1. Coming Soon! Parliaments, People and Digital Development Report

    On Wednesday 21st November we will be launching our latest research report ‘Parliaments and the People: How digital technologies are shaping democratic information flow in Sub-Saharan Africa’.

    This report presents the findings from an extensive and in-depth research study into digital democracy across Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa and Uganda. This research explores the use of digital channels and platforms in communicating political information in the region, and considers the implications for future development in digital and institution-building.

    The report analyses the breadth of digital political engagement in the countries studied, and identifies key structural and cultural considerations that influence whether digital solutions to improving democratic engagement, transparency and accountability in governing institutions will be successful.

    The findings of this report are more relevant than ever to those interested and involved in international development and institution-building, through which policy implementations digital solutions are being increasingly embedded.

    The full report will be published here on our news feed, via Amazon Kindle, and on our social media feed at 4pm on the 21st November to coincide with a launch event for the report at the House of Lords. That event is now fully subscribed, but please follow along on Twitter #ParliamentsandPeople and @mysociety to share the report and join the conversation.

     

  2. TICTeC Local: wrap-up report

    The Federation, opposite the birthplace of the Co-operative movement in Manchester, was an appropriate venue for TICTeC Local. After all, we were all there to discuss big, transformative ideas that could improve society.

    Yesterday’s event — the first of its kind — brought together representatives from the worlds of Civic Tech, local authorities, and social impact organisations to discuss, in myriad ways, how citizens and local government can work better together.

    Whether you were there or not, this post will hopefully act as a useful jumping-off point, with links to where you can find out more about each of the speakers and the organisations they represent.

    We’ll also share photos and the presentations themselves, soon — watch this space.

    Civic Tech and Local Gov: the evidence base

    Dr Rebecca Rumbul is mySociety’s own Head of Research; she stressed the need for research into the impacts of technology, citing examples where projects have been used in ways that were totally different from what had been planned. Our research to date can be found here.

    Opening keynote: Fixing the plumbing

    Paul Maltby, Chief Digital Officer, Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG), presented the several joined-up initiatives that his department has introduced, with a basic belief that we need to ‘get the plumbing right’ before we can build more complex tech for the future. From training senior managers in tech, to the Local Digital Fund, they’re already seeing tangible results. Paul also encouraged all who work within the sector to sign up to the localgovdigital Slack channel.

    Introducing Public Square

    Michelle Brook of the Democratic Society announced their collaboration with us, mySociety, in a two-year action research project that will examine how to increase citizen participation at the local government level: Public Square.

    If you work within this sphere and are interested in getting involved, you should:

    – Sign up for the kick-off event on Nov 19th in Manchester (and share it with others who might like to come);

    – Sign up for the mailing list;

    – and get in touch for a talk on team@thepublicsquare.org.uk, especially if you are from a local council and would be interested in helping shape the research.

    FixMyStreet Pro: Better street reporting for citizens and councils

    Andrea Bowes from Lincolnshire County Council told such a positive story of the council’s experience in installing FixMystreet Pro that our ears were burning! It was great to hear how happy they were, though, all summed up by her final statement: “Since it’s been installed, no-one’s asked me a single question, which is the dream”.

    Family Story: How technology can better support Children’s Services

    Elle Tweedy of Futuregov presented the software they’ve developed so that social workers can collaborate with families, giving  everyone input into a totally transparent plan. Their hope is to free social workers from the process-led software that sees them stuck in front of a computer for 60% of their time, and to allow families to regain ownership of their own story.

    Council as a platform: Supporting the civics

    Sarah Drummond of Snook showed how powerful first-person stories can be, when she told of reclaiming a patch of land in front of her own block of flats as a garden. Threatened with litigation by a faceless authority, she set about trying to find out who owned the land… only to discover a seriously unjoined-up system.

    Revealing the hidden patterns in local democracy

    An infographic which combines data on deprivation with the political party in overall control for each authority was the focus of the presentation by Julian Tait and Jamie Whyte of Open Data Manchester. It shows that more deprived areas are overwhelmingly Labour-controlled, while those under Conservative councils are more affluent.

    Cloud – is it just pie in the sky?

    Helen Gerling from Shaping Cloud made the case for cloud technologies and how they can benefit local councils (and us all) by preventing the enclosure of data within centralised platforms. The challenge for authorities, she said, is to respond to the changing demands and behaviours of citizens: but it’s an opportunity, too.

