Most of the time, companies, organisations, and governments are making big, bold, predictions about what they think will happen. The truth is we never know what will happen. Not with any real certainty. When you think about any policy, idea, […]

Original source – Ben Holliday

Why would we have a second election? The next election is not due until May 2020, but a new Conservative PM may come under public pressure to call a general election to provide a further mandate for Britain’s exit from the EU. Opposition parties may agree. However, it’s worth pointing out that elections – even after a change of PM mid-term – are more often called when a government expects to win. Who calls an election? The ability to call for dissolution of parliament used to be a Royal Prerogative power that was exercised on the advice of the Prime Minister, but the introduction of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act in 2011 removed the Prime Minister’s effective ability to call an election at a time of their choosing. So now it’s up to parliament. How is an election called? There are two ways in which an early election could be called. However, these mechanisms have never been tested and there are questions about how they would occur. Commons votes for a new election: If at least two-thirds of the House (434 MPs) vote for a dissolution that would trigger an election. Basically this would mean both Labour and the Conservatives […]

Original source – Institute for Government

Yesterday, I gave a talk at the Public Sector Show. It re-visits some of the things I spoke about recently, but ties them together with some new thoughts about the future of GDS and the role we play within government. Here’s what I said.

Today I’m going to spell out what GDS is for.

The role of GDS is transformation, but we believe very strongly that transforming government services means transforming government itself. And that, as all of us across government have been learning over the last few years, goes much deeper than upgrading our technology and redesigning our websites.

During that time, GDS has been thinking very hard about services and how they work. We’ve been trying to understand services as users see them – as whole services, from one end to another.

Users don’t care about the structure of government. They don’t care which department does this or agency does that. They don’t care about your process. They just want to do what they need to do, get stuff done, and get on with their lives. Users have needs – our job in government is to build services that meet those needs.

So government has to think of itself in a different way.

Photo of dashboards overlaid with the text "whole services, whole government"

We have to think about ourselves as a single entity, as one whole government.

I’ve said before; the question we should be asking ourselves isn’t “What does my department do?”, but rather: “What services can my department contribute to?”

We need to have a cross-government perspective on everything we do. GDS exists to help tie all that together.

GDS doesn’t claim to know every department’s users or their user needs, but we do claim to be experts in one thing: digital. Our job is to help everyone in government do the right things, in the right ways, to the right standards.

Photo of GDS wall with post it notes, overlaid with the text "Rethinking organisational boundaries"

Lots of the government services we have today evolved over a very long time. The service itself – the thing that the user experiences – cuts across organisational boundaries. Boundaries that users don’t care about, and shouldn’t be expected to understand.

For example: think about how benefits are divided between DWP and HMRC. Or how offenders and other people dealing with the criminal justice system have to be in touch with the police and the courts, prisons and probation staff. Or how complicated it is to start a business, because you have to get in touch with BIS, HMRC and Companies House, at least. Some other agencies too, depending on the nature of your business.

All these are examples of some of the great challenges facing government right now. Not just challenges, though: opportunities.

Transforming the relationship between citizen and state.

This is what the Minister for the Cabinet Office said earlier this year. He was talking about the ultimate goal: making it really easy to deal with government, safely and securely.

What does that look like?

To be blunt, it means widespread, substantial change across government. The most fundamental thing that needs to change is us, is the way we work. How we assemble services to meet user needs. How we put user needs first, not government needs.

In practice, that means moving from government inherited from the industrial age, towards government intentionally designed for the digital age.

I spoke about this at an event last month, where I described my vision for what government would look like in the year 2030.

In 15 years or so, by the time we get to 2030, I expect government to look, behave and feel very different.

By then we will have fixed the basics. “Digital” won’t be a thing any more, because everything will be digital; by default. The work we’ve started in the last year to establish the digital profession in government will have matured, and we’ll have a diverse, digitally skilled workforce which reflects the diversity of the people it exists to serve.

In the words of Kit Collingwood-Richardson from DWP: “Diversity is the lifeblood of a civil service which represents a wider humanity.”

