The Church of #LocalGov change

This is an unedited ramble with a side order of hero worship.

So I’ve had a restless night. I woke from a dream where I escaped from an American religious cult. One of the 1st things that came to mind was, “that’s the public sector”.

I’ve devoted 7 years of my life to public and civil service. Not long in the grand scheme of things. Certainly not as long as the 15 odd years I meandered through financial services.

I see this dream as a reminder that I’m at a crossroads. I have an idea that’s currently the number 1 local government makers (@LGMakers) project. But I’m scared to take the leap and do it.

I could do what I normal do and delegate it. Package my idea, find it a home and wave it goodbye. But I like this idea. I really like this idea.

It’s an attempt to instil and build digital capability in the public sector. Put differently it’s an attempt to change a perceived culture. A culture where people aren’t equipped with the skills to listen to users. Where colleagues don’t know how to build prototypes. Where we can’t use them to inspire and procure change.

In affect I want to replay the early days the of the Government Digital Service (GDS). But in many public sector organisations simultaneously.

Rather than dreaming anymore, it feels like time to research. Who are the key players in the public sector that also want to do something similar? More importantly who is currently trying and succeeding (or failing).

One person who always gets my attention is Ben Welby. To sum him up in 3 words; moral, angry, football. Moral because he is a devote follower of Jesus. Angry because he is frustrated with the pace of change. Football because he seems to place Bradford City Football Club over everything but his wife and the afore mention monotheistic deity.

When people in GDS want direction on issues related to local government, they turn to Ben. You only have to read his blog posts to understand why. Unlike mine they are objective. He takes arguments apart and lays them out. He commands a position of respect for doing so, whether he realises it or not.

If I was asked to pick the leader of the Church of local government change, it would be Ben.

Okay, hero worship done.

Now whats for breakfast?


what I will do next

So heres the thing; I love local government (localgov) and anyone with a passion for it.

But as we march towards 2015, there are capability gaps in localgov and the wider public sector.

Some, possibly many parts are behind the digital curve.  But that’s the tip of the iceberg.  There are also policy, cultural and workload issues as well, to name but a few.  Basically, I’m referring to the shortage of resource and skills to deliver world class user centric services, both internally and with external help.

I will change that.

All over our United Kingdom there are talented people who can make things better.  So we’ll draw groups of 12 in to 1 place (lets call them the dirty dozeners).  Then challenge them to show us all how to ‘level up’.

With your help I will:

  • crowdsource challenges to be solved
  • crowdsource potential dirty dozeners
  • let anyone vote on the things above
  • tie dozeners into 6 week contracts
  • crowdfund the resources they need
  • match dozener’s skills to challenges
  • co-locate them into 1 open space
  • give them challenges and let them deliver
  • then send them home with fresh ideas, skills and solutions

Come the next election we’ll all have an alternative model to deliver the local things, on a national scale.

Thoughts?  I’ve created a kanban board which you can comment on (you’ll need a Trello account).

There was a hangout at 1pm Sunday 12 October 2014 which due out useful comments and ideas.

You can see (and add to them) via

The hashtag is currently #LocalGovAlpha.  Come get some

UKGC15 survey results – the complete data set

The United Kingdom Government Camp (UKGovcamp) is the free, annual unconference for people interested in how the public sector does digital stuff.

As one of the organisers, I used a survey to research user needs and help shape the 2015 event.

You can download the full results (including comments) in the following formats:-

The only surprise was that most people don’t want a souvenir, eg a t-shirt:

Screen Shot 2014-07-20 at 20.22.21

You can view all the bar charts by clicking here (excludes anything entered into a ‘free text’ field). I’ll publish a full writeup of the results in early August 2014.

Over the 4 days the survey was open, it received 319 unique visits and 120 completed responses.  Thats a 38% completion rate:

Screen Shot 2014-07-20 at 20.28.27


Let’s Replace Council Websites with Local.Gov.Uk – a GDS for Local Government

Richard Copley MSc, BSc, SMSITM (and CIO)

140 characters is not a lot of space, but sometimes a tweet can contain a very big idea. In December 2013 Dominic Campbell (@dominiccampbell) tweeted:


“I reckon it would be possible to build a GDS platform for all #localgov for the price of the new Birmingham Library website” 

If you’re not sure what GDS is then click here.

GDS certainly seem to have no appetite to attempt to tackle local gov – they have too much on their plate already. They have offered to share code, standards, APIs, frameworks etc – the philosophy being that we create a service of ‘small pieces loosely joined’ (a phrase which was originally used as an analogy to describe the Internet) – this means that responsibility for implementing this stuff would be devolved to individual Councils. It’s nice of the GDS to offer to share this knowledge, but I don’t…

View original post 1,801 more words

Summer working holidays

I’m not one for sitting still, especially on a beach in the baking sun. So this Summer I’ve decided to do something different; a working holiday.

From Monday 5th to Friday 9th August I’ll be out and about on me travels.  I want to visit as many different local and central government organisations, suppliers and interested parties as possible.  The idea is to learn what they do and how they do it.

I’ve managed to bag the Department of Communities and Local Government for Tuesday 6th and some time with the Citizen’s Advice Bureau.

Also kindly been offered time by Ben Procter from Herefordshire Council,  Andy Parkhouse from Delib and Noel Hatch at Kent County Council.  Be good to get out of London 🙂

Would love to get a big supplier into the mix as well.

#ukgc14; revolution not evolution?

A few months ago, I stepped up to the plate at work and asked if anyone was interested in forming a softball team.  Fast forward to today and despite some teething problems, the “GDS Griffins” are 2nd in the London based Publishers Softball League.

Now its time to throw another curve ball.

I’ve offered to help organise the United Kingdom Government Camp for 2014 and along with a merry band of fellow TeaCampers, I’m starting to think about where, when and how.

Right now, I’m only concerned about 2 things : –

1) where?

2) how many people?

Several venues have been suggested, including this year’s IBM Client Centre in London, previous year’s venues and a 500 person maximum capacity venue in Slough (which isn’t going down well on Twitter, as I type few people like).

So far, most people think sticking with London is best and around 200 people is “easier” to manage.

However, I like to mix things up.

What if everyone who wanted to take part, could take part?  (there is this thing called videoconferencing that I’ve heard of + we had 250 people at Microsoft London, 1 year).  Skype / Google+ Hangouts / another solution  +  multiple venues (each limited to 200 people).

Maybe we could try stretching the event over 2 days again, focusing discussion on day 1 and planning on day 2? (even though it was knackering)

So basically, what do you want? Same again? Something different? I’m all ears.

Please either comment below or preferably join in the conversation at the newsgroup and prompt your ideas on Twitter using the #ukgc14 hastag.

Making #LocalGov news easier to read

Before I joined the Government Digital Service, I hacked together some Local Government news feeds into RSS.  I did this under the guise of LocalGovBot.

I basically looked at each local authority’s website and catalogued some of their digital output.  You can view the work so far in this spread sheet.

After Housing Camp, I was inspired to see how I could present these in a readable format.  As I’d been banging on about automation, I decided to use If This Then That + an app that would work on desktop and mobile devices.

The collected feeds are shared via Google Reader (which will be switched off in July 2013).  Using If This Then That, I selected an existing recipe to push news items in Pocket.

Hit me up if you want to know more.