1. Climate monthnotes July 2022: Preparing for a Summer of events

    There’s lots, as ever, to report from the Climate team this month, so I’ll try to pick some highlights… this time with a Shakespearean flavour, as I (mySociety’s Liverpool correspondent) celebrate the opening of the Shakespeare North Playhouse in the nearby town of Prescot. May the bard’s lyrical visions propel us into a summer of climate action!

    All things are ready, if our mind be so

    In the previous monthnotes Jen trailered Innovations in Climate Tech – our online, half-day event, featuring inspirational examples and discussion about how civic tech projects are supporting climate action around the world, and how we might be able to seed more projects like this, with the cooperation of local authorities, here in the UK.

    This month Jen’s been lining up speakers for the event (which takes place on 21st September), and Siôn has been planning how we can use workshops in the second half of the event to share best practice and build more connections between technologists and local authority officials.

    If you’re from a local authority, or you’ve been involved in a climate-related technology project, and you’d like to share your work at the event, there’s still time to submit a proposal for inclusion in the programme.

    We’re also excited to find we’ve been accepted to speak at the upcoming Code for All 2022 Summit (also happening in September), so we’re looking forward to working our sessions there into our wider plan for building connections between the climate and civic tech communities.

    And finally, to complete the Summer events trifecta, we’ve been laying plans for an informal online get-together about energy efficiency and retrofit, since it’s proved such a popular subject during our prototyping weeks, and we’d really like to find the most impactful contribution we could make in the space, especially with fuel costs expected to continue rising well into 2023. If this interests you, share your availability for the week in which we’re planning to meet and join our climate updates newsletter to hear how things develop.

    Once more unto the breech dear friends

    All good things must come to an end – and our series of six rapid prototyping weeks has certainly been a good thing! This month we’ve been preparing for the final week in the series, focussing on how improved collection and sharing of MP, constituency, and local climate action data, between environmental charities and organisations, could enhance public understanding of climate challenges and solutions, and build networks across local communities.

    We’re really excited to be working on this with a number of really big names in the space—including The Climate Coalition, Green Alliance, Friends of the Earth, the Wildlife Trusts, Hope for the Future, WWF, and Climate Outreach—and we’re really excited to see what recommendations come out of the week.

    We’re also putting the final touches to our write-ups of the last two prototyping weeks (on fair transition and energy efficiency for private rental tenants) and will be posting them on our Climate Prototyping page shortly.

    Friends, romans, countrymen, lend us your ears!

    Siôn has been sharing our procurement and energy efficiency prototypes with a whole range of organisations, getting their input on next steps we should take, and potential collaboration opportunities. So far we’re excited to have met with the Centre for Local Economic Strategies, UK Green Building Council, Architects Climate Action Network, Living Rent, Energy Local, Connected Places Catapult and Citizens UK.

    Meanwhile, Myf has been renewing our efforts to promote CAPE to journalists, as one of the core audiences where we think up-to-date, accessible data on local authority climate action could really enable a new level of scrutiny and cross-pollination of climate actions around the UK. We’re looking to potentially speak at a few journalism conferences in the coming months, and we’re planning to prepare a set of online resources that might give journalists an idea of how they can use our data to find stories.

    We also presented CAPE and the Scorecards at Friends of the Earth’s Environmental Data for Change event—which I was honoured to be asked to facilitate on FoE’s behalf—right at the end of June. It was an absolutely packed call, which left everyone buzzing with ideas for the future. We’re continuing to work with Friends of the Earth, and other attendees from the event, on how we take the this great momentum, and shape a community of practice around sharing and building on the rich environmental data available in the UK, to power more informed climate action.

     

    Photo by Red Zeppelin on Unsplash.

  2. Notes from TICTeC Civic Tech Surgery #5: Learning from climate action

    Last week saw us come together for the fifth online TICTeC Civic Tech Surgery, our hands-on programme for fixing some of the prevalent problems in civic tech.