More changes: By 2030, policy making will be service design. Ideas and implementation will be so closely tied, you won’t be able to have one without the other. Thinking in code, iterating in public – these will be the norm.

Policy making will be minimally designed and built as a framework which allows flexibility and feedback, not as a conclusion.

The way that the law is made will have changed, and so our approach to public consultation will be massively changed: it will be faster, smaller, conducted more frequently. We will be working in a cycle, not a sequence. The old-style, top-down, predictive policy making model that identifies the “big idea” and doesn’t consider service delivery as the best source of evidence on what works and what doesn’t, just isn’t going to cut it.

Platform thinking will be everywhere. Every time a government team makes something that should be shared, it will be shared. And shared in the right way, so that it’s easy to use – again, thanks to standards we’re setting now.

In 10 or 15 years from now, we’ll be reaping the benefits of the work we’ve begun to make better use of data in government.

Data will be easier to find, access and use, which means we’ll have clearer insight into what works and what doesn’t. We’ll reach that insight faster than ever before, because the data won’t all be locked away.

Where sharing can be done securely and appropriately, sharing will be easier, so that government can work more efficiently.

Photo of a woman using an iPad overlaid with the text "Services will shape government, not the other way round"

The upshot will be services that shape government, not the other way round. Because we’re putting users first, and because we’re working in an agile way, and because we’re making data easier to use, government itself will have to change.

There will be more small, multidisciplinary teams working in short sprints, moving products and projects from discovery to alpha to beta to live. There will be more flexibility and agility, and less risk.

Sometimes things won’t work out – not everything does. We’re human, just like everyone else. But when that happens, we’ll learn and iterate and adapt. So we’re not here just to fix the websites.

It’s not about making existing things just a little bit better: it’s about completely rethinking what we do, and how we do it. From top-to-bottom, from end-to-end.

From the moment the user has a need, to the moment that need has been met.

And the “we” I’m talking about here is all of us in government. It’s a collaborative joint effort, because no single department or team has the knowledge and experience and expertise to do it alone.

In GDS, we’ve come to that understanding thanks to about five years of intense effort and learning. Our thinking has changed over that time, just as our role and our approach have changed.

Image showing visibility of GOV.UK, GOV.UK Verify and GOV.UK Platform as a Service

This diagram is my attempt to explain that a bit.

Think about the things that services are made from, and how visible they are to the public. The vertical axis represents visibility. The higher up something is, the more visible it is.

GOV.UK is very visible. It’s up the top there. It’s the digital embodiment of government on the web, so of course it’s very visible. GOV.UK Verify is slightly less so, but still near the top.

And something like Government PaaS, our hosting platform, is at the bottom. Still an essential component, but pretty much invisible to the public.

Image showing visibility of GOV.UK, GOV.UK Verify and GOV.UK Platform as a Service and how our work is expanding to cover different things. The blank boxes represent all sorts of things - making technology governance simpler, or making procurement easier, or making data easier to find and access and use

Over time, our work expanded to cover more things. (For example, data – I’m not showing here how central it is, how it flows in and out of services, how they depend upon it.) We could show 100 more boxes on this diagram, but let’s keep it simple. These boxes represent all sorts of things – making technology governance simpler, or making procurement easier, or making data easier to find and access and use.

When GDS began, our work was mostly focussed at the top, at public-facing transactional services.

Part of that was about making the point that transformation was possible. That putting users first meant better services; that being agile was something that could work in government. And that government departments needed to hire people, or train people, with digital skills. And making those points through real, demonstrable change.

And things have changed now. Departments are putting users first, they are being agile, they are hiring and training people in digital skills. And our focus has become more collaborative. We want to work with those empowered people. We want to help them.

We’ve started looking at the entire picture, not just bits of it in isolation.

Image showing visibility of GOV.UK, GOV.UK Verify and GOV.UK Platform as a Service and what connects all these separate things together

So today, it looks more like this. We’re thinking about what connects all these separate things together. Those connections are just as important as the things themselves.

Our role, in GDS, is guiding, advising, demonstrating, consulting. We’re here to help government work like this, so that it can transform itself, and so that it can transform its relationship with citizens.

And how do we do it?

