The eagle-eyed among you will have seen my video on social media last week promoting our 2018 Get Online Week registration. That’s right, you can now sign up to take part in our big digital inclusion campaign, taking place this October from 15-21.

We’re going international with the campaign this year, running it in both the UK and Australia. There will be hundreds of new organisations taking part from the Be Connected Network and I’d also love to see lots of newbies in the UK taking part as well. It’s a great opportunity to reach new people, raise the profile of your organisation and to be part of something big.

Last year event holders reached 45,000 people with digital skills and confidence by encouraging them to #Try1Thing new online. This year, we want to reach even more.

If you have any questions about Get Online Week, tweet me on @helenmilner, or get in touch with my team at @getonlineweek.

Original source – Helen Milner

DataJam North East is coming to Newcastle on 17th and 18th September 2018 in conjunction with Newcastle University, North East Local Enterprise Partnership, DWP Digital, local authorities in the region and One Team Gov.

DWP Digital’s Celine McLoughlin and Ryan Dunn are part of the organising team for the event. In this blog post they share their story of why they wanted to get involved.

We’re really excited about DataJam North East. It’s a two-day event which aims to look at issues affecting the north east region through the lens of data and service design, to see what answers to real problems we can come up with.

We’re both from the north east, we both work in the north east and we’re bringing up young families here so we are incredibly passionate about both the region and about making a difference.

Celine McLoughlin, DWP Digital

Celine McLoughlin, DWP Digital

We both also believe that collaborating to bring data and service design together is really important to achieve outcomes – and that’s at the heart of what DataJam North East is all about.

Bringing One Team Gov to life in the North East

We’ve been following the One Team Government (OneTeamGov) movement since it started in June 2017. OneTeamGov aims to improve public services and change the way we work through practical action. We were really inspired by the principles OneTeamGov embodies and wanted to bring this to life in the north east.

From working in different teams in DWP Digital we came together on Twitter with a shared idea to set up our own take on OneTeamGov in the region.

Ryan Dunn, DWP Digital

Ryan Dunn, DWP Digital

Data is central to product development

Within agile teams we are seeing more organisations embracing multi-disciplinary teams as the right way to work and this is wonderful to be a part of. Data in the form of qualitative user research, business analysis and performance analysis is now central to how product teams are designing and prioritising their feature development but data science, for the most part, is still seen as something a little separate and complex.

We firmly believe that by making data an integral part of product development in the same way as user research is, for example, will help us to make better decisions about the design and implementation of our products. Critically, it will also help us to fully understand the problems we’re working on before we begin, making sure we are prioritising the areas where we can achieve real outcomes.

The only way to tackle important issues is to do it together

Of course getting everyone in the same room is only part of the challenge. Across the public sector organisations have built up data over a number of years in vastly different ways and no single organisation holds all the data to truly understand the complex issues affecting people and society. It’s not always easy to share data across organisations and privacy and security considerations can often make this harder still, without even mentioning commercial and financial constraints!

This means that the only way we can tackle these truly important issues therefore is do it together. That’s why DataJam North East is a true collaboration of people and organisations from across the region. Newcastle University, the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, Local Authorities, NHS and a number of small businesses are all involved with us in helping to create and shape the event.

How DataJam North East will work

At the event we will have product teams working on real issues which are impacting the lives of people in the north east across the three key themes of Health, Skills, and Child Attainment. We will also have innovation areas for participants to access open data from the Urban Observatory based at the University to understand what it is possible to learn from data exploration.

Alongside all of this there will be a mix of unconference sessions (for which participants will pitch their ideas at the start of each day), breakout sessions offering practical data and design ideas and stalls to visit.

For each of the three critical areas we want to come away from the two days with tangible outcomes that all of the participants can sign up to taking forward. We want this to be the start of a new way of integrating data and design, the start of more collaborative sharing of data, and the start of a new wave of collaboration across the north east.

DataJam needs you!

DataJam North East poster

DataJam North East poster

Interested? If you want to attend, you can apply here.

We’re looking for anyone who cares and is keen to make a difference. We’re also keen to have people who can bring their skills and enthusiasm to make a difference, so if you’re a data scientist, data analyst, delivery manager, product manager, user researcher or business analyst working in the north east, we’d love you to join us for the event.

We want the event to be representative and space is limited, so we’re running an application system for tickets.