    Each TICTeC Lab begins with a public discussion on one topic area affecting the civic tech community. Interested parties can then apply to take suggested ideas forward in a smaller working group, building solutions with the aid of a grant.

    This time, the discussants examined issues faced by those tackling the climate emergency with civic tech: what are some of the blockers they face, how can these be overcome, and what could a small grant do to help with one or more of those challenges?

    Discussants were Laura Brown, Chief Marketing Officer of ISeeChange, Jacopo Ottaviani, Chief Data Officer at Code for Africa and Laurence Watson, Head of Technology at Subak.

    For a high-level view, read on. We’ve attempted to capture all the ideas discussed, but if you’re keen not to miss anything, access the notes from the meeting, as well as the full recording of the session and the AI-generated transcript.

    Problems

    A summary of the issues identified during the chat and by the audience.

    Data and understanding

    Access to data – there is a lot of relevant data out there, but much of it is behind paywalls, expensive, or relies on an understanding of jargon. It is difficult to get reliable data for many areas that are needed.

    People aren’t experts: To what extent do you need to hold their hands and tell them what to do with complex datasets? The very people who are impacted by climate change impacts do not understand the terminology: climate communication should be localized for people to understand and get involved in the fight.

    Experts in climate data aren’t experts in communications – they need to learn how (or employ staff) to make their messaging easier for those at the receiving end. As a techie, it’s relatively easy to build solutions, but there’s a whole different skillset involved in publicising them and getting people onboard with them.

    Apathy and mistrust

    There’s general apathy from the public over a problem that seems too big or difficult to solve, or which has ben talked about for such a long time with no seeming progress.  People think they’ve heard it all before, and don’t believe this time will be any different. They also don’t think small local changes can make enough of a difference.

    Mistrust of government: the diminishing levels of trust, especially in national government, affects how people regard the data they provide (and possibly the data provided by all authorities).

    Governments shift responsibility between levels and governments are complex to navigate.

    It’s hard to persuade people to make difficult changes  – it’s easy enough to suggest them, but harder for tech to push them to actually see it through. The challenge is in getting people to accept short term inconvenience or risk, for a long term (and often non-individual) return. Incentives are tricky to identify and then communicate.

    The public has a short attention span and climate is a longterm, slow burn issue.

    Ways of working

    Startups also tend to work to short timescales and need to see quick results.

    NGOs don’t work together: there may be infighting as NGOs jostle for the same resources, which wastes their energy and disregards opportunities for working together. There are many organisations  working on similar-but-different solutions, making for a lot of wasted/duplicated effort. Non-profits often are funded for very specific things that they can deliver individually, so they are not incentivised to put effort into working with one another.

    Too many projects have no Theory of Change – they’re just created because it seemed like a good idea.

    It is difficult to measure impacts when asking people to take action in the real world. Particularly for projects that aim to create or open up information that could be used by a wide variety of stakeholders

    Societal issues

    Citizen action can only go so far – governments need to lead the way with legislation.

    Dis- and mis-information from climate denialists makes the job harder. The for-profit practices of social media and mass media are amplifying division. For all the energy and money going into advocating issues and their solutions, there seems to be an effective amount of money and energy preventing those solutions.

    Logistics

    Access: In countries with poor Internet coverage, there is a very basic problem of poor connectivity. This makes all sorts of things difficult, but the example given was about the difficulties of journalists in central Africa accessing training resources.

    Financial stability of newsrooms in Africa – many are relying on grants, which is fine for the short term, but can pose problems for sustainability.

    Trying to train up people with differing levels of experience: for example, training journalists who might not have used Excel before, in the same group as people with a bit more expertise.

    Possible solutions

    Making data accessible

    Employ data guides – make experts visible and available (perhaps at set times). These people could aid less experienced people in how to use complex data, like a reference librarian.

    Distil expert views and make them available so that people can understand them without ploughing through masses of data or content.

    Humanise the data – journalists can portray the human stories behind the facts and figures. See Lungs of the Earth and vox.com for some great examples; animations can be appealing and Johnny Harris from Vox does explainer videos that show how these can be made cheaply.