Photo of the Tom Loosemore tweet mentioned in the copy of the post.

Not by doing digital, but by being digital. No-one has defined that better than GDS alumnus Tom Loosemore, who said recently:

“Digital means applying the culture, practices, processes and technologies of the internet era to respond to people’s raised expectations.”

Brilliant, isn’t it? And so, so true.

Of course technology is part of it, but that’s not how we define digital. This is how we define digital. Thank you Tom.

Blue slide with the text "GDS is here to make it easy for government to be digital"

The world around us is digital, whether we like it or not. Government must learn how to be digital too. GDS exists to make it easy for government to do that.

To apply the culture, practices, processes and technologies of digital era. To understand what they are, how they work, and how to put them to use to meet user needs. Because only by meeting those user needs will we be able to respond to people’s raised expectations and change how they feel about government.

Delivering, enabling, guiding, directing

What that means in practice is a mixture of things – sometimes it’s about GDS delivering products, platforms and services. Sometimes it means us working with other teams to help them do the delivery.

And sometimes we’re directing, saying what’s right, what should happen and what shouldn’t. (We only do that because we’re digital experts. But it’s something that has to be done.)

A few very quick examples:

  • Delivering: Among many other things, we’ve delivered GOV.UK Notify, an easy way for service teams to keep their users up-to-date. Something that used to be complicated, difficult, time consuming and costly is now quick, easy, simple and cheap. And because Notify has been built in a particular way, it’s open to everyone in government. No need for every department to re-imagine it, or re-build it, or re-procure it.
  • Enabling and guiding: We worked closely with a team at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office when they built the first data register for government, the Country Register. There used to be dozens of different sources of information about countries on GOV.UK, none of them aligned with any of the others. Now there’s just one. It’s a digital service that lives entirely on the internet. It’s data that’s easy to find, access and use. There will be more registers to come.
  • Directing: And sometimes we have to say how things should be done, and put a stop to things that are being done in the wrong way. Standards are there for a reason: to maintain quality. Sometimes that means we have to make unpopular decisions. Sometimes, the controls process puts a stop to things, even when people have done a lot of work to get them started. In 2014/15, government saved £391 million, as a direct result of spend controls. That’s why it matters.

“No more big IT”

Some of you might remember my predecessor using this phrase in some of his talks: “No more big IT.”

It’s still true! We still mean it. Big IT is a bad idea for government, for the public sector. There are better ways.

When I say “Big IT”, I’m referring to a culture of technology outsourcing that took strategy and control with it. Of solutions that didn’t focus on user needs, but often on government needs and (sometimes) supplier needs ahead of the needs of users. Of arrangements that didn’t always result in the best partnerships for government, and that made responding to change much harder than it needed to be.

Now of course, large IT companies can and must still be suppliers – we won’t solve some of our most daunting challenges without them – but it must be on the same level playing field as their smaller, more agile peers and always focussed on meeting user needs.

Red slide with the text "We have a mandate to uphold standards, and we will"

There’s no going back on this. No backsliding. We’re not going to allow the old style big IT culture to slide its way back in, nor are we going to allow new big IT ideas to creep in, pretending to be agile and user centered when they’re not.

And I say that stridently because I have a mandate and a responsibility to say that. From the beginning, GDS has had a mandate to uphold standards for digital services, and we shall continue to do that.

We are allowed to direct things. We are allowed to say that some things should be stopped when they’re not being done the right way. That’s part of why we’re here. It’s part of my job, and my team’s job.

Transforming government together

“But wait a minute Steve,” I hear you say.

“What happened to the fluffy cuddly GDS that was talking about “transforming government together”? Where’s the GDS that says ‘We’ve got your back’? Where’s that gone?”

It hasn’t gone anywhere. Transforming government together is still at the heart of our work. One of the biggest changes we’ve seen over the last 5 years is empowering people to do the right thing.

Five years ago, digital wasn’t a thing in government. There were people all over government who had the right skills and the right expertise, but they didn’t have the mandate. They didn’t have us to back them up.

