Category: Third Sector

#FacesofCHADD – Telling the stories of the people behind the services.

Over the last few weeks we have been working on a storytelling project with CHADD: Churches Housing Association of Dudley & District

I (Steph) have been visiting the various services that CHADD offer and shooting the staff and residents. This has included a Domestic Violence Refuge, their Foyer accommodation for 16 – 25 year old’s and their sheltered housing schemes.

The aim was to capture a portrait and story that demonstrated the #FacesofCHADD, the people behind the services. Some of the stories I’ve heard have been heartbreaking, Some touching, and some very amusing but they all show the very human side of the services that CHADD offer, the stories that often get forgotten as organisations are reporting KPIs, on outputs rather than outcomes.

Here’s an example of just a few of them.

Over the next few months more photos and the accompanying stories will be appearing over on CHADD’s facebook page.

Like their page and keep your eye out for more updates.

Pigs_in_muck___Flickr_-_Photo_Sharing_

Bad manners, blockchains, open data, government as a platform and and Birmingham pigs in muck.

Pigs in muck

Image cc leeturner.

Is the real barrier to open data good manners?

There’s honest open truth in the blog post Over Politeness is the fatal flaw in the open data movement.

Anything Tom Steinberg writes on Open data needs to be taken seriously. It was he who was one of the key people behind the power of information task force report which got government starting to understand why it’s important to free up information.    Never a natural insider, now he writes:

So, how do I feel about it all now, eight and a half years on from the Open Data Principles? Not good. I’ve watched the government of the country I live in sell off our national addressing database, a breathtakingly moronic move that more than undoes the sum and total of good works done in the same time period. And I’ve watched that same government tacitly endorse attempts to kneecap our Freedom of Information law, whilst simultaneously grinning and waving a flag labeled ‘most transparent government in the world.’

I’ve not seen any meaningful attempt to systematically overhaul procurement rules to ensure that new government computer systems produce decent open data by default. This omission is especially important since building open data feeds into new government computer systems remains the only way that most government data will ever get released cheaply, quickly, and in appropriate formats. Factories and power stations only pump out less rubbish when the law says they must, and the same is true of government computer systems. International progress on that front so far? Somewhere between dismal and undetectable.

and

Transparency laws are like babies: There’s no way to get a real one without someone somewhere having to go through a very unpleasant experience that they’d really do almost anything to avoid. And as a consequence, meaningful transparency laws don’t get implemented except in situations where legislators fear something even worse than the effects of more transparency.

If you don’t believe me, consider the following examples.

In Britain, we did not gain the right to see our Member of Parliament’s expenses untilHeather Brooke forced out a scandal so enormous that four MPs were actually sent to jail. Just in the last two weeks we appear (in a vaguely codified way) to have won the right to see our leaders’ tax returns—but only after a week in which the press savaged the Prime Minister daily over his connections to off-shore finances co-ordinated by his father. The pain required to produce this concession could literally be seen on David Cameron’s face as he was forced to face the issue.

I agree.  I’ve sat on the Local Public Data Panel at the Department of Communities and Local Government. Rarely did I feel I was being much use, often felt stifled by process and internal political demands. This stifling of what people on the panel wanted to achieve was usually tolerated because we were over respecting  convention and frankly being polite (or weary).

Government can and does co-opt,  in part to control change and bog things down.  I do though only partly agree that being combative is the whole answer. Government also needs to invest in sharing information. We’ve benefited from that investment.  It needs to be a combination of a will to change from within government and impatience for change outside.  But then I’m probably still being polite.

Bitcoin for Volunteers and blockchain for government.

Bitcoin is the digital currency that is being fussed over at the moment as  Australian Craig Wright says he invented it.   It’s important because it is a way of creating currency that doesn’t require a bank.  It allows us to trust each other with who owns which money –  because we can all share the same cash book – or ledger.

HullCoin allows people in Hull to create a new currency with the time they put into volunteering. It is similar to the =Bristol Pound or Timesharing in some senses.  What’s interesting, in part, is that it uses a blockchain.  The technology behind Bitcoin.

Blockchain is, rightly, also on the minds of government.  Why?  If this technology helps us trust each other with money, it can also help us trust each other with much more besides: who has voted, who owns which house, who is entitled to which services and who is qualified to deliver them.