If you can’t wait until September and want to help with the organisation of the event, come find us on Twitter @drryandunn or @CelineMcLough

Hopefully we’ll see you there!


Original source – DWP Digital

We, and Open Knowledge International, are looking for the digital files that hold electoral boundaries, for every country in the world — and you can help.

Yeah, we know — never let it be said we don’t know how to party.

But seriously, there’s a very good reason for this request. When people make online tools to help citizens contact their local politicians, they need to be able to match users to the right representatives.

So head on over to the Every Boundary survey and see how you can help — or read on for a bit more detail.

Data for tools that empower citizens

If you’ve used mySociety’s sites TheyWorkForYou — or any of the other parliamentary monitoring sites we’ve helped others to run around the world — you’ll have seen this matching in action. Electoral boundary data is also integral in campaigning and political accountability,  from Surfers against Sewage’s ‘Plastic Free Parliament’ campaign, to Call your Rep in the US.

These sites all work on the precept that while people may not know the names of all their representatives at every level — well, do you? — people do tend to know their own postcode or equivalent. Since postcodes fall within boundaries, once both those pieces of information are known, it’s simple to present the user with their correct constituency or representative.

So the boundaries of electoral districts are an essential piece of the data needed for such online tools.  As part of mySociety’s commitment to the Democratic Commons project, we’d like to be able to provide a single place where anyone planning to run a politician-contacting site can find these boundary files easily.

And here’s why we need you

Electoral boundaries are the lines that demarcate where constituencies begin and end. In the old days, they’d have been painstakingly plotted on a paper map, possibly accessible to the common citizen only by appointment.

These days, they tend to be available as digital files, available via the web. Big step forward, right?

But, as with every other type of political data, the story is not quite so simple.

There’s a great variety of organisations responsible for maintaining electoral boundary files across different countries, and as a result, there’s little standardisation in where and how they are published.

How you can help

We need the boundary files for 231 countries (or as we more accurately — but less intuitively — refer to them, ‘places’), and for each place we need the boundaries for constituencies at national, regional and city levels. So there’s plenty to collect.

As we so often realise when running this sort of project, it’s far easier for many people to find a few files each than it would be for our small team to try to track them all down. And that, of course, is where you come in.

Whether you’ve got knowledge of your own country’s boundary files and where to find them online, or you’re willing to spend a bit of time searching around, we’d be so grateful for your help.

Fortunately, there’s a tool we can use to help collect these files — and we didn’t even have to make it ourselves! The Open Data Survey, first created by Open Knowledge International to assess and display just how much governmental information around the world is freely available as open data, has gone on to aid many projects as they collect data for their own campaigns and research.

Now we’ve used this same tool to provide a place where you can let us know where to find that electoral boundary data we need.

Where to begin

Start here  — and please feel free to get in touch if anything isn’t quite clear, or you have any general questions. You might want to check the FAQs first though!

Thanks for your help — it will go on to improve citizen empowerment and politician accountability throughout the world. And that is not something everyone can say they’ve done.

Image credit: Sam Poullain

Original source – mySociety

Graphic displaying the text 'What do we mean by service?'

We’ve been carrying out research into how people across government define what a service is.

There are a number of reasons for doing this work, including that our thinking about services and the way government works – including its technology and capability – has changed and evolved over the past couple of years.

Added to this, we are currently updating the Digital Service Standard to support moving towards delivering whole services as described in the Government Transformation Strategy.

What we wanted to learn

Because of all these changes and having reviewed existing research, we had a hunch that the definition of ‘service’ was unclear across government.

So we wanted to find out:

  • how do we define a service now?
  • what elements of a service are included in that definition?
  • does our definition of a service vary with context – for example is it different in assessments?

How we approached the research

We did the research in 2 stages.

Step 1: In-depth interviews

We started by showing people 3 visual definitions of a service and asked them to either choose one, amend one or to create an entirely new definition that would fit their mental model.

