[EVENT] #DesignForGov in Manchester

Back from a packed, but very useful day, my iPad based notes:

Dominic Campbell CEO

  • How do all the services come together and meet the needs of society?
  • Not just about ‘digital transformation’ which often translates to ‘buy a laptop’ and ‘share a document’, rather than cultural change.
  • Public sector – a bit coy about sharing our successes, but also not brilliant at sharing our challenges.
  • We’ve now had around 10 years of austerity, and the government finally  seems to be recognising need for this agenda change.
  • How do we coalesce a grander vision for change – and disrupt organisations in positive ways?
  • 21st-century public services need to have a designerly state of mind
  • GDS used to talk about digital as a Trojan horse for design thinking, but got bogged down in websites/tablets/collaboration tools – without thinking about how this impacts end user experience. Now design acting as Trojan horse for the meaningful use of digital technology – but not seeing at local level a real building of design skills.
  • We need to move towards valuing citizen and employee experience equally.
  • Most places have got a better website, but the experience beyond that is not good – phone up to check it’s worked, or no response for 3 months.
  • Looking at how to become a service-oriented organisation, need to match human language. There can be 43 different organisations behind the service, but users don’t need to know this – they just need the service.
  • Thinking about culture – typically values are displayed on posters on the wall, but not embedded in the employee experience (or any facet of reality).
  • Often government is looking at old/traditional (management focused) business models, but could look at how can learn from e.g. how e.g. Spotify do business differently and how that affects the user experience. Not the same but could impact e.g. govt provided fostering services where it’s behind the curve
  • It’s a disconnected experience – technology is seen as ‘complicated’, managers instruct to ‘please buy least bad piece of technology’ – need to think these through culture/technology simultaneously.
  • What is politically/financially viable for the end to end customer experience – recognising that the employees are the face of the organisation (and therefore should be valued).
  • Need to think beyond ‘if people can make a payment online, that solves everything’. Look at transforming the organisation.
  • There’s a real need for human-centred design thinking.

  • FamilyStory builds people-centre social care case management tools
  • Believes that if can show that change works in children’s services (one of the hardest) can show that it can work in other sectors
  • Children’s workers spending far too much time on the technology/admin (80%), rather than on the frontline.
  • Tech/policy shouldn’t be scared of each other. Allowing the iPad to do the work of recording, can save e.g. 4 hours of transcription time.
  • Homes England, helping deal with the housing crisis in England (mortgages are expensive, and local authorities are not able to build), including rent arrears.. Want to take the lead – using a combination of Tinder/AirBnB in matching Council resources/land.
  • You can look at it from top down ‘one size fits all’ as govt often does, or can do grassroots with iterative small changes that add up to big change (more risk, about trusting the process, whilst showing tangible change). Standard way of how this has been done in the past has involved lots of money, big promises and Gant charts
  • For Health & Social Care – see this illustration of patient experience (recognised by many medics):
  • How do we unlock imaginations again – where so many are stuck in ‘performance management’ mindsets..
  • Umair Haque – ‘Our organisations must be models of the world we want to build’
  • We need to stop reinforcing the narrative that public sector is crap and behind the times. It has more opportunities to be creative than anywhere else. There’s no profit incentive NOT to give people ownership of their own data, so we should be leading on this.
  • It’s important to think about the way organisations work, including the backend, seeing transformation as an ongoing thing, not a specific project. Bring on board Organisational Development expertise.

Holly Rae – Stockport Council (designing for people/places)

  • It’s important that it’s not just about how residents access council services, but how they interact with services across range of opportunities across their lives – e.g. other internet use
  • Map of ‘digital journey’ (for digital by design plans):

  • Some of the feedback/learnings:
  • Change is fundamentally about people – so how do we involve them? How do we keep the change makers excited and energised without leaving behind the rest of the organisation (especially the laggards).
  • Evolution –> intent – things evolve/change. Visualisation – experience of accessing a range of different services, helps to think through how to develop intentful design:
  • Change Involves tech capability, service design and organisational change. People lead change – take time to celebrate successes.
  • Think carefully about where to plant/start ideas – where are people most ready to support those changes?
  • Think about agile actually means:
  • Remembering that people remain at the heart of what we do… to be inclusive (not leaving people behind).
  • Look at how better support/build digital skills across Stockport – target for 5,000 to be able to apply for jobs/connect with family, etc.
  • Looking to sustain genuine communities around digital inclusion/skills…

