Vote for Policies 2015 is live!

VfP personal results-1

After a few months of hard graft with the brilliant agency UVD, we’ve gone live and it’s great to see the service up and running.

In the first day, over 30,000 users did the survey and we’ve had loads of feedback, so we can make some tweaks before really kicking off the marketing campaign in mid March when election fever starts to warm up.

Have you taken the #policychallenge?! Let me know what you think of the site. www.voteforpolicies.org.uk.

VfP_logo_black

You don’t have to build software to be Agile

Agile - for successful living

In the last few years many web-based technology firms have ‘gone Agile’. In simple terms, product teams have started using Agile approaches for organising how they improve their website.

Agile isn’t actually a thing in itself – it’s an umbrella term for a number of methodologies like Scrum, Kanban, Extreme Programming, or Feature Driven Development. During my time at reed.co.uk we used Scrum for product development and Kanban for anything that needed faster response times.

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We did it! Over 900 backers for our successful crowd funding campaign

Crowd funderThere were moments when I thought we weren’t going to make it…but the last few days saw an incredible push from our supporters to bring us way over the finish line – our aim was for £20,000 and we made a whopping £23,551. http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/voteforpolicies

We’ve had such amazing support for our campaign since we began and now the work begins to bring back Vote for Policies for 2015, fully mobile friendly, with better design and capability to handle large traffic.

We’ll also be adding Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to the survey and organising a marketing campaign to reach an ambitious but potentially game-changing 5 million people. Our aim is to help voters really engage with what parties promise to do, as a first step towards holding politicians to account. Step 1 is an engaged electorate – step 2 is to develop a service that tracks the actions of our elected government against their election promises.

Thank you to everyone who supported the campaign. The short film below shows me explaining what we’ll do with the money and why it’s so important.

To create a sustainable democracy, we need greater transparency on policies

Originally published on www.blueandgreentomorrow.com on May 30th 2014

Policies drive Vision and Accountability.

The role of policies in driving a sustainable democracy.

A sustainable democracy is transparent, accountable and representative. We can change ours by voting for policies at elections – and not personalities.

A sustainable democracy adapts to the changing demands of an active electorate. In a sustainable democracy, we would expect to see voter turnout rates consistently above 80%, and the popularity of policies would reflect the balance of power of the parties. Does that sound radical? I don’t think so.

The magic ingredient that a sustainable democracy has that other democracies don’t is a high degree of transparency. More specifically, a high degree of transparency in three vital areas: vision, policies and performance. Only when transparency is achieved in all three can a democracy become sustainable, restoring power back to the people, and making the government truly accountable. It’s a simple idea, yet for all the democratic privileges we enjoy over other nations, it’s still a long way from describing our current process.

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Facts

If you’re one of those people who tends to let the facts get in the way of your opinion, you’ll find this interesting.

This is how much we actually spend on Housing Benefit, Incapacity Benefit and Jobseekers Allowance – as a percentage of the UK government’s total spend.

Mouse over the pie chart for data…

(Source: Guardian Data)

Four ways to scale your social enterprise

Something for all my social entrepreneurial friends out there. It’s Bill Shore of Share Our Strength, giving his ideas for how to scale up your organisation (or just keep going) and break out of reliance on the usual funding model. The talk was at TEDxMidAtlantic Be Fearless.

There are some brilliant ideas here – may not resonate instantly for everyone’s business – but for me this kind of thinking is essential if we’re to find the level of scalability that social sector so desperately needs. I have summarised Bill’s points below – mainly for my own purpose of recollection, but also as a starter for a longer post containing more business model ideas – but watch first and see for yourself…

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What can digital do for politics? Just ask the user

Summarising our group’s thoughts on digital

A few thoughts from the Parliament Week event put on by the RSA entitled ‘Do We Get The Politics We Deserve?’. The main event was a panel discussion with author Matthew Flinders, Gloria De Piero (MP for Ashfield) and Nadhim Zahawi (MP for Stratford-on-Avon, and founder of YouGov). There then followed some mini-workshops, one of which I facilitated.

You can get the low-down of the whole event on Storify, but there were some interesting outcomes from my workshop. The question asked to my group was ‘Can digital help improve our politics for the better?’, and it was really encouraging to see the attendees flock overwhelmingly towards this subject (and not just because my corner was nearest the wine).

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Patchwork – technology working for change

Every now and then you see something so inspiring that you just need to share it. Patchwork is one of those things.  Designed by the team at Futuregov, it helps practitioners across multiple agencies access the contact details of other front line staff working with the same clients – improving communication and strengthening collaboration.

The idea started developing after the Baby P case, and was designed in close collaboration with the practitioners it aims to help. It’s a brilliant example of how useful technology can be – helping practitioners do what they’re best at by giving them access to better information – not by replacing human connections, but by supporting them.

And it’s a great example of how you need to get under the skin of a problem to really understand it, learning from those who experience the problems every day. This is something Futuregov seem to have done brilliantly, and I hope the results will come in the widespread adoption of Patchwork across may other local authorities.

Watch the video below or have a look at the Patchwork website. Inspiring stuff, so do spread the word.

Using digital to solve migrant youth issues

Refugee Youth setting the tempo for Undoc Camp

Last weekend I had the pleasure of taking part in Undoc Camp, looking at ways in which digital can help solve problems faced by undocumented migrant youths.

The event was organised by On Road Media, who expertly brought together people from the legal, digital and migrant sectors and, crucially, young migrants who have experienced first hand the issues we were addressing. We were divided into teams, with each team given an issue to work on.

The camp has been written about in more detail here, so for this post I just want to offer a few of the observations and learnings I took away with me.

  1. Recognise the limitations of digital as well as its potential. What became clear from listening to those experiencing the issues as well as the legal professionals, was that it would be dangerous to try to recreate the relationship between solicitors and migrants. Digital can’t replace the complexities of human communication, but we can use digital to facilitate it.
  2. Use what’s there – don’t reinvent the wheel. This was one of many great pieces of advice from Carrie Bishop, who spoke to the attendees on Friday evening. Some great ideas emerged the following day, showcasing a considered balance of services already out there and adding any functionality that customised the experience for this particular audience (e.g. the Migrant Map idea). And not a ‘portal’ in sight!
  3. The importance of lightness. Something that Adil Abrar mentioned during his inspiring talk – heavy subjects don’t have to have all the fun removed. His words must have resonated as the groups that showed designs as part of their pitch all reflected this message – focussing the tone on the audience rather than the difficulties they were facing. Within my group, we had a lot of  fun and good humour which really helped bring out great contributions from everyone. And being lucky enough to win the main £5k prize from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, I’m sure we will be bringing Adil’s advice to our design approach now that we can actually take our idea to the next stage.
  4. Change happens when we are all motivated by a common cause. No matter what people’s backgrounds and skills, when we are all bound by the same driving force we can work together and create something new. In this case, it was to help young people who face appalling problems through no fault of their own, and who need a better system to help them live better, safer lives.
  5. We can do this. We have the will power, we have the skills, and with events like Undoc Camp we have evidence we can really do it.