Keith Lowe worked at the BHP steelworks in Newcastle, a regional city in Australia, for nearly 40 years before it closed in 1999.

Despite the shock of closure, Keith walked out of the steelworks’ gates for the last time with confidence in his future. Keith likes using his hands. Before the steelworks closed he took up a training voucher and used it to get a certificate in massage therapy. Keith went on to a long career in the eco-resorts of the nearby Hunter Valley. Still today, in his early seventies, he travels to Sydney to work with favourite clients.

Developed countries are struggling to deal with the consequences of regional economic decline. The upheaval caused by factory closure and loss of jobs are felt daily in our politics and policies. Within this debate, a core question is how do we encourage more stories like Keith’s?

Transitioning a career is hard. It is even harder when demand for your job and profession lowers dramatically. Policymakers know the fundamentals of transition programmes – training, payouts and general career guidance – but this is not enough to maximise success. At BIT, we believe transitions must be designed with a better understanding of human nature.

An abandoned paper mill in Vicksburg, United States

Job loss impacts our identity and forces complex decisions

Our sense of ourselves is built around the groups we identify with; our community, our sports team, our ethnicity, our profession. Losing a job, or the prospect of losing a job, causes anxiety over both future earnings and the impact to our identity. In many cases, people need time to come to terms with what has happened. We can be reluctant to consider alternative paths that conflict with the identity we hold. In the worst cases, shocks can affect our sense of self-worth with lasting consequences on our approach to employment and community.

Even if we are ready for change, how do we begin to sort the jobs we can or would like to do from an infinite list of options? Jobseekers need to make complex decisions about the availability of roles, longer-term prospects and job location. Information about the employment market is available but difficult to navigate and much of it is not relevant. Further, career choices are highly personal. We all recognise the temptation of consulting friends and family rather than seeking professional advice, especially when it comes to sensitive life decisions. Unfortunately, this can reinforce the image of traditional and visible careers as the main available routes.

Finally, the process of identifying career opportunities, undertaking retraining and searching for a job requires serious motivation, often in the face of rejection and setbacks.

Behavioural insights can help workers reorientate and retrain following job loss

A behavioural approach is promising when we consider two areas core to successful transition: an internal mindshift towards a new job or career and the practical steps needed to acquire new skills and find a new path.

First, transition programmes must address the impact of job loss on our sense of self. Solutions should consider how our identity and social networks influence decisions and how these structures can also broaden our horizons.

For example, BIT’s work shows how messages from peers can help broaden the scope of education ambitions. We also find exercises where we reflect on our values, in order to decrease the emphasis on other aspects of our identity, can help us to reimagine ourselves at critical moments.

If you’re an accountant who has just lost their job, would you be more likely to listen to the experience of other accountants in similar situations? Or someone with the same education from your area? Would you be motivated by reflecting on what you value in a career? Trialling the impact of peer messages and values affirmation for those forced to reorientate their careers because of factory closure and economic decline could be a promising approach.

Second, transition programmes must help with the practical steps required to search for a new job, identify adjacent and in-demand skills and persist in learning. Solutions should focus on easy and timely prompts alongside tools that help us keep at tasks.

Has a piece of advice ever sent you in a new direction that you previously didn’t consider? Our work in education suggests a text message or letter at the right moment could help job seekers look for jobs in adjacent (and not declining) sectors or outside of their immediate network. Creating and emphasising links between training and potential employers also improves income and employment prospects. Finally, many of us have benefitted from a kind word or piece of encouragement at a moment we felt like quitting a task. Timely messages can increase persistence and engagement. These are approaches worth trialling in communities experiencing economic transition as people search for new jobs and careers.

Of course, a behavioural approach will have little impact without wider action to improve growth and community wellbeing. For a start, access to skills, credit and infrastructure are vital. Still, helping communities will be harder if policy fails to understand how economic decline impacts identity and behaviour.