Gavin Elliott – DWP @gavinelliott

  • Digital change is really hard, and takes a maximum level of resilience. It doesn’t happen overnight (only now starting to make change hoped would have done in first year)
  • Need to make friend and influence people – then everyone can focus on needs, outcomes, future.
  • Had a lot to learn as came from a private company, had to learn how public sector worked, fast-growing digital team, spread over range of locations over past 3 years.
  • Be aware that organisations have a historical culture and way of working, and particular personalities – and most don’t like change.
  • The challenge is then ‘Time to find your way out of a tower with no windows, stairs or doors’. 
  • Need first to get own camp in order, own culture set up the right way before trying to get others involved/change others.

  • Effort needs to go into good strong comms, work together to be good at what you do/get even better at what you do (communities of practice).
  • Give professionals time to play together … e.g. through Slack, time to get involved in each other’s worlds…
  • Awareness – be aware of what is going on in the wider world, as has effect on other thing.
  • Dept also needs to know what’s going on in digital, unlikely to look on external blog, so need to build intranet, etc.
  • Portfolio prioritisation – know what to work on and when… identify where can make big value impact..
  • Once feel have own house in order can start to create buzz
  • Start the conversation in the right way … ‘Don’t talk about agile and digital transformation in your first conversation’. They’ve probably been through loads of transformations before and (are fed up) .. with people promising change…

  • You need empathy for how others feel You need to understand their motivations (esp senior leader’s constraints – e.g. financial, time) otherwise will never get them on side… to help each other with challenges.
  • User research is for EVERYONE – not just those in the digital team, so need to get other teams in the room.
  • Look to fast track processes – do incremental change (proof of concept can demonstrate value); deliver something of value; focus on scope of services (not in silos)
  • ‘A lot of things can’t be achieved in large organisations without fixing the organisation first’. FutureGov

Eva – Citizen Change – @evaobrien_

  • Citizen Assemblies’are growing in popularity. Give people agency and insights into the govt that shapes their lives, good but expensive, so been trialling a new way in Camden council – more co-design approach – on mental health/wellbeing.
  • Consider what citizens bring to the table.  Take the advice seriously (if not prepared to listen, why are you convening people together in first place)… put people at the heart of everything. Too easy to put the process at the heart (room setup, end report, etc.) forgetting that it’s about getting the best from the people involved to make meaningful change (e.g. comfy seats so they can relax)
  • Started with 180+ ideas dealing with mental/health & wellbeing – now down to 3.
  • Meet people where they are at – locally, spaces, digital where appropriate. Co-design session in a converted church … 🙂
  • Remove barriers to participation – e.g. food, accessibility, close to transit, hold the baby…. all costs time/money but important to consider.
  • Explain why you are doing things – why this location, why this often, why this info, where the feedback will go, etc.
  • Give people ‘real wicked problems’ to deal with – never underestimate what they can contribute…
  • Prepare for trade offs – hosting at weekends – will get 9-5ers, but probs not shiftworkers/those with kids… Think who excluding with every choice you’re making – are you comfortable with this?
  • If there are specific times lines/budgets – let contributing people know – so their recommendations can be useful.
  • Push participants to think big – visualise what their idea could look like…
  • Help them to think about the other people they are speaking on behalf of…
  • Appreciate your people… think – what does great citizen engagement look like – should be ‘challenging, expansive, tiring, empowering’ – dealing with others who think differently, learn more about what they are engaging with, lots of thinking/talking, but feel like they have some ownership of where they are in the bigger picture for govt/public service in way haven’t before… feel they can do more in local communities after as can make difference…

