1. From promise trackers to participatory budgeting — and everything in between: TICTeC 2019

    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.

    Our keynotes

    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 PhilanthropiesJames Anderson explaining how a global network of mayors are sharing technologies to improve cities worldwide.

    Themes

    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.

    Image by Patrice Calatayou - Gilets Jaune marching in Paris

    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.

    Image by Daniel Latour: a room full of citizens partaking in a PB session

    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.

    Tackling extremism

    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.

    Image by Ken Douglas - sunrise over urban silhouettes

    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.

    TICTeC 2018

    And more

    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.

    Act now

    And then, we can’t stress this enough: book your ticket, or you might be too late.

    Images: Gilets jaunes Patrice Calatayu (CC-by-sa/2.0); Capital budgeting session Daniel Latorre (CC by/2.0);

    Urban dawn Ken Douglas (CC by-nc-nd/2.0)

  2. TICTeC 2019 keynote speaker: James Anderson

    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.

  3. TICTeC 2019 keynote speaker: Alessandra Orofino

    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.


    Image: TED conference (CC by-nc/2.0)

  4. “Just wow”: your TICTeC submissions are amazing

    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.

  5. 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.

     

  6. 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.

     

  7. 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

  8. 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.

     

     

  9. 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.

     

  10. 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)