1. TICTeC Local: schedule finalised

    You can now see the full agenda for TICTeC Local, our one-day conference examining Civic Tech at the local government level — and if it sounds good, you’d better book now, because spaces are limited.

    Free tickets

    Thanks to the kind support of FutureGov, we have a set number of sponsored places for public sector attendees — at no cost. If you work in the public sector and can commit to attending please choose the ‘Public Sector Sponsored Tickets’ option on Eventbrite.

    Additional speakers

    With a heady blend of innovators from within government, and external practitioners who are driving social change, TICTeC Local is going to be like nothing we’ve ever seen before in the sector.

    We’ve already announced many of the speakers, including Paul Maltby, Chief Digital Officer at the Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government, and Beatrice Karol Burks, Director at Futuregov.

    Now here are a few more of the movers and shakers who’ll be inspiring you:


    Theo Blackwell

    Chief Digital Officer for London

    Mayor of London mayoral team logoTheo is London’s first Chief Digital Officer. His job is to transform the capital into the world’s smartest city, and to make public services more accessible, efficient and responsive to the needs of Londoners.

    Previously with Camden council, Theo was credited with bringing it the title of ‘leading digital borough’ thanks to its use of public data; he has also worked at GovTech accelerator Public Group.


    Linda O’Halloran

    Head of Local Digital Collaboration Unit, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government

    MHCLG logoLeading this relatively new unit, Linda aims to disrupt the local government IT market and stimulate the move towards interoperability standards for local services. She has a background with Government Digital Service and was also the founder of Thinking Development, an NGO created in response to Haiti’s 2010 earthquake.


    Alison McKenzie-Folan

    Deputy CEO and digital transformation lead, Wigan Council

    Wigan Council logoAdvocating ‘digital by default’ strategies wherever possible, Alison is widely seen as the reason Wigan council was named as LGC Digital Council of the year; she’s known for embracing cutting-edge technologies in the pursuit of better public services, and happily collaborates with other authorities to help everyone innovate for good.


    Eddie Copeland

    Director of Government Innovation, Nesta

    Nesta logoEddie works with city data analytics, behavioural insights, digital government, collaborative platforms and digital democracy for Nesta, the global innovation foundation. He is an advocate of government and public sector organisations making smarter use of people, data and technology to deliver more and better with less.


    Sarah Drummond

    Co-founder & managing director at Snook

    Snook logoInnovating through research, strategy, design and delivery, Snook only works on projects that will have a meaningful impact on society. That’s led them into designing tech for fishermen, domestic abuse survivors, cyclists and plenty more. Sarah was awarded a Google Fellowship for her work in technology and democratic innovation and named as one of Good magazine’s 100 extraordinary individuals tackling global issues in creative ways.


    Zara Rahman

    Research, Engagement and Communities Team Lead, The Engine Room

    The Engine Room logoZara has worked in over twenty countries in the field of information accessibility and data use among civil society. Now, with social change NGO The Engine Room, she works with communities and organisations to help understand how new uses of data can responsibly strengthen their work.


    Steve Skelton

    Strategic Head: Policy & Information Services, Stockport Council

    Stockport Council logoStockport Council is working, under the banner of the Digital Stockport project, to improve the customer experience through the use of online technologies. Steve leads organisational and place-based strategy, and the Digital by Design programme. He sits on the @GMCADigital Steering Group and is prototyping a Greater Manchester Office of Data Analytics.


    Helen Gerling

    Lead Consultant, Shaping Cloud

    Shaping CloudDefining the use of cloud within central and local government to re-imagine the way services are delivered, Shaping Cloud informs and advises on digital transformation. Helen brings prior experience as a CIO and Director in the public sector.


    Julian Tait

    Open Data Manchester

    Open Data Manchester logoOpen Data Manchester is an association for people who are interested in realising the potential of data to benefit citizens, business and public bodies. Previously with FutureEverything, Julian led the Open Data Cities programme, bringing about a change in the way that public bodies within Greater Manchester use data.


