Weeknotes S8 Ep01

Hello there, and welcome to a new series of my weeknotes. Series 8! That’s a lot of words and waffle isn’t it?


It’s been an interesting week, it’s ramped up. Monday was insanely quiet, a lot of the team were out at the CDO network that we were running in conjunction with Bloomberg. As a result there were only a couple of us in the office and I sat on my own for a lot of the day.

Still, I managed to use it to do some thinking and mapping of ideas so that we can track our *newly announced* funded projects.

Local Digital Fund

A few weeks back we opened up the Local Digital fund again but only for the projects that we had funded in round 1. This gave our 16 projects the opportunity to bid for more money to progress their project to the next phase

From that we decided to fund a further 6 projects;

  • 1 beta, a continuation of Stockport’s Family Context in Children’s Services project. The team really impressed the panel when they came in and I’m looking forward to seeing this.
  • 5 alphas
  • 1 discovery that came out of a discovery previously undertaken

You can find the details of what we funded at round 2 here:

The 6 projects funded in round 2 of the Local Digital Fund

We also opened Round 3, a new round of funding open to any council and any new project. This round closed on Monday evening, and we received 60 applications in total, 44 discoveries and 16 alphas.

Tuesday and Wednesday were dedicated to “swarming” on the applications to start scoring them. There’s a lot to work through.

Bees in a swarm

It’s relatively rare that so many of our team come together to do work. I love swarming because it’s so good to see the combined effort, there’s something quite relaxing in doing something slightly mechanical (pick up, check, put back) and see the progress being made.

Rich’s trello board and sheets were, again, really helpful for this giving us the structure we needed. In the morning 7 of us came together to check through all of the applications for the mandatory requirements, putting anything ambiguous to one side to follow up. Then in the afternoon Rich, Adam Sheldon and I went through applications for initial scoring.

All of the applications are scored by two people independently before being moderated by a panel, so there’s still a lot of work to be done before we can talk about who we will be funding as part of this round.

Nesta Government Innovation Summit / Radical Visions

On Thursday I headed to the Nesta Government Innovation Summit, it was a pretty big who’s who of service design and public policy thinking and a different crowd to people I would usually see. I fan-girled embarrisingly at Cat, Cassie and Hilary Cottam.

There were a few friendly faces there though and people I hadn’t seen for a while; Prateek, Morgan, Jenny and Katy.

The venue was quite posh, the food really great, and the subject matter was compelling. Across the river members of my team were at Sprint2019 (GDS’s annual showcase) which I followed throughout the day on Twitter and which @jukesie has written up here:

The 6 projects funded in round 2 of the Local Digital Fund

The day was split into two parts, Tools for Today and Radical Visions for the Future.

I really loved hearing from Immy Kaur from Impact Hub Birmingham and Civic Square and Alex Stephany from Beam.

Beam is an app that crowdfunds training for homeless people, of the people that they’ve provided training for 80% have entered employment and 80% were still in employment 6 months later, which sounds awesome. You can find out more here:

The 6 projects funded in round 2 of the Local Digital Fund

We also heard from the Empowering Parents, Empowering Communities lead Crispin Day. He said that nationally 1 in 10 children have mental health problems — this triples in deprived areas. That means a third of a school class will have a mental health issue in those areas. The programme recruits and trains local parents in how to support and help, and, as a form of early intervention is incredibly successful.

I went to a session titled “How to do experiments” which I thought might offer a more practical workshop of advice on how to do behavioural insights experiments, or how to prepare for them, or some scenarios to use them.

Unfortunately it was really an overview of what experiments are, so I was a bit disappointed not to have more practical advice on it, others that I spoke to felt the same. Though I did guess the experiment that they ran in the session so got to feel smug for a bit. I also got to catch up briefly with ex-team member Becky which was great.

Afterwards I met up with Morgan, Jenny and Katie and we went to the session on Future Public Servants. Very interesting to do this kind of session with Jenny and Morgan who think about leadership for a living, and good to see Morgan in her element. Katie has also used the tool before, so it was really only novel to three of our table; still we had some interesting conversations.