Right now, there are teams all over government trying to work digitally, and our job is to help support, connect and guide them. We’ve got their backs because they look to us for that support. They need us to do the right thing, not the easy thing, when it comes to standards and controls. Because that empowers them to do the right thing.

They need us to help convene, coordinate, guide. To reflect back to the community what good looks like, so that everyone can recognise it when they see it.

So, our support takes many forms.

What we offer to the rest of government are the following things:

  • A cross-government perspective – because we’re at the centre, we have a unique cross-government perspective. That’s essential for making sure all the digital work across departments is properly lined up.
  • A digital profession – we’ve established the digital, data and technology profession, to make it easier for government to understand the skills it needs to hire in, and the in-house skills it needs to develop and grow.
  • Breadth and depth of expertise – we have an award-winning team of digital experts, who came here because they want to work on stuff that matters.
  • A thriving digital culture – we’ve made room for culture to grow by itself, and culture is a vital part of transformation too. It’s just as much about how people work, and the environment they work within, as it is about the actual work itself.
  • Funding and capability to deliver shared components and services – we now have the people, the skills and the budget to deliver shared components and services and products that can be put to use across government. Things like GOV.UK Verify, and GOV.UK Pay, and many many more that will follow in the years ahead. That doesn’t mean we will make them all, of course. Other teams, in other departments, will make shared components too.
  • A mandate to set and enforce standards – everything will be built to the same high standards, set and enforced by GDS. Without standards, digital transformation would be a mess of conflicting ideas and approaches. Without standards, it would all fall apart.

That’s what we’re for. That’s why we’re here. It’s not about doing what’s easy, it’s about doing what’s right.

We want to make it easy for colleagues across government to do what’s right.

Original source – Government Digital Service

Videos from TICTeC — our Impacts of Civic Technologies Conference — are now available for viewing.

So, whether you were there and you want to experience it all over again, or you just want to see what you missed out on, settle down and enjoy accounts from some of the most interesting civic tech projects around the world right now.

What is TICTeC?

Here’s mySociety CEO Mark Cridge explaining what TICTeC is, and why we run it:

And if that’s left you hungry for more, make sure you visit our YouTube channel to watch the other TICTeC videos.

You might also enjoy the slides, photos and other media that have all been collected together on the TICTeC 2016 page.

Original source – mySociety

Football tournaments can be a time of joy and rejoicing. But they have an ugly side too. Domestic violence can peak during them. So how do we communicate?

by Helen MacBean

With the football violence on the streets of France at the centre of the media’s Euro 2016 coverage, it’s easy to forget about the violence and abuse happening behind closed doors. Sadly, with every international football tournament we see a significant increase of domestic abuse reports to police – in some cases by up to a third.

Some police forces are attempting to fight this trend by using communications campaigns alongside enforcement work. They’re warning perpetrators not to ‘kick off’ during UEFA Euro 2016 or they’ll be ‘shown the red card’, and ‘blow the whistle on domestic abuse’ to avoid being ‘sent down’. 

But domestic abuse perpetrator campaigns present unique challenges for comms professionals, and there’s more to these campaigns than just cleverly-worded posters and news releases.  

Abusive behaviour is often picked up in childhood and may be seen by the perpetrator as being completely normal. For a perpetrator communications campaign to work, it would first need to convince perpetrators of the consequences of their behaviour, both in and beyond their intimate relationships. 

The campaign authors also face difficulties in defining their audience. Domestic abuse perpetrators come from all walks of life and their crimes are committed behind closed doors, normally with only one – reluctant and terrified – witness.  

Thankfully, previous perpetrator-focused campaigns have taught us which tactics work and which ones don’t. Schools of thought such as behavioural economics – the study of the psychological factors that drive people’s behaviour and decision making – also provide useful insights for communications professionals working to change perpetrator behaviour. 

Five things we’ve learnt about perpetrator campaigns from Euro 2016

1.     Perpetrators are more responsive to a potential loss than a potential gain. In fact we all are. Losing something we already have has a much more powerful influence over us than gaining something new.  

West Yorkshire Police’s ‘don’t lose it all for football’ campaign frames the impact of domestic abuse as a loss to the perpetrator, implying that they will lose their family, job, freedom and self-respect if they continue their abuse.