The 3 definitions we put forward were:

  • the service as one or a set of public-facing transactions, whether online, face-to-face or over the phone

Service definition version 1 when applying for a provisional licence. A flow chart with the steps: Start page, apply online, share your details, pay online, submit, internal checks done, receive provisional licence

  • the service as an end-to-end service, including all the online and offline steps a user needs to go through to do a specific thing

Service definition version 2 when applying for a provisional licence. A flow chart with the following end-to-end steps: Search campaign site GOV.UK content, choose method, apply for provisional licence online, factual eligibility checks, human judgement checks, check details with applicant, print new licence, post new licence, receive provisional licence

  • a whole service: this is everything the user needs to do to achieve a goal, including non-transactional things, such as research and choosing how to achieve their goal. A whole service is also everything government needs to do to achieve an outcome, including delivering and supporting the service

Service definition version 3 when learning to drive a car. A flow chart showing a whole service with the following steps: Service 1, check you're allowed to drive, Service 2: get a provisional licence, Service 3: driving lessons and practice, Service 4: book and manage theory test, Service 5: apply for licence

An example service was chosen, to avoid talking about theoretical abstracts and ground the conversation in real services that government provides. We used applying for a provisional licence – one element of learning to drive.

We decided on this methodology to give people somewhere to start, but also allow as much flexibility as possible to make their own definition.

Starting with a blank piece of paper and asking people to write or draw a definition of anything is a big ask. When considering something complex as a potential variable of a service, it becomes even more difficult.

But we also did not want to make too many assumptions about what people thought a service was. Our hypothesis was that people’s definition of a service could vary depending their experience, expertise and interests.

Card sorting

We then did a card sorting exercise (of sorts) to identify the elements people included or excluded in their service definition. For example, do internal systems, calculators, call centres as well the transactional service make up a service?

The participants were given some predefined cards and were asked to add cards they thought were missing and sort them into those that were included or excluded from a service.

They were also asked to identify elements that could be either included or excluded in a service depending on context.

A board with two sections - Included and Not Included - with Post-It notes featuring various elements of a service sorted into the categories

Finally, we asked participants to look at their definition of a service through the lens of assessments – did the definition change or did it remain the same?

For this part of the research, we asked the participants to go back to the 3 visual definitions to choose the same or perhaps a different definition for a service for assessments.

Step 2 Consultation workshops

The next step was to take the 3 service definitions to the consultation workshops we ran to get cross-government feedback on updating the Service Standard.

We ran a series of 4 workshops across the country which involved 150 people from a range of disciplines.

For the service definition research we asked people to use dot voting for their preferred definition of a service and on the elements that make up a service. We also asked people to share feedback where they felt we had got something wrong or missed something.

At this stage, we were still uncovering elements of a service we had not considered, as well as consistency or variation between people’s service definitions.

How do you research complex definitions?  

This project was the first time I’d worked on researching the definition of something as complex as a government service.

I spent a long time planning how to do this research at the beginning and also made sure I had plenty of time to pilot the chosen method to see if it would give us the insight we needed.

What methods have you used to investigate definitions of complex things? Let us know in the comments section.

Original source – User research

I’m Loveday Ryder, Chief Executive Officer at BPDTS Ltd – a new digital technology company providing services to DWP.

Loveday Ryder, Chief Executive, BPDTS Ltd

Loveday Ryder, Chief Executive, BPDTS Ltd

DWP is transforming its digital services to deliver a better experience for their customers, in a more modern and efficient way for taxpayers.

It’s my job to ensure we at BPDTS Ltd (which stands for Benefits and Pensions Digital Technology Services)  do all we can to provide the specialist digital, data and technology expertise that’s needed to make this a reality.

I’m very proud of what’s already been achieved, and our role in it. And, I’m excited about the ambitious plans we have for the future and to see these start to shape up.

Building capability to deliver new services

We were set up as a new government start-up in December 2016 to provide application, development and support for digital services used by millions of UK citizens – successfully transitioning this work from one of DWP’s private sector suppliers.

Since our launch, we’ve been helping to transform and run more of DWP’s digital services, using a full range of technologies and solutions.

Today we employ more than 600 digital and technology specialists, from software engineers through to IT service managers.

We have ambitious plans to expand the scale and breadth of services we provide to DWP this year, and expect to more than double in size to do this. That means we’re always looking for talented professionals who are innovative and keen to deliver services that make a difference.

Working together in new ways

As a public sector service supplier, we share the same purpose and goals as DWP and have a strong, positive and collaborative working relationship. We consider ourselves very much part of the DWP team.

We’re co-located with experts from across the DWP Digital community in six vibrant digital hubs across the country, working together in innovative ways, using the latest technologies and tools to deliver exceptional digital services.