We are looking to work with cities and regions seeking to achieve successful economic transitions. If you are interested in this work or would like to explore some of the proposed interventions contact

Original source – Behavioural Insights Team

In November, Sarah Foster and Jasper Pandza from the Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) got in touch with GDS to find out about the work it does with Codebar, a non-profit organisation that runs coding workshops for under-represented people in tech.

two participants of the code club discussing something

We met to have a chat. DCMS wanted to run something similar – informal meet-ups for colleagues who were interested in learning to code.

As you would expect from the lead government department for digital policy, there was strong interest in learning to code at DCMS, especially among leaders and policy officials.

It soon became clear that there was an opportunity for the GDS technology community to provide support to DCMS colleagues to help them develop their coding skills.

A weekly lunchtime coding club was suggested. DCMS colleagues would attend and GDS developers would provide support and guidance.

Bringing the Coding Club to life

DCMS colleagues wanted to learn Python as well as HTML and CSS. I asked the GDS technology community for volunteers to go to DCMS one lunchtime a week for a 4-week trial to help out at the coding club. 9 developers came forward.

We decided to offer 2 coding club sessions a week: one on HTML and CSS and the other on Python.

Coding Club session at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Coding Club session at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

An informal class

We decided to keep the coding club sessions fairly informal so that we could cater to a range of skill levels. People who had never written a line of code before were just as welcome as those familiar with programming languages.

We knew that not everyone would be able to attend every session and we didn’t want anyone to feel left behind if they couldn’t come one week.

Therefore, rather than delivering lectures which may not be suitable for everyone, we invited attendees to either bring along a project they wanted to work on or follow one of the many free tutorials available online, such as ‘Automate the boring stuff with Python’. With this approach, attendees could work at their own pace, carry on in their spare time if they wanted to and pick up where they left off if they missed a week.  

GDS developers were on hand to answer questions, clarify programming concepts and offer guidance on personal projects.  

Future coding club sessions

After the 4-week trial concluded, we held a retrospective for DCMS coding club attendees and GDS volunteers to evaluate the sessions.

Both attendees and volunteers enjoyed the sessions. Attendees were grateful that they could work at their own pace and liked meeting colleagues from another department. They also said they had already made progress and were keen to continue learning.

We agreed that we needed to find a way to better match the number of volunteers to attendees so that everyone got the help they needed. We also noted that the number of attendees fluctuated from week to week and needed to find out the reasons behind this.

In the future, we’d like to explore grouping attendees by experience level so that we can better tailor sessions to different needs. This approach would also enable attendees to collaborate in groups and help each other out, so that the coding club can be more self-sufficient. It also became clear that attendees valued the idea of building something rather than just following tutorials, so GDS will help to compile a list of beginner-level projects to get started with.

Do you run something similar in your department? Comment below.

Emma Beynon is a GOV.UK developer.

We’re hiring! Come and chat to us at Silicon Milkroundabout on 19 and 20 May and follow @DigiCareersGov.

Check out what type of software developer roles exist in government.

Original source – Government Digital Service

We often talk about how FixMyStreet Pro can integrate directly with council’s existing systems, and how doing so can help councils be more efficient — but what exactly does that mean in practice?

Let’s take a look at our two most recent FixMyStreet Pro installations. Both B&NES and Buckinghamshire councils use the same asset management system, Confirm, and it gives us a great example of how FixMyStreet Pro’s ability to ‘communicate’ with such systems will make everything a whole lot easier for residents and for council staff, even with two very different types of local authority.

Saving time and effort

FixMyStreet has always provided the resident with an easy interface through which to file a street report. For many councils, however, such reports arrive in an email inbox and then have to be forwarded to the right location or typed into the council’s CRM, all adding to the sum total of time and effort dedicated to each report.

Now, using the Confirm API, Bucks and B&NES councils can access and work on FixMyStreet reports through Confirm’s standard ‘inspector module’, removing any need for this extra step.

Two-way information

Optionally, the information flow can go both ways, and indeed this is the case for both B&NES and Buckinghamshire councils. What this means is that for example, when an issue has been inspected and council staff change its status (perhaps from ‘report received’ to ‘repair underway’), this status change will be passed back to FixMyStreet, automatically syncing with the site, and notifying the report-maker with the update — again removing another mundane task from customer services staff.