In his speech last week, Digital transformation in government and blockchain technology,  the Cabinet Office minister Matt Hancock, said:

To make real progress, we have to be much smarter.

That’s why we started building what we call ‘government as a platform’. That little catchphrase sums up a huge amount of work building many different things – not just actual technical platforms, but also standards, design and service patterns, data registers, and the skills and capability of the people who deliver digital services, and indeed the whole business of government.

All those things – the platforms, the standards, the legacy technology, the service design – come together as an ecosystem of interconnected components that departmental teams can use to assemble their services.

They will only do that, though, if they actually trust those components in the first place. So delivering transformation is just as much about fostering a new culture of trust across government.

The old culture depended on departmental silos, and services designed and delivered within them. Instead we’ve got to work across those silos. And that depends on trust.

This brings us to the benefits of the blockchain.

Blockchains – distributed ledgers, shared ledgers – are digital tools for building trust in data.

Rather than a single central authority demanding trust and declaring: “I say this data is correct,” you have the distributed consensus of everyone in the chain, saying in unison: “we agree that this data is correct.”

They bring with them built-in integrity and immutability. You can only write new data, nothing is ever removed or deleted.

It does sometimes get touted as a wonder solution. In time institutions that we rely on to manage trusted processes – planning departments, banks, local authorities – will be changed by technology like this. The most important first start for government though is to recognise that many of it’s structures are a barrier to better ways of working, to focus instead on what needs to be done to solve a problem.

That is what Mark Rogers – Chief executive at Birmingham City council – has been thinking about in what he calls a

Pig in Muck moment…

His blog post Tapping into Brum’s talent and innovation expresses his  pure pleasure of spending time with a group of people passionate about finding new routes to solve problems:

Hosted by that hotbed of forward thinking grooviness, the ImpactHub, a small number of fellow travellers sat down for a couple of hours to make my brain hurt on the subject of an ‘open innovation system’.

Pretentious? Hopefully not.

Under discussion was actually something very straight-forward; how we might further encourage and accelerate a progressive, welcoming and applied approach to convening interested parties from civil and civic society to tackle the city’s wicked – and not-so-wicked – issues.

Those of you who have been following my ramblings for the last couple of years will know that I am (very) interested in working out, among a number of things, how the council can itself become more innovative, whilst also being more enabling of others across the city to do the same.

It’s important that people like Mark take the time to have their head hurt.  It’s much more productive than the sort of polite government meetings that stifle change in areas such as open data.

Why Public Services should take the time to grow the civic conversation

Later this month I’m heading up to Huddersfield for #notwestminster.  It’s  a collection of civic minded folk who get together to think about democracy, digital, changing relationships and changing power. It’s not in Westminster – hence the name.

I’m going mostly to learn and meet, but I’ll also be talking briefly about ‘growing the civic conversation”.  Here’s me just drafting some thoughts.

Public services should have more than a comms function – they should actively grow the civic conversation.

Growing the civic conversation is what probably half of our work is about.

We deliberately find ways to help more people who are civic minded or have roles to create some sort of civic good get online and talk about such matters.  The social media surgeries are an example.  The training we provide that allows public servants and active citizens and community groups to learn together is another. Our Impact Assessment App helps social organisations bring to the surface what their clients are experiencing – enriching the civic conversation.

Why do it?

  • The media isn’t doing it – as much as we need. Newspapers and media tend to provide a particular type of civic conversation.  It’s often very attention grabbing and aimed at providing content for a broad audience. It is also limited (less than it used to be ) in terms of access. Those who can get the attention will be part of this civic conversation.  This is limited.
  • If we can get the people who are actively thinking and doing in their communities confidently using the web it will be easier for them to find each other and achieve new things. It will also be much easier for public servants (also involved in active civic stuff) to find them, find each other, create new forms of working and new flows of useful information.
  • Parochial is good –  but for that very granular level of communal activity to be shared and find an audience it helps to have a wider range of people involved.

Acting to grow the civic conversation should be part of the background hum of the work of public services.

  • Channel shift is likely to happen faster if you do so.
  • Your consultations will probably get a wider range of response.
  • You will find it easier to find allies in communities who can help you achieve things.

