YouChoose

youchoose

In what looks like a pretty interesting collaboration between what was the LGA Group and YouGov, YouChoose is an online budget simulator that:

encourages members of the public to consider where council budget cuts should fall, where efficiencies might be made, and where income might be generated.

You can see  a working version up and running for the London Borough of Redbridge, and a PDF document describes the detail in more detail (the tool is free, but decent analysis of the data is going to cost you).

I’ve not really got a view on participatory budgeting, or whether YouChoose does it well or not. Anyone with a clue want to share their thoughts?

Democracy, decisions and politicians

I’m thrashing around with a post about consultation, engagement and crowdsourcing and why efforts in this direction haven’t been massively successful for governments – whether in the UK or elsewhere. I’ll get it into a fit state to publish one day, maybe.

Catherine Howe (CEO of Public-I) is carrying out some research into how all this might work at a local level as part of her Phd, and is blogging her learning as she goes along. Her posts are long and meaty – and not nearly as disgusting as that description makes them sound.

Her latest post covers some of this territory very nicely, and links in the role of elected politicians into this. In the rush to get The People involved, our elected representatives are sometimes overlooked.

We can use and will use technology to improve the consultation process and to build in more transparency and openness but unless we also find ways to let the public set the agenda and the context, and unless we embrace the fact that decision making in a democratic process is political then we are really talking about sticking plasters and triage rather than the more radical surgery that will be needed in order to really change the relationship between the citizen and state and to create new ways of making decisions.

New governance models do not have to mean a plebiscite democracy – there is no evidence that the public want to be involved in every decision and no process that could make this an informed process. But if we are going to reinvent our representative process to take into account social change, characterised by the network society, then we need find a way to be more honest about the role of representatives and let politicians be politicians.

Read the rest here.

Bookmarks for August 11th through August 18th

I find this stuff so that you don’t have to.

You can find all my bookmarks on Delicious. There is also even more stuff on my shared Google Reader page.

You can also see all the videos I think are worth watching at my video scrapbook.

Bookmarks for July 11th through July 16th

I find this stuff so that you don’t have to.

  • How to work with online communities at Helpful Technology – "But there are many other ways to build relationships, and lots more experience to share. To help explore this further, I’m helping to convene Meet The Communities, a free, one-off event probably in Central London during September, bringing together some of the leading online communities with the government clients, PR & digital agencies for an afternoon of storytelling and speednetworking."
  • App Inventor and the culture wars – O’Reilly Radar – "Creativity–whether the creativity of others or your own–is what makes life worthwhile, and enabling creativity is a heroic act. Google has built a culture around enabling others' creativity, and that's worth celebrating. "
  • The Big Society – the evidence base – "Building on David Kane’s blog-post on the numbers behind the Big Society, the NCVO research team is keen to explore in greater depth the evidence behind this important policy agenda which emphasises the need to transform the relationship between citizens and the state."
  • Should Governments Develop iPhone Apps? – "No, governments should not develop iPhone apps, the community should."
  • Why Google Cannot Build Social Applications – "With Google applications we return to the app to do something specific and then go on to something else, whereas great social applications are designed to lure us back and make us never want to leave."
  • WordPress Plugins to Reduce Load-time : Performancing – Doubt my blog will ever run into performance problems due to traffic, but some interesting stuff here nonetheless.
  • BBC – dot.Rory: Martha’s manifesto – "But it's hard to see how the pledge of universal web access for the UK workforce – which may well be backed by the prime minister later today – can be fulfilled without some government money."
  • UK Government Goes Social for Budget Cuts: Do Not Hold Your Breath – "Once again, this is the unavoidable asymmetry of government 2.0 in action: it is easier (and certainly more pressworthy) to call for ideas on channels that government controls, rather than to gather them where they already are."
  • How Local Government can do Facebook « The Dan Slee Blog – Great roundup and hints and tips from Dan.
  • CycleStreets: UK-wide Cycle Journey Planner and Photomap – "CycleStreets is a UK-wide cycle journey planner system, which lets you plan routes from A to B by bike. It is designed by cyclists, for cyclists, and caters for the needs of both confident and less confident cyclists."

You can find all my bookmarks on Delicious. There is also even more stuff on my shared Google Reader page.