West Mercia Police has also used the language of loss aversion in its campaign posters. By highlighting the fact that perpetrators of domestic abuse may lose access to the victim’s home (which could also be their own home), they give perpetrators a strong reason to reconsider their behaviour. 

2.     Emotive language can have a big impact. This is based on the idea that people are guided more by their emotions than by logic. West Mercia Police uses emotive language in its Euro 2016 domestic abuse posters, which include words from genuine domestic abuse reports received by their call handling centre. 

3.     The risk of being punished is a more effective deterrent to perpetrators than the severity of the punishment itself. This is rooted in behavioural economics and means that campaigns warning perpetrators that they could face a long prison sentence are less likely to be effective than those that warn perpetrators of increased police activity in their area – even if the prison sentence is shorter. 

This is difficult to apply in a domestic abuse context because the crime takes place in the home, well away from the police’s notice, meaning perpetrators of domestic abuse may be less likely to take this type of warning seriously. However, by directly targeting specific groups of perpetrators, such as those already known to the police, this tactic can still have an impact. 

North Wales Police’s ‘#StopItChangeIt’ campaign and West Yorkshire Police’s ‘don’t lose it all for football’ campaign have both openly publicised the fact that they are targeting serial perpetrators and perpetrators wanted on warrant with enforcement activity. By warning these groups that they are on the police’s radar, and that their chances of being arrested are high, these campaigns aim to make perpetrators reconsider their behaviour.

4.     Including a call to action is essential. In any comms campaign you would expect to see a website or helpline number so that the campaign’s audience can find out more information. Campaigns aimed at perpetrators are no exception. 

In fact, interviews with perpetrators carried out prior to a campaign run by the Australian government in 2000 showed unanimous support for a campaign that focused on signposting perpetrators to sources of support. 

Despite this, the majority of the Euro 2016 perpetrator campaign materials only contain helpline numbers and websites for victim support services, not for perpetrators. The argument for including a victim helpline number is a strong one – after all, it is important that victims know where they can get help – but there is no reason why they can’t include both victim and perpetrator helplines. 

North Wales Police’s ‘#StopItChangeIt’ posters are a good example of this, with victim and perpetrator support information listed in separate sections.

5.     Perpetrators are more likely to respond when non-judgemental language is used. This was another finding from the Australian Government’s campaign. The perpetrators interviewed reacted negatively to messages such as ‘real men don’t hit women’. 

North Wales Police’s ‘#StopItChangeIt’ campaign poster uses neutral language and urges perpetrators to seek help to change their behaviour, rather than shaming them into changing. 

What else do we know about perpetrator campaigns? 

Some of the most effective perpetrator campaigns are those that focus on the impact of domestic abuse on children. 

Hull Primary Care Trust ran a social marketing campaign to increase referrals to its ‘Strength to Change’ perpetrator programme. Researchers found that most of the men who voluntarily contacted the service were fathers.  

The researchers speculated that the men were motivated to contact the service because they were concerned about the impact of their domestic abuse on their children, or that they were worried they would lose access to their children. ‘Becoming a better father’ was listed as a key motivator for these men to try to change their abusive behaviour. 

Measuring the impact of perpetrator campaigns

The campaigns mentioned in this post are still ongoing, and their impact is unknown at this stage.

We know that domestic abuse is seriously under reported, and the cases we know about are the tip of the iceberg. 

Domestic abuse campaigns – whether targeted at victims or perpetrators –often result in an increase in reports to police, simply because they increase victims’ confidence in the police. This means that reporting figures are unreliable when it comes to measuring the impact of perpetrator campaigns.

Therefore, unless communications professionals get creative with their performance metrics – focusing on alternative outcomes, such as perpetrator helpline calls and self-referrals to perpetrator services – the true impact of these campaigns will never be known.

Helen MacBean is a freelance writer with experience of public sector communications. 




Original source – comms2point0 free online resource for creative comms people – comms2point0

This year we embarked on a ground-up redesign of Alaveteli’s theming capabilities to make customising Alaveteli easier and faster. We used a mixture of techniques to try to achieve this and since releasing the update we’re happy to have seen a decrease in the complexity of our themes, and the time we spend making them.

