Weeknotes S6 Ep08

Bonus double feature!

Well hello, happy Friday. How are you feeling?

I’m reeling a bit after a whirlwind couple of weeks where I’ve been unusually busy, because of that there’s a lot to get through, so I thought I’d do a brief-ish breakdown of the week followed by some more detailed thoughts at the bottom.

So what happened (Week 1)?

Monday –an unusual non-working day for me. I haven’t had any time within working hours to do it, so I ended up spending the entire day writing our presentation for SDinGov.

Our presentation slides.

Tuesday – In the morning I went to Pivotal’s offices in Old Street with Social Finance UK and my funded project team from Stockport to review their design sprint and hear about the user research they’ve been doing with Social Workers.

I really liked how they’d used a low-fi prototype to enable them to have deep conversations with their interviewees.There’s a great story in that which I hope they will write up soon.

You can find out more about the project here:


In the afternoon I headed to the Digital Directorate’s huddle, joined a call with my funded project team from Worcester, and we had a full team retro for the quarter.

Later, I had another meeting, finished up some bits and then headed to have drinks with Morgan, Jenny, Luke and Wendy.

Wine and cheese!

Wednesday – non-working again but checking in every so often to make sure that organisation for our training was ticking over and replying to a few last minute things.

Thursday and Friday – Local Leaders Digital Accelerator (more on this later!)

Saturday – several days out of the office meant needing to have a catch up on emails. I did some reflecting/retro on the Local Leaders Course and made post-its (until I ran out).

Sunday — no working, just some vague internal screaming about the SDinGov presentation.

internal screaming

So what happened (Week 2)?

Monday —Another weird Monday non-working day. I tried to start writing this post thinking I’d get it out, just a little late. I tried, but it didn’t happen… I mostly just played Tetris 99.

Tuesday — I wrote up a lot of feedback about the Local Leaders Digital Accelerator course and had a chat with Linda. I caught up on emails and things then got packed and ready to go to Edinburgh. I left the house at 3pm and arrived at 9.30pm only to discover that I wasn’t in the same hotel as anyone else I knew, and I was exhausted from travelling, so I went to bed.

Wednesday and Thursday — I was at SD inGov! (More later)

Friday — hello, hi, here we are. You’re all up to date.

Local Leaders Digital Accelerator

The main focus of week 1 was on this course, a pilot version of the course we hope to roll out and make available to our Local Digital Declaration signatories. You can find out more about the training we are offering here:


We had 14 local leaders from all over the country to talk about agile, the Local Digital Declaration and how to lead local government through transformation. It was really great to have three councillors in the room with us as well as various Chief Executives, Heads of, Treasurers and more.

Our Minister joined attendees for lunch along with Paul and it was great to see that level of support for the mission.

We haven’t had our team retro yet so it’s not really right to share too much about my thoughts on how it went, but the feedback from attendees was good. I learned a huge amount about different local government contexts and I really enjoyed pushing myself to think more about how what we are offering via the fund can really help people.

The bit Ienjoyed the most was seeing Local Leaders commit to changes they hoped to make in their organisations using the agile principles. It was great to see how committed they all were to driving change.

After a couple of days of SDinGov as I write this I’m also reflecting on the user centred design (UCD) approach and whether this makes sense or whether the the Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) approach might be more thought provoking.

I’m wondering how we can think more about how we address this in the training; considering how local leaders need to radically re imagine how they look at the delivery of services. Addressing that the people in the room are, first and foremost, leaders. The digital and technology is just an enabler for the things they need to do.

One of our attendees from Essex was speaking in this direction but we weren’t set up to have proper conversations about it at the time. Hopefully I can do something with this.

So much love, for #SDinGov

Immediately on arriving there were several people I recognised and it felt good to see som many people happily buzzing away. I headed to the sticker table to pick up a load of Jukesie’s stickers.

SDinGov sticker haul [1]

I milled around for a bit and thought about how, actually (though I recognised a few people) there were far more new people here and I talked with Jenny about how it felt good to be out of our bubble.

We headed inside to hear Matt’s keynote speech. I won’t recount these things because I posted in real-ish time on Twitter (click through to see full thread) but it was a good overview of his time in government and about the journey the NHS has been on in recent years.

Afterwards, Steve, Clara and I sat and went through making final amends to our presentation and dividing up slides. After lunch we headed over to our room and got set up. I tried not to feel too nervous, but actually I wasn’t anywhere near as nervous as I expected to be.

Steve, Clara and me ahead of our presentation

And I think it went ok, there was certainly a lot of interest in it as a subject. It helped to have the friendly faces of Jenny, @jukesie, Hattie and Trilly [2] in the audience. But I didn’t have any of the issues I thought I would about looking up and seeing all of those people.

I’d just like to say how excellent Clara and Steve were and how much I enjoyed doing this thing with them. They made it really awesome.

I don’t really do trumpet blowing, but I’m so grateful to have amazing women in my life who help to build me up, thank you so much Jenny for this tweet which made me cry (just a little).

Anyway, trumpet blowing over, we had lots of good engagement and questions from the audience which was nice. I captured all of the questions here:

Post-it questions from our sessions

There were some really good comments, like, who assesses the assessors? What happens when standards aren’t met?

Afterwards, I was also approached by two lovely ladies from Dubai who asked if we would be interested in helping them to assess some services for their government, which sounds very exciting, so hopefully Steve and Clara will ask back at GDS-HQ how we would go about that.