I can see how this could be used to get a team to think about their skills and experience and draw people closer together, certainly I think this could be more useful than the PERMA session we had the other week, but that’s not a subject for now.

The competency framework that Nesta have put together, blue dots are for strengths and yellow dots are for weaknesses of the public services.

You can find out more about the framework and download the diagram using the link below:

The 6 projects funded in round 2 of the Local Digital Fund

In the afternoon I finally got my hands on the Radical Visions publication which was really exciting. This was the cause of a huge amount of impostor syndrome for me last week when I saw all of the brilliant and lovely designed ideas in the book (I had an advance copy PDF, and you can download a PDF on the Nesta website).

The Radical Visions publication and our entry.

I started beating myself up about how our ideas didn’t go far enough, about not being imaginative enough, I felt like I should have pushed our ideas further, beat myself up for not knowing enough about speculative design (I would love to know more about how to do this).

But no. One Team Gov is about people and it’s about working in the open and positively. I wanted to raise the voices of people around the world who are working with us and feeling and acting in this way. We are proud to be public servants, however broken processes and structures sometimes feel, and I wanted it to say;

“Look! We are here! We are working towards that future now! We are trying!”

However successful it was, however exciting, I wanted to do some work for the community that has given so much to me and it was/is really important to me that it was co-published. I don’t believe in rock stars and heroes. This was a collective effort of more than 50 people.

Morgan, Prateek, Jenny, me and Katy, and the authorship page at the back of the book.

It’s an honour to have been able to pull this together.

We also launched the first of our videos, its a short for sharing on social media

We have some longer videos coming soon. I’ll add them when I can.

Hilary Cottam spoke about the need to tend and nurture communities and sees a shift in government to recognising the good in communities and stewarding that, it was a really inspiring thing to listen to and I was suddenly even more jealous of Cate for being on the masters that Hilary teaches, Radical help also went waaaay up my reading pile.

If we tend and nurture gardens, Hilary called on us to “be more earthworm” under the ground, making the soil nice and fertile supporting growth. It’s a nice image. I thought it would make a good sticker so I took my very rudimentary design skills and knocked up a possible design (not printed, needs more thought).

Be more earthworm


Another awesome thing about the day was getting to meet Arfah in person. I’m terrible at recognising people so it wasn’t possibly the most welcoming start but I hope she understood that it’s hard to recognise people from twitter!

Chatting to Arfah was great and we would have never met had it not been for Amy’s #10MoreBlogPosts initiative. She started this on twitter and it was designed to find editors or supportive mentors to help more people who want to write to publish their blogs.

Excitingly she has also now created stickers, and we all know I love a sticker.

I really REALLY love helping people to publish, and it dawned on me yesterday evening when I was speaking to an editor (whose name I totally forget now! Ugh) from Apolitical just what a privilege it is to be an editor for the One Team Gov publication and to get those voices out there too.

I feel lucky.

Future Leaders

Feels like a long weeknote today eh? I guess that means I’ve been busy.

On top of everything else, the applications for the Future Leaders Scheme (FLS) close today. I decided, late yesterday, that I wasn’t going to apply this year.

The thing that did it for me was the question for the candidate statement that you need to supply to be eligible;

“Why is now the right time for you to apply to the Future Leaders/ Senior Leaders Scheme?”

I didn’t have a good answer for that. I started writing a statement but it really was me just doing similar to what I’m doing now. Working through my feelings. Why now?

Well, previously I felt some urgency. I felt like I didn’t belong in the civil service. I wanted doors opening. I’ve been unsuccessful before, three times. So why now? I don’t have a good answer. Actually, I don’t think I need it right now. I’m doing interesting, fulfilling work.

Anyway, I hope some excellent people get through and move up.

And what else?

I recently saw this tweet about struggle marks and I havent been able to get it out of my head since.

I was really interested in this Design Justice movement that Leah shared:

This blog post by Lauren:

The 6 projects funded in round 2 of the Local Digital Fund

And that’s it, probably enough for one day. If you made it to the end of this sorry it was such a babbly one.

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