    María Izquierdo

    Designer, IF

    Projects by IF logoIF helps organisations to earn the trust of their users when it comes to data, advising on design and security, and always with a focus on ethical practice.

    As IF’s inhouse designer, Maria is well-placed to explain how good design can play a critical part in this mission.


    Nick Stanhope

    Founder & CEO, Shift

    Shift logoShift is an award-winning charity, designing products and building social ventures for social change. Nick was named one of Britain’s 50 New Radicals by The Observer and NESTA and is a board member of the Centre for the Acceleration of Social Technology.


    Don’t miss TICTeC Local

    Book your place here.

    There’s more information about TICTeC Local on the main TICTeC website.

  2. We are going to the Code for All Summit

    For a large part of next week, mySociety team members Mark, Rebecca and I will be attending the Code for All Summit, this year to be held in beautiful Bucharest.  

    Code for All, for those who don’t know, is the largest international network of Civic Tech organisations who “believe that digital technology opens new channels for citizens to more meaningfully engage in the public sphere and have a positive impact on their communities”.

    And, as a collective, they have achieved some brilliant things;  developing open source toolkits for disaster relief, schooling future generations and making laws and governments more accessible to citizens around the world.

    This year, for the first time, Code for All takes the form of an open doors summit, as the aim is to get “every great mind of Civic Tech” together, not just the official Code For All affiliates. Under the title of “The Heroes of Tech”, it will focus on the barriers, challenges and the future of Civic Technology and explore the conference themes of The Power and  Impact of Civic Tech, Scaling Civic Tech,  Civic Tech & the Wider Context and Sustainable Civic Tech.

    Our Head of Research, Dr Rebecca Rumbul,  will be leading a workshop to explore how to best to evidence Civic Tech, disseminate learning in the impact field and explore what themes and activities will be featured in mySociety’s next Impacts of Civic Technology conference (TICTeC) in Paris, March 2019, and our Chief Executive Mark will be delivering a presentation and workshop, to co-define and develop a declaration for the Democratic Commons.

    We will be sure to report back!

  3. TICTeC Local – first speakers announced

    Tuesday 6 November sees the first ever TICTeC Local, a one day conference examining Civic Tech at the cutting edge of local government.

    mySociety’s annual TICTeC conference has already established itself as the must-attend event for the Civic Tech community. Now TICTeC Local promises the same opportunities for learning, networking and take-home lessons — for Local Government. If you have an interest in how technology is changing the ways citizens interact with councils and city governments, this conference is for you.

    Where Civic Tech meets Local Government

    The schedule is shaping up nicely for a full day of commentary and presentations from inspiring thinkers.

    They are a blend of hands-on Civic Tech practitioners, and representatives from the authorities, both in the UK and abroad, who are transforming local services at the grassroots level.

    Here’s a run-down of the speakers confirmed so far.

    From government

    MHCLG logoPaul Maltby

    Chief Digital Officer, Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government

    As Director of Data at the Government Digital Service (GDS), Paul led a cross-government programme designed to improve the way government approaches, uses and handles data. He’s now brought his insights to Local Government, as CDO at MHCLG. No-one is better placed to give us the ‘state of the nation’ when it comes to how digital technologies can transform citizen-government interactions.


    Kirklees Council logoCarl Whistlecraft

    Head of Democracy, Kirklees Council

    Carl is known for innovative approaches to service delivery, citizen engagement and governance. His passion for local democracy is demonstrated by his role in establishing Notwestminster, a national network where people can share ideas for improving local democracy.


    José María Becerra González

    Consul project, Madrid City Council

    Consul is a free citizen participation tool which fosters transparency and democracy in local government. It’s being used in 18 countries around the world to give citizens a say in the decisions that shape their communities.


    Linclnshire County CouncilAndrea Bowes

    Data and Information Systems Technical Architect, Lincolnshire County Council

    Lincolnshire Council are the latest to integrate with fault-reporting service FixMyStreet, as part of a council-wide strategy to shift to digital.