Oh yeah, and our slides are here. I’m not sure if you can see the notes but if you want more detail please drop me a line and I’ll be happy to share.

Afterwards it took a little time to decompress, so I just had a cup of tea and a sit down and headed in to the lightning talks at the end of the day.

In the evening I had a good chat with Trilly about business cases. Our team will soon be getting 16 business cases from our funded projects and I’m interested to see what these are like.

We talked about business cases as an enabler for meaningful discussions rather than for their own sake. How do you make sure that they are as useful as they can be? That anyone can do them and everyone understands them?

Some of our funded projects are toying with creating a lean canvas overlay for their business cases which I’m really interested in, and I recommended Trilly read Cate McLaurin’s Governance so good, people prefer to use it, because it is excellent.


It will be interesting to chat again once we’ve both done more thinking on this.

I didn’t do the standard drinks with attendees because I was a bit tired and overwhelmed by the end of the day, but some quiet drinks and dinner with Hattie and her lovely sister, Steve and a local friend, and Jenny was just about right.

On the Thursday I saw the keynote from Cormac Russell who was a brilliant speaker, and who pulled together a number of strings that I’d had in my head for a little while especially in relation to working in local government.

Afterwards I headed to FutureGov and Tower Hamlets workshop about the same subject but actually putting it into practice for health commissioning.

It was really interesting to think about how UCD can force us into focusing on the problem and Dr Joanna Choukeir talked about how working with ABCD was liberating in terms of design because they didn’t get pulled into a downward spiral of problems.

It also reminded me quite a lot about the presentation we gave in policy school after going to the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham. Our policy suggestion was to find and build networks of mentors or role models using community youth groups. We called it Youth Lead Change and you can read more about it here:


It feels a bit strange to have these things all linking up now.

I am also wondering about how you could take this approach into an organisation. We talk so much about culture this, culture that. How to change culture? How to bring people along on the journey? A lot of the attendees at the Local Leaders Digital Accelerator were interested in just that.

We talked about creating time and space for the people doing the good stuff to keep doing it. What that looks like within an organisation. But ultimately, networked working, communities of practice or grassroots movements don’t look too dissimilar to ABCD to me right now, and maybe, if we used this to “explain” things like One Team Gov, marking it as an asset within a community, people would start to understand more about the value.

Articles like this:


…are positive about what’s going on, and that’s awesome, but it always still feels like people are still grappling with understanding why it’s getting attention or why it’s valuable.

Anyway, thoughts thoughts thoughts thoughts.

Oh yeah, and then when I came back into the real world today I saw this from Louise Downe which, coincidentally goes straight to the heart of ABCD.


At lunch I met with Afsa and Eve and it was really nice to speak to them both. I’ve kinda known Afsa for a while through various One Team Gov things but we’ve not spoken properly before so I really enjoyed that [3].

On a community tip after lunch I went to Maria Smolar’s Community Knowledge in Times of Disaster, she talked about how community lead organisations had been shut out of relief efforts after the earthquake in New Zealand.

This was especially thought provoking when thinking about what Cormac said about the limits of institutions or as Matt did about dis-empowering people.


Then I headed to see Jenny and @jukesie talking about Healthier Hiring for Digital Government. It was really ace to see Jenny speak as I haven’t before, and it was really cool to see two absolute stars, completely different but complimentary, talking about how to really do hiring right.

Jenny got a swear in which made me feel a little better about my presentation-al swearing [4], but it was excellent because the intent was so clear; we all have biases, grow up and acknowledge them, don’t let them get in the way of hiring someone awesome.

Unfortunately I had to jump in a taxi and catch my train home after that so I only got to see half of the presentation, but you’ll find the slides here:


And that’s that, two busy days, lots of stuff learned, loads of lovely people and (after a short 6 hour train journey) back to normality.

And what else?

Well One Team Gov held their Exploring Future Leadership Discovery Workshop and have written it up already. I couldn’t attend because I was at our training but it looked excellent, find out more here:

I’ve been slowly pulling all of the One Team Gov blogs over onto LinkedIn and I’ve started to see some good activity starting to happen there, but I’d like to learn more about building a community there to make sure that we are reaching different audiences.

Today was International Women’s Day which is always excellent. But the big news is that Audree is publishing a book of all of the women she’s been sharing on twitter over the past year because #ADayIsNotEnough.

Strangely I’m one of them, and I’ve been totally putting off giving Audree permission to put me in the book because I don’t really see how I could be there with all those other incredible women. But, as she says in the kickstarter video “…they’re humble, they’re modest… possibly to a fault.”

Well. Alright then.

You can back the kickstarter here:

I found out that a friend who I helped with their personal statement for a civil service job jot an interview and I am so so happy for them. Can’t wait to hear how they get on.

I really enjoyed this:


And you can read more about one of our funded projects here:

I liked this:

This was also useful when thinking about Local Digital:

And this was really interesting:


And that’s it for now. I think. This is a long one, sorry!

[1] I don’t know who made the “Shitty first draft” sticker, but it really spoke to me and I now can’t stick it because it is too precious to waste. But I am all about this, so thank you whoever you are.

[2] And thanks to Trilly for not freaking out when I realised I hadn’t told him he was actually in the presentation, and dropped that bomb on him just before starting — eek!

[3] Afsa, if you’re reading this I want to read your write up and thoughts about the Leadership workshop — pretty please!

[4] Note to self; don’t do this if you do go to Dubai.

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