Week Six – Oot and Aboot 

Another real pick’n’mix of a working week. I only did a couple of half days of specific Open Referral UK work this week – though there were a lot of conversations adjacent to that work which were helping in improving my understanding of the current local gov digital ecosystem. More on that later.

I did five more of my open calendar chats and felt like I’d really hit my stride with them this week – I legitimately felt helpful and also started to be clearer with myself about why I’m doing it and what I’m getting out of it. It is so nice talking to such a range of people about their ambitions and reasons for considering working in public service digital – it is a real privilege to be able to help them on their journeys.

On a similar topic we did the final interview for the campaign to replace me at Business and Trade. It was a really interesting process and we had some really strong candidates – all of whom were very different. I believe that the top candidate has accepted and I look forward to hearing how they settle into the role. They are different to me but I think the thing we share is that people-centricity, coaching not control mentality and I think DBT have got an upgrade.

Miranda said some nice things about me being on the panel and contributing given it was pro-bono for which I was grateful but it was not needed. I’m always cheering for that team and will always help out if I can.

Tuesday I had a rare early start these days and caught a couple of trains to get to Taunton (it is crazy it takes so long given how close it is – I can get to London from my flat faster!) to chat to some folk about some potential work down the line. It is an organisation I have a lot of affection for – the work they do is pretty unique and unusual and they have some challenges that are familiar but just off-kilter enough to require a non-standard approach to really move the needle.

I have to be honest I really have no idea how to do ‘business development’ or ‘sell’ my services. My instincts are pretty non-commercial and I tend to be as likely to suggest someone else as I am to make the case for me being the right person! This works to some extent I think as some people appreciate my whole ‘loyal to the network’ way of thinking but I suspect it isn’t a sustainable business strategy! I need to get better at it as, like I said last week, I want to get back to billing at least four days a week in the new year and start trying to optimise my income to give me more flexibility with my travel plans later in 2024.

The big thing this week though was attending LocalGovCamp at the Watershed in Bristol. Whereas I am a veteran of UKGovCamp I have only attended a couple of the Local branch of the events franchise and am on much less stable ground when it comes to local government digital. I have some knowledge and connections and have some work but it is a bit of a multiverse situation in comparison with central government digital – some of it looks the same but then something really throws you!

It was a great event though – I did a micro-session about blogging & working in the open which ended up touching on that but also the failure of social media, rise of video, the risk and opportunity of AI and much more. It was fun and the fact there were only seven of us (we kind of forgot to tell anybody!) made it more fun.

The highlight was learning more about LocalGovDrupal. It is an initiative that I really love for a number of reasons – the least of which is Drupal! I think it demonstrates an approach and way of working that is so powerful. It leans into the strengths of open source, the local government community, the ideals of cooperatives and empowers both the Councils and small suppliers who are involved. A lot of it is influencing my thinking for the Open Referral UK work – I think they are the example of a model other initiatives should be emulating. 

I also got to speak to Tom and Ben from the DLUHC Local Digital team in person for the first time since I started this work and catch up with a lot of friends old and new. I ended up having too many beers (my relationship with the Watershed as a venue goes back more than 30 years and I suspect ‘too many beers’ best sums it up!) but it didn’t spoil the day!

Oh and the stickers went down well.

This week has also been the three year anniversary since I got hit by the car and the start of the subsequent dark period of limited mobility and low mood that lasted months. Coincidentally I had a bit of an incident this week where a people carrier jumped the kerb at speed and then slammed the brakes right next to me (parking is at a premium near me). I don’t think I was ever in any danger and it wasn’t that close but it triggered something in me and I reacted badly with the driver and it took me the best part of a day to properly shake it.

What else? I scored an invite to the mySociety 20th Anniversary party in a few weeks. Bought Russell’s new book. Was pleased to see The Neil Williams return to blogging.

Anyway, Another good week.


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