It’s been great to see groups of experts from BPDTS Ltd and DWP collaborating using their diverse skillsets, backgrounds and perspectives to make a difference.

Working together as one team to achieve the same goals, we’re collectively making DWP Digital’s services more intuitive, secure and reliable for operational colleagues and citizens to use.

Use your skills, build your career and make a difference

The size, scale and social purpose of DWP’s digital transformation makes BPDTS Ltd a unique place to work. We’re a growing company with ambitious plans and there’s plenty of scope to come and make your mark, whilst making a real difference to society.

If this sounds like the kind of place you’d like to use your skills and develop your career, we’re looking for great people like you to join us.

Our careers site has all of our current vacancies, and new vacancies are being added regularly. So if there’s nothing there that suits you now, be sure to check back.

Original source – DWP Digital

In 2016 the UK government announced the development of the Fleming Fund – a £265 million project to improve laboratory capacity for diagnosis as well as surveillance of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in low and middle income countries. This budget is taken from Official Development Assistance (ODA), and will support those countries that will be most acutely impacted by the spread of AMR. Project was assigned to the Department of Health and Social Care who are working collaboratively with relevant United Nations agencies and other development Partners. Currently we have an MVP website which was launched in April 2018.

The Fleming Fund identified 3 objectives for having a website:

  1. Provide priority audiences with a clear understanding of the Fleming Fund and its components.
  2. Enable the Fleming Fund to be transparent about its activities and spend
    • Who is the Fleming Fund working with?
    • Where is the Fleming Fund working?
    • What capacity is the Fleming Fund building?
  3. Provide the AMR community with access to resources developed by the Fleming Fund.

The users of this service are:

  • Potential grant applicants to the Fleming Fund – either governments, NGOs, international NGOs or local stakeholders.
  • Specialists – academics/researcher and those working in the field of AMR.
  • Officials in other donor countries.
  • Journalists.

Department / Agency
Department of Health and Social Care

Date of Assessment:
25 July 2018

Assessment Stage:

Result of Assessment:

Lead Assessor:
C. Pattinson

Service Manager:
Penny Walker-Robertson

Digital Leader:
Iain O’Neil

Assessment report

Outcome of service assessment

After careful consideration, the panel have concluded that the service met the standard because:

  • The team have substantially improved on what is currently available
  • The team know about their users and their needs
  • The team know there is more to research and the need to iterate the service.


The Fleming Fund team are replacing their current service, which is already publicly available. In a condensed phase they demonstrated that they understand their users and their needs. They have made sound technical choices and understand that they will need to continue to test, monitor and iterate the service moving forward.

While more needs to be done it is clearly an improvement than the current site. The panel saw that it is better for users, has improved content, is more accessible, aligns with GOV.UK standards and the team is committed to continue to improve and iterate.

In the future the team must:

  • monitor the service, test with users and iterate the service. This is especially true for the application journey. If the current application journey is found to be sub-optimum for users then they should make sure this is improved. The panel want the end-to-end journey for the user to be as frictionless as possible.
  • If the scope of the site grows then they should run new discovery phases for extra services they may wish to add. For example, an e-learning feature was mentioned and should be suitably researched before any development work is commissioned.
  • Make clear what their licensing arrangements should be for the service in order for the team to release code to their public repository.
  • Do another test of the full user journey with the Chief Medical Officer at the earliest possible opportunity.

Ahead of going live the service team must:

  • Identify the correct license to use to release code to their public repository
  • Review the remaining content before publishing, as alluded to in the assessment.

As part of ongoing development the service team must:

  • Understand the user journey end-to-end and capture pain points.  No users have been through the full process of discovering, applying and being granted funding. This may introduce a need to improve the process, based on evidence. Fleming Fund have staff in the field working with users and this is a fantastic opportunity to capture user feedback and observe them in-person using the product.
  • Produce a continuous improvement plan for the team to follow. Fleming Fund staff intend to quality assure the service end-to-end. A calendar of quantitative and qualitative methods need to be considered and scheduled in. Baseline metrics for performance and satisfaction need to be captured so improvements can be made and monitored.
  • Implement a process to capture feedback from users and share with the product team. There’s a risk that capturing feedback and taking sense of it becomes a huge, challenging task. By having a clear plan of when, what and how feedback will be captured, and selecting the right tools to document and share, the team can consolidate and review on a regular basis. User research insights must drive ongoing product development.
  • Make sure that the resources are available to move quickly and iterate the service.
  • Carry through with their plans to monitor the deployment and running of the service in live to check their assumptions on availability, load and instance specification.
  • Do another test of the full user journey with the Chief Medical Officer at the earliest possible opportunity.
  • Continue to be aware and communicate to key stakeholders that should the functionality and scope of the site increase (e.g. to take on some or all of the application processes, or add collaboration / community features) that many of their infrastructure, monitoring, tooling, testing decisions etc. will need to be reassessed as well as potentially team structure or whether to operate as separate services operating at differing maturity / phase levels.
  • Alleviate the mandatory email step for a user with assisted digital needs
  • The insights from measuring performance and their KPIs should be used to inform future improvements.

Service assessment

User needs

The Fleming Fund team were relatively new to user research before embarking on the design and build of this new service. Ahead of finding a supplier, some user research was conducted to understand more about the problem space. The service team identified a resourcing gap for ongoing user research and collaborated with a supplier to lead user research during the design and development phases of the project. The supplier involved the team in the process of designing, learning and testing, to educate them, and build capacity for future user research activity once the service goes live.

It is clear how user interviews informed the development of key personas. It’s also apparent that these personas have evolved over time, as more research was conducted. And it’s expected these personas will develop further as the service matures. The value of this artefact will be vital for ensuring that the team, suppliers, and stakeholders remain close to their users.

With an understanding of who the users were, evidence-based user stories were written. This helped drive the initial information architecture. Usability testing was conducted early to validate site structure decisions, and make changes ahead of prototyping.

Usability testing was conducted remotely as a mechanism to validate assumptions. Content design was a key activity during the website redesign, and testing was carried out to ensure plain English language and an appropriate tone of voice were adopted. There’s a need to put the new service in front of users to understand more about how they interact, and ensure the journey is clear.


The Fleming Fund team were paired with a supplier. The team had the right composition for the current scope of the service. The panel were confident that collectively the team knew how to build an appropriate service for their intended users.

The civil servants in the team embraced digital ways of working with support from a member of the DHSC digital team and the suppliers. They clearly knew and were passionate about the work of the Fleming Fund and the panel commends their effort in learning new skills and ways of working.

They used tools such as Slack and Trello and followed typical agile ceremonies. Despite teething problems they seemed to have worked well together.

Credit must be given to the team for engaging with senior stakeholders and engaging with the AMR community. They spoke of getting a minister to show public support of the Fleming Fund to gather more awareness and researched where best to publish open data for the AMR community in the future.


The team have selected WordPress as a content management system and are hosting in AWS. This gives the team a great deal of flexibility and monitoring and alerting capability. Their decision to rely on a single instance in AWS seems well reasoned as the service is informational currently, holds no data, offers services that do not require high availability and the anticipated load is not envisaged to exceed current specification limits. The team also have adequate processes for backing up data.  The team are aware that these assumptions will need to be closely monitored on the live system. The team were able to demonstrate that the means, ability and resources are available to make changes to the cloud infrastructure should the need arise.

They also have a couple of minor changes left on the backlog to do with deployment and automation. These are on track. They have deployed tools and working practices that allowed them to iterate the service effectively in the pre live phase and have an effective means of prioritising, communicating tasks, creating and deploying new content when the service goes live. With the new architecture in place new content can be deployed with no loss in service for users. The planned live phase will continue with no structural changes or new functionality (apart from frequent content changes) though there are epics on the backlog for possible future iterations; the possibility of adding application process functionality to the site and the possibility of adding collaboration functionality.

The technical choices made, tooling used to manage change, monitoring capability and evaluations of any data / or privacy issues and risks all make good sense considering the current scope of live functionality.

The team are making both their user research findings and source code open and reusable and were able to state that the intellectual property remains with the Fleming Fund team.

They are in contact with other ODA projects and have good lines of communication with these teams to make the most of these opportunities to share learnings and potentially code with these team that have many similarities with the Fleming Fund and potentially to a wider audience. They have some final checking to do on the right licensing to state in their public repositories but the team demonstrated an awareness of the issues and are able to make these final determinations.