If a highways inspector should come across a new issue while they are out and about on their rounds, they can raise an issue in Confirm just as they always would have. But now, that will also create a report on FixMyStreet which residents can view, keeping everyone up to date and ensuring that reports aren’t made about issues that the council already know about.

Canned responses

FixMyStreet Pro also allows for council administrators to create template responses — an invaluable timesaver when responding to one of the more common situations such as “issue identified and prioritised” or “issue now fixed and closed”. While Confirm also has its own template responses, FixMyStreet Pro offers more flexibility, as the same template can be reused across multiple report categories and status types. Buckinghamshire really saw the benefit of this: they were able to reduce the number of templates in use from around 450 to 46.

Mapping assets

Assets such as streetlights, grit bins and gullies can be pulled through from Confirm and overlaid on the map. This makes it significantly easier for both residents and staff to locate and report issue, speeding up the issue resolution time — we’ll be delving more deeply into this in our next blog post, with a few more technical details for those who are interested.

Image: Highways England (CC by/2.0)

Original source – mySociety

I’m James Barton, Head of Transformation for Technology Services in DWP Digital.

James Barton

James Barton

Exciting moves

March saw our final migration of applications to new DWP owned and operated data centres. It’s been an exciting period as we move to faster, cheaper hybrid hosting.

The journey began last June when we started this ambitious, important and complex technology project, to move all of the DWP’s systems to hybrid hosting. This once-in-a-generation change removed the constraints of previous large outsourced IT contracts. This move is at the very heart of our plan to deliver modern flexible digital systems and services for our users.

Cross government collaboration

DWP has worked closely with Cabinet Office to establish new government-owned data centres that deliver secure and flexible hosting services at very affordable prices. We’ve moved our systems to a mix of government-owned data centres and public cloud. Public cloud hosting gives us the flexibility to create, test and run new digital services on a pay-as-you-go basis.

Ambitious project

It’s been non-stop for the last seven months as we’ve moved our digital products, one-by-one, over to the new data centres. The team has worked around the clock managing each move meticulously to minimise disruption for colleagues and customers. It’s been rather like moving from propeller to jet engines whilst the aircraft is in the air and has been a testament to the skills and commitment of everyone involved that such a highly ambitious project with so many inter-dependencies has been successfully completed.

Inevitably, there have been a few bumps along the way. Decades-old products don’t always immediately get along with state-of-the-art hosting technologies. Not every migration has worked on the first attempt, and we’ve had to schedule some of them around critical delivery activities like benefit uprating and winter fuel payments. However we’ve had experts and great partnership-working across DWP who’ve helped us to succeed and I’m hugely grateful to everyone who’s played a part in our progress.

Future benefits

The final migration was complex as it covered the remaining systems that interconnect with other applications so leaving these systems until last minimised disruption. The successful completion ends a mammoth task and our colleagues and customers can look forward to major benefits over the coming years.

To find out more about DWP Digital subscribe to this blog and following us on Twitter @DWPDigital and @DWPDigitalJobs.

Original source – DWP Digital

We’re currently working on a project with the Crown Commercial Service to build a new digital service for gathering management information from suppliers who do business through government frameworks.

At the end of every sprint, we hold a Show & Tell session to report back on our findings and receive feedback. We invite stakeholders from across CCS and the wider public sector to join us, but with the teams spread throughout the country, it’s difficult to get everyone in the same room.

We wanted to ensure that as many people as possible are able to view the Show & Tell live, and also provide an archive that can be watched later for those unable to attend.

I eventually settled on a tool that is more often used by online gamers who broadcast their sessions to services such as Twitch and YouTube, Open Broadcaster Software (OBS). It’s free, open-source and available for MacOS, Windows and Linux, making it an obvious choice.

OBS allows you to combine multiple sources into one stream (e.g. webcam + Google Slides presentation)

This tool allows you to stream live video from any laptop and combine it with screen capture, graphics etc. These can be arranged into multiple ‘scenes’ – combinations of webcam input, screen capture, pre-recorded videos, images, music etc, which can be switched between at will.

