with people who have access needs, so we looked around for guidance to help inform our approach and found GOV.UK service manual to be very helpful.  We also asked the accessibility community lots of questions to ensure we were taking all the right steps.

But ultimately, no matter how prepared we were, there were some things we could only learn through experience.

Doing pop-up research is hard

We ran some pop-up sessions to provide quick insights to support our case for more in-depth research, following the guidance on conducting pop-up research on GOV.UK.

We went to 2 locations in London – the Royal National Institute of Blind (RNIB) assistive technology shop in Kings Cross and the Mencap offices on Old Street. We asked users to read through the accessibility statements we’d prepared and provide feedback on what was useful to them.

We soon learned how difficult running the sessions would be.

Most users did not own or have their assistive technology with them, which made sessions with those who had visual impairments particularly challenging. We tried reading the accessibility statements to them, but quickly realised how uncomfortable this was for people, so decided to stop the research.

It’s important to consider the characteristics and types of people that go to the location you’re researching at, as they might not be appropriate for the research. In this instance, people at the RNIB shop were at the beginning of their assistive technology relationship, and therefore did not have the necessary equipment to participate in the type of user research we were doing.

Recruitment is even harder

For our more in-depth lab research, we decided to recruit users ourselves to avoid recruiting professional testers – which can sometimes happen when using third-party recruiters.

We contacted charities, universities and disability networks, but found that some organisations were protective over their users. This made identifying and contacting people quite difficult and forced us to change our recruitment approach.

We put an advert in the Disability Rights UK newsletter which proved to be a very successful approach as it was shared by lots of organisations we had not considered previously.

Screenshot of the recruitment advert on the Disability Rights UK website

Assistive tech is personal

When it came to our lab research, it was difficult for some of our visually impaired participants to bring their own assistive technology with them. Some users asked to use our laptops instead.

Alistair Duggin, GDS’ Head of Accessibility, had advised us setting up screen readers involved a lot of personalisation, but our participants told us they were sure they could use the tech in our accessibility empathy lab.

However when it came to testing, although they were using the same operating system and screenreader software as they used at home, small differences in setup caused problems for them. For example, users were manually having to check links – which can be very time consuming – instead of clicking through searchable links on a page.

We are keen to remove the stress this causes in future sessions.

This taught us assistive tech is personal and it’s important to make sure participants are using their own equipment when carrying out this type of research to get the best results and the smoothest journey. If they are not able to bring it with them, it’s worth going to visit them instead.

Accessible buildings can still be challenging

In user research we often talk about developing empathy by seeing what our users go through. This is just as important in physical spaces as it is for services.

Although we work in a modern accessible building, there were still challenges for our participants. These issues seem obvious now, but were not apparent to us until we saw how our participants experienced the challenges first hand.

For instance, the bright lighting in the research lab made it hard for some users to see their screens.

In the future, we’ll will think about how to make our environment easier for the visually impaired and we’ll talk to our user experience lab manager to help make improvements.  

Katie John and Leon Hubert are user researchers on the Accessibility team at the Government Digital Service.

To find out more about the EU Directive and what you need to do, read the guidance on the new accessibility regulations for public sector websites and apps.

There is more information on the work we are doing on our Accessibility Blog.

Subscribe to this blog.

Original source – User research

What can you do if you suspect your local council of financial misconduct?

One solution is to take a good hard look at their books; and thanks to the Local Audit and Accountability Act we all have the right to do just that for a set 30-day period each year.

The People’s Audit is a volunteer-run network of people who are keen to raise awareness of these little-known rights, in the belief that local government spending should be open and accountable to local people.

At the same time, they’re using the Act to good effect themselves, as they probe into spending anomalies in their own borough of Lambeth. They’ve found that the Freedom of Information Act has proved a useful complement to their auditing activity.

Investigating financial misconduct

We spoke to Ben Rymer from The People’s Audit to find out more. What exactly have they uncovered to date?

