Friday, 12 September 2014

The start of a localGDS?

Yesterday was the first LocalGov Digital Makers (LGMakers) meet, in Guildford. It was an event that Ben Cheetham, Dan Blundell and I organised to show some of the Makers Project Team pilot projects but more importantly hear people's views on collaborative working and get them involved in LGMakers.

The event was only open to those working in local government  (I wrote why here) and around 40 people from 25 councils attended.

For me the event confirmed there's a growing desire amongst those working for local governments to do things differently. This is heartening, as given the diminishing funds councils have at their disposal, increasingly local authorities have to stop doing things or find alternative ways of doing them.

With Makers Project Teams, by using existing tools such as GitHub, Trello, Slack, Twitter and creating a few more (they'll be more about the pilot projects in the next couple of weeks) council digital teams would share their work, where common aims and local user needs.

Rather than working independently on building a similar thing, or worse, spending taxpayers money on buying the same product in each council, teams would work together, not through a formal shared service but through the sharing of their skills using digital tools.

Is this unworkable? Perhaps, but that's not the impression I got yesterday and if an initial group of makers can start to build things together for others to use then this would not only prove the case, it would also start to provide a catalogue of re-usable digital services.

Is is unscalable? Let's consider that if it happens. We've seen a lot of talk about a Local Government Digital Service (LGDS) in the past couple of years so perhaps some pooled administration resource might be needed in the future to help manage the tools that Makers Project Teams use.

What if someone takes and doesn't give back? Generally Makers Project Teams would be making things that they'd be doing anyway, just together. Also, if someone takes 100 things and only gives 1 back, that's still 1 more thing. To start with anyway, everyone has to give as there's nothing to take.

The can-do mentality showed yesterday said to me, along with a Change Academy this could be the start of LGDS, not advising or criticising but concentrating on getting stuff done differently. Follow @LocalGovDigital, @LGMakers or join the G+ Community and start to get involved, whether you work directly for a local government or just have an interest in making local services better.

I'll end with Dominic Jones' tweet, that really says it all:

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Connecting local government digital makers

LocaGov Digital Makers (Makers) is the network for designers and developers from LocalGov Digital.

Makers is open to all, and attendees at our Hack Day in June included people from local governments, the Ordnance Survey, the Department for Communities and Local Government, the Government Digital Service, the NHS and the private sector.

So why is the Makers Meet-Up on 11 September just open to those working for a council?

Change is generally enacted by those with a mandate or by consensus when a critical mass start doing something new. Makers don't have a mandate, and whilst we're much more that just a group of volunteers, we're only working in tens of councils rather than hundreds.

On Thursday we've got people from over 25 councils coming to talk about how they can start changing things and working together, whilst still retaining the autonomy the need to meet local users' needs.

We've got LocalGovCamp veterans coming, we've got others taking their first tentative steps into tweeting and we've got loads of people in between.

Real change isn't going to happen until we start to get a number of councils doing things differently and this is only going to happen by getting them to engage directly with each other, not just once every few months but through things like Makers Project Teams.

Most Makers events will be open all, but just sometimes we'll need to connect councils with other councils, almost as a local government digital service.

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.