    From Civic Tech

    Anthony Zacharzewski and Michelle Brook

    The Democratic Society

    The Democratic Society (Demsoc) works for more and better democracy, helping governments that want to involve citizens in decision-making to be transparent, open and welcoming of participation. Anthony founded DemSoc in 2006 after 14 years in strategic roles in UK central and local government; and as Managing Director, Michelle leads on the organisation’s research projects.


    Beatrice Karol Burks

    Futuregov logoStudio Director, FutureGov

    FutureGov seeks to reform public services by supporting organisations through digital transformation and service design. Over the past ten years, they’ve helped more than 100 local and national authorities over four continents think differently about public services.


    New Citizenship Project logoJon Alexander

    Co-founder, New Citizenship Project

    Jon co-founded this social innovation lab in 2014, to help catalyse the shift to a more participatory society. The New Citizenship Project works with all types of organisations to engage people as citizens, working with tools as varied as documentary films to setting up new social enterprises.


    The Federation logoEmer Coleman

    Digital Leader

    Ex of Government Digital Service and City Hall London where she established The London Data Store, Emer is now helping to build The Federation, an open community of digital businesses & innovators, built on co-operative values, in the heart of Manchester.


    Don’t miss TICTeC Local

    Book your place here, and sign up for our mailing list to make sure you hear the latest details as our schedule is confirmed.

    There’s more information about TICTeC Local on the main TICTeC website.

  4. Get ready for TICTeC Local in Manchester

    We’re delighted to be hosting the first TICTeC Local conference in Manchester on 6th November 2018.

    TICTeC Local is a spinoff from our global The Impacts of Civic Technology Conference, which is now in its fifth successful year.

    This event will narrow the lens, focusing on where and how civic tech connects with and impacts Local Government, rather than the international focus we have with our global TICTeC events.

    We’ll be examining what works and why, the challenges and ethical decisions involved in using civic tech and how these initiatives can be replicated by local authorities around the UK.

    We’ll hear from many local authorities and civic tech practitioners in the UK and further afield who are leading the way on using technology to improve civic participation, streamline citizen interaction with public bodies, and create efficiencies in civic budgets.

    If you work in or around the local authority or local public institution space, and have an interest in using digital tools, then do come and join us in Manchester.

    You will leave inspired by some of our showcased projects, you’ll have a better understanding of the most effective digital tools, and you’ll have met interesting people who are on a similar journey, or who might be able to help you in developing your digital capacity in the future.

    We’ll be announcing speakers and contributors over the next couple of weeks.

    For further information and booking please visit the TICTeC Local website. Tickets are available over on Eventbrite and will go fast.

  5. Join us in Paris for TICTeC 2019

    We’re delighted to announce that TICTeC 2019, our fifth conference on the Impacts of Civic Technology, will be in Paris on 19 and 20 March 2019.

    Stick that in your diaries now, we’d love for you to join us.

    TICTeC is an annual milestone in the Civic Tech world, bringing together researchers, practitioners, and all those with an interest in how technology is changing the way we engage with society.

    Primarily, the goal of TICTeC is to promote and share rigorous and meaningful research into civic technologies and digital democracy around the world. The conference facilitates discussion and networking amongst individuals and groups to find real-world solutions through sharing evidence of impact, and (importantly) evidence of what doesn’t work.

    Call for Papers now open

    If you’d like to give a presentation or run a workshop at TICTeC 2019, please submit your proposals now. You have until Friday 11th January 2019.

    Register

    For the last two years TICTeC has sold out – so make sure you get tickets early. Early bird tickets provide a significant discount, so it’s well worth registering before early bird ticket sales end on Friday 8th February 2019.

    Sponsor

    If you’d like to support TICTeC to bring together the world’s best Civic Technology researchers and practitioners, there are many different sponsorship opportunities available. Please visit our sponsorship page for more details, or contact gemma@mysociety.org for more information.

    Keep an eye on the TICTeC website for full details of proceedings as they are announced.

