Daily note for 21 December 2023

Am playing around a bit with Feedland, Dave Winer’s newish RSS aggregating thing. I like how it is all public, so anyone can see the feeds I subscribe to and what is in them. Am enjoying the desktop app feel of NetNewsWire for now, so don’t think I will be switching, but it’s fun to play 🙂

Principles, guidance, and standards to support people delivering joined-up, effective, user-centred outcomes for people who use Department for Education services.”

Laura Bunt is great and this interview gives an insight into how!

“What next for digital government and Government as a Platform?” Very interesting:

The next step for government as a platform is to directly help services transform. We’ll do this in two ways: first by going much further to help people make better design decisions for their services, and second, by helping services continually optimise themselves.

“The Transforming Government Services team in the Central Digital and Data Office (CDDO) is redesigning the products and services offered to other government departments to support the delivery of their services. This includes updating existing standards and guidance, so that more services are implemented to a ‘great’ standard.”

Daily note for 17 December 2023

Lovely bit of LocalGov blogging: Nature’s Genius: Service Innovation through Biomimicry.

This is a great story, about the wonder that was Yahoo Pipes, beautifully told… and now I am really interested in Retool, so I guess it did its job (tech marketers, take note)!

Working as a community to iterate the task list pattern:

We kicked off with an open call to join an online workshop, and had over 120 participants attend from dozens of government organisations. This helped us to understand the diversity of ways in which the task list pattern was being used, from application forms to case management systems, as well as collecting research findings, and user needs that the pattern was helping with.

From the workshops a smaller group, comprising designers and researchers from across different government departments, was formed to work on iterating the actual design.

Collaborating in this way wasn’t always fast – the work had to be fitted in around everyone’s main roles – but a dedicated Slack channel and semi-regular calls helped to maintain momentum.

Also this:

Daily note for 14 December 2023

Not been looking forward to today really. I have to go to see a foot specialist about an ulcerated wound on the balls of my right foot. It’ll be good to start getting it sorted, but it involves going somewhere I have never been before, not sure about parking etc, and the whole thing fills me a bit with worry.

I had no idea that Sarah Lay was back working in local gov, but am delighted she is.

A reflective, open and personal post from Carl. People – including ourselves – are not perfect, and that’s just the way it should be.

The challenge now for design in policy – I like a lot of the stuff in this post, which includes lessons that work for many relatively new disciplines, not just design.

LINK: “From service design to systems change”

Systems analysis at the ‘front end’ of service design can help us to better understand complex social problems and identify opportunities to respond more effectively and profoundly. Equally, systems thinking provides tools and mindsets to understand the power structures and ‘system immune responses’ which so often kill new solutions before they get off the ground.

Original: https://medium.com/@adam.d.groves/from-service-design-to-systems-change-72fa62b1714c

LINK: “Service patterns could be big! (actually .. small)”

There’s a knotty systemic and cost problem with local authorities and other public service organisations delivering essentially the same core services in different parts of the country. We all recognise that we are often doing the same thing, but we are stuck doing it slightly differently from each other. The wise understand that standardisation (as we currently imagine the path to it) is impossible and undesirable, but it’s still true that we have unwittingly created a costly ‘bespoking’ market that commercial providers of one sort and another exploit.

Original: https://medium.com/@pdbrewer/service-patterns-could-be-big-actually-small-e5b393c8014e

Five for Friday (29/9/17)

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Five for Friday took a little break for a month or so while I settled into my new job(s). If I’m honest, I am still not completely settled – it takes time getting used to a little portfolio having concentrated on a single role for several years – but I am getting there.

Enjoy the links.

  • Mapping service design and policy design – terrific post by Andrea Siodmok on how service design and policy design meet. Quite a lot of the focus on digital transformation misses out the policy element, and understanding what an organisation’s approach to an issue, and why it has that approach, is vital to defining services that deliver the intended outcome.
  • Digital transformation, or digital fossilisation? – good stuff from Andrew Larner talking about the need to use the opportunity of digital transformation to address big strategic issues around the manner in which organisations operate – not just hard baking inefficient and user unfriendly processes using new technology.
  • Defining Aggregators – you are probably bored of me banging on about Ben Thompson and how good he is, but this is another great piece, pulling together his recent thinking on digital operating models, diving deep into the concept of the aggregator. Now, the aggregator model might not be a good fit for public services, but it’s a great way to get thinking about this operating model malarky.
  • Designing for democracyCatherine Howe applies the ladder of participation model to designing services in the digital age. Making this activity democratic involves the political, of courses, and also links up with Andrea’s post linked to above, where understanding the political and policy context is vital to achieving desired outcomes. There’s loads and loads in here (like does an iterative approach mean the big picture can get missed?) and it needs a good read and mull.
  • YC’s Essential Startup Advice – always take stuff like this with a pinch of salt (one shouldn’t ignore the pervasive Silicon Valley ideology that startups will save the world) but there’s some really good advice in here about launching new services. Much of it focuses on keeping things small and not worrying about scale until you know you have a thing that enough people like to require scale.

As always, these have mostly all been tweeted during the week, and you can find everything I’ve found interesting and bookmarked here.

You can also sign up to get them delivered to you by email, if that’s your thing.

Interesting publications on design, technology and change for ‘good’

I’m pulling together a list of interesting, thought-provoking reading on how design, technology and change (the three things that, for me, define ‘digital’) can help organisations that work in the community, voluntary, charity, non-profit, social enterprise type space.

Is there a less clumsy way of describing these organisations? I think under the last Labour government, ‘the third sector’ was adopted, but that seems to be used less these days. Have heard ‘civic sector’ and ‘civil society’ bandied around, but don’t know how well established those terms are. Any help on that one?

Anyway, I’ve found a few I will point to here:

Any others? Leave a note in the comments or on Twitter and I will add them.

Link roundup

I find this stuff so you don’t have to:

A red tape challenge for public servants? Or an internal GDS?

At the DH digital champions summit on Tuesday, during the afternoon open space session, an interesting discussion broke out. One among many, I’m sure!

Anyway, what was being discussed was the sheer unusability of government systems and processes. Only, not the ones that the public uses, but the ones that civil servants use.

I’ve worked in enough local councils, quangos and central government departments to know that the vast majority of IT systems in use are pretty dreadful. Clunky, and rarely fit for purpose, they seem to exist just to make life more difficult for those using them.

Likewise those processes yet to be digitised. How hard is it to bring in a temporary member of staff to get a job done? Sometimes the paperwork is so over the top, it’s quicker to do whatever it is yourself rather than get the extra body in.

It’s absurd and clearly must be a factor in the difficulty in getting stuff done within government.

The Red Tape Challenge is a crowdsourced effort within government to get rid of the burden of bureaucracy on businesses and citizens. It appears to have had some success in identifying areas where things could move a little quicker, smoother, and maybe with fewer dockets.

There’s also been a lot of focus – rightly – on the user experience for citizen and customer facing interactions. The work that GDS is doing in this area shows that it can be done.

I do wonder though whether a similar approach ought to be being taken to internal systems, across government. Maybe a red tape challenge style thing, where public servants can identify the particularly crappy systems and processes that make their lives a misery – and get them fixed.

Or maybe we need a black ops style skunkworks, wielding the knife on some of the more monstrous forms of obstructive paperwork and dreadful databases. Taking a similar user-focused approach to that which GDS – and many other public facing services – are using to such great effect.

There must be at least much opportunity here, to improve efficiency and save money, as there is in making things easier for the citizen?

Update: This here looks interesting – via @pubstrat