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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.
Thanks to the kind support of FutureGov, we have a set number of sponsored places for public sector attendees — at no cost. If you work in the public sector and can commit to attending please choose the ‘Public Sector Sponsored Tickets’ option on Eventbrite.
With a heady blend of innovators from within government, and external practitioners who are driving social change, TICTeC Local is going to be like nothing we’ve ever seen before in the sector.
We’ve already announced many of the speakers, including Paul Maltby, Chief Digital Officer at the Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government, and Beatrice Karol Burks, Director at Futuregov.
Now here are a few more of the movers and shakers who’ll be inspiring you:
Chief Digital Officer for London
Theo is London’s first Chief Digital Officer. His job is to transform the capital into the world’s smartest city, and to make public services more accessible, efficient and responsive to the needs of Londoners.
Previously with Camden council, Theo was credited with bringing it the title of ‘leading digital borough’ thanks to its use of public data; he has also worked at GovTech accelerator Public Group.
Head of Local Digital Collaboration Unit, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
Leading this relatively new unit, Linda aims to disrupt the local government IT market and stimulate the move towards interoperability standards for local services. She has a background with Government Digital Service and was also the founder of Thinking Development, an NGO created in response to Haiti’s 2010 earthquake.
Deputy CEO and digital transformation lead, Wigan Council
Advocating ‘digital by default’ strategies wherever possible, Alison is widely seen as the reason Wigan council was named as LGC Digital Council of the year; she’s known for embracing cutting-edge technologies in the pursuit of better public services, and happily collaborates with other authorities to help everyone innovate for good.
Director of Government Innovation, Nesta
Eddie works with city data analytics, behavioural insights, digital government, collaborative platforms and digital democracy for Nesta, the global innovation foundation. He is an advocate of government and public sector organisations making smarter use of people, data and technology to deliver more and better with less.
Co-founder & managing director at Snook
Innovating through research, strategy, design and delivery, Snook only works on projects that will have a meaningful impact on society. That’s led them into designing tech for fishermen, domestic abuse survivors, cyclists and plenty more. Sarah was awarded a Google Fellowship for her work in technology and democratic innovation and named as one of Good magazine’s 100 extraordinary individuals tackling global issues in creative ways.
Research, Engagement and Communities Team Lead, The Engine Room
Zara has worked in over twenty countries in the field of information accessibility and data use among civil society. Now, with social change NGO The Engine Room, she works with communities and organisations to help understand how new uses of data can responsibly strengthen their work.
Strategic Head: Policy & Information Services, Stockport Council
Stockport Council is working, under the banner of the Digital Stockport project, to improve the customer experience through the use of online technologies. Steve leads organisational and place-based strategy, and the Digital by Design programme. He sits on the @GMCADigital Steering Group and is prototyping a Greater Manchester Office of Data Analytics.
Lead Consultant, Shaping Cloud
Defining the use of cloud within central and local government to re-imagine the way services are delivered, Shaping Cloud informs and advises on digital transformation. Helen brings prior experience as a CIO and Director in the public sector.
Open Data Manchester
Open Data Manchester is an association for people who are interested in realising the potential of data to benefit citizens, business and public bodies. Previously with FutureEverything, Julian led the Open Data Cities programme, bringing about a change in the way that public bodies within Greater Manchester use data.
IF helps organisations to earn the trust of their users when it comes to data, advising on design and security, and always with a focus on ethical practice.
As IF’s inhouse designer, Maria is well-placed to explain how good design can play a critical part in this mission.
Founder & CEO, Shift
Shift is an award-winning charity, designing products and building social ventures for social change. Nick was named one of Britain’s 50 New Radicals by The Observer and NESTA and is a board member of the Centre for the Acceleration of Social Technology.
Don’t miss TICTeC Local
There’s more information about TICTeC Local on the main TICTeC website.
Tuesday 6 November sees the first ever TICTeC Local, a one day conference examining Civic Tech at the cutting edge of local government.
mySociety’s annual TICTeC conference has already established itself as the must-attend event for the Civic Tech community. Now TICTeC Local promises the same opportunities for learning, networking and take-home lessons — for Local Government. If you have an interest in how technology is changing the ways citizens interact with councils and city governments, this conference is for you.
Where Civic Tech meets Local Government
The schedule is shaping up nicely for a full day of commentary and presentations from inspiring thinkers.
They are a blend of hands-on Civic Tech practitioners, and representatives from the authorities, both in the UK and abroad, who are transforming local services at the grassroots level.
Here’s a run-down of the speakers confirmed so far.
Chief Digital Officer, Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government
As Director of Data at the Government Digital Service (GDS), Paul led a cross-government programme designed to improve the way government approaches, uses and handles data. He’s now brought his insights to Local Government, as CDO at MHCLG. No-one is better placed to give us the ‘state of the nation’ when it comes to how digital technologies can transform citizen-government interactions.
Head of Democracy, Kirklees Council
Carl is known for innovative approaches to service delivery, citizen engagement and governance. His passion for local democracy is demonstrated by his role in establishing Notwestminster, a national network where people can share ideas for improving local democracy.
José María Becerra González
Consul project, Madrid City Council
Consul is a free citizen participation tool which fosters transparency and democracy in local government. It’s being used in 18 countries around the world to give citizens a say in the decisions that shape their communities.
Data and Information Systems Technical Architect, Lincolnshire County Council
Lincolnshire Council are the latest to integrate with fault-reporting service FixMyStreet, as part of a council-wide strategy to shift to digital.
From Civic Tech
Anthony Zacharzewski and Michelle Brook
The Democratic Society
The Democratic Society (Demsoc) works for more and better democracy, helping governments that want to involve citizens in decision-making to be transparent, open and welcoming of participation. Anthony founded DemSoc in 2006 after 14 years in strategic roles in UK central and local government; and as Managing Director, Michelle leads on the organisation’s research projects.
Beatrice Karol Burks
Studio Director, FutureGov
FutureGov seeks to reform public services by supporting organisations through digital transformation and service design. Over the past ten years, they’ve helped more than 100 local and national authorities over four continents think differently about public services.
Co-founder, New Citizenship Project
Jon co-founded this social innovation lab in 2014, to help catalyse the shift to a more participatory society. The New Citizenship Project works with all types of organisations to engage people as citizens, working with tools as varied as documentary films to setting up new social enterprises.
Ex of Government Digital Service and City Hall London where she established The London Data Store, Emer is now helping to build The Federation, an open community of digital businesses & innovators, built on co-operative values, in the heart of Manchester.
Don’t miss TICTeC Local
There’s more information about TICTeC Local on the main TICTeC website.
We’re delighted to be hosting the first TICTeC Local conference in Manchester on 6th November 2018.
TICTeC Local is a spinoff from our global The Impacts of Civic Technology Conference, which is now in its fifth successful year.
This event will narrow the lens, focusing on where and how civic tech connects with and impacts Local Government, rather than the international focus we have with our global TICTeC events.
We’ll be examining what works and why, the challenges and ethical decisions involved in using civic tech and how these initiatives can be replicated by local authorities around the UK.
We’ll hear from many local authorities and civic tech practitioners in the UK and further afield who are leading the way on using technology to improve civic participation, streamline citizen interaction with public bodies, and create efficiencies in civic budgets.
If you work in or around the local authority or local public institution space, and have an interest in using digital tools, then do come and join us in Manchester.
You will leave inspired by some of our showcased projects, you’ll have a better understanding of the most effective digital tools, and you’ll have met interesting people who are on a similar journey, or who might be able to help you in developing your digital capacity in the future.
We’ll be announcing speakers and contributors over the next couple of weeks.