    We look forward to seeing you in March in beautiful Paris! Meanwhile, if you’d like to see what TICTeC is all about, you can browse all the resources from this year’s TICTeC and/or watch this video overview:

    Photo by Grillot edouard on Unsplash

  6. Party on, WhatDoTheyKnow

    Back in February, we postponed celebrations for the tenth anniversary of our Freedom of Information site WhatDoTheyKnow, because of extreme weather conditions. Gales and snow had shut down public transport; guests from further afield were unsure they’d make it to our London venue.

    Little did we know that our rescheduled event would face its own exceptional circumstances. Not only did we find ourselves at the other end of the thermometer, with the hottest temperatures of the year thus far, but we were also competing with England playing a World Cup match.

    All this being so, we were glad to see so many people turn out to help us celebrate — though it was pointed out that the Venn diagram between FOI enthusiasts and football fans might have a fairly small overlap. We’ll get our Research department on to that, at some point.

    The party took place at Newspeak House, the Bethnal Green hub of Civic Tech and innovation. Playing softly in the background was our specially-tailored FOI-themed playlist.

    We’d decked the room with some rather unique — but meaningful — decorations: a selection of information uncovered by WhatDoTheyKnow’s users over the past decade (see photo, above), and screenshots of the many FOI sites running on our Alaveteli software around the world.

    Talking of Alaveteli sites, we were delighted to welcome among our guests Andreas Pavlou who previously worked with AccessInfo, the organisation who run Europe FOI site AskTheEU, and Claude Archer from Anticor, who run Belgium’s Transparencia.be.

    Claude actually drove, without incident, all the way from Brussels — only to scrape against the kerb right outside Newspeak House and get a flat tyre. But mySociety is not just a collection of weedy developers, you know. Well, ok, fair enough, until recently we were just that — but since Georgie joined our ranks a few weeks ago, it turns out that we now have a highly practical colleague who can change a wheel. And that’s just what she did.

    That drama aside, the party went smoothly.

    There were cakes, of course.

    Then some mingling. It was great to meet many WhatDoTheyKnow users, and especially those who employ the site for their campaigns.

    And on to the presentations. WhatDoTheyKnow’s Richard Taylor spoke about what it is like to be a volunteer on the site, and the kind of tasks they deal with in keeping the service available for everyone, not to mention free from litigation. You can read his talk here.

    We interviewed Francis Irving, who was one of two people to suggest that mySociety build an FOI site when we had an open call for ideas — and who then went on to help build it. Much as we enjoy mySociety’s current status as an established organisation, Francis’ descriptions of our early days and ‘punk’ attitude were rather beguiling.

    Finally, investigative journalist Jenna Corderoy shared her experiences of being one of the first people to try WhatDoTheyKnow Pro, our toolkit for FOI professionals and activists. In a stroke of incredible timing, she mentioned a story which she’d been working on, saying that she knew it would break soon, but it might be weeks or even a year before it did.

    We woke up the next morning to hear that this very story was the BBC’s main headline for the day. Watch this space, because we’ll be asking Jenna to fill us in with some more background, and we’ll be sure to share it all here on the blog.

    Oh, and in case you’re wondering… we did eventually switch the big screen over to the football, and all those Civic Tech geeks did actually get caught up in watching the penalty shoot-out decider.

    I guess the Venn diagram stretched a little bit that night.

    Thank you so much to everyone who came along: we hope you had as much fun as we did.

  7. National Democracy Week: supporting women in Civic Tech

    Throughout National Democracy Week, we’ve been focusing on women in politics: how they’re represented; how they’re affected; and how data can help us understand more about these two topics.

    To wrap things up, we want to highlight some of the organisations helping women in tech, and especially in our own field of Civic Tech.

    Coding, researching, designing and promoting web tools that help people to understand and engage with democracy is mySociety’s own way of participating in politics. We’d like to encourage more women to join us in this very rewarding field.

    Working in Civic Tech

    Civic Tech is a fairly new field, and a broad one. And while the coding side is often — rightly — highlighted as an area where there’s a minority of women, it’s also worth mentioning that there are all kinds of other career routes available (to everyone!).