This, coupled with a good quality HD webcam and microphone, we were able to produce a YouTube stream that can be viewed live and after the fact.

Additionally, questions could be fielded from both the attendees in the room as well as those viewing remotely (in our case using a Google Hangout and Slack), which maintained the open dialogue nature of the session.

We’ve already run a couple of successful Show & Tells using this method, and feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Our last session had 16 concurrent live streams (each of which could be an individual or group of people watching together).

Original source – dxw

We’re delighted to welcome two new councils who are now using FixMyStreet Pro for their fault-reporting: Buckinghamshire and Bath & NE Somerset.

Residents in these areas can make reports on the councils’ own websites, where they’ll find FixMyStreet as the street fault interface — or through the main FixMyStreet website and app. Whichever you choose, your reports will be published in all three places.

So far, so convenient for residents — but behind the scenes, there’s lots more going on that improves the efficiency of the whole fault-fixing cycle.

Both councils are users of the Confirm CRM system, with which FixMyStreet Pro can now be fully integrated. What that means in practice is that when you make a report, it drops directly into the council’s existing workflows, with no need for someone in the middle to retype or redirect your report.

Council staff can use the best of both systems’ useful tools for shortlisting, inspecting and updating the status of your issues — and when a report has been progressed to the next stage of the fixing cycle, you’ll be automatically kept up to date both by email, and with messages posted directly to your report page.

In another advance, both councils are now displaying assets such as bins, trees and adopted highways in context-sensitive areas of the report-making journey, so it’s easy to identify exactly which one you’re talking about when you make your report. That saves time for you, and for the council when they go out to fix it .

If you’re interested in the technical details, we’ll have more about both Confirm integration and asset layers in future blog posts.

Image: Kosala Bandara (CC by/2.0)

Original source – mySociety

cultural intelligence.jpg

Cultural intelligence – know what it is and where it may fit into your role? Read on and please take part in an associated piece of dissertation research to support a final year PR student.

by Connor Peters

“Cultural intelligence”. You might not have heard of the concept, but it’s a simple and increasingly important concept – like IQ, but for culture. Simply put, the higher your cultural intelligence (CQ), the better you’re are at thinking about and handling cross-cultural situations.

Just think – are you knowledgeable about other cultures? Maybe you change things as subtle as your non-verbal behaviour when a situation requires it? If you do, then you might just have a high CQ.  And in an today’s world, CQ may be increasingly important in the comms industry.

When I mention culture here, it’s not just national or geographic culture that is relevant – other cultures such as organisational culture, or culture of certain demographics, age groups and more, all fall under the umbrella of ‘culture’. Being able to understand and navigate any culture that’s different to yours requires CQ.

As the world becomes more interconnected, and international business becomes more accessible than ever, many business leaders have stressed the importance of emerging economy markets and the opportunity of expanding British business. This means cultural intelligence and understanding differing cultures is becoming more essential by the day. Particularly for PR and communications professionals, as we’re the ones who need to communicate effectively across these cultures.

This is one of the key concepts I’m currently looking at in my dissertation. My study also focuses on social media usage, as this is possibly the clearest and cheapest path for communications professionals to engage audiences from all over the world. However, the change in culture has a profound effect not only in the amount that social media is used around the world, but how social media is used, not to mention what channels are used.

But how does cultural intelligence impact UK businesses now? And how does social media play a part in this? Well, that’s what I’m trying to find out. With my dissertation, I’m hoping to create a framework for PR practitioners to aid cross cultural expansion of British businesses – whether that be for their own PR businesses, or as communications advice for clients. If you’d like to read the whole dissertation when it’s published, I am trying to get it published in the Journal of Public Relations research. But to do that, I need a lot of survey respondents to ensure I have reliable data.

Which brings me onto a favour: As I’m doing this study through quantitative data, I need as many PR and communication professionals to fill out my academic survey as possible. So, if you’re working in the PR or comms industry, please fill out the survey below and share it with your colleagues – every survey response helps.