The ability to test the site in a like-for-like environment is there. The ease with which they can deploy to a new environment is fit for their current purposes. Similarly their plan for the eventuality of the service going offline (making sure that regional coordinators processes are there to cover this) is proportionate to the planned non-transactional nature of the site. This, and many of the team’s current assumptions will need to be revisited should this change and the team demonstrated full awareness of this; the means to make this happen and that the dates and planned feedback activities where this decision might be made are known.


The service has an approved GOV.UK exemption. The team are still using many GOV.UK patterns and followed content best practices. It is a clear improvement on the current site.

The team did demonstrate how they were continuously learning and iterating on findings from research. For instance, the team has a low bandwidth version of the site for those known users who are in areas with a poor connection.

The team demonstrated good knowledge and commitment to accessibility testing. They did multiple accessibility tests on the service using their own devices. An addition would be to test with real users with accessibility needs rather than testing in-house.

The assisted journey is almost great. There are regional coordinators in the regions the Fleming Fund targets, who are on hand to help with any queries and administer the service if one cannot do so online. The one issue is that discovering assisted digital support prior to applying (which requires emailing the Fleming Fund) was not obvious and should be clearer to the user.

The teams scope was limited to some specific journeys rather than a full end-to-end service the Fleming Fund may become one day. One large reason for this is lots of the grantees have not actually completed their grants and are not ready to report/share their findings. Eventually this will come in scope. The panels biggest concern was around the application journey. It requires further monitoring and working with previous suppliers. The team seemed committed that if they get the necessary evidence to make changes then they will do so.


The team sadly could not retrieve benchmark analytics from the current site. They are getting some data from the existing supplier that manages most of the service (but no longer the website) which should continue to be monitored, for example the quality of applications.

The team are using google analytics on the site and have someone capable of monitoring the sites performance. The panel expects this to be done regularly and not intermittently. The team are also embracing GCS measurements for engagement.


Below are further recommendations for the project team. These are not conditions for going live:

  • Consider user needs before embarking on any future development. A number of large features were discussed on the product roadmap. It is not clear whether these features are based on assumptions or linked to user needs. By capturing evidence now, the team can rethink how valuable these features are, and prioritise when to deliver them.
  • Work more in the open and share their work publically. They can be proud of their approach and hard work. The panel would encourage the team to share their story to a wider audience.
  • Closely monitor their tooling for prioritising, creating, task allocation, proofing, deploying and managing content as the frequency, breadth of content, higher numbers of content contributors over time may change, especially as raising the awareness and engagement levels of Fleming Fund are some of the goals of the service.
  • Conduct a usability test with users with accessibility needs.

Original source – Stephen Hale

sla communications service level agreements.jpg

Demand and expectations increase, resources and time decrease. It’s a graph of doom and one we need to take charge of. Here’s a case study on how a service level agreement is the way to go.

by Ruth Fry

Why we need SLAs

Why might you be considering an SLA – service level agreements? In a word, time – or the lack of it. The pace of change across the public sector means that our internal clients expect an instant response. With resources tighter than ever and teams increasingly expected to take on complex campaign and digital roles as well as the traditional press office, we have to prioritise. And because everyone believes that their project should be top priority, it’s helpful to write down how you’re going to prioritise and get everyone signed up to it. 

We decided to introduce an SLA alongside an Annual Communications Plan, which set out priority projects (a similar approach to Lucy Denton’s campaign-based comms). We’ve never had either before, but felt the need for them with increasing demand on our services meaning we were constantly pulled away from meaningful work to ‘stick out a press release’.


What should be included? We looked at where we were wasting the most time by having to repeat tasks. One was getting responses signed off by journalists’ deadlines: we were spending a lot of time chasing sign off for what we knew would be a small story or one we had no hope of influencing anyway. Our SLA sets out a clearer approach which gives us more ability to put out a common-sense response when no-one is available at short notice for sign off, and which allows us to ignore requests we feel it’s pointless spending time on.

Another big drain on time was last minute requests to designers and multiple changes to text after it had been submitted, resulting in design jobs taking much longer than anticipated, so we included protocols which state final text has to be supplied on time for us to meet agreed timescales.

We also covered off our common gripes – cracking down on ‘gonkism’ by stating that we would only order promotional goods we considered to be good value, and stamping out logoitis by including a branding protocol.