    We can see some of these in mySociety: in fact, browsing our Team page is one good way of seeing the diverse roles within which we’re all chipping away at the organisation’s goals.

    These include research, design, events, communications, sysadmin, data analysis, sales and delivery — and of course in the wider field there are people working in hands-on activism and philanthropy.

    Organisations supporting women in Civic Tech

    mySociety’s gender balance fluctuates, as you’d expect, when people leave or join; but women currently make up about a third of the workforce. We’d always love to employ more women, and when we recruit it’s something we actively think about; in fact we wrote a whole longform blog post about it a while back.

    But in order for that to happen, women need to know about the routes open to them, and the benefits of working in Civic Tech. For starters, here’s a selection of the organisations actively working to get more women into this field and to support them once they’re here.

    • Open Heroines brings together the voices of women working in open government, open data and Civic Tech.
    • Code First: Girls (UK) works with companies and with men and women directly, to help increase the number of women in tech.
    • 23 Code Street (London) offers coding courses to women; for every paying student, they also teach digital skills to a woman in the slums of India.
    • Women Hack For Non-Profits (London) a community of women building open source projects for non-profit organisations and charities. Learn to code and work on real life projects.
    • Codebar.io (UK and worldwide) teaches coding in a supportive, collaborative environment for women, LGBTQ, and underrepresented ethnic groups.
    • blackgirl.tech (UK) ‘code and chill’ workshops for black women and non binary people.
    • Rails Girls (worldwide) Ruby on Rails workshops for women.
    • Lesbians Who Tech (US and worldwide) a community of queer women in or around tech (and the people who love them).
    • Geek Girl Meetup UK (London and worldwide) a network, for and by, women and girls interested in all things tech, design, and startup.
    • Mums in Tech (UK) coding school for mums, with baby friendly courses, events and classes.
    • DevelopHer (UK) non-profit community dedicated to elevating women in tech.
    • Pyladies (worldwide) mentorship group for women in the python community.
    • TLA Women in Tech (London) movement for gender equality in the global tech industry.
    • Ada’s List (email-based community) a group for women who are committed to changing the tech industry.
    • AuthorAID (worldwide) Supporting women researchers with practical advice and also provides grants to support researchers in attending a conference on the topic of gender or hosting a gender workshop in their country.
    • Uscreates (UK) supporting gender equality in design leadership.
    • Women who design (Twitter-based) a directory of women in the design industry.
    • Double or nothing (UK) campaign for gender equality in design.
    • Hidden women of design (Facebook page) a series of curated talks by Female Graphic Designers sharing insight into their creative practice.
    • Women in data (UK) Annual conference for data professionals.

    Words from mySociety’s staff

    Louise, Head of Development: I enjoy working for an organisation that has a positive effect on the state of the world and helps a wide range of people participate in civic life. As far as tech goes, I think programming is an amazing career choice for women for a lot of reasons — but three really obvious ones are money (tech jobs tend to pay above the average), power (you can build things that change the world) and flexibility (tech jobs tend to be inherently flexible and, as mySociety demonstrates, you can work from home).

    Bec, Head of Research: What I enjoy about working in Civic Tech is discovering how relatively small tools can change behaviours and change institutions. Hopefully for the better!

    Abi, HR: My Top Tips for Job Applicants now include reading this great piece, Confidence and the Gender Gap: 14 tips for Women in Tech. Think you’re slightly under-qualified? APPLY ANYWAY. We have seen worse, believe me.

    Myf, Communications Manager: I’ve found Civic Tech to be a really welcoming field that judges you on the quality of your work, not your gender or any other factor that’s irrelevant to the task in hand.

  8. Votes that changed women’s lives

    We might take our freedoms and rights for granted these days, but we should try to remember that many of them were hard-won.

    In this, the centenary of women first gaining the vote, we’ve had ample reminders of the struggles the suffragettes went through in order to make that possible. But, through recent history, there are several other changes in the law which have impacted on the way women live, their chances of prosperity, their ability to make life choices, and to progress in their chosen careers.

