Week #59 at the Digital Service: Notes for 12–16 June 2023

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A group of 4 people with microphones and lanyards are sitting on stools, discussing – 4 more people who look at them sit behind them, leading at the wall with graphical applications of logos of ‘Creative Bureaucracy Festival’ – all people have lighter skin tones

This week has been the most intense of the year yet.

We ran a meetup.

We hosted a panel discussion.

We launched a newspaper.

We published a blog post.

We release self-audits.

We kicked off a community.

We had a research onsite.

The week was intense but also quite rewarding.

Celebrating Creative Bureaucracy

For the 6th time, the Creative Bureaucracy Festival took place in Berlin. Hundreds of public sector people and people working with them came together from all parts of Germany and the world.

I attended only in 2019 when we ran an international segment with colleagues from Finland, Ukraine and the United Kingdom. I missed the festival in recent years, but one member of the organising team, who had attended our 2019 session, got in touch and encouraged us to participate with members of the International Design in Government community again.

So we put together a panel discussion that Kara led. Ülly from Estonia’s Ministry of Education, Italy’s Head of Design Marco, and former GDS colleague Laurence, who now runs Komo, joined the conversation on stage – plus various attendees. All are members of our community – Ülly participated in our 2018 conferenceMarco talked in a community call last year, and Laurence has worked with most of the countries of us all. We discussed ‘The long slog of public service transformation’ with the questions sketched last week. On Monday, we had a remote check-in with all speakers to split the questions and allow them to get to know each other. That paid out during the discussion that Kara managed most skillfully. Paloma did detailed notetaking, and I filmed the session with 3 cameras. So we will put together a blog post and a video, which community members will likely appreciate.

The day before, I attended the Global Innovator’s Forum on Wednesday, a new unconference format that also included the speakers’ reception. It gave space for a more intimate exchange of about 80 participants.

Another day earlier, on Tuesday, we ran the second Öffentliches Gestalten meetup as a warm-up and satellite event for the Creative Bureaucracy Festival. We had about 60 people join us at CityLAB’s marvellous space. Paloma, Kara and Laurence presented their work, and I moderated a panel discussion afterwards. We recorded all talks and will make them available in the coming days. The attendee dropout was slightly higher than last time, but people coming gave the evening a perfect 5.0-star rating. We will run a retrospective with our friends at CityLAB next week and discuss how we will continue with the format after a short summer break.

We used the format to launch our long-delayed Service Gazette volume 8, no 1. It was meant to be published last November, but we missed the deadline and had no other date to work towards. With the momentum of putting this issue together, we immediately started discussing another English edition for autumn. As Kara and I will speak at 2 international service design conferences in late September and early October, we would have good anchors to get our act together. We created the last English public-sector-focussed issues in 2019 for our Oakland, Edinburgh and Rotterdam conferences. Much has happened since then, and we want to capture the current state of global public service design and transformation work.

With Kara and Paloma in town, we found some space on Friday to plot the following international community activities, including remote and in-person events, blog and blog posts and bimonthly calls. We have some bold plans and will put a blog post explaining it all for the first half of July. Before that, I need to write one for my organisation’s community involvement, though.

Starting a quality conversation

Within and outside the organisation, I discussed good practices throughout the week. With the massive support of my comms colleagues David and Lutz, we published our blog post on how we use the Service Standard at DigitalService. We created a new Service Standard reports section for our transparency page, where we now link to the first 2 self-issued reports. Our 2 tax teams report along the 19 standard points what they have done and how they think it matches the standard.

In the coming days, I will work with Daphne to improve the structure and style of the report pages as we want to publish more self-reports shortly.

To discuss the state of user research, Sonja invited everyone from the user-centred design discipline for a half-day research onsite. We talked about the barriers, the activities and approaches. We mapped what each team had done so far across all development phases until now. It gives us the best snapshot of research activities across our organisation. In addition, Sonja ran a survey for members of all delivery disciplines. I’m looking forward to seeing the results and what she thinks should happen next.

On Friday afternoon, I eventually had a check-in call with NExT’s Mathea and Maria from the Government pension agency to discuss the launch of our public sector-wide community of practice on user-centred design. Mathea asked us how soon we wanted to start – before or after most people’s summer break. Things begin with an open one-off event. If enough people participate in it, a formal community of practice may launch. We have about 3 weeks to put content for a 2-hour event together, which shouldn’t be too difficult.  

What’s next

I will spend time with Maria planning that NExT community workshop for early July. I also need to finish a related blog post for it.

Caro and I need to discuss the teams’ Service Standard activities and our workshop plans.

And on Friday, we have a summer party. With pub quiz expert Chris, I’m putting together a 1-hour questionnaire. I want to go as public sector nerdy as possible.