    Reaching people with meaningful messages

    If only a small proportion of people are likely to act, speak to those people. Find the ‘champions’ and don’t worry about communicating to the others just yet – they may follow on.

    Put attention on to those living low-carbon or low-plastic lifestyles, rather than shaming them. For some reason, we as a society seem to have taken this path with plant-based diets (influencers have led the way in normalising veganism) but not with other climate-friendly practices.

    Go where the people are – if that means learning how to utilise TikTok, the most-used social channel at the moment, so be it! Learn how to visualise data and include robust and useful climate change information within the TikTok vernacular.

    Games that help us envision the future: There is a disconnect between local discussions on local issues and the big changes that are coming, ‘like the end of the private motor car that in 15 years will be no more relevant than the horse and cart’. Could games help people understand?

    Roadshows Done well, a travelling event with a single message can be very effective.

    Hyperlocal webinars Match local interest community groups with experts in their area, like an e-bike expert talking to cycling groups; a food and growing expert to local gardening groups.

    Systemic change

    We need an effective, overarching law – like GDPR- designed to stamp out mis- and dis-information on the social media platforms.

    Working together

    Open and scaleable solutions When groups create something, they should do so with reuse in mind – create the documentation and support that will make it easy for other groups to pick up and adapt internationally.

    Identify & connect with climate officials working on a topic internationally

    Collaborate internationally or cross-country with other initiatives to collect data.

    Winning elections: Encourage more people to stand for election on a climate platform.

    How the grant could help

    Some ideas for spending the grant.

    Develop the results.org model for mobilising people, with an emphasis on climate.

    Create a model example for how to respond to your council’s Climate Action Plan that people could use as a template.

    Financial support for a data librarian who is available at set times of the week.

    Recruit, train and support ‘community climate champions‘ based in research teams, policy units, universities etc. We couldn’t fund this long term but could dedicate seed funding for an agency to pilot the idea.

    Infographics based on Climate Outreach’s work on persuasive language around climate.

    Give grants to college students who will be able to use them efficiently – with a little going a long way.

    Set up a table at climate protests to seed action in  people who are already feeling passionate, eg ask people to write a letter to their MP that you can gather up and send en masse the next day.

    Run a hackathon or challenge for students to come up with new solutions.

    Research into how communications can be used to overcome climate denialism.

    Make climate change data journalism micro-grants in under-reported regions.

    Communications between climate champions and citizens: Help, for example, the local authorities that have declared climate emergencies to engage citizens with their actions so there is mutual understanding, with a combination of engagement software used in public consultation with local data and the psychology used by Climate Outreach to reach different audiences.

    Action lab

    Some of this discussion also took place on Padlet and you can see more ideas there.

    We are now inviting people to join the working group (aka Action Lab), which will comprise up to six people who are keen to use this discussion to inform the group as they pin down how the grant will be spent.

    To keep an eye on this progress, and to know more about the next Surgery, see the TICTeC website or sign up for email updates.

  3. June Monthnotes from the Climate Programme

    It’s the end of June already and we’re now over half way through the year, the solstice has passed and the days are starting to get shorter! Since the start of April the Climate team have been in a whirl of prototyping weeks which has made time feel like it’s speeding past at a high rate.

    So what have we done this month?

    Trialing Github projects

    Being an open source technical organisation, mySociety does a lot of its development work in GitHub, but on the Climate team we were using a mixture of Trello, spreadsheets and documents to track our priorities and progress. Having everything spread across so many places was causing the team confusion when it came to updating on progress and figuring out which tasks were the next most important.

    So, at the start of June we switched to trialling GitHub’s Projects feature. This seems to answer a lot of our needs right now – everything is in one place, we can use status labels to track the progress on the project and add custom ones which relate to project milestones. It has the bonus effect that we’re not doubling up work by having the same tickets in GitHub and Trello. We’re only two sprints in so far, so still early days but we’re hopeful this might be a simpler way of working.