You can take part here

Thanks for your help

Connor Peters is a final year BA Public Relations student at Bournemouth University and on the look-out for a PR graduate job

image via Tullio Saba

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

a social media webinar.jpg

On Thursday I’ll be co-hosting an important webinar which will reveal the latest insight and trends on the public sector’s use of social media.

by Darren Caveney

I love the public sector.

I love best practice communications.

And I love a stat.

Throw all three of those ingredients into a new webinar and that’s an event I want to be a part of.

So taking part in a new research piece looking at social media use in the public sector ahead of the webinar was something I was instantly interested in.

The results of this survey are being shared in an all-new webinar and with the chance for you to take part.

Alongside me will be Stuart Banbery, marketing manager at SocialSignIn, and we’ll be running an hour-long webinar and hosting a Q&A with you.

The research – the second in an annual collaboration between SocialSignIn and comms2point0 – comes from over 120 organisations from all parts of the public sector.

Some of the results might surprise you.

But for sure the insight and trends provide a fascinating glimpse of where the public sector is at right now.

The survey covers topics from best practice and digital transformation, through to social media activity, resources and customer services.

It’s clear that demand for social media as a customer services channel is on the increase in the public sector. But are we keeping pace and meeting this demand to provide better services and reduce call volumes into stretched call centres?

And who picks up these enquiries? Is it the skilled customer services teams, or the already stacked communications teams battling demand, expectation and, often, reducing resources.

The results we’ll share could be invaluable to you in your internal discussions about digital transformation and in your organisation’s use of social media.

What we’ll cover…

Is social media demand on the increase in your sector?

Which platforms are taking the lead across each sector?

How are team sizes changing across central government, local government, NHS, housing, emergency services and education?

Which new platforms have you adopted in the past 12 months?

I’m in – when and where can I take part?

You’ll need to sign up in advance – it’s very easy to do just register here.

The webinar will run from 1pm – 2pm on Thursday 19 April.


Everyone taking part will receive a copy of the new eBook – A complete guide to public sector social media in 2018.

So get signed up before Thursday and grab yourself a treaty lunch, a good coffee and settle in for an hour’s free webinar which I’m certain you’ll find interesting and useful.

Darren Caveney is creator of comms2point0 and owner of creative communicators ltd

image via Tulio Saba

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

New job new desk – endorsed by dog.

In summary. Week two – still love it.

I’m now starting to dig a bit deeper into the organisation and meeting some people outside of the immediate team – they continue to be clever, committed people who want to get stuff done – joy!

I’m also starting to look at our technology strategy* and our starting point is looking outside at some of the mega trends and disrupters as well as inside at the (many) assets that we have in this space. I’ll post more about that when I have my thoughts together.

What working on the strategy does do is immediately put me in the ‘what do we mean when we say digital’ space and I’ve also written a bit about that here. I’ve been saying for a while that I think we have hit peak digital and that its become a meaningless word – my personal preference is to shift to a conversation about the future of work and the nature of the 21st Century workforce and organisation – but when someone just wants a website off you this can be a bit cumbersome…

I’m holding onto to my resolution to look and listen for my first month – this coming week I will be balancing this with a need to start to get properly operationally engaged.

My intent for this week is to get more detailed about the timetable for what we want to get done before June (which is when I want to have this first thinking and shaping phase done) and also to checkin in with some people to make sure that I am getting to meet the people I need to.

Some of the people I met this last week are directly engaged with our core purpose work and I’m hugely looking forward to the chance to see some of our labs and get more understanding of our policy work. One thing that really strikes me when I compare this new world to local government in particular is the clarity. Some of the people I have met have talked about the tensions involved with the need to balance research, policy and fund-raising – especially with respect to things like technology investment. Which investment gets us closer to 3/4 faster? But when I compare this to the complexity of the multi-service obligations of a council with the addition of the political dimension and the pressures of austerity it really make me realise exactly why Local Government can feel so hard. I’m not underestimating the challenges of my new world but I am reflecting on what an incredible asset the relative clarity of purpose is.

Enjoy the sunshine folks.