    Using tech and data to provide better support for new parents

    Tayo Medupin of Shift presented Tip, which launched yesterday in closed beta and is a system to help people through the first 1,000 days of parenthood. It’s based around a principle of removing judgement, as that, they say, is one significant factor that prevents parents from accessing services.

    The citizen shift

    Jon Alexander from New Citizenship Project argued that, through time, we’ve moved from being subjects to consumers. He reckons the time is ripe for moving that on, so that we’re all citizens, and suggests that the language we use will help shape the beliefs and actions of the next generation.

    Panel discussion: Reaching the furthest first

    This discussion saw Eddie Copeland (Nesta) chairing a panel with Beatrice Karol Burks (Futuregov), Dr Eloise Elliott-Taysom (IF), Nick Stanhope (Shift), and Steve Skelton (Stockport Council) to explore the ethical dimensions of what we do. Perhaps the most incisive comment was that while we talk about the people that are ‘hardest to reach’, those people may well see their governments as the ones that are far away.

    The Consul project for citizen participation

    Dramatic entrance of the day saw poor Jose Maria Becerra missing a flight but still managing to make it on time! Thus we got to see his explanation of the Consul software for citizen participation, developed by Madrid City Council, which allows residents to come up with ideas for transforming their own communities.

    “Have you heard of Boaty McBoatFace?” was one question from the audience. “There’s no moderation of the proposals and we’ve found that citizens always vote for reasonable ones”, replied Jose.

    Panel discussion: Citizens or customers

    Another insightful group took to the stage, this time to discuss the words we use when talking about the people who use our services. Miranda Marcus (The Open Data Institute) chaired the session, with Jose Maria Becerra (Consul Project), Jon Alexander (New Citizenship Project), Carl Whistlecraft (Kirklees Council) and Sarah Drummond (Snook).

    If we refer to people as consumers, they’ll behave as such; if we want genuine dialogue and engagement, we have to invite it. Language can be the first step, but it has, of course, to be backed up with action.

    Closing keynote: The Deal

    Alison McKenzie-Folan from Wigan Council explained ‘The Deal’, a social contract in which the council has made various promises in return for citizens doing their bit. They’ve already saved millions of pounds. As illustration, we all got to enjoy video clips of Ember encouraging folk to recycle, and Mary & Lily meeting rugby players.

    Panel discussion: Making it happen

    Before we all headed home, it was time for a hard-hearted look at how to actually implement all the fine ideas we’d heard about during the day. Emer Coleman (the Federation) held to account Paul Maltby (MHCLG), Alison McKenzie-Folan (Wigan Council), Theo Blackwell (Chief Digital Officer for London), and Phil Swan (Greater Manchester Combined Authority).

    That the first step is data and data sharing, for the good of all, seemed to be one consensus.

    Finally, Linda O’Halloran of MHCLG wrapped up the day with an overview of everything we’d heard and some actions for those wanting to get involved with the department’s work around local digital.

    Many thanks to all who spoke, and listened, at TICTeC Local, making the event a truly meaningful one.

    This was a brief rundown with just a few of the headline points. If you were there, and we’ve missed any moment or statement that particularly inspired, moved or provoked you, please do feel free to share it in the comments below.

    And if you want more, check the #TICTeCLocal hashtag, where delegates and speakers tweeted a wealth of ideas and links.

    And remember, we’re hosting our global TICTeC (The Impacts of Civic Technology Conference) event in Paris on 19th and 20th March and are accepting session proposals until 11th January. Attendees from 29 different countries joined us this year, so it’s a truly global affair.

     

  3. We’ll be at Highways UK

    Highways UK is a massive annual expo for those working on the UK’s road infrastructure — from local authorities to contractors and regional transport bodies.

    This year, for the first time, we’ll be heading to the NEC in Birmingham to demonstrate the benefits of our FixMyStreet Pro street fault reporting service for councils and other organisations.

    If you’re one of the thousands of industry folk who’ll also be attending this two-day highways extravaganza on 7-8 November, do make sure you drop by our stand to meet us and learn more about how FixMyStreet Pro is saving councils money and transforming their services. We’ll be at stand D02, near the entrance.

    Who’ll be there

    Come and have a chat with one of these friendly mySociety team members:

    Mark Cridge, Chief Exec Leading mySociety’s many strands of activity, Mark is an excellent person to ask about how FixMyStreet Pro sits within the current shift towards smart, digital solutions for councils. He’s also been instrumental in bringing several councils in on the planning phase of our products — and if you’re interested in contributing to that sort of input, do come and have a word.

