Meeting overview - 27 September

The LocalGov Digital steering group met in London on 27 September 2013. Here’s an overview of discussion and presentations as well as links to useful resources.

The meeting took place roughly a year after the group was first convened and in opening remarks chair Carl Haggerty encouraged the group to reflect on what had been achieved during the first 12 months and also begin to think about how the group, and the wider practitioner network it seeks to represent, may work in the future.

A full review of work delivered by the group during the first year will be published soon.

Presentations and discussion

A busy agenda saw presentations to the group on Rewiring Public Services, GDS assets, a prototype usability tool and Local DirectGov Really Useful Days.

Work stream leads also provided updates on progress with the projects they are undertaking on behalf of the group.

You can also find a summary of events on Twitter under the #localgovdigital hashtag.

Laurence Meehan, Rewiring Public Services

Laurence Meehan, Head of Campaigns and External Communications at the Local Governmen Association, gave a brief presentation on Rewiring Public Services – a campaign lobbying for decision making and budgets to be devolved to local government and local communities.

The group agreed there was synergy of ideas between the campaign and aims of LocalGov Digital. On a practical level members of the group were reminded they could embed the video in their website and a toolkit for public debate in local areas was also available on the LGA website.

Work stream updates

Building wider networks

Carl Haggerty and Sarah Jennings of the LGA provided an update on work to align the group with other networks and amplify work and messages.

This includes opportunities to link with the County Council Network and District Council Network. Chair Carl Haggerty proposed that should digital conversations become the norm of existing wide networks like these then LocalGov Digital should either cease to exist as a group, or become purely about improving operation and delivery of digital rather than the wider issue of embedding digital in service delivery and design.

Carl also proposed that the LGA move from providing a pure facilitation role for the group to being an active participant, with the proviso they could not chair the group. He asked the steering group to agree the change, it was passed and the LGA were welcomed as a new active member.

Rewiring Local Democracy

Apologies were given by vice chair Carl Whistlecraft and the update was given by joint work stream lead Dave McKenna.

Work had progressed well with this stream and included a call for research on ‘The future of local democracy in a digital age’ and the group agreed this would be a useful piece of work should funding, or researchers, be able to be found. The work stream leads will pursue this.

Work has also been started on digital democracy – changing the infrastructure and support model. There was a discussion on the need for a shared space to curate and converse on this subject. A side discussion followed on digital spaces already being used by the group and more widely and how these may be better exploited, amplified or aligned.

Building local network

The group was reminded all members are tasked with building networks in their areas or representing LocalGov Digital on existing groups.

Vice chair Phil Rumens gave an update on how he is doing this in his region (West Berkshire and surrounds) with how it works between tiers of local government within the county as well as more widely with neighbours across the region.

Chair Carl Haggerty also reminded the group that opportunities should be found to network with non-digital colleagues such as policy, social care etc.

Content and design

Vice chair Phil Rumens, Marc Snaith and Jason Williams presented the draft content guidelines including the quick checklist for excellent digital content. They thanked other members of the group for their feedback so far as well as recognising input from other agencies.

The guidelines will be published for use by the wider network alongside optional badging to show an organisation is using them.

The work stream will move on to talking to other relevant groups about how this resource can be amplified to the wider digital practitioner network as well as consulting with groups such as Internet Crystal Mark and the Plain English campaign on accreditation for the best practice.

Technology and infrastructure

Apologies were given by Kate Sahota and the update was delivered by joint work stream lead Martin Howitt.

A draft survey has been shared in the steering group’s KHub space for use by councils and other community organisations to audit and understand the state of infrastructure in their area.

Next phase of work stream will look at existing or potential business models for delivering technology and infrastructure. Discussion was had around the impact of the PSN as well as cross-over between this work stream and Rewired Public Services.

The group agreed that good progress had been made on all work streams and it was important to recognise that although small, it was excellent the group had begun to deliver outputs with practical application for the wider practitioner network.

Simon Gray, prototype usability tool

The group had invited Simon Gray of Birmingham City Council to present on the prototype usability tool he has developed.

The spreadsheet lists all tasks a council carries out, not just top tasks, and heuristically assesses. This provides a score as an indication of where work or further testing with real users may be needed.

At the moment Simon has been testing the idea by assessing a number of council’s himself but the group is interested in building upon this work. Discussion was had around ways to do this and agreement was reached that this system would be taken forward with the group supporting and collaborating with Simon.

The prototype will be put into closed alpha within the LocalGov Digital steering group KHub space while initial development continues.

Peer assists

Three simultaneous peer assist sessions were carried out with facilitation by members of the LGA.

Write-ups of these sessions will be published in the next few days.

Louise Russell, Local DirectGov and Really Useful Days

The group were given an overview of Really Useful Days and successes so far on the workshops around customer journeys and social media. More of these days are planned for the next year including next session hosted by vice chair Phil Rumens in London.

Agreement was reached that four collaborative Really Useful Days, focused on LocalGov Digital themes and involving the group, would be held in 2014/2015.

There was also discussion on other ways Local DirectGov and LocalGov Digital could collaborate.

A reminder was given that the Local DirectGov newsletter was an available method for getting messages to council web teams and that a number of useful resources were on their website.

James Cattell, Government Digital Service

James presented the group with initial work he had carried out on indexing all public domain Government Digital Service assets and asked for feedback on whether this was useful to local government as well as ideas on how it could be developed going forward.

The group explored some of the assets as discussion points and clarified how missing assets could be requested.

An exploratory piece of work to replace the word ‘central’ with ‘local’ in the GDS service manual was also muted by James in order to understand cross-over or differences between the tiers.

Closing remarks and next meeting

The meeting ended with closing remarks from Carl Haggerty recognising the progress of the group so far and asking members to consider what shape the network and steering group may take in the future.

Carl also updated the group that some community management expertise would be sought to increase amplification of work and messages as well as foster communication within and beyond the network.

Ideas were put forward for speakers to invite to future meetings.

Congratulations, led by vice chair Phil Rumens on behalf of the group, were offered to Carl Haggerty on his short listing in the Public Leaders Network Public Services Award Leadership Excellence category.

Thanks were given to all speakers today and to the group and their host councils for time given.

The next meeting of the group will be in late November / early December with resources developed by the work streams released for general use in the meantime.