Tom Forth OpenGovTech – new thing! @thomasforth @odileeds

  • Often, software cost takes up so much of budget have little left for adapting using it for users; as govt has less and less money and so less is invested (esp on the smaller scales) as not convinced on the returns. See how big (small) the tech team is vs rest of team (and compare to private orgs) – at the end, understand the problem pretty well, and know what want to build – but not able to build it as have no feedback to work on.
  • OpenGovTech – can still buy software, but write into contract that it will be open source. Can then be reused = more space for design for users/analysis, etc. E.g. Essex copied Stockport website, then can improve and Stockport can improve theirs, etc.
  • Maps are used all the time e.g. ‘who can get to this hospital?’. GPS software is expensive so built an open-source version.
  • Fear that needs to be addressed – is it as good as other software – checked against Google maps – same data re distance times.
  • Open source, needs to keep lots of eyes on it to keep it up to date. Lots of (corporate/council) sponsors – have a vague feeling they can help, so the combined £ from organisations trusting that ‘good things will come out of it’.
  • Example – the ONS – recent report on gender commuting gap – was based on open-source data, first time could measure public transport timing.

  • Leeds Homes – social housing built on open data – encourages people to apply to wards near where they live, but which have shorter waiting lists

  • Leeds Bins app! All powered by open data sets … shortly being released as open data source apps
  • Note that because the software is open source, doesn’t mean it’s not FREE. You are still going to have to hire people to adapt to local circumstances – COST is not just ££.

Table Discussions

Table discussion 1: Family Story

  • 2.5 years working with 3 London councils, who were coming from a place of excellence, and looking for something transformative to help them with their case management tools.
  • Legacy systems meant that 80% of time was spent on admin, rather than frontline support for social workers.
  • Social workers managing amazing things IN SPITE of technology, rather than BECAUSE of it.
  • Do still need the reporting angle, but shouldn’t be taking so much working time… (and families keeping separate audit trails)
  • Wanted to make it more transparent for end users (who then able to access records) as well as giving social workers time back.
  • Looking at the end-to-end experience – in past have looked for ONE BIG SYSTEM to do everything, and doesn’t do any of them well, instead want to look at tools that already exist and embed/use/integrate rather than trying to replace.

  • Many actions are agreed in meetings, but often not noted down … enables better record keeping – the iPad recording/notetaking doesn’t get in the way (although some social workers feel vulnerable taking notes in front of clients).
  • Still in Alpha phase, lots of questions about enabling sense of ownership, no need to understand concepts of change ownership, safety whilst carrying digital tools, alongside general behavioural change.
  • Are a lot more things that could be automated (e.g. pre-set emails), rather than relying upon people to remember things.
  • Be aware that many social workers are driven by worst-case scenario (being in court) so driven to document everything.

Table Discussion 2: Unconscious Awareness

  • Led by Good Things Foundation. digital/social inclusion charity, looking to reduce inter-parental conflict (commissioned by DWP), because of its long-term impact upon children (their education/employment).
  • Want a tool/resource to help people to get along better. Ideally a blended approach, but main focus is on digital (aware of issues)
  • How can we create services for people who don’t necessarily know that it applies to them? Can see it’s a bad situation for others, but don’t see that it applies to them
  • How can engage with parents online for such a sensitive issue? Easy to bridge gap/contextualise when there in person – but how do online for the bigger option?
  • How make it interesting enough that people look at it in first place, when dealing with low digital skills, literacy, low English, employment, etc..
  • How does unconscious incompetence become unconscious competence
  • Are there questions about – able to measure online engagement, but is it having a ‘real’ effect?
  • Is there a need for humour/vulnerability to attract attention to a message that could be seen as quite confrontational? Look at advertising that deals with difficult messages?
  • Question – what apps are parents on – e.g. Peanut

Importance of Research – Kiran Dhillon

  • There’s a lot of resistance to doing research, some of these are valid complaints: researchers may have a myopic focus on end users without thought for those in the system trying to make change.