    Prototyping weeks

    There’s only been one prototyping week in June: A fair transition. This was a tough week as it was such a broad subject and it was difficult to work out what exactly would be most useful for us to work on. This is what we came up with.

    We’ve also been planning for Week 5 – Energy efficiency for rental homes which takes place from 5 -11 July. There’s still time to apply if you’re interested in joining us on this one!

    Communications

    It’s been a busy month for Communications – we’ve put together a pitch for MG OMD, the global marketing agency that will be volunteering their time for us through the Weston Communicating Climate training programme that Myf, our Communications Manager, has been following. It gives us the opportunity to have a big agency input into our plans and maybe give us ideas for new ways of reaching people.

    Myf has also been working on some case studies – one from Sustain and one from Green Finance Institute. They’ll really help to highlight why the climate action plan data we have is so important to making positive change on reducing local climate emissions.

    Data

    Alex has been working hard on our data ecosystem and we now have the local authority data up in a better format. You can find it here: https://mysociety.github.io/uk_local_authority_names_and_codes/

    Events planning

    Finally we’ve been working on events. We have our first Prototyping Show and Tell on Friday 1 July from 2pm – 3:30pm BST: do drop us a line to be added to the event if you want to come along and hear all about how prototyping works and what we’ve found.

    We’ve also started looking at our September event, Innovations in Climate Change, which will be held on September 21 2022 on Zoom. We’re super excited about this and our aim is to bring together local councils, international actors and technology people to share their tech based climate change projects and hopefully inspire some new work to reduce local climate emissions. If any of that sounds like you, sign up to present or keep your eyes peeled for an Eventbrite page to register your attendance.

     

    Image: Natosha Benning

  4. Notes from TICTeC Civic Tech Surgery #3: Accessing quality information for civic tech success

    How can we overcome barriers to accessing good data and documentation?

    Last week, a global audience came together online for the third TICTeC Civic Tech Surgery, our hands-on programme for fixing some of the prevalent problems in civic tech.

    Each TICTeC Lab begins with a public discussion of one topic area affecting the civic tech community. Interested parties can then apply to take suggested ideas forward in a smaller working group, building solutions with the aid of a grant.

    In our third Surgery, the discussants explained the barriers they’ve experienced in accessing good-quality data and information, and then some of the ways they’ve found to meet these challenges, and ideas for what might be missing.

    It was fascinating to learn how similar the issues are, as well as where they diverge, in the several countries represented by our speakers and by the audience.

    This time around, our expert panel comprised Nehemiah Attigah of Odekro in Ghana; Laura Zommer from Chequeado in Argentina; Khairil Yusof representing the Sinar project in Malaysia; Sym Roe of Democracy Club, in the UK; and Nati Carfi of Open Data Charter, in Argentina.

    Notes from the meeting can be seen here, as well as the full recording of the session here and a transcript here, but we’ll summarise the main points in this blog post.

    Problems

    Data is often not in the right format to use digitally or is not machine-readable – documents have to be scanned and then digitised through OCR.

    Officialdom/authorities can be problematic in a number of ways:

    • They might demand unwarranted fees for information;
    • They might be ignorant of legislation such as FOI that requires them to provide information on demand;
    • Laws might be contradictory, for example one law might penalise officials who give out information, while another gives citizens the right to request it;
    • There might a low level of understanding as to how the data could be used;
    • There can be concerns that the data would uncover the authorities’ own corruption;
    • They might stop publishing data or change the format it is in, due to political circumstances;
    • They might work to different deadlines or timescales than is useful for organisations’ needs.

    Even if the data is available, it can be too complex for a non-expert to understand.

    Good open source code that exists might not be suitable for every country’s circumstances.