You can also see all the videos I think are worth watching at my video scrapbook.

Bookmarks for June 17th through July 3rd

I find this stuff so that you don’t have to.

You can find all my bookmarks on Delicious. There is also even more stuff on my shared Google Reader page.

You can also see all the videos I think are worth watching at my video scrapbook.

Bookmarks for March 16th through March 18th

I find this stuff so that you don’t have to.

You can find all my bookmarks on Delicious. There is also even more stuff on my shared Google Reader page.

You can also see all the videos I think are worth watching at my video scrapbook.

Local Authority Audit of Online Consultation

Bristolian eDemocracy dudes Delib have published their audit of local authority online consultation offerings across the UK.

Delib – Local Authority Audit of Online Consultation

It’s interesting reading. Personally, I’m still not convinced I really know what proper consultation looks or feels like.

Ofqual’s new commentable report

I’ve being doing some work over the past few months with Ofqual, the regulator of qualifications in the UK. Much of the work has been around how they could use social web technology to work better internally, but I’ve also been advising on external online engagement stuff too.

One strand of that work has now become public, in the form of the consultation on the Chief Regulator’s Report, made commentable thanks to Steph’s Commentariat WordPress theme.

Chief Regulator's Report, Ofqual

The lovely design was done by the internal web team at Ofqual, lead fearlessly by Phil McAllister.

I’m really pleased with this, because I see it as being the result of some real digital enabling. I didn’t really do anything to make this happen, other than planting the seed of the idea in Phil’s head, and then providing some web space so the site could be hosted quickly and easily, and doing the initial WordPress set up.

That’s all that Phil’s team needed to get going. Had they been left to try and procure some web hosting through traditional routes, this site may never have seen the light of day. So I’m pleased to have helped a new, young organisation step out into the world of online engagement, however small my personal contribution.

And once again, well done to Phil and his team for an excellent implementation of Commentariat!

The importance of evaluation

Stephen Hale at the FCO has an excellent, interesting and important post about measuring the success of the London G20 Summit site.

With wonderful openness and transparency, Stephen has set out some of the factors by which the site’s success could be measured, along with the results. Its fascinating reading, and provides lots of lessons for anyone approaching an engagement project like this.

Indeed, this ties in with Steph’s recent (and overly-modest) post about the achievements of the engagement bods at DIUS over the last year or so. He wrote:

We still haven’t nailed some of the basics like evaluation, [or] the business case

Figuring out whether or not something has actually worked is terrifically important, and the long term efficacy of online engagement relies on this nut being cracked.

Stephen’s post highlighted some really good practice here: outline what your project aims to do, and come up with some measures around it so you can work out whether it worked or not.

As Steph mentions, having an up-front business case is really important – a written down formulation of what the project actually is and what it ought to achieve.

Now, business cases and evaluation criteria can be developed in isolation and in a project-by-project basis. I wonder, though, how much more value could be created by developing a ‘package’ of evaluation which could be used as a foundation by everyone involved in government online engagement?

Of course, each project has its own unique things that will need to be measured and tested, but surely there are some basic things that every evaluation exercise would need to look at?

How about some common evaluation documents were created, and that every project undertaken ensured that the basic, common stuff was recorded, as well as the unique bits. That way, some kind of comparative analysis would be possible, especially if everyone submitted their results into a common database.

Just how hard would it be to come up with a common framework for online engagement projects? I think it is worth a shot.

Remind us of your views, again?

I wrote a little while back about a fairly terrible website being used by Cambridgeshire’s Transport Commission to consult people on their views.

Cambridge News now reports:

A PROBE into Cambridgeshire’s transport crisis – including the idea of a congestion charge for Cambridge – has been hit by a technical blunder.

The chairman of the Cambridgeshire Transport Commission, Sir Brian Briscoe, has revealed the commission’s website has been affected by “initial teething problems”.

The result is that some of the responses to the commission’s request for people’s views on how to tackle the traffic issue have been lost.

People are now being contacted to resubmit their views. Let’s hope they can be bothered.

Oh dear oh dear. I found out that this website cost the sum of £2,990 to produce. Now, that might not sound like a huge amount, but for a microsite like this it’s a sizable budget. What the Transport Commission got for their money was – frankly – piss poor, and it now turns out that it doesn’t even work properly.