*. I keep coming back to Simon Parker‘s post about the fact that we shouldn’t be writing strategies – not sure but I think I disagree as the ritual of creating a strategy (if done right) can bring people together with common purpose and create what my new boss Tiff is calling ‘guiderails’ which make it so much easier for people to get on and do stuff without the need to for a huge rigamarole of governance until you are doing the really difficult/risky stuff.

Original source – Catherine Howe

We are digging ourselves a hole.

In a complicated world communication is everything. Much of this complication is caused by our own laziness and carelessness with language – we appropriate and borrow words without ever taking the time to work out what they really mean.

In our yearning to make ourselves understood we dilute our unique message – we surrender to the dilemma between using enough of the known words to show that you know what you are talking about but doing it in such a way as to show your unique view of the matter in hand. How do you demonstrate your relevance without compromising meaning? The real dilemma is how to use these words without breaking them.

Here’s how it goes. A small group of people who think differently start to use a term. Lets call it Bob. They develop ideas about Bob and talk about how Bob needs to be more mainstream. They are probably right – Bob is brilliant! Huge potential and world changing possibilities.

Other people who don’t really understand Bob in the same way start to talk about Bob. They start to develop ideas around Bob and stretch the definition to fit their own framing and context. At some point someone will point out that Bob is nothing new and attempts will be made to normalise Bob – its just a fancy new word for oldBob. Bob as a term changes and morphs into something less specialist and more mainstream. It is diluted but still has effect. Such is the network reach of these different groups that suddenly it seems that everyone is talking about Bob but no-one is talking about the same thing.

The first group of people respond by talking about BobSpecial – the Real Bob that everyone else doesn’t really understand. At this point we have probably broken the word Bob.

Meantimes the marketing folks and all of the other people in the support machine are faithfully slapping the word ‘Bob’ onto the front of everything, out of context and without meaning. Things get complicated.

What have we broken?

Digital – as a word – is broken. We have slapped it onto the front of two many old world applications in an attempt to normalise and ‘make safe’ new concepts that at this point saying something is digital is a bit like saying water is wet. Digital and networked technologies reach so far into our lives that when people talk about digital they are very rarely talking about bits and bytes – they are talking about a substantial and material change in their organisation which is enabled by technology. This is more than simply new tools – its new models of behaviour and organisation. The folks with the old models feel safer with the new stuff contained within the digital space – but its not going to stay there much longer.

Transformation – is not exactly broken but it is damaged. As organisations try and increase their pace of change in order to respond to a very different world transformation programmes are increasingly central to Getting This Done. However without sufficient focus on actually making things different transformation becomes yet another opportunity to normalise – an opportunity to row the boat faster rather than concentrating on how to build a better boat.

In the public sector I worry that we have broken the word governance and turned into in a passive aggressive state of blame hunting rather than a proactive means to make better decisions in the future by learning in the past. Good governance becomes code for finding someone to point the finger at and a reason why other people need to take responsibility.

The list could go on.

Broken words are not the same as the meaningless osbfucations we use to make unpalatable truths more palatable (there are very few ways to conceal the fact that savings usually mean job losses). Lucy Kellaway wrote a brilliant column on this; “How I lost my 25-year battle against corporate claptrap” . But corporate bollux is not the same as broken words which are about the diffusion of meaning and the normalisation of disruptive ideas.

How do we fix it?
By listening better. When the Bob folks turn up and start telling you about Bob you need to listen. It doesn’t meant that they are right but you need to hear them out. The Bob folks need to listen too – when someone tells you that this is just like ‘this thing which has been around forever’ it probably is – unless you can explain what is unique about Bob then you either don’t understand it or it really is just a regurgitation of old ideas with some shiny new words on the front.

We will fix words by making sure that we spend the time to develop a shared meaning for them – for taking more time to understand and less time to normalise and reframe in our own terms – to stretch the way in which we think in order to understand someone else perspective. Communicating our unique view must encompass being able to think about it from someone else point of view. Its a complicated world – make it simpler by taking the time to listen.


Original source – Catherine Howe