Tag: Downing Street

Social Media Surgery movement wins the Prime Minister’s Big Society Award – hurrah!

Big Society Awards 2012 logo looks like a street name plate

I’m very excited to be able to say that the Prime Minister has recognised social media surgeries with a Big Society Award for 2012.

The Big Society Awards were set up by the Prime Minister in November 2010 to acknowledge individuals and organisations across the UK that demonstrate the Big Society in their work or activities. The aim is also to galvanise others to follow.  David Cameron said this about the surgeries:

“This is an excellent initiative – such a simple idea and yet so effective. The popularity of these surgeries and the fact that they have inspired so many others across the country to follow in their footsteps, is testament to its brilliance.

“Congratulations to Nick and all the volunteers who have shared their time and expertise to help so many local groups make the most of the internet to support their community. A great example of the Big Society in action.”

Thank you for such kind words – to which we responded formally with:

“It’s wonderful to have recognition for everyone who has organised a social media surgery or turned up to volunteer their help.  I think the surgeries work because they are simple.  They are very easy to organise, fun to do and not in the least bit intimidating for people who want some help. They give active citizens and community groups the confidence and skills to use social media to campaign, organise and hold power to account.  They’ve grown because of the passion and energy of bloggers and voluntary groups up and down the country.”


The idea of a social media surgery originated with Pete Ashton – who used them with people who were looking for free help from his consultancy supporting arts organisations. We then applied the relaxed approach in a new way, scaling it up and putting together two sets of people – lovely helpers from the Birmingham Bloggers group (started in 2007) with the fab active citizens I’d had met through Read more

Fanning the flames of GovSpark

govspark  energy use in government

Very late on Tuesday night I was asked a question on twitter – can you help get a government site up in short order?  The question was prompted by this.

GovSpark is a simply wonderful idea from 16 year old coder Isabell Long that emerged from Emma Mulqueeny’s Young Rewired State.  Isabell wrote last month…

I came up with the idea because the government had just released some live and historical energy consumption data, but it was all held on the respective department websites and not central anywhere. GovSpark aims to be the central website for people to go so that they can see what the energy consumption of a certain department is at that time. The government also have targets to reduce usage by 80% by 2050, so I thought it would be a good tool to show how well one department is doing compared to another department.

Because it was Emma asking we said yes.  Glyn Wintle had already sweated to build an API which ran off live data for energy use in government buildings in Whitehall.  We were given less than a day to help push it across the finishing line by deciding what it ought to look like and making it look that way. Josh Hart coded like a lunatic and the talented and calm Ryan Dean-Corke of Substrakt sorted out some visuals for us.

As the Downing Street website reported this morning…

The Prime Minister has today challenged Whitehall Ministries to compete to slash the energy used in their departmental headquarters over the month of October.

The league table application, called GovSpark, will show data from the 18 Government Real Time Displays. The original prototype for GovSpark was developed by Isabell Long, aged 16, during Young Rewired State 2010, an event run for young developers aged 15-18 working with open government data.

It’s always a pleasure to help something good happen, in fact that’s what we are here for really.  The best bit was a short e-mail from a clearly chuffed Isabell

It looks amazing – I really love it! Everything has finally come together! 🙂

In less than a month in total Isabell’s idea has turned into site which is running a blindingly simple competition to help civil servants use less energy.    It gives civil servants the information and incentive to switch things off, or find way to cut emissions.

We can only take a tiny bit of credit for helping.  The site was sponsored and funded by The Stationery Office and the real work, before our last scramble, came from Glyn and Emma Mulqueeny.  Thanks very much to Sarah Marshall for spotting Emma’s cry for help and asking us to get involved.

Online Petitions for Birmingham City Council.

Kris Kowalewski at Birmingham City Council press office has sent me this:

Online petitions are set to be introduced by Birmingham City Council as a 21st Century way for citizens to express their views on matters of concern.  Under the plans, the new easy-to-use system, accessible via www.birmingham.gov.uk, will go live later this month.

E-petitoners will be able to upload external documents and images as supporting information and follow the progress of their petition through its life cycle thanks to a timeline function.  Additionally the system would give users access to support materials to market their petition to the public and be given the ability to create paper-based versions of petitions to run at the same time.

Those working on the scheme in partnership with the city council include Digital Birmingham and Service Birmingham.  Cllr Paul Tilsley, Deputy Leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “The introduction of an e-petition facility promises to be major step forward for the city of Birmingham.  “It will provide an additional mechanism for people to have their say on issues – strengthening and broadening citizens’ access and participation in democratic decision-making.  “As a council we are committed to embracing modern technologies and enabling citizens to make the most of the digital age. This project is clear evidence of this.”

Funding for the system would be supplied by the EU, which would also foot the bill for any amendments and upgrades that are needed over the next two years.

The most prominent online petition system was created by MySociety for the 10 Downing Street site and has created all sorts of political ructions since it went live in in November 2006. It was an early triumph in the process of using the internet to nurture a conversation between governed and government.  The Downing Street site also gets used for local petitions, such as this one started by the Bradley Stoke Examiner in Gloucestershire.

The Scottish Parliament has also be at it since January 2007 and Kingston upon Thames was one of the first local authorities to get started back in February 2007.

Birmingham City Council will use the Public-i E-Petitions system used by the ones mentioned above and by Bristol City Council.  There is a set up cost this financial year of £7,500 followed by an expected annula running cost of £1,332, currently funded for two years from EuroPetition project.  Source from the Democratic services minutes here (pdf) and here (pdf).

Also see Jon and Stef.