Reflecting on #CivilServiceLive Liverpool

Today I helped out an annual thing for civil servants in Liverpool called civil service live. It is one of a series of events held across the county at this time of year including days at Bristol, Newcastle and London. It is my 2nd year attending but first year doing, as the Government Digital Service asked me to help man our stall and also do tech support in our digital skills sessions.

The digital skills bit was easy for me; setup 10 iPads with internet connections and access to Trello, Doodle and Google Docs. These are some of the open internet tools my team has published advice on for civil servants, in a kind of disruptive attempt to influence civil service reform. In the question and answer part of the session I helped out in, most people voiced concerns about their department’s ability to provide suitable technology and internet access. Therefore, I think we need to write a 1 pager of water tight reasons why departments should provide colleagues with space to experiment and try new things, ie the digital services we take for granted.

We didn’t allow enough time in the session for people to actually try the tools and discuss how they could be used. Also the ‘mobile’ web interface to Google Docs on iPads doesn’t allow you to see realtime changes being made to collaborative documents. Next time we should use Chromebooks, not iPads.

Manning the stall was great fun and I loved talking about our design principles, especially putting user needs first. The only question I couldn’t answer was when the Universal Credit exemplar would go live, as this is not stated on the transformation page. I talked with a passion about the www.gov.uk platform, our transformation programme and my favourite, the service design manual.  Several questions were around ‘what is agile?’ or ‘what is a discovery phase?’ which the design manual answers nicely. I wrote out the webpage address http://www.gov.uk/service-manual several times on post-it notes, which is a good way of showing we are not exclusively digital at the expensive of pen and paper.

In the pub afterwards, a colleague suggested part of the event should be an unconference, ie space for people to pitch sessions they want to talk about.  I will follow this up with the Civil Service Live organisers and see what they think.

All in all I’m glad I used taxpayers money to travel and stay in Liverpool, because I helped spread awareness to fellow civil servants of digital and how it can help them.

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