Changing the way you talk to Government

I’m working on the big GovCamp post tonight, looking at how we can design government services with users. Recognising that it wouldn’t be ready to post tonight, I went procrasti-scrolling on Facebook and found this:

It looks like the SA Government is following through on some great work in their Strategic Plan from last year and bringing their consultation online, with some semi-active listening (mostly thanking people for posts) and areas for citizens to put forward proposals. I’ve not had a deep look at it, but I like what I see so far.


GovCamp Part 2: The online discussion

As mentioned last night, I spent yesterday at GovCamp, a practitioners’ event about improving the way we do government work.

While yesterday was focused on explaining what GovCamp is and getting some rough impressions down on screen, I’ve spent today looking through the discussion, teasing out the best parts of the conversation over on Storify. I encourage you to click through and read about it there, but here are three of my favourite tweets for those who are short on time:

These tweets are perfect examples of the big ideas that came through right across the event: we need to be doing government work from a holistic design point of view, we need to be doing it for the people involved instead of at them, and (on a more personal note) we need to do this for policy as well as programs.

To be fair, the public service has been working on all three of these points to some extent the entire time I’ve been working in it. However, events like GovCamp show how much more we can achieve with these tools, as well as how far we’ve come.

Read more on Storify

GovCamp Part 1: the raw material

Today was GovCamp. ‘What’s that’, you ask? It’s an unconference. Don’t you love these clear explanations?

An unconference is an event where a group of people with related interests come together to share ideas. It’s very similar to a conference, but you arrive to a blank (or semi-blank, in today’s case) program on the wall. Participants then fill the program by picking a topic to present on, writing their name and the topic on a post-it note and sticking it into a time slot. This way you end up with a conference designed by the group, for the group. They also typically include a lot of discussion, a fair bit of social media chronicling and chatter, and a healthy dose of fun. Barcamp Canberra is a straightforward allcomers-welcome unconference held in Canberra early each year. The typical Barcamp Canberra has a lot of tech, a lot of government and a healthy dose of other varied stuff. Some of my favourite topics from previous Barcamps were on storytelling, Minecraft, nerf gun modding and puppetry – they made a great break from the serious topics in the other sessions.

GovCamp spins off this to create a government-focused unconference that’s all about government. While it doesn’t have the random breaks from the government discussions, today’s event has been fantastic for its immersion. I’ve come out with a clear feel for some of the change needed in how we do government, and for my role in making that change.

Of course, it’s easy to have that as a clear feel until you analyse it. So my job over the next couple of days will be to analyse what I’ve taken away from the event and work it into some clear, communicable points. This will include at least one more blog post (hopefully more), including some material I’m planning to republish on the APS innovation blog.

For tonight, I’m focussing on getting the raw material down in this post so I know what I want to talk about over the next couple of days, and where I’ll be able to find it.

The two big take-aways I had today were:

  1. We’ve got the theory of human-centered design for government services figured out, but how do we apply it to policy?
  2. When we use human-centered design for policy, how does that change the role of a ‘policy officer’?

I’ve got some rough thoughts figured out on both of these, but that’s for the next GovCamp post. I’d also like to write a bit about how we came up with the program (conversation cafes that drew out common ideas around the hashtags) and refine my hackpad notes from the sessions.

For now, you can take a look at the first cut of the Storify article at (I’ll be editing it down to something more useful tomorrow), or head across to for the longer notes, which will also be the target of some judicious editing.

I heard today that we write 30% of what we say, and we say 30% of what we know. We were talking about it in the context of handover notes (and their limited value), but it’s also a reason to grab a coffee/videochat/whatever with me if you’re interested in talking more about GovCamp. Then we can talk about the 70% of today’s great event that will inevitably go unwritten.

Who is Canberra?

Goldilocks Zone does GovHack!

Like I mentioned yesterday, Goldilocks Zone competed in GovHack this weekend. It’s a 48 hour competition that gets coders, data analysts and designers together to make great stuff with open government data.

This weekend, we prototyped a game for the coming big screen in the Canberra CBD.  We used data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics to make a quiz about Canberrans’ heritages and countries of origin. Each round finishes with a photo of people from the relevant culture, showing some great stories of the cultures and demographic diversity of Canberra.

The game works as a stand-alone display for the Canberra big screen or users can play online via phone to get feedback on their guesses, contribute to total scores and play from anywhere around the world.

Here’s Tina with our pitch video. Keep in mind, we’ve done all this in 48 hours, so we were tired, tech-limited and very short on time when we made it:

Excitingly, we were awarded the Most Collaborative Team for our efforts during the event. So proud!

By the People, for the People: Crowdsourcing to Improve Government | Innovation Insights |

There’s some exciting work afoot at the White House (and the nearby public service offices, of course!). This scheme’s not as impressive as the UK digital by default work, but it has an exciting feel to it. If it’s done well and captures the public imagination, this could be an echo of the public mobilisation that was seen for the space race, half a century later.