Week #72 at the Digital Service: Notes for 11–15 September 2023

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People sitting in an open office space with plants – in the background a younger woman of Asian descent entering from a terrace door with a poster hanging next to it: it shows a pixelated curry sausage and says ‘Designing a more digital Berlin’

For the 3rd time since April, our local public sector meetup welcomed participants to see the good and vital work happening in the public sector. Organised together with Tori and Tobi from CityLAB Berlin, we hosted it again at DigitalService.

We discussed ‘Designing a more digital Berlin’. And in a not-too-serious gesture, I put a pixelated currywurst on the poster – that emerged after an exchange and co-design session with graphic designer Robin. Otherwise, there weren’t too many ideas of what a digital Berlin would look like. Luckily, our 4 speakers filled it with concrete things and practical evidence of work.

With a broad angle to the topic, we had 3 talks focussing on various parts of digitalising Berlin:

  • Dr Niklas Kossow from CityLAB Berlin on ‘Transforming government with a book: reflections on ‘Öffentliches Gestalten’’ – with a focus on transformation and scaled capability building
  • Max Eckert from the Open Data Informationsstelle (ODIS) on ‘Open data and visualising Berlin’s budget data’ – with a focus on tech, data and policy
  • Dr Björn Ludger Märtin and Mai Ky on ‘Redesigning the visual interface layer of Berlin.de’ – with a focus on transformation management and design

Even 2 hours in, participants didn’t get tired of asking more questions, drilling deeper and expressing empathy and appreciation for the challenging transformation that’s underway. Also, they again gave the evening a 4.8 out of 5 score.

Formats like these are vital for starting a dialogue with the public about government transformation, pulling the curtain to make the good work happening visible and attracting people to our essential and meaningful work.

People used the time for discussion with the speakers and a smaller personal exchange during the breaks and at the end. We had close to 60 people attending on a hot 30+ degrees evening. The most delightful feedback we got: “The best meetup I’ve attended in Berlin so far – no faff or boasting, but substance and nuance.”

The meetup series stands consistently at a 4.8 rating based on 24 ratings across the 3 events we ran so far. This time, 91% said they would attend again. We successfully recorded 2 of the 3 talks and will make them available in the coming week or so.

The meetup will return for a 4th edition in November. And we have plenty of ideas for future topics. We want to return to the subject of the digitalisation of Berlin in 2024.

Shifting the focus from inwards to outward-facing and back again

Before the meetup, I mostly spent my time on internal-facing work for the past few weeks. This outward-facing community work can only happen through a joint effort with a working group. Without that pull from co-organisers, it will be pushed aside easily.

With our internal salary cycle and related performance reviews approaching, I had feedback conversations and prepared and gathered data. Colleagues from the people team have made the framework clearer and the process more open to everyone in the organisation. It involved many conversations and Q&A sessions.

I supported our team working on small claims for various hours this week. With my colleague Jutta, our head of transformation management, I helped facilitate a session on ways of working and communicating. For the team, some strategic decisions need to be made, and senior engagement sessions are coming up. I appreciate the involvement in this work as the importance of it in the broader digitalisation of justice services is high.

Last but not least, we published the Service Standard peer review report for the ‘Check if you can get legal aid’ service on Monday. It is our first peer-review report after 3 teams ran self-audits against the standard until now. In the coming weeks and months, I want us to move towards cross-sector reviews, so I started talking to more people about it.

What’s next

Next week, I’ll be travelling from Berlin to Edinburgh by train to attend the 10th ‘Service Design in Government’ conference. Over the coming days, Kara and I still have some writing, editing and designing to do to finish our 60-minute talk, ‘The long slog of public service design’. Luckily, it’s on the 3rd day of the conference, which gives us some extra face-to-face rehearsal time.

With little preparation time, we are running the first proper NExT community gathering for user-centred design people in the German public sector next Thursday. The topic will be design systems and component libraries. I’ve been reaching out to several excellent speakers – including the folks from Berlin who spoke at this week’s meetup.