A couple of posts on the Open Policy Making blog this week provide insights into how digital technologies, network thinking, and new ways for government to operate may change the way we receive services, engage as citizens - and maybe develop our own community-level innovations.
We learn that civil servants are exploring the future with specialists in data science, predictive analytics, artificial intelligence, sensors, applied programming interfaces, autonomous machines, and platforms.
Will this just lead to more top-down initiatives which will be tough for our elected representatives to understand and guide - let alone anyone else? Hopefully not, from the tone of the posts. Maybe it will help with joined-up communities for citizens too.
William Barker, Head of Technology Strategy and Digital Futures at the Department for Communities and Local Government, wrote yesterday
Top down thinking and decision making no longer delivers the range of services that communities want. Open Policy Making is about broadening the range of people we engage with, using the latest tools and techniques and taking a more agile and iterative approach.Open Policy Making is about broadening the range of people we engage with, using the latest tools and techniques and taking a more agile and iterative approach.DCLG’s “Grey Cells” Open Policy Making Initiative working with the Transformation Network has been joining-up the “grey cells” of user experience, innovation, new thinking and service transformation – using a people and places centred approach to explore how digital technology and approaches can make a positive difference.
As William explains, the Grey Cells model is focusing initially on digital inclusion, Better Services, Elders as Assets and Digitising Government.
I think that the Grey Cells blueprint could provide us with a much-needed framework to connect policy and programmes with the reality of what’s happening on the ground – whether through local programmes, or people’s choices as consumers to acquire a new phone, tablet or (less and less) a computer.
Today Paul Maltby, Director of Open Data & Government Innovation in Cabinet Office, writes about how ideas like nudge, digital, wellbeing, social action, open data, social finance, user-centred design have moved in five to ten years from the fringes of how government could develop in the future to become more mainstream, and asks, what will be the new norm by 2020-25?
Paul links to this video from the Government Digital Service explaining the idea of Government as Platform:
<iframe width=“560” height=“315” src=“https://www.youtube.com/embed/ZzPU6Pdw05s?rel=0” frameborder=“0” allowfullscreen></iframe>
However, development could be enabling at community level too:
Platforms are about providing a (digital) framework within which others abide by rules, using data and a payment and regulatory ecosystem to unleash invention at scale. Could this notion not be applied to the wider face-to-face operation of government? Think of developments where innovative services like [Casserole Club](https://www.casseroleclub.com/) would be able to provide its amazing service in not just a handful of local authorities, but have the opportunity to develop at scale as needed by users UK wide. Consider how [NationBuilder](http://nationbuilder.com/) has developed a platform to organise social campaigns, and if the same organising principles were built in to the fabric of government what this could mean for democracy – particularly among a generation that expect to [collaborate and create content](https://hbr.org/2014/12/understanding-new-power). This brings with it an opportunity to redefine the role of government, and even create a different relationship between state and public.
There's more about a new operating model for government, and reference to a workshop with NESTA and the Open Policy Team where they'll be talking with specialists in data science, predictive analytics, artificial intelligence etc.
What particularly interests me - together with Drew Mackie, and other colleagues - is how to help support similar open and creative thinking at community level about the impact of digital and the change it brings. We are experimenting with games and simulations evolved over the past 15 years, and well as explorations like our recent one into Ageing Well and Living Well in the Digital Age.
I'll write more shortly about a workshop we are developing that aims to bring the Grey Cells model down to community level, with a scenario like this one.
We all need to understand a bit more about the implications of the terms and processes that Paul describes – and to do that we need creative, social spaces in communities to complement those in Policy Labs.