    From the Married Women’s Property Act to last year’s legislation requiring businesses to publish data on their gender pay gaps, we’ve put together a short timeline to show those milestones, linking back to our Parliamentary site TheyWorkForYou for those who’d like to explore in more detail. It’s all part of our activity for National Democracy Week.

    So, take a quick look at the votes that changed women’s lives, and then take your pick: marvel at how far we’ve come…. or wonder how far we still have to go.

    Image: Shaun Dawson (CC by.nd/2.0)

  9. Celebrating National Democracy Week

    Excuse us while we just finish hanging this bunting…

    Yes, wave the flags and toot those vuvuzelas: it’s National Democracy Week, a new initiative to celebrate the democratic process and encourage democratic participation.

    And thanks to some extra-curricular work by one of the mySociety team, we’re now able to celebrate it in a quite exceptional way. Longstanding  developer Matthew has used his own free time to import historic House of Commons debates from 1919-1935 into our parliamentary site TheyWorkForYou. With this work, he’s extended the site’s value as an easy-access archive of parliamentary activity even further.

    You can check it out now by visiting TheyWorkForYou, searching for any word or phrase, and then sorting the search results by ‘oldest’. Or, pick any MP active during 1919-1935 and search for them to see every speech they made in Parliament.

    Please let us know if you find anything of interest! For developers who use TheyWorkForYou data to power their own sites and apps, the extended content will also be available via TheyWorkForYou’s API.

    “No one sex can govern alone” – Nancy Astor

    This is the first National Democracy Week, and it has taken, as its theme, the anniversary of women’s suffrage: as you’re sure to have heard by now, 2018 is the centenary of (some) women getting the vote* in the UK.

    We wanted to celebrate by highlighting some of the big milestones of women’s participation in Parliament, but there was just one problem.  TheyWorkForYou only contained House of Commons debates as far back as the 1930s — while, for example, the maiden speech of Nancy Astor, the first woman to speak in Parliament, was in 1920.

    So it’s a big deal that Matthew’s imported this early data into TheyWorkForYou, and we’re all the more grateful because he did so on his own time. It’s something we’ve wanted to do, but not had the resource for. You can now browse, search or link to Commons debates right back to 1919, and find not just women’s contributions, but a whole wealth of historic parliamentary content. Result!

    What you can enjoy this week

    We’re going to take this opportunity to highlight, through a week-long series of posts:

    • Tomorrow, our researcher Alex will be highlighting some of the ways people have used our data and APIs to explore issues of gender and representation and describe some of our future plans in this area. This also gives us the opportunity to point out where you can access all our lovely, juicy data, should you want to do something similar yourself.
    • Finally, as a weekend bonus, we’ll be blogging on the various organisations which support women within our own sphere of Civic Tech.

    We’ll add the links in for each day’s content as it goes live.

    Since our sites TheyWorkForYou and WriteToThem in the UK, our activities with the Democratic Commons, and the support we give to partners in other countries are all, at heart, aiming to make democratic participation easier, we are, of course, all over this event. We hope you’ll enjoy the week!


    *We can have another celebration in 2028 for the remaining women.

  10. Let’s try this again! WhatDoTheyKnow’s tenth anniversary party

    Back in February, as you may remember, we announced an evening of celebration in London for WhatDoTheyKnow’s tenth anniversary.

    And then it snowed, public transport ground to a halt, and we made the tough decision to call the party off.

    But it was only ever a postponement. Now we’re in a more temperate season and we’re determined to get this milestone celebrated! We’ve rescheduled, and we’re looking forward to an evening of talks covering the project’s past, present and future, not to mention chat, drinks, nibbles and the best FOI-based playlist you’ve ever heard.

    If you’d like to come and join us for this event in London on the evening of July 3rd, please email Gemma with more about yourself and why you’d like to come. Spaces are limited so let us know asap if you’d like to attend.

    Image: Gaelle Marcel