    Possible solutions

    • When authorities can see the data in use, it’s much easier for them to understand why it’s needed – so resources showing examples of where civic tech is working elsewhere (for example in other countries) or making prototype tools that show what could be done might be a solution.
    • Groups could publish stories in the media about what happens when data stops being published or changes in a way that damages the tools people rely on.
    • Could data sources be archived to provide a permanent home in case the official sources stop publishing them?
    • Educating the public to make them understand data better – through blog posts, podcasts, ‘data translators’ or whatever means.
    • Publishing case studies that explain solutions that haven’t worked, as well as those that have.
    • Training for NGOs and organisations on how to engage with authorities.
    • Training for the public on how to use data.
    • Translating existing guidance on open data standards into languages other than English.
    • Producing resources that explain the value of open data standards rather than just advocating for open data standards in of themselves.
    • Research how access to information laws apply to datasets and how those laws work in practice.

    Action lab

    Some of this discussion also took place on Padlet and you can see more ideas there.

    We are now inviting people to join the working group (aka Action Lab), which will comprise up to six people who are keen to further develop solutions together, for the benefit of the wider civic tech community.

    To keep an eye on this progress, and to know more about the next Surgery, see the TICTeC website or sign up for email updates.

     

  5. We’re keeping events hybrid: will you do the same?

    Suffering from Zoom fatigue? Understandable! We’re all tired of staring into a computer screen, we all miss seeing what people look like from the shoulders down, and we can quite see why some organisations are delighted to be running in-person events again.

    But here’s something worth noting: while the wider world suddenly saw the point of remote events during lockdown, disability activists have been fighting for them for years — long before the pandemic hit. And at mySociety, we’ve come to realise that there are some benefits of virtual events that we shouldn’t be so quick to give up. 

    Opening doors to wider audiences

    Throughout the last couple of years, our events have been freely accessible to those who find travel or in-person meetings difficult. This is no small thing, on all sides. Input from a wide range of viewpoints is valuable, providing lived experience that we might otherwise have missed. 

    Disability isn’t the only reason that people might not be able to, or want to travel. Some are protecting vulnerable housemates or family, and still need to self isolate even if wider society no longer mandates it. 

    Many have made commitments to travel less in the face of the climate emergency. Even if that’s not the case, it now feels odd to travel out of town to an event, giving up hours or even a whole day, when we’re used to joining from the comfort of our own homes. Plus, if an event is just the right fit for your work, but happens to be on a different continent, it’s now perfectly possible to be a part of it. 

    Taking our TICTeC events as an example, in the time we’ve been running them online, we’ve seen participants joining us from around 50 different countries. In person events? It was more like 30.

    Video’s just not the same

    Recordings and transcripts continue to be useful, but let’s face it: ‘a video will be available after the event’ just isn’t the same thing as proper online options for inclusion. People can’t join in, ask questions or be part of discussions if they’re not engaging in real time. 

    Providing a wide range of options for people to attend events, whatever the reason they can or can’t attend in person, means creating flexibility in our spaces. Limited time, energy and/or money are barriers that prevent many marginalised groups from becoming activists, and creating hybrid events help address those barriers.

    A hybrid approach

    Not to say that there aren’t benefits to being in the same room — and providing an option to attend remotely shouldn’t stop organisations from taking the necessary steps to make their venues accessible (we’re looking at you, COP26 conference centre). 

    We miss those in-person moments as much as anyone, and we do still hope to be running real life events in the future. But we’re committing to a hybrid approach and, from now on, we’ll always ensure that, if you’d rather access the event from home, that opportunity will be available. We’re all ears when it comes to the details that will make this work for everyone, so do get in touch if you have ideas.

    In summary, we’ll do our best to ensure that the remote experience is as fulfilling and as close to being in the room as we can make it.

    That’s our commitment — are you doing the same?

     —

    Image – Sigmund

  6. Applications to join our first TICTeC Action Lab are now open

    As part of our new TICTeC Labs programme, last week we convened a Civic Tech Surgery that brought together a group of 100+ civic tech practitioners and researchers from across the world to discuss common challenges of working with governments and public authorities on digital projects to enhance public participation, transparency and accountability, as well as possible solutions to these.