     

    Louise Howells of mySociety Louise Howells, Delivery Manager Louise handles much of the liaison between our client councils and FixMyStreet’s developers, making sure that everyone’s happy on both sides. She’s the best person to talk about the practicalities of implementation, ongoing support and the roadmap for future innovations on FixMyStreet.

     

    David Eaton of mySociety David Eaton, Sales Director David can answer all your questions about integration, features and benefits — and because he’s talked to councils up and down the country, he’s very well-placed to discuss how other authorities are tackling their street reporting issues.

     

    Plus, on both days members of the the FixMyStreet development team will be on hand for any technical queries you may have.

    Events and presentations

    We’ll be happy to show you a demo version of FixMyStreet — you can even have a play with it to see how all the different features work, both for the report-maker, and for various levels of admin staff. Just drop by the stand at any time during the two days. We’ve got plenty of reading material for you to take away, too.

    But we’ll also have a couple of special presentations at our stand that you might want to put into your calendars:

    Integrating FixMyStreet Pro with your asset management system

    Wednesday 7th November 2.30pm

    Andrea Bowes from Lincolnshire County Council will describe how slick service from FixMyStreet Pro meant that they weren’t left high and dry when their previous fault reporting system failed them.

    How FixMyStreet Pro transformed the customer service experience

    Thursday 8th November 2.30pm

    Tracy Eaton (Customer Experience Account Manager – Digital Team) from Buckinghamshire County Council will be exploring the impact adopting FixMyStreet has made to their highways related fault-handling. Presentation followed by a live Q&A.

    Highways UK is a new venture for us, and we’re really looking forward to chatting face to face with people who share our interests. We’ll happily talk all day about effective digital solutions to the many challenges of roads maintenance! Hope to see you there.

    Image: N-allen (CC BY-SA 4.0), from Wikimedia Commons

  4. Parliaments, People and Digital Development seminar

    On 21st November we will host a seminar at the House of Lords exploring how digital tools are being used in Sub-Saharan Africa to bring parliaments and citizens closer together.

    During the seminar, we will be launching our Parliaments and the People: Digital Democracy in Sub-Saharan Africa report, which presents the findings from an extensive and in-depth research study into digital democracy across Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa and Uganda. This research explores the use of digital channels and platforms in communicating political information in the region, and considers the implications for future development in digital and institution-building.

    The report analyses the breadth of digital political engagement in the countries studied, and identifies key structural and cultural considerations that influence whether digital solutions to improving democratic engagement, transparency and accountability in governing institutions will be successful.

    The findings of this report are more relevant than ever to those interested and involved in international development and institution-building, through which policy implementations digital solutions are being increasingly embedded.

    The seminar will bring together researchers, policy makers and practitioners to discuss how the insights from this and other work can be integrated into policy, engagement and future development work.

    Speakers:

    • Hosted by Lord Purvis of Tweed & Mark Cridge, CEO mySociety
    • Dr Rebecca Rumbul, Head of Research, mySociety (Report author)
    • Gemma Moulder, Partnership Development Manager, mySociety (Report author)
    • Paul Lenz, Trust Executive, Indigo Trust
    • Julia Keutgen, Parliamentary Development Advisor, Westminster Foundation for Democracy
    • Two further speakers will be announced soon.

    Date/time: 21st November 4pm – 6pm.

    As capacity is limited, attendance to the event is by invitation only. If you’re interested in attending please email  to request an invite and we’ll let you know full details.

     

     

  5. See you at the International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC)

    Next week, our Head of Research, Rebecca, will be heading to Copenhagen to participate in the 18th International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC).

    IACC is the world’s biggest global forum for bringing together heads of state, civil society, the private sector and more to tackle the increasingly sophisticated challenges posed by corruption. Established in 1983, the IACC takes place usually every two years in a different region of the world, and hosts from 800 to 2000 participants from over 135 countries worldwide.

    Rebecca will be a panellist in the DigiMeddle – Kidnapping Democracy in the New Digital Age session on 24th October 12:00pm – 2:00pm in Workshop Room 1. The session is intended to be a high-level dynamic panel discussion on the misuse of digital tools and social media to try and sway public opinion and skew elections.

    Keep up with Rebecca on social media for updates throughout the conference — and you can find official conference happenings via @IACCseries and the #18IACC hashtag.

     

  6. Let’s meet up at Mozfest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  7. 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.

  8. 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!

  9. 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.

  10. 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.