We started by setting out exactly how many hours we had available across the team. We went to each of our service Senior Management Team meetings to explain the change in working that was planned. Everyone agreed – in theory!

Meetings with individual mangers to work out their priorities followed. We drafted the Annual Communications Plan, which assigned hours to priority campaigns and routine (output) communications, and the SLA and circulated both around Senior Management Teams for feedback.

At this stage we got a few comments around dispute resolution – what if Comms didn’t use all of the allocated time?  What if Design got the text on time but still didn’t deliver? We expanded the SLA to cover these eventualities, and the final version was circulated again for sign off. Finally, we started recording our time within the team.

Does it work?

Inevitably, new priorities have emerged after the Plan was finalised, but the great thing about having an SLA is that we can simply ask client services which other priority they want to take the hours from: it quashes any expectation that there is a limitless supply of communications support. We’ve also successfully rebutted negative news stories when no senior manager was available to sign off a response, and politely declined to design new logos for short-lived campaigns. Though we’re people-pleasers at heart, the SLA is giving us the confidence to say ‘no’.

Recording hours is already providing invaluable data: even if we’re not eventually able to deliver on every priority, we’ll be able to show why. It’s a learning curve, and we need to expand our research and evaluation skills so that we can prove the value of priority campaigns, but having an SLA has certainly helped us to set off in the right direction.

Ruth Fry is corporate communications manager at Perth and Kinross Council

image via the US National Archives

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

When you submit a Freedom of Information request, of course, you’re asking for a defined piece of information; a successful request is one where that information is provided.

Sometimes, though, a response will provide more than has been asked for.

We always appreciate it when a public servant goes above and beyond the call of duty, so when one of our volunteers happened across this response, it was passed around the team for everyone to enjoy. It’s helpful, factual, and fulsome, with far more background detail than was asked for.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this response, though, is that it’s from a body that is not actually obliged to respond to FOI requests at all.

Neighbourhood planning forums

Neighbourhood Planning Forums are defined on the website as bodies which “[give] communities direct power to develop a shared vision for their neighbourhood and shape the development and growth of their local area”.

They came into being in 2012 as a result of the Localism Act, and you can check whether there are any near you on this map.

Neighbourhood planning forums can help set the policies against which applications for planning permission are assessed, so they have a significant potential impact on local areas. It’s even possible for planning permission for a development to be granted proactively if this is proposed by a forum and approved in a referendum.

We’re not aware of any law which would make Neighbourhood Planning Forums subject to the Freedom of Information Act. But so far we’ve included eight of them on WhatDoTheyKnow.

Listing bodies not subject to FOI

Wait — so if they’re not obliged to respond to FOI requests, why are they included on WhatDoTheyKnow?

Well, we often add bodies with a substantial public role when we believe that people ought to be able to make transparent and visible requests for information to them.

For example, we listed Network Rail and the Association of Chief Police Officers on our site before they became subject to the Freedom of Information Act (though we’re disappointed that ACPO’s successor body the National Police Chief’s Council is not yet formally subject to FOI).

You can see more than 450 bodies which fall into this category (ie, they are not subject to FOI but we believe that they should be) on the site.

In the case of Neighbourhood Planning Forums, in addition to their clear, significant and public role, there are a couple more relevant factors:

First, the Environmental Information Regulations, which allow you to ask for information around environmental issues, cover a wider set of public bodies than FOI and we think it’s likely Neighbourhood Planning Forums are subject to those.

Additionally, many of them are parish or town councils which have been designated as the local planning forum. Parishes and town councils are certainly subject to FOI.

Adding more Neighbourhood Planning Forums

If you looked at the map we linked to earlier, you’ll have noticed that there are many more Neighbourhood Planning Forums than the eight we’ve listed on WhatDoTheyKnow — hundreds, in fact.

Unfortunately, an FOI request that one of our volunteers, Richard, made in 2016 to request details and email addresses of every Neighbourhood Planning Forum was turned down; otherwise we’d have used this information to add them all to the site.

If you’re keen to see these bodies made accessible for requests through WhatDoTheyKnow, there are a couple of ways you can help:

  • We’re happy to add any more that are proposed to us — just fill in this form and give us any contact details as you can find.  If you want to help us add more than a handful then get in touch and we’ll arrange a more effective way of working.
  • If you can’t find any public contact details, you could try making an FOI request to your local planning authority  — this is your local council responsible for planning, who are also the ones to designate neighbourhood planning forums in your area — to ask them for any forums’ contact details. If you obtain the contact details we will of course add them to WhatDoTheyKnow.

