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 +# The tough issues in user involvement
 +
 +January 25, 2010
 +
 +The [GovCamp
 +event](http://​davepress.net/​2010/​01/​24/​that-was-the-ukgc10-that-was/​) on
 +Saturday was a terrific opportunity to ask the assembled tech and policy
 +experts, innovators and creative disruptors, how they thought we might
 +get more user involvement in the development of digital public services
 +to improve quality, and/or save money. It’s a project we are working on
 +for Consumer Focus, [as explained here](developing-better-digital)
 +
 +I shot some video interviews, and ran a session.
 +
 +What came out was, surprise, that it isn’t easy. While we might believe
 +that it is blindingly obvious that involving the people who use services
 +as early as possible - to make sure we develop the right thing - this
 +may be particularly challenging in a digital context.
 +
 +Community/​user engagement nearly always face internal barriers: those
 +who control budgets and processes may not want their professional
 +empires invaded by people with different, unprofessional ideas. Not only
 +that, it costs time and money.
 +
 +In the digital context, it may be that those who you particularly wish
 +to reach may be the least sophisticated of users.
 +
 +These days people are not necessarily prepared to go to supersites like
 +[Directgov](http://​www.direct.gov.uk/​en/​index.htm). These may be
 +necessary at the moment … but not sufficient in future. People will want
 +to use apps on their phones or just Google stuff …. a point that
 +[Directionlessgov](http://​www.directionlessgov.com/​) has been making for
 +some time.
 +
 +We’ll see more and more examples of people developing their own services
 +… and if councils are smart they will go the route of some commercial
 +brands and encourage citizens to keep their rate bills down by asking
 +and answering their own questions.
 +
 +Here’s the videos I shot on Saturday, using Qik on an iPhone, with
 +automatic transfer to YouTube. It meant direct streaming to the web, and
 +no tedious uploading later, but