Week #82 at the Digital Service: Notes for 20–24 November 2023

Veröffentlicht am
Several people sitting in a wooden-panelled room with a poster in the background that shows various road signs and says ‘Reshaping urban mobility’; all people look very focussed and into the same direction

On Tuesday evening, we ran our 4th public-facing meetup. Returning to CityLAB Berlin’s marvellous space, we welcomed 50 to 60 participants to learn and discuss ‘Reshaping urban mobility’. Once more, the focus was on the City of Berlin and what state and civic actors are doing in the theme’s space.

Our event description promised the following:

Cities have always been and will continue to be ever-changing. With them, the ways people move around in growing cities have adapted. New digital infrastructure, evolving citizen needs, and shifting climate demand new policies, services, and ideas.”

We had 3 speakers: 2 worked closely with the city-state, and 1 was in the state senate. The first speaker, Markus Sperl from FreeMove, presented his state- and ministry-funded research work exploring privacy-utility tradeoffs in mobility data for sustainable urban transformation. Like the following talks, this verged on the domains of qualitative public research, data science and public policy.

The second speaker, Heiko Rintelen of FixMyCity, who is developing participative digital tools for bicycle traffic planning, shared his work with the district of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg. They use maps to let people participate in urban planning processes early when few things are set. Unfortunately, they see a much higher engagement rate in neighbourhoods where people with higher education and income live. They have not found sufficient ways to rebalance this.

Our last speaker for the evening was Benjamin Sternkopf, a policy researcher and project coordinator at the Berlin Senate Department for Mobility, Transport, Climate Protection and the Environment. He presented his ongoing analysis work on digital car parking across the city. With an original focus on air quality and transport planning, he shared some specific neighbourhood insights. About 10% of cars are wrongly or illegally parked. In a particular area of focus, a significant number of cars were not moved at all within 4 days.

While presenting fascinating data and insights, none of the 3 speakers could or wanted to elaborate on how far their work is successfully informing policy decisions at a district or city level. One speaker made a strong point: It should be less about data-informed decision-making and more about people-related decision-making.

When I asked the audience, only around 20% of the people had attended a meetup of the series before. That is interesting and curious, but nothing I worry about. The proposition of the meetup is broad and changes its focus topic with each event. The kind of questions our 3 speakers received gave an insight into the knowledge of the people present. So, I am content with people only discovering the meetup and visiting an event with a topic that fits their interests.

The participant feedback data also supports that: 68% of 31 attendees over the 4 meetups would attend again. The score across all events remains unchanged at 4.8 out of 5. People seem to like the format and content, especially highlighting:

  • ‘engaging’ (23 mentions)
  • ‘met new people’ (21 mentions)
  • ‘welcoming host’ (20 mentions)
  • ‘good setting’ (20 mentions)
  • ‘was as described’ (17 mentions)

With 3 male speakers this time, we openly addressed challenges with finding a more diverse range of presenters. Since the start of the series, we had 7 speakers who identify as women and 8 who identify as men. That’s a 47% – 53% balance, which we will closely monitor.

One feedback we’ve received this time is somewhat reflective of what we heard before:

Thank you very much for organising it! I don’t speak German (yet) and I liked very much the fact that the event was held in English. I could learn more about what is going on in Berlin in terms of mobility and city planning.”

After a crashed single camera last time, we recorded the talks with 3 cameras this time. I hope to edit the videos in the coming days. I have a backlog now from at least 3 events.

Also, I’m pretty satisfied with my little poster series. So, I quickly looked at the 100 Best Posters award and the deadlines for the 2023 submissions. That’s sometime in January, and 4 posters as part of a series count as one submission, which shouldn’t make it too expensive. It would be a pleasant surprise to get this side project recognised. I’ll try my luck.

Continuing with staffing, hiring and recruitment

While community and speaking activities often take significant space in these weeknotes, other work takes much more space in my calendar, day and week. The work is easier to write about and share publicly, though.

I haven’t reached a week’s goal to finish all staffing for early January. I’m close but not there yet.

I continued interviewing candidates this week and had follow-up conversations with people with whom we made offers. By the end of Friday, 2 designers signed contracts. They will both start around April. That means by Q2/2024, our design and user research team will be 25 people strong. Some people might already stop by for our Christmas party in early December.

Also, this week: Caro and I reserved some 3 hours on Friday to work on the next steps for the Service Standard application, some project plan and our – only slowly developing – theory of change around it. Next week, we will have a more extended interactive session with partnering states and courts about applying the standard we have already prepared.

On Monday, Marion co-ran the newbie ‘Introduction to Accessibility’ for the first time. She did a great job and had many ideas and suggestions for tweaking and improving it. Marion also ran a second workshop with me on possible accessibility activities. Based on a shorter session last week, she clustered 3 strands:

  • Raising awareness, incl.:
    • compliance as a minimum
    • engaging with leaders and project leads
    • providing regular updates on the topic
    • leading an open discussion
    • organising events
  • Building capability
    • waking up the accessibility ambassador group
    • developing an internal accessibility programme
    • offering mentoring schemes
    • developing further internal training offerings
  • Defining processes
    • detailing design processes regarding accessibility
    • detailing user research processes regarding accessibility
    • providing further guidance and tools for each discipline
    • enhance testing capabilities and monitor

There is plenty to do in this space. It’s nothing Marion and I can do by ourselves. So, we rely on others to join us and take one step at a time in the coming months.

Putting together a remote conference across timezones

My evenings and some nights were reserved for many operational tasks related to our 24-hour remote conference. I’ve made over 140 deployments to the event page over the last few days, according to Github. With the terrific support from engineer Joschka, the website now displays local user times for all talks in all time zones.

Kara, Viktoria and I work well in tandem and mostly asynchronously. We are setting up Hopin as the streaming event platform. We still keep receiving content from the many speakers. There may be over 40 people involved. We are still struggling with a couple of slots and might only know who is speaking about what on Wednesday, 29 November.

24 countries, 39 speakers, 24 hours, 1 community, International Design in Government 24-hour Remote Conference 2023, 29 November – 28/30 November depending on location

Over the day, we are moving around the world – starting in Oceania, going through Asia to Africa and Europe and towards the Americas. We will hear from 39+ speakers from 24 countries within 24 hours. The topics are broad – ranging from accessible services to co-created policies. Our goal is to create a global snapshot of design in government, make work everywhere visible, and start a borderless exchange.

What’s next

Next week’s most time-consuming task will be delivering a flawless 24-hour remote conference experience. I took the day off as a training day and will attend as many sessions and hours as physically and mentally possible. All content will be recorded; we don’t assume anyone can stay awake that long.

As mentioned, we will familiarise judges and law colleagues with the Service Standard on Tuesday. Before Friday, I will finish a talk proposal for the annual congress of the IT Planning Council. I spoke there in 2017 and 2018. My submission last year didn’t get through, unfortunately.