    You can find resources from this Civic Tech Surgery here, including minutes, a summary of inputs, a Padlet of contributions, and the full recording.

    To carry on the Surgery’s momentum, we are now convening an Action Lab (aka working group) of up to 6 individuals, who will work together to commission a piece of work that will be useful to tackle the issues raised in the above Civic Tech Surgery, to answer this question:

    What would help the global civic tech community to work more effectively with public and private institutions?

    We’re pleased to say that applications to join this Action Lab are now open, and we would like to invite those interested in working with others to tackle the above to apply.

    You can apply to join the group by filling in this form by the end of 24 November 2021, and you can find further details about the Action Lab here.

    Funding will be available to those who apply to work on the piece of work identified by the Action Lab.

    The TICTeC Labs programme is made possible thanks to support from the National Endowment for Democracy.

  7. TICTeC Civic Tech Surgery #1: Public-private collaborations

    As outlined in this blog post, as part of our brand new TICTeC Labs programme, we’ll be hosting a series of Civic Tech Surgeries to diagnose, dissect and address Civic Tech dilemmas to unlock impact.

    I’m delighted to share details of our first Civic Tech Surgery. It will be held online on 28th October 14.00 – 16.00 GMT+1, and the topic is: Public-private collaborations: how can civic tech work effectively with public and private institutions?

    During the Surgery, we will hear about the challenges of working on private-public civic tech projects from practitioners from across the world, as well as their solutions and ideas to tackle these. There will be ample opportunity for attendees to also provide their feedback on issues they have faced, and their solutions and ideas.

    The Surgery will also feature reflections from civic tech researchers, to give perspectives on any existing evidence or research ideas on the topic that might be beneficial, that can then be elaborated on in subsequent TICTeC Action Labs.

    After not being able to meet as a global community in-person since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, we’re really excited to again facilitate the exchange of relevant and timely research, lessons learnt, successes, failures, ideas and code amongst the civic tech sector globally, so ultimately, civic tech tools are more effective.

    Who are Civic Tech Surgeries for?

    Anyone interested in the use and effectiveness of digital tools to enhance public participation, democracy, transparency and accountability.

    We think the event will be of particular interest to civic tech practitioners and researchers, elected government representatives, civil servants, technology companies, funders and software developers.

    Register to attend

    The Civic Tech Surgery will be held virtually on Zoom. You need to register to attend by signing up on this Eventbrite page.

    We look forward to seeing you there! To hear of future TICTeC events and initiatives first, do consider signing up to our mailing list.

  8. Introducing TICTeC Labs

    We’re delighted to share an exciting new chapter for TICTeC.

    TICTeC stands for ‘The Impacts of Civic Technology Conference’. Since 2015 mySociety has convened an international cohort of those who build, use and research technologies that aim to enhance public participation, transparency and accountability, in order to openly and honestly examine how digital civic interventions are shaping society.

    Discussion leading to action

    Now, thanks to financial support from the National Endowment for Democracy, TICTeC is expanding from an annual conference into a continuous programme of activities and events that will run across the next 18 months, primarily remotely.

    The aim is to discuss and tackle some of the biggest challenges facing the global civic tech/digital democracy sector — and once they’ve been identified, we’ll grant participants the funding that will enable them to work on solutions.

    We’re calling this new programme TICTeC Labs and it consists of two streams:

    1. Civic Tech Surgeries

    Regular online convenings bringing together the global civic tech community to discuss challenges facing the sector, to share existing research and experience, and identify evidence gaps and other needs.

    Each Civic Tech Surgery will be around two hours long, and open to participants from around the world; there will be six surgeries across the next 18 months, each focused on a specific theme identified as a key challenge for the global civic tech sector.

    The first Civic Tech Surgery

    Public-private collaborations: how can civic tech work effectively with public and private institutions?

    28 October 14.00 – 16.00 GMT+1

    Read more about it and sign up here.