Alaveteli, our Freedom of Information platform is one of our most deployed software packages and each deployment requires some customisation, from simple branding changes to complex functionality to support a country’s FOI process. This is either done internally by our own developers, or our partners take this on themselves.

An Alaveteli deployment consists of two things, the core: the guts of Alaveteli with no customisations, and the theme: the aesthetic and functional customisations made to each site. We ship Alaveteli with a fully-featured base theme that gives partners a good starting point to work from, but they can also start their own theme from scratch.

After talking to our partners and the Alaveteli team we felt that the process of theming was too complicated and involved. It required a lot of knowledge of Alaveteli’s inner workings, was coded in a way that made it hard to understand, and almost always required the intervention of a front-end expert, even to make trivial changes.

Our vision for how Alaveteli’s theming should work was:

  • Intuitive Front-end developers and designers should be able to follow and understand the templates without needing expert knowledge about Alaveteli’s inner-workings.
  • Flexible Overriding Alaveteli’s core code should be easy, so we a theme should use low-specificity, componentised code to enable this.
  • Supportive Should a partner decide to only change a few colours, or embark on a large-scale redesign Alaveteli, the theming process should never get in the way.

How we did it

Using the tools we have

Alaveteli is built on Ruby on Rails, so our first goal was to make better use of Ruby on Rail’s template inheritance.

Firstly, we split all of the Sass files into logical components.

Each component has two associated Sass files, a layout.scss and a style.scss. layout.scss describes only layout of a component, e.g. the physical dimensions and position on a page. style.scss describes the styles, for example typefaces, colours, borders and other presentational properties.

Should a partner wish to totally redesign or replace a component, they can replace both files with their own. Alternatively they can just choose to replace one part of the component, for example keeping the layout, but replacing the styles.

Ensuring the lowest possible specificity

When customising Alaveteli we want to be sure that a partner never has to fight with the base theme to achieve their goals. The most important part of this is to ensure CSS styles are easy to override.

Firstly we removed all ID selector’s from Alaveteli’s stylesheets and replaced them with class selectors, giving us a good jumping off point as class selectors have much lower specificity than IDs. We then rewrote and refactored Alaveteli’s CSS using the Block Element Modifier methodology (BEM).

BEM helped us in two ways: it’s written in a way that makes CSS self-describing, for example the code snippet .header__navigation__list tells us that this list is a child of the navigation element and a grandchild of the header element.

As well as this, using a single class to define the styles for this element means that using BEM gives our styles the lowest possible specificity, so partners can override them with little resistance.

Using a settings partial

All of our theme’s styles use the variables defined in _settings.scss when referencing colours, typefaces, spacing, and even logo files so the bulk of Alaveteli’s customisation can be done in our base theme’s settings partial _settings.scss.

This allows partners to make simple changes which have a huge impact on the look and feel of the site. We’ve found that the large majority of our theme customisation can be done by just changing the variables in this file and it has sped up the theming process markedly.


We’ve quietly rolled out these updates to Alaveteli over the past 12 months and the impact of the changes has been encouraging.

Internally, we’ve found our theming projects are faster and more efficient. We conservatively estimate that it takes half the time to make a new theme than it used to.

Thanks to the self-documenting nature of BEM and the styles encapsulated in our settings partial, Alaveteli theming requires a lot less understanding of the platform’s inner workings. Our partners are able to be more self-sufficient and rarely require our intervention to assist with simple customisations.

Maintenance and support of our themes is greatly simplified, as the structure is consistent across projects, we’re able to roll out further changes and fixes in a more predictable way.
Overall, we’re really happy with how the changes worked out and the things we’ve learnt from this project we’ll be carrying into our others too, so look out for changes like across our work in the future.

Original source – mySociety

Last week I published a post about making design work in large organisations. All about design leadership and importance of becoming a design-led organisation. One of the challenges I’ve faced over the last year is how to build and scale […]

Original source – Ben Holliday


“It’s all Latin to me.”

