Sunday, 16 August 2015

Democracy is never out of style

If you've been following the debate around government and digital for a while you'll know like most areas of discussion, it follows patterns and fashions.

Take this year for example. It started with voting and elections, moved on to open data and recently we've seen a lot of debate around Government as a Platform (GaaP). Interest in a topic can be accentuated by events at the time. So voting and elections by the General Election, GaaP by Mike Braken leaving GDS.

Debate can be cyclical. The question "Do we need a Local Government Digital Service (LocalGDS)" had been discussed for over four years and was a factor in the formation of LocalGov Digital in 2012. A catalyst for a recurrence of the topic can be someone fresh entering the conversation. For example, someone new to the topic decides that a LocalGDS would be a great idea and makes many of the points that others have before. Take a look at this compilation of what's been said over the years and you'll see there's a lot of repetition.

Given what I've written you might expect this year's LGMakers fringe event of LocalGovCamp to focus on something de rigueur that entices people to attend. It's not. At any time generally the least fashionable thing is what's just been fashionable , which means by running Local Democracy Maker Day, focussing on voting and elections we're running an event on the least trendy topic in digital government.

Here's the thing though. Pushing forward the digital debate by doing isn't about following fads, it's about being relentless in one's vision for making things better. In February 2015 Local Democracy Bytes collaborated with others on the Not in Westminster event and "Uncompromising" was the title of Carl Haggery's lightening talk.

Not only does this year's LGMakers fringe event take inspiration its uncompromising vision from Not in Westminster, it will build on some the discoveries at the event in February . You can have your say on which of the challenges that the day will focus on here.

This is when LocalGov Digital works best, where people with different skills and interests come together to build something together.

There's another factor in the timing too. Now is the best time to analyse all the data from General Election 2015 and I'm delighted that Democracy Club are involved with the event to bring their insights to the day. Elections don't just happen every five years. There are parish and district by-elections almost every week and 2016 sees elections for the Northern Ireland Assembly, the National Assembly for Wales, the Scottish Parliament, the London Assembly, the Mayor of London, English local government and Police and Crime Commissioners in England and Wales. Waiting until just before the 2020 General Election would be a missed opportunity.

If you haven't already, book a free ticket for Local Democracy Maker Day in Leeds in 11th September, because democracy should never go out of style.

This blog is written by Phil Rumens, Vice-Chair of LocalGov Digital, lead for LGMakers and who manages the digital services team at a local authority in England.

The opinions expressed in this weblog are my own personal views and in no way represent any organisation I may have worked for, currently work for, might be thinking of working for, might not be thinking of working for or have never worked for. In fact having said that they, might not even be my views any more as I might have changed my mind so I wouldn't take any of it too seriously.