Image: Martin Deutsch (CC by-nc-nd/2.0)

Original source – mySociety

I have decided to declare the excellent weather as the new normal which means that blogging needs to continue as planned and not be derailed by a desire to be outside – am compromising by writing in the garden.

This last week was all about away days as I had a whole day with my team and also a leadership away day with the technology senior leadership team. Lots of opportunities for reflection and so I have adopted the 10 quick things format which is is great for making sure that when you have loads going on in your head you at least get something down in writing. Here then are some of my reflections from the week:

  1. Team work needs work….however well intentioned on brilliant a group of people is you need to actually put the time in to work effectively as a team. And the intention matters – do you want to be amazing on your own or do you want to achieve even more as a group?
  2. I <heart> open space as a way of empowering a group of people to have the right conversations. We used it for one session at our team away day and we had 4 great sessions – we need to do more of that – it always makes me wonder why you bother with an agenda at all
  3. Agency – an individuals belief in their ability to have an effect – is so important and yet not explored enough when we talk about empowerment. Empowering people implies a fixed sum of power that is given and received – increase the agency of the individual and you exponentially increase the power in the whole group. I need to think more about how I make sure that everyone in the team has agency
  4. We really need to think about how we are using our time. The issue of time being wasted in meetings came up again and again and its something within our control. I’m therefore going to; make sure I know the purpose of all the meetings I am in, check we have all the right people there and turned up prepped and ready to make sure we get the value out of people being together.
  5. On a related note – let’s not let Microsoft decide how long our meetings are – I will try and opt for 25 and 45 mins as the default in the future
  6. You can’t make progress if you don’t deal with the persistent problems – however difficult they seem to be. But the flip side of that is that some of these problems are actually part of your operating conditions – so the question becomes how do you accept what you can’t change and make sure that you instead adapt to make them more manageable challenges?
  7. You can’t expect people to take any notice of you if you aren’t listening. But listening is not just about giving people airtime – its also about spending time understanding their frame of reference and where they are coming from. Deep listening is actually listening out for the stuff that goes on underneath the surface
  8. The science that sits at the heart of what we at CRUK are doing is fascinating, inspiring and when I hear about it never fails to make me feel incredibly lucky to be doing something I love in service of something so important
  9. In a world which is constantly changing how you do something is as important as what you do – because often the relationships and stories that you leave behind are more persistent than anything that you make
  10. The mindful diary plan needs to include time for reflection with other people as time for personal reflection
  11. Granary square is lovely spot to hang out in in the sun if only you can get over the fact that its not truly public space
  12. You always start with the intention of 10 points but once you start…..

On this last point – I’m going to be taking some time in August to try and tie a number of these thoughts together and build on other strands of thinking you will find in the blog here from over the last few years. I want to give myself some proper scaffolding for thinking so that I can be getting on with in parallel with the doing – living the action research dream!

Original source – Catherine Howe

‘Internet of Public Service jobs’ is a weekly list of vacancies related to product management, user experience, data and design in…you guessed it…the ‘internet of public service’ curated by @jukesie every Sunday.

Sign up for the weekly email at

[01] Chief Executive Officer
Open Knowledge International

[02] Senior Research Data Specialist
The Digital Curation Centre
£39,992 — £47,722
Closing date: 28/08/2018

[03] Senior Product Manager
Foreign and Commonwealth Office

[04] Product Manager
Closing date: 28/08/2018

[05] Assistant Private Secretary (Data Capability)
UK Statistics Authority
Fareham, London or Newport
£37,700— £43,249
Closing date: 30/08/2018

[06] Product Manager
Ordnance Survey
Closing date: 22/08/2018

[07] Product Manager
Law Society
£40,000 — £50,000
Closing date: 13/08/2018

[08] Head of Digital
London School of Economics & Political Science
Closing date: 21/08/2018

[09] Executive Product Manager
BBC Sport
~salary not stated~
Closing date: 19/08/2018

[10] User Researcher — Crime and Policing
Home Office
London or Sheffield
Closing date: 16/08/2018

Internet of Public Service Jobs: 05/08/2018 was originally published in Product for the People on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Original source – Product for the People