    2. Action Labs

    A collaborative and action-oriented process to take forward ideas generated in Civic Tech Surgeries and support initiatives that address common challenges.

    Following each surgery session, a working group of expert individuals will be convened to lead the Action Lab for that issue area, feeding back to the wider pool of participants as they go. Action Labs members will work together to decide what would be helpful to produce in order to help the civic tech community with challenges identified in Civic Tech Surgeries.

    Grants will be available to those who apply to actually produce the work identified by the Action Lab.

    We’ll be opening applications to join the first TICTeC Action Lab soon, so do sign up for updates.

    Oversight

    To help guide and promote the TICTeC Labs programme, as well as to make it as relevant and inclusive as possible to local and regional contexts and contributors, we have established a global Steering Group. We are delighted to welcome the following exceptional people to the TICTeC Labs Steering Group, and we thank them for their contributions:

    • Neema Iyer, Founder, Pollicy
    • Oscar Montiel, Independent Consultant (formerly The Engine Room, Codeando México, Open Knowledge etc)
    • Matt Stempeck, Technologist in Residence, Cornell University, and founder and director of the Civic Tech Field Guide
    • Isabel Hou, Open Culture Foundation and g0v
    • Nonso Jideofor, Funding & Partnerships Manager, Code for All

    With the help of the Steering Group we have now identified topics for the Civic Tech Surgeries and Action Labs over the next 18 months:

    • Public-private collaborations: how can civic tech work effectively with public and private institutions?
    • Ensuring civic tech is accessible: how can we lead and popularise best practice?
    • Accessing quality information: how can we overcome barriers to accessing good data and documentation?
    • Scaling and replicating civic tech: how can we overcome the well known challenges to achieving scale and replication?
    • Tackling the climate crisis with civic tech: Where can civic tech be most impactful?
    • Storytelling and reach: how can we amplify our successes beyond the civic tech community to evidence our impact through mainstream channels?

    If you would like to join a Civic Tech Surgery as a discussant to share your experiences of, or reflect on, any of the above topics, then please get in touch. We will of course communicate dates for the Civic Tech Surgeries in due course, and you can hear these first by signing up to our mailing list.

    Future plans

    We do of course still plan to host our usual in-person TICTeC global gatherings again in future, but at this stage we still think it is too early to start organising a conference with attendees from over 35 countries worldwide, whilst international travel is still so uncertain.

    This is why TICTeC Labs is so exciting – we can’t wait to connect more meaningfully with the global civic tech community again and ensure that the peer and cooperation network we worked so hard to build through TICTeC conferences can survive and thrive in this period of uncertainty. We really hope you can join us for this new chapter.

  9. TICTeC Show & Tell: Empowering communities using geospatial technology

    The last in the current season of online Show and Tell TICTeC events gathered together six speakers, each looking at how geospatial data has brought benefits to their sector. From fighting corruption to closing down illegal factories, preventing female genital mutilation and enabling people to envisage what new buildings will look like in their neighbourhood, the applications are wide-ranging, ingenious and sometimes surprising.

    We heard about the increased levels of confidence and happiness of OpenStreetMappers in Kathmandu; how hard it can be to get governments off paper and onto digital in Ukraine; how mapping has allowed the police to raid illegal FGM events in Tanzania; and an app allowing the reporting of illegal factories in Taiwan, as well as two projects from the UK focusing on improving the planning system.

    Our technical luck had held for all the online events we’d hosted previously, but sadly this one did feature some gremlins that meant Yun Chan’s presentation wasn’t audible in places. Fortunately her slides can be seen here and you can read about the project in English in this article.

    Full video

     


    #PlanTech and the geospatial ecosystem

    Ben Fowkes, Delib

    The climate crisis and the pandemic have shown that we have to modernise the places we live and work, and the means by which we get between them, if we’re to be ready for the future. Every local policy decision now has a spatial consideration, from how we reduce our transport systems’ impact on the environment to how our cities adapt to more people working from home.

    Delib’s new PlanTech product, Citizen Space Geospatial, incorporates interactive mapping and geospatial data throughout the digital engagement process, with broad-reaching implications for the field of public participation.

    See this presentation


    What are the effects of OpenStreetMapping on the mappers themselves?

    Aishworya Shrestha, Kathmandu Living Labs

    We all understand the benefits of OpenStreetMap to society as a whole — but new research indicates that the very experience of contributing to the crowdsourced geospatial database has quantifiable long term beneficial effects, increasing the skills, wellbeing and self-belief of those who volunteer.

    Aishworya talks through an extended study which examined the skill-based and emotional effects on a cohort of interns who contributed to maps in Nepal.

    See this presentation


    Open data for local self governance: learnings from five Ukrainian cities

    Nadiia Babynska, OpenUp Ukraine

    Nadiia, who project managed the GIS for Integrity cities project, discusses how to improve data and assets governance at the local level, how digitalisation can allow access to public information and the development and launch of (geo)information systems.

    Using examples from five Ukrainian cities she discusses implementation, problems and barriers. Open data, open source and open by default/by design principles are at the core of these projects.

    See this presentation


    Digital Champions: community led development monitoring in Tanzania

    Janet Chapman (Tanzania Development Trust/Crowd2Map)

    In another vivid demonstration of the power and versatility of OpenStreetMap, Janet presents Crowd2Map’s activities in Tanzania, which include countering female genital mutilation and gender-based violence, plotting access to water and health facilities and surveying villagers’ SDG priorities.

    This volunteer project trained first time smartphone users in all 87 villages of Serengeti District to become digital champions, with positive results.

    See this presentation


    Disfactory: mapping and reporting illegal factories in Taiwan

    Yun Chen, g0v.tw community, Taiwan

    Taiwan is home to an estimated 55,000 illegal factories, situated on farmland across the country. Thanks to the Disfactory platform, a crowdsourced project born from a hackathon, anyone can now report a factory they suspect of operating illegally.

    The project has changed government policy, opened up data and brought about the investigation — and even demolition — of more than 150 factories. Here is a real example of where civic tech has brought positive change to society.

    Unfortunately Yun-Chen experienced technical issues during their presentation, so there is currently no recording of their presentation, but you can find their presentation slides on this page.


    Visualising the future: how 3D imaging helps residents understand proposed changes

    Peter Kemp, Planning at the Greater London Authority

    London needs housing: that is clear. But when construction is planned in a local neighbourhood, it’s understandable that existing residents might not fully comprehend the changes that are proposed — and evidence suggests that 45% of the UK’s population are unable to read a plan.

    What if game engine technology could be repurposed to give people a realistic image of how their neighbourhood would look, should plans be passed? With everyone better informed, any objections would be based on facts rather than assumptions. When 3D Repo brought this idea to the Mayor of London’s Civic Innovation Challenge, it won the award.

    See this presentation


     

    That’s the last TICTeC Show and Tell for now, but watch this space for details of our future events, online and — here’s hoping — in person.

    You can make sure you always know what’s going on by signing up to our once-a-month newsletter.

  10. Reforming FOI in the UK: policy paper launch

    Thanks to everyone who attended the launch of our Research department’s policy paper this week.

    Open Democracy’s Peter Geoghegan and Open Rights Group’s Jim Killock joined us at the event for a fast paced discussion of the problems with FOI we’re all seeing in the current climate, and to what extent the proposals in our paper would remedy them.

    At times, the chat box  was so lively and knowledgeable that it felt like we’d convened the entire UK FOI community, but we know that isn’t quite true, so here’s the video for those that couldn’t make it:

    We’ve also answered the most relevant of the questions that were posed by our attendees, and you can see the responses here. Thanks, too, to Open Democracy for reviewing the paper in this thoughtful piece.

    Alex Parsons, who led on the research, has a handful of side explorations that didn’t end up in the final paper:

    And finally, if all this talk of FOI has awakened your desire to do more around the topic, well, we have just the job opportunity for you.