This approach also helps public services build towards the five stars of open local democracy I suggested a couple of summers ago:

  • 1 star:  Be seen and be welcoming.  Putting agenda’s and minutes somewhere where it is very easy to find them and where it is easy for others to share them. Make sure everyone knows they’re invited.  (This could be a blog, just on google docs with a link or creating an eventbrite to invite people to meetings. It can include putting invites through doors and agenda’s and minutes on public noticeboards.)
  • 2 star: Talk about what you’re doing.  This means that you have a #hashtag for your meeting and publicise it and also share what you know (make sure that background information to papers is publicly available). You are open to others live reporting or recording what you are doing.
  • 3 star: Do it live.  You do the above but you also do it during your meeting or event.  This is where you can introduce a livestream of video or audio or live social reporting through twitter, facebook and or a blog. This also means you only hold meetings in places where there is good, publicly usable wi-fi or 3g.
  • 4 star:  Involve people outside the room in the meeting.  This is a step change from being seen to be doing. This values the questions and comments made on the web as being as important to your meeting as the ones made in the room.  They are incorporated though hashtags or services like cover it live, blyve or a facebook q&a as the event unfolds.  This could also mean organising events specifically for talking to people on the web.
  • 5 star:  It’s a permanent conversation. This fifth step recognises that the civic conversation you’re having doesn’t just happen at times and places you decide.  It can happen all the time. It means being responsive in between meetings when, for example a comment appears on a website or a hashtag.

As I said – this is me starting to organise some thoughts and and that “Public meetings have moved from the bedrock of local democracy to the rocky-bed.”. Others who chipped in are

Dave McKenna

and his Post on the Double doughnut of Democracy.

Localopolis__73__The_Double_Doughnut_of_Democracy

This suggests that government isn’t well placed to deal directly with the public – and is best to do it  through intermediaries. He calles them sharers. I think growing the civic conversation could well be about partly growing the number of shares and partly about strengthening the networks of sharers through which information and conversation can flow.

Dave mentions these sources of inspiration.

The first is a conversation we had about online democracy at govcampcymru.

The second is a set of ideas developed by Catherine Howe that I heard about first at localgovcamp.  While Catherine is more interested in a citizen perspective here the implications for government are centre stage.

The third source is some conclusions form the academic literature.  Lawrence Pratchett in a paper for Parliamentary Affairs suggested that intermediate bodies such as the media and community groups might be the best route for public participation as local government is essentially a representative rather than participative institution.  Similarly, Marion Barnes, Janet Newman and Helen Sullivan in their research into public participation, suggested that participation initiatives might be more successful when semi autonomous from government and run by voluntary groups.

It also chimes with some of the skills/qualities outlined in the the 21st century public servant work (we’ve been involved with)  –  which suggests skills that will be more prized in future public servants, skills such as “story teller”, “networker” “system architect” and being human.

21st_Century_Public_Servant___Researching_the_future_public_service_workforce

Growing the civic conversation is also about recognising the place you serve as a platform, or a series of them. It helps shape and strengthen the platform upon which local democracy sits. Surely that is partl of the work of any local civic or democratic body?

More after #notwestminster.

Thanks for reading thus far.  You’ve helped me collect some thoughts.

 

 

How to link to Paypal using the Facebook Donate Now button

Adding a Paypal donate button to your Facebook page has never been easy – and as Facebook has changed over the years it’s become impossible without adding third party apps and that’s only of you know where to start looking.

Thankfully with the role out of the integrated Donate Now button to non profit facebook pages there is now a fairly simple way off taking Paypal donations via your page and we’ve even put together a quick guide to help you.

Before you start though, if you want to use Paypal to collect donations you need to have an account set up just for that so that you don’t fall foul of their charges, information can be found on their site.

How to add Paypal to your Donate Now Facebook button.

Search Paypal for the “Donate Button” page, or alternately click this link here, it will take you directly to the page you need.

Log in with details of the account that will be receiving the donation.

NB: It is important that this account is set up for your organisation, using a public email address as this will be visible on the donate page.

You will then see the following screen;

add paypal to facebook donatebdutton

Work your way through the following settings: Read more