“Perhaps the most worrying finding was around the Fenwick Estate regeneration project in Clapham. The chosen supplier was almost £6 million more expensive than others who tendered. This is a massive red flag as the likelihood of this sum being accounted for by quality of work alone is slim.”

There’s plenty more: Ben says they’ve made concerning findings around public housing, procurement and contract management and how major works are overseen, from possible price fixing between contractors to payments for work that was never done.

For example, the group say that a sampling of some of the housing blocks on the Wyvil Estate in Vauxhall indicates that the council paid its contractors for more than twice the number of repairs that were actually carried out.

They also claim to have found evidence of land in Kenningham and Streatham being sold to a private developer at a discount of at least £1m, without any competitive tender.

And another major finding was that costs for Lambeth’s new town hall — originally flagged as a money-saver for residents — have overrun by more than £50 million.

Two Acts working together

So, some substantial discoveries. Where does Freedom of Information come into the picture?

Ben says that the two Acts can be used together, to good effect. “The Local Audit Act requires access to be given to documents relating to costs incurred by the council in the preceding financial year. Once these have been obtained, FOI requests can then be targeted more precisely using the insights gained from such documents.”

But there is a slight snag: with the Local Audit Act offering access only within a specific period of 30 days each year, the FOI Act’s prescription that a response must arrive within ‘up to 20 working days’ does not allow for much wiggle room, especially if the FOI response generates more questions that might be answered through scrutiny of the accounts.

Ben says that unfortunately, responses to both Acts are often delayed, refused on the grounds that they would take too long (despite similar requests to other councils being processed without an issue) or just ignored. “An extreme example is our attempt to obtain the original budget for Lambeth’s new town hall, which we have now been trying to get hold of for 18 months!”.

But all of this notwithstanding, WhatDoTheyKnow has been a useful tool for the FOI side of the People’s Audit’s investigations: “It is an easy way to organise FOI requests, and the fact that it’s all in public means that other people can use the information in the responses — though we do also submit requests directly to the council.”

“One notable success was when one of the team received some emails via WhatDoTheyKnow following the audit inspection period in 2015 which showed that the council had agreed to install gyms in libraries months before any public consultation on the idea.”

Making change

So, the group have uncovered plenty of concerning information — but have they actually made a difference?

Ben says that they’ve achieved a good amount of local and national press attention. More importantly, they’ve seen an increased focus on financial issues among the people of Lambeth, especially in the run-up to the local elections in the spring. “Given that we are all volunteers with day jobs and families we think this is a pretty good result!”

And they believe that there’s been some effect within their local authority too, although not as wholehearted as they would have liked. “They have published their responses to citizen audit requests and are making more positive noises about the importance of transparency.

“However, they are also imposing arbitrary limits on the amount of information which citizens can request and have put in place ‘guidance’ around requests which we think may be intended to discourage further requests.”

Your turn?

If the Local Audit and Accountability Act is new to you, you may be wondering whether you should be using it yourself. The People’s Audit think you should consider it:

“Local Government financial scrutiny is really important and these powers need to be used to their fullest to prevent wasteful spending or corruption. Many people don’t realise that councils are often £1bn+ organisations, or that UK councils spend a total of over £92bn a year. Yet since the Audit Commission was abolished there is very little scrutiny of this spend.

“Many local newspapers have closed in recent years so citizen audits and hyperlocal publications have become more important.

“The powers are hugely underused currently. However what we’ve hopefully shown is that a group of committed individuals can use them to good effect.”

If you’d like to do the same, find out more on the People’s Audit website.


Image: Mark Longair (CC by-sa/2.0)

Original source – mySociety

what we need is a video and other frustrations for communicators.jpg

This one is the gift which keeps on giving. The never ending stream of requests – and ‘advice’ – which flows into most comms teams…

by Darren Caveney

This year I have had the great pleasure of working with lots of public sector communications teams and gaining a birds-eye view into their worlds – their successes and challenges, their hopes and frustrations.