  • There is a lack of real understanding of lived experience in the ‘real world’. As a policy person felt like was employed to give answers, and going out to find out what people really think felt risky … but SO important… REALLY understanding the context of people’s lives…(through a lens of change)
    • e.g. Pepsi/Coke (1980s) – Pepsi was taking sales share, Coke did a taste test  – Pepsi was winning, new Coke – people preferred it, but hadn’t tested in real environment (full can, not a couple of sips = too saccharine) …
  •  In 3-4 week’s of research  – are not providing certainty, just reducing risk, and being clear about the risks that are taking.
  • The job is not to PROVE but to UNDERSTAND – thick data produces in depth insights (about WHY), before getting into hypotheses about how might solve these things.
  • Research needs to be continuous, not a one-off at the beginning of ‘a project’.
  • HOW – make time to do research properly … (less about the amount of time, but the quality of time)
  • *We ask a really good question, gather some data, and make sense of what you learn… (bad research doesn’t spend enough time on thinking about the questions asked/analysing the results).
  • Answers are only as good as your questions: Is it salient (what people care about)? Is there consensus? Is it specific/actionable?
  • Don’t need time for everything – if don’t take time to understand it – wasn’t worth doing…
  • We can start with users (but that’s not all) … Can become attached – want to represent them well – but telling their story is not enough …
  • It’s about communities and place – not just the user… have a responsibility to think wider than an individual user perspective – need communal perspective (e.g. for climate change). SHARED understanding is the goal.. (shouldn’t sit in one person’s head)…
  • Leisa Reichelt: ‘Researchers should spend 70% of their time communicating, helping (and persuading people) to understand and act on research and 30% actually doing’. 
  • Caroline Jarrett: ”User researcher’s fallacy: My job is to learn about users. Truth: My job is to help my team learn about users’. 
  • Take people on a journey: expose everyone to the research; get them involved in conducting it and analysing it’ it means that everyone has a shared view. *Rarely is the right answer a report – use e.g. show/tell

  • Sometimes not about learning new things, but getting everyone to same place… sometimes we research things we already know about to get others on board… build empathy for one another – shared perspectives on the problems that needed solving… about how good a communicator/facilitator you are…
  • Research is the START of the intervention, start of a design process…
  • Sowing the seeds of change: creating shared knowledge, motivating people and building buy-in, creating potential influencers and change makers, connecting and linking people, sharing skills and capability
  • What are you leaving behind for people (requires letting go of power/control, encouraging people to take more responsibility and do more for themselves, on their terms):

All Women Panel

  • Encouraged to get involved – to make people’s lives better, have a voice, help talent be used well, getting involved in communities, shaping services, etc.
  • Need to have hard conversations with people because doing things differently from before…
  • Take ideas from wherever they are (don’t get stuck in a public service bubble)
  • The only guarantee is that CHANGE IS COMING
  • Most important: active listening – taking on board a range of different needs, actions need to resonate with constituents
  • Small d for digital, big d for design… (know where people are, e.g. Tik Tok now on social media)
  • Looking at ways to support actions that others are taking (and not necessarily taking over)
  • Question whether your work is ‘visually delicious’?
  • Being honest/constructive – can’t change things unless face up to fact something isn’t working as well as it could.
  • ‘What difference are you making today to (your audience?)’? – otherwise get lost in governance/process…

Keynote: Blackburn Case Study

  • Blackburn – deprived, low health outcomes, etc – looking for ways to make a change.
  • Looking at the ‘red bag’ process – can measure e.g. amount of rubbish collected, but are a whole load of unmeasurable benefits.
  • Kingdom Outreach/DIY SOS (Children in Need 2019) – locals pushed these. Council needed to know what was going on, and look at ways to help, e.g. sped up processes, get transport team to help – all about making it smoother.
  • Assets have been transferred to volunteer organisations (enables services to continue within austerity) – need support from council leaders for long term benefit

Unconference: Do we need a Digital Undertaker?

  • Do we need some kind of (govt) organisation that when someone is registered dead, that a cascade of information goes to other agencies? Saves a whole lot of duplicate effort for those mourning.
  • Are questions about who owns a person’s identity and their assets (e.g. NI . number, passport, etc.)
  • We’re pushing citizens to do more online, so we have accounts all over the place – who needs to own/manage it?
  • Part of it is the problem that people won’t talk about death – and therefore aren’t prepared to make preparations (even though death is the only guarantee – just when is the question)…
  • Questions about what is inheritable in terms of digital assets (some overlap with questions of Intellectual Property)
  • Also ethical questions – digital cleanup (e.g. advertising continues on Mother’s Day, etc. when may be inappropriate; FB actually has a lot of options to manage this, but not well advertised)
  • Could be a unique ID that data handlers have to use (would need to be global/borderless)…

Tweets collected from the day: