A couple of weeks ago we hosted the fifth edition of our research conference The Impacts of Civic Technology Conference (TICTeC) in Paris, in association with the OECD at their beautiful conference centre.
It was the biggest TICTeC event yet – we were thrilled to bring together 200 leaders in the field from 29 countries to take stock of the civic technology research landscape and to discuss what works and what doesn’t when it comes to using technology for social good.
76 speakers from 14 countries covered topics such as: fighting ‘platform populists’; investing in the future of civic tech; learning from setbacks; the impacts of civic tech in Latin America; civic tech’s role as a response to the ‘gilets jaunes’; the opportunities and limitations of participatory budgeting; empowering women through civic tech; working with governments on civic tech; and the state of open data across the world. And many, many more.
Thank you to everyone involved for sharing your experiences and research.
If you weren’t able to attend (or indeed if you’d like to experience it all again), do check out the TICTeC 2019 web page to see videos of key conference sessions, photos, and slides where available.
As a taster, here’s an overview of the whole event… in just two minutes:
Thank you again to Google, Luminate, OECD and the MacArthur Foundation for supporting TICTeC. We’ll keep you all posted on next year’s event over on the research mailing list and on the TICTeC Google Group.
Our recent TICTeC event in Paris was hosted by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development, OECD.
Reflecting on Civic Tech and the role of the OECD, their Director of Public Affairs and Communications Anthony Gooch contributes this post.
Acronyms tend to hold a certain degree of mystery, and yet we use them all the time in policy making. On 19 March, I welcomed a new acronym to the OECD: TICTeC, aka “The Impacts of Civic Technology Conference”. It was my first TICTeC, but the fifth annual edition, bringing together more than 200 participants from civil society, academia, business and government from around the world – all of them working hard to find solutions that marry technological capacity with civic engagement and participatory practices.
Our intention in hosting TICTeC was two-fold: to demystify each other’s acronyms and to draw on both of our convening powers to explore new opportunities for collective action.
As an international organisation, the OECD is a partner for civil society and the people behind movements and organisations. We know that policy is not made in a vacuum and its impacts are not limited to one part of society alone. To ensure that we deliver on our mission of “Better Policies for Better Lives”, we must help governments to respond to the needs of their citizens. This also involves evolving our thinking about the route to collective intelligence and where technology plays a role. Our vocation goes beyond the provision of cold, dry facts – we are in the business of improving people’s lives.
In the past decade, Civic Tech has shifted from a fringe movement of hackers and coders to a more mainstream term – importantly, used by policy makers and shapers. Three years ago, the OECD didn’t really use the term “Civic Tech”. Organisations such as ours are not known for our speed and reactivity, but it is now part of our vocabulary.
In 2016 I read an article by Catherine Vincent in Le Monde: Civic Tech: Is it going to save politics?. It said: “By connecting a wide number of citizens, Civic Tech allows them to access information, creates a space for dialogue and sharing opinions, essentially harnessing collective intelligence ensuring better citizen participation in democracy”. Could these elements help the OECD to maintain its relevance and credibility in a rapidly changing societal context?
We’ve seen the values of Civic Tech – transparency, accountability, participation, citizen engagement – as a compass for helping us navigate and improve our engagement with people. It has also taught us lessons about how to achieve greater impact. Even more importantly, it exposed us to a community of people behind the technological solutions, who are challenging their own assumptions and working on concrete projects.
What have we learned from them?
- The real potential of these technologies has yet to be realised;
- Offline engagement strategies – meeting people where they are – are equally, if not more important for the adoption and the quality of impact of Civic Tech;
- Open source – decentralised, collaborative peer production of software – is vital for shared tools, but the digital divide isn’t simply erased by Civic Tech;
- We need to be constantly evaluating our assumptions.
We’ve continued to witness manifestations of Civic Tech in government practice over the years. Our colleagues at the OECD have examined the role of GovTech, participatory budgeting, open government data and local level efforts in our reports and we’re sharing this experience further and further. The TICTeC community provides a different and complementary vantage point and a host of potential avenues for collaboration.
At TICTeC 2019, we shared a number OECD of initiatives that focused on:
- Quantifying intra-urban inequalities in subjective well-being;
- More inclusive public services design and delivery;
- Citizen engagement around people’s quality of life via the OECD Better Life Index and where to go next.
OECD was not just there to present, but to harness the collective intelligence of the Civic Tech community. What struck me during TICTeC was the focus on seeking to measure the real impact of Civic Tech and understanding its limitations. We tend to attach much hope to technologies that strive to help us navigate misinformation, political processes and systems, and public services. After more than decade, Civic Tech as a field is maturing and facing the challenges of greater public expectations and its own sustainability.
The OECD is committed to serving people from all parts of the globe, and we strive to bring the wealth of experience, views and ideas to bear on policy making. This is something that crystalises at our annual OECD Forum, including more voices to help us address the world’s pressing challenges in an open, dynamic and creative space. Since 2017 and continuing with the 20th edition on 20-21 May “World in EMotion”, it is an opportunity to get Civic Tech organisations and actors into the OECD bloodstream – channeling and transmitting this interest and enthusiasm to our colleagues and stakeholders.
For the third year, we will be hosting the Civic Innovation Hub, showcasing Civic Tech and social innovations that strive for better outcomes. Presenters will discuss how their projects are having an impact on what matters in people’s daily lives – from education to environment, community to jobs – and touching on opportunities and challenges for making positive change. We will also shed light on the tensions happening in on- and off-line spaces in terms of inclusiveness, accountability and efficiency.
Whether we use technology because we want to revitalise the relationship citizens have with their cities, their communities or their representatives and governments, we understand it is the vehicle, but not the destination. We must continue to share our visions, our successes and our failures, and seek opportunities to collaborate. We are excited to continue working together to achieve greater impact.
Anthony Gooch, OECD
Every year, our Impacts of Civic Technology conference TICTeC increases, in both size and ambition.
The event in Paris last week — the fifth annual TICTeC — was a total sell-out despite having a larger capacity than in previous years. At times the schedule featured an unprecedented four simultaneous tracks, giving delegates more to choose from but also perhaps, making those decisions a little more difficult.
And while we’ve naturally always striven to be as diverse and inclusive as possible, it was also the first TICTeC where female speakers outnumbered male ones. There were 76 speakers from 14 different countries. Of these, 39 were women. Delegates came from 29 nations around the world (frustratingly, as always, some of our speakers had their visas turned down, which is not only disappointing in terms of the event’s overall diversity, but also means we don’t get to hear the view from those particular corners of the world).
Thanks are due
Thanks to our hosts the OECD, we were able to enjoy state of the art conference rooms, and spaces within a château that came complete with their own chandeliers. Within these gilded walls we heard from a diverse range of speakers, engaged in debates and found commonalities across our work in Civic Tech.
It’s always so gratifying to hear directly from the practitioners, academics and funders who can share their real-world experiences: thank you so much to everyone who spoke or ran a session.
Thank you also to the MacArthur Foundation for providing travel grants to some attendees.
Relive the highlights
Doubtless everyone will have come away with their own set of memorable moments, but for now you can watch the three sessions that we live- streamed, which are still available to view on YouTube:
Keynote Alessandra Orofino opened the conference with a truly inspiring presentation about tackling ‘platform politicians’ of the far right, something she’s had plenty of practice with through Nossas, the organisation she founded in Latin America. Sounding a very welcome note of optimism, Alessandra assured us that “the next generation will save democracy if we let them”. You can watch the whole session on YouTube and we highly recommend that you do: we knew it had been a hit when even the cameraman was moved.
Yearly condensed shot of inspiration just started! #TICTeC keynote speech describing positive reinforcement methodologies for activism and participation. Full of hope! Thanks to Alessandra Orofino – @Meu_Rio #Nossas pic.twitter.com/n9PjnOkX1a
— Matthieu Bosquet (@cognithive) March 19, 2019
In the French Context session, we were given a great overview of France’s very timely hopes for Civic Tech, including participatory budgeting and citizen decision-making. Deputy Mayor of Paris Pauline Véron, Paula Forteza MP and Tatiana de Feraudy from Decider ensemble spoke very convincingly about how the time is ripe for more collaborative, open democracy: as Paula noted, when she first invited us to bring TICTeC to Paris, none of us had any idea that it would be such a timely event — but with the rise of the gilets jaunes and the Grand Débat National put in place by Macron as a way for everyone to have their say in decisions around four major areas including Democracy and Citizenship, it could hardly have been more relevant. See the whole conversation here.
Our day two keynote was James Anderson from Bloomberg Philanthropies, who ran through several examples of local governments grasping the reins and making innovative, imaginative decisions against a ‘crisis of legitimacy that is unprecedented within our generation’. He also reminded us of the ‘huge power in calling out a status quo that isn’t giving us the results we want’; there was lots lots more to interest anyone who’s wondering how we can solve the democratic issues of our time; catch it all by watching the livestream of the session here.
The Civic team at Facebook have been guests at every TICTeC since the 2016 event in Barcelona: they’re always keen to report on the ways in which they are using the platform’s enormous reach in order to increase democratic engagement; and because it helps complete a rounded picture of the Civic Tech world, we welcome the opportunity to hear from a tech giant. This year, Director of Product Management Samidh Chakrabarti, Data Scientist Monica Lee and Product Manager Antonia Woodford detailed the tools, systems and increased staffing they put in place to counteract abuse and disinformation during the US midterm elections. At Facebook’s request, this session was not videoed, but it was much tweeted.
— James Cronin (@jamescronin) March 20, 2019
Also unforgettable was the reception we were given at the French National Assembly: thanks very much to Paula Forteza and her team for hosting us there and giving us this special opportunity to see inside France’s ‘lower house’, where Mounir Mahjoubi, Secretary of State for Digital Affairs, gave TICTeC attendees a fulsome welcome and outlined their vision for Civic Tech in the tricky political climate that France is currently facing. He echoed Paula’s words from her earlier presentation at TICTeC, saying that while previously they were delighted if a few thousand citizens took part in their consultations, they are now overwhelmed by the take-up of millions who want to have their voices heard. Digital democracy is certainly having its moment.
After a day discussing how tech can help democracy, Mounir Mahjoubi, France’s Secretary of State for digital affairs, tells a room full of activists and tech people: “We are at a new moment. People expect to be listened to. And maybe there are new ways to listen to them.” #TICTeC pic.twitter.com/7XF6SjsW0I
— Hazel Sheffield (@hazelsheffield) March 19, 2019
We’ll be adding videos of several more sessions as soon as they’ve been edited, as well as photos and slides from as many presentations as possible. There are several ways to make sure you’re informed when they’re ready to view: watch our Twitter stream, sign up to our newsletter, or just check the TICTeC website for the latest updates. If it’s just the videos that you’re interested in, you can also subscribe to our YouTube channel.
As we speak, several excitable members of the mySociety team are on their way to TICTeC 2019 via the channel tunnel. We’re so looking forward to catching up with the Civic Tech community and hearing all about the research you’ve conducted since last year.
Whether it’s your first time at TICTeC or you’re returning, we know there will be much to enjoy. We’re especially eager to hear the view from France’s Civic Tech movement. Speakers will include our hosts at OECD; MP Paula Forteza; Secretary of State for the Digital Sector Mounir Majoubi; and Pauline Véron, Deputy Mayor of Paris.
We’ve shouted a lot about our two keynotes, Alessandra Orofino of Nossas and James Anderson of Bloomberg Philanthropies: if you need a refresher on their inspirational backgrounds, follow those links to read the relevant posts. But there is plenty more to engage you, too.
This year we’ve noted strong themes coming through in the selected sessions, including the potential for Civic Tech to tackle political polarisation, fake news and civil unrest; women in Civic Tech; and the impacts/practicalities of participatory budgeting, among many, many other strands. You can see the full rundown via our Twitter feed, which we’ve been using to trail every session over the last couple of weeks.
If you’re now kicking yourself because you can’t make it, do watch out for our live streaming of key presentations. You’ll be able to see these on YouTube. If you’re a YouTube user, you can visit the links listed below now, and click the ‘set reminder’ grey button so that you’ll receive a nudge to watch:
Or if you’re more habitually on Facebook, we’ve also listed ‘events’: follow these to make sure you receive a reminder before we go live (they’ll remind you to go to the YouTube link, where the actual streaming will be taking place):
- Keynote, Alessandra Orofino, 10:30 – 11:15 am Tues 19 March. YouTube stream here. Facebook event here.
- The French context (Tatiana de Feraudy, Paula Forteza MP, Pauline Véron, Deputy Mayor of Paris), 16:30 – 17:45 Tues 19 March. YouTube stream here. Facebook event here.
- Keynote 2, James Anderson, 12:15 – 13:00 Weds 20 March. YouTube stream here. Facebook event here.
No need to fret if you can’t make the livestreams, either. As always, we’ll also be posting permanent videos of all the main presentations, along with slides and photos as soon as we can after the event.
And for now, on y va!
We’ve just shared the schedule for our Impacts of Civic Technology conference, TICTeC, and in all honesty? We’re excited.
It’s almost complete, but we’ll be adding a few more details of additional sessions once they’re confirmed. We’re also expecting a number of side events to spring up, too. Yes, that’s right, TICTeC has grown a fringe!
TICTeC has been growing in momentum since its beginnings in 2014. This year, once again, thanks to a higher number of submissions than ever — and the increasing quality of those submissions — you’ll experience an unsurpassed line-up of speakers, each with deep insights into the field.
Tickets are going faster than ever before: more than half of them are sold already, and and we expect to sell out well before the event, so don’t delay if you’re hoping to join us in Paris: register now.
Each day will kick off with an inspiring presentation from a standout practitioner that has brought significant change through Civic Tech projects.
On day one Alessandra Orofino, founder of Nossas, will speak about her project to empower citizens throughout Latin America; day two begins with Bloomberg Philanthropies’ James Anderson explaining how a global network of mayors are sharing technologies to improve cities worldwide.
As always, TICTeC examines projects from across the Civic Tech field; but each year, certain themes emerge that reflect the current preoccupations of society more broadly.
The French experience
Thanks to generous support from the OECD, our venue is the beautiful OECD Headquarters & Conference Centre in Paris. It’s fitting that, during the two days, we’ll hear a lot from those making a difference in the French context.
Speakers include Pauline Véron, Deputy Mayor of Paris and member of the Socialiste party; Paula Forteza, MP with En Marche! and Tatiana de Feraudy from Décider ensemble.
They’ll be not only giving us a good overview of Civic Tech in France, but also looking at how digital democracy might be the key to the issues raised by the Gilets Jaunes uprising.
The wisdom of crowds
As concepts such as Participatory Budgeting reach maturity, we can now stand back and assess what works well and what doesn’t, when you turn to the citizenry for decision-making.
Theo Bass from Nesta in the UK will examine online deliberation tools; Benjamin Snow from Germany’s Civocracy will give an honest look at what you can do when citizen consultation tools launch with a sizzle rather than a bang. Thanks to Reboot‘s Panthea Lee and Gil Pradeau from the University of Westminster, we’ll get a look at Participatory Budgeting in both the US and France.
Extremism, and its spread via digital means, are of course of huge concern across many different countries.
We’ll hear from the USA’s National Democratic Institute on how Civic Tech might tackle political polarisation; and from the UK’s Full Fact on how machine learning can simplify the factchecker’s job. Marko Skoric from Hong Kong will examine whether blocking, filtering and unfriending on social media actually adds to division.
This very current concern is sure to be in evidence right across many of the other sessions, too.
The urban experience
Taking a cue from James’ keynote, we’ll see many examinations of Civic Tech in the city, from Jose Alberto Gomez of Mexico on better mobile apps for fault reporting; to analyses of Civic Tech in diverse urban areas from the Centre for Conflict and Participation Studies in Italy. And our hosts OECD will be presenting the concept of an urban barometer.
Impactful Civic Tech projects
Luminate are one of several participants in a panel which examines Civic Tech in Latin America for a wider understanding of applicable insights. Jasmina Haynes from Integrity Action in the UK will present the Nepalse experience on how to check whether grants are doing everything the funders hoped they would. And several more sessions will have an emphasis on ensuring initiatives are impactful.
With three to four tracks running each day, there’s plenty to choose from — including a look at the issues that arise in long-running Civic Tech projects, by mySociety’s own developer Matthew Somerville — so make sure to have a browse through the schedule for a full picture of what to expect.
And then, we can’t stress this enough: book your ticket, or you might be too late.
When you realise that borrowing ideas is not a sign of weakness, but as Bloomberg Philanthropies‘ James Anderson puts it ‘a badge of honour’, you can really maximise the benefits for cities — and their citizens — around the world.
That’s the thinking behind the Government Innovation programs James heads up: despite the diversity of the world’s cities, it’s undeniable that they are facing many of the same problems, from climate change to low civic participation, from pollution to health issues.
If a scheme in one city is driving forward sustainability, growth or efficiency, why expect others to reinvent the wheel hundreds of times? It makes perfect sense to pass on the findings about what works and what doesn’t to other cities facing similar issues.
Among other initiatives, James is responsible for forging a global network of mayors in 290 cities across 25 countries, to share knowledge and technology around areas as diverse as bike-sharing schemes, measures against childhood obesity and urban sprawl, tackling corruption, encouraging recycling, and many many more.
You can tap into Bloomberg Philanthropies’ vision and James’ own hands-on experience by coming to our conference on the impacts of civic technology, TICTeC. James is the second of our keynote speakers (see Alessandro Orofino, our other keynote here), and we know that he’ll be offering inspirational and tangible takeaways from a perspective that’s highly relevant for our times.
Make sure you don’t miss out: book your ticket to TICTeC now.
Need a bit of inspiration in these turbulent political times? You’ll get it in spades from ‘urban activist’ Alessandra Orofino, the first of our confirmed keynote speakers for TICTeC 2019.
Founder of Meu Rio (My Rio), Alessandra hasn’t just brought about change herself; she first gave 160,000 residents in her native city of Rio de Janeiro the power to do it for themselves, with an array of digital tools that facilitate campaigns, civic engagement and participation, and then went on to found the even more ambitious Nossas to unroll similar initiatives across several other Brazilian cities.
Each calls itself a network of inclusion for a more democratic, inclusive and sustainable city, allowing people to organise around causes and places they care about. The vast majority of its members are in their twenties — as is Alessandra herself.
At mySociety, we talk a lot about giving people the tools they need to be active citizens, and Nossas is a shining example of what you can achieve on that front. Stacy Donahue of Luminate — the philanthropic organisation supporting technology that empowers people and institutions to build just and fair societies — thinks so too, calling Alessandra an inspiring role model amongst investees.
Meu Rio saw early successes such as preventing a school from being replaced by a carpark for the World Cup; and the introduction of a new missing persons system for the police, to deal with a chronic lack of information around a major issue for the city. Now, similar breakthroughs are being made on a regular basis by its sister organisations under the Nossas banner.
If this can be done for cities as large and diverse as Rio de Janeiro, Recife, Porto Alegre and São Paulo, then why not everywhere? Book your ticket for TICTeC now, and learn what it will take to empower citizens in your own locality — directly from one who has done it herself.
Friday was the final date for submitting a paper or workshop submission to TICTeC, our conference on the impacts of civic technology — and it’s official: you’ve blown us away.
In this, our fifth year, we’ve received so many high-quality submissions that we’re already wondering if there’s any way to cram more sessions into the agenda. If not, we’re well aware that we’ll be turning down some presentations that, in previous years, would easily have made the grade.
Right now, we’re assessing all the proposals and finding the emerging themes that will allow us to shape the agenda. With over 50 more submissions than last year, Head of Research Rebecca says, “I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s going to be a massive struggle to decide what goes into the programme” — so please bear with us if there’s a slight delay in notifying you of our decisions.
We want to thank everyone who’s taken the time to submit a proposal, especially given the high quality that runs right through them this year. We’re taking this as a sign of TICTeC’s growing recognition as the must-attend conference for all involved in our field… and we’re very grateful for all those who come together each year and help to make it just that.
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.
Research Mailing List
Sign up below to hear when this report is published.
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 email@example.com, 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.
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.