“No no. I think you’ll find it’s also Greek, German, French and Sanskrit.”


So formally begins my project to spend the next 6 months reading The Waste Land and exploring it, its meaning, its references, its context and its place in (modern?) culture.

I knew enough to understand this was going to be a personal challenge – why set the task of the project otherwise? – but a first detailed reading shows just how long and steep this climb is going to be.


As we approach the end of June (one month gone already! There’s been a lot happening, which goes to show how difficult the pull of news and events and life can be, especially when a further intention of this project is specifically to create some space, focus and flow for myself in one tiny area of the physical and mental worlds) I have read The Waste Land in detail three times. After my first read I wrote down the themes and dimensions of the poem that I could see, all of which have many questions associated with them.

To try and provide some structure to how I’ll get into The Waste Land, below are these very initial notes and some associated questions.


Themes, or meaning

Knowing what The Waste Land means is the whole point of this, really, so I can’t expect myself to capture and understand all of the themes and meaning of it in one go! The themes I have detected so far, though, are:

  • Time and seasons
  • Geography and nature
  • Reality and mysticism
  • Our everyday lives against the tide of humanity

There will be others.

There’s not much point expanding on these just now, so I won’t.


These feel to me more like the technical aspects of the poem – how it achieves its effects and conveys its themes. They seem to include:

  • Perspectives and relationships – it’s hard to know exactly who is talking or is being talked about at any given point of the poem. Who are the characters? Why are the characters? What do the different perspectives bring?
  • Structure – why is The Waste Land structured as it is? What is the purpose of this and what effect does it create? How does this compare to other poetry of the time?
  • Rhyme and repetition – sometimes there, sometimes not. Why?
  • Language(s) – there are at least six languages used in the poem. What are the translations? Why are different languages used? What does a different language add that the English equivalent couldn’t convey? What motivates the inclusion of an additional barrier to understanding the poem?
  • Humour – unexpected, but definitely there. To what end?

What next?

It’s not much, but it’s a start.

It is probably to be expected, but I feel more comfortable in thinking about the dimensions of The Waste Land rather than its themes. As someone with an untrained eye for poetry (and literature more generally) there is an element of comfort in questioning the practicalities of the poem rather than grappling with its themes. This, alas, will have to change.

But for now this will suffice. The question in my mind, though, is how to progress now? – a question I’ll return to in a further post.




Filed under: Literature Tagged: literature, poetry, t.s. eliot, the waste land, wasteland

Original source – arbitrary constant

The Behavioural Insights Team is currently recruiting a Head of Data Science to lead our Data Science Function. The role will involve working closely with our Chief Scientist to enhance BIT’s capacity in data science – particularly machine learning, predictive modelling and data visualisation.

For more information please see the job description.

To apply, please complete all sections of the application process here.

Date of posting: 21st June 2016

Closing date for applications: Midnight on 24th July 2016.


The Behavioural Insights Team is committed to a policy of Equal Employment Opportunity and is determined to ensure that no applicant or employee receives less favourable treatment on the grounds of gender, age, disability, religion, belief, sexual orientation, marital status, or race, or is disadvantaged by conditions or requirements which cannot be shown to be justifiable.

Original source – Behavioural Insights Team

Cameron may be a prime minister waiting to resign, but he was elected to office with a majority in the House of Commons, which, technically, he still has. However, with a large amount of government business already held up by the EU referendum and the likelihood that controversial decisions will be deferred further, the interesting question is what kind of PM role Cameron needs to play in these circumstances. Many will expect him to play a minimal role in the months remaining. But there are a number of reasons why that may not be possible. First, he needs to steady the Cabinet. In the UK, we operate through a system of collective Cabinet responsibility – so decisions are, in theory, made by the Cabinet all working together. But that has historically been balanced by the informal and formal powers held by the Prime Minister to pull Cabinet together, as its chairman, as the senior spokesperson and ultimately by being able to hire and fire its members. If the Cabinet as a whole is to make decisions, Cameron‘s skills as a chairman will be needed more than ever, as he has lost most of his other powers. We will also have […]

Original source – Institute for Government