It’s always a privilege. It’s also a helpful reminder – now I no longer manage an in-house team – of the highs and lows of being in the most important team in an organisation (well I’m based but I truly believe this)

Now it’s fair to say that common themes and trends emerge. Here’s just a sample of what I have heard on my travels this year – the things which staff tell their comms team every month/week/day/hour.

Any of them sound like your world?

Picture the scene – an officer or manager from another team walks into your office and tells you one or more of the following…

1.      What we need is a comms plan

2.      The comms team aren’t “strategic”

3.      We need a Facebook page

4.      We need an app

5.      We need a video

6.      What we need is a ‘hearts and minds’ campaign

7.      Our intranet is rubbish

8.      We really need this on the website homepage

9.      You really need you to be in this meeting (no notice and not in the diary, obvs)

10.  I’ve designed this leaflet if you could just send it out please

11.  Could you whack this on Facebook?

12.  We need a logo for this new project

13.  We have organised a competition with a local school to create a logo (feels instantly sick)

14.  Our comms is too reactive…

15.  We need to ‘shout about ourselves’ more

16.  And, finally, the classic – we really need you to promote our event (it’s happening today, or tomorrow if you get really lucky)

What are your most common requests and gripes?

Write a guest post about it and send it to me for adding to the site (I’m at darrencaveney@gmail.com )

Remember, a problem shared…  🙂

Darren Caveney is creator of comms2point0 and owner of creative communicators ltd

image via hobvias sudoneighm

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

Day 2 (read about the first day here)

‘What would YOU Call This Workshop?’ And Other Powerful Questions – Tim Bourguignon & Amitai Schleier

It was really useful to look at the kinds of questions we generate. For example, I noticed that I tend to formulate closed questions. Closed questions aren’t necessarily “bad” or unhelpful, but it’s better to be aware when you need a closed question, and when it might yield better results to formulate open questions – such as generating ideas, encouraging collaboration, and getting people to open up and to think creatively.

One takeaway: The person who first starts the line of questioning has a lot of control over the focus and direction of the discussion. I was expecting to be asked questions about the internal architecture of the Rails framework, but my questioner was interested in why they should choose this framework above others, what are its advantages and disadvantages. This drove the funnel of questions in a different direction.

Muddling Through The Middle Bits: what comes after Junior and before Senior – Anne Cahalan

The speaker was Anna Cahalan, (@northofnormal), a career changer and boot camp graduate herself.

I haven’t been a junior for many years now, yet I struggle to apply the “senior” label to myself. I really wanted to hear from at least one other person who felt like this, and I got a whole room full of people. The best part of support groups: knowing I’m not alone, listening to other people voicing thoughts from inside my own mind, and bouncing ideas and strategies.

“Juniority” is a time when expectations are low and support is high. When one reaches mid-level, support can sometimes drop off, while expectations rise, rather abruptly, whereas we need gradual change. Anna explains, “As a junior, there are lots of milestones, they’re clearly defined, and each milestone is celebrated. The celebration dries off when reaching mid-level.”

There are still hard things, but they’re less well-defined.

The qualities that made Anna an excellent junior – such as asking ALL the questions, all the time, of anyone – were not necessarily transferable as a mid-level. The expectation was that she’d bring her input and her experience into discussions, but she felt like she couldn’t ask the same questions, or the same kind of questions, because she’d be expected to know now.

Sometimes the abrupt increase of expectations is only in our head! It can feel like we can’t ask questions anymore, or we’ll reveal ourselves as impostors. Sometimes it’s because the environment doesn’t communicate expectations well. Make the environment and processes such as that someone can make errors safely – easy to roll back breaking changes, easy to recover from failure, no blame culture.

I relate a lot to feeling the weight of perceived expectations. There are the expectations that others have of me, the expectations I think they have of me, and the expectations I have of myself. The lines of communication should be open at all levels. The gap between perceived and real should be minimised. This can ease some of the pressure I put on myself – none of these is independent.

“At the top of a mountain, there’s the foot of another mountain.”

A great metaphor that Anna brought us was “driving through Ohio”. When we’re officially not junior anymore, how can we make this fuzzy area feel less like seeing the same cows, trees and tractors over and over again?

Much like a car’s mileage meter, time keeps ticking, however, seniority doesn’t just happen through the passage of time.

The questions were around how do we measure progress? How do we set goals, deliberate goals, so we can make progress and also measure it?

Self-doubt touched a nerve for many. This was the most photographed and tweeted slide from a very tweetable slide deck


After the presentation, she set the room for a “fishbowl” discussion: a few volunteers who could leave at any point, other people could join in at any point, prompted by questions from Anna.

“How do we measure progress?”

Anna and many of the audience place a lot of value on setting goals for ourselves – measurable, achievable goals.

The ‘negotiation workshop’ (about which I’ll talk more below) contained a similar theme: that articulating the goals is helpful in itself. It’s okay if the goals “shift in transit” and are not relevant when you revisit them, but they give you a focus.

This made me pause and think about how so many people have got concrete value out of goal-setting. I’ve struggled a lot with defining these goals myself, precisely because of the nebulous area of the mid-level. What is a concrete measurable goal, beyond “deliver the deliverable”?

“Write a spec quickly”? How quickly? “Do a major architectural decision without asking for advice”? Is this a good idea? Is it a useful idea?

One hurdle I keep encountering is that I don’t have anything specific I’m looking to accomplish. I just want to do my job. Of course, I want to do it well. I want to do meaningful work. I also want to have time and mental energy for hobbies and personal relationships.

There was a discussion about how to progress in your own time, and the unfair disadvantage faced by people who have other priorities and/or disadvantages in their lives, such as parents, carers, disabled people. This makes it difficult when companies rely on people to develop professionally in their own time. People firmly believed that companies should have time for learning built into their working hours.

Anna said, “Keep a journal of your work day – things you’ve struggled with, how you solved them. Things you’ve achieved. Things that were hard.” It has to be done while they’re fresh, otherwise in time they can seem to lose their importance. When you know your job well, it’s easy to dismiss that it was once hard, and then you don’t give yourself the sense of achievement and progress.

It can be hard to keep track of the everyday achievements since the value of the journal doesn’t show itself after the short term. It can take a few months, but then you look back and remind yourself of things you’ve forgotten you’ve achieved. This is also useful when asking for a raise or promotion.

“Can anyone be a senior? Should seniority be the end goal for everyone?”

The audience pointed out that different companies define these levels in their own way, and have different needs and expectations. Some companies create their own career ladder or development framework, and some of them even make it publicly available.

“Is a senior going to be a senior when they go to a different company?” The audience leaned towards yes – many of the skills that make someone a senior are transferrable – how to look for answers, big-picture thinking, how to work with a team rather than minding only your own output.

I left the session not only full of ideas on how to improve the landscape while “driving through Ohio”, but feeling less alone, less weird and less isolated in this journey. There’s a lot of power from finding out that others have similar struggles, there’s a lot of encouragement in hearing others voice your best-hidden fears. There are options outside what seems like inflexible rail tracks.

Anna has also posted her own notes from the fishbowl here

Internet of things with physical programming – Venus Bailey, Maisie Fernandes, Irene Lau

Just plain fun!

The highlight of this session for me was writing a small program that read the position of my microbit (tilted left or right, or level) and broadcast it on a channel to someone else’s microbit, getting it to display “L”, “R”, or “=”.

Tuesday evening was the game of “The Unbelievable Knuth”, one of the BBC panel shows that I enjoy. It was just as fun as the regular show to spot the hidden truths, and occasionally best the other panellists (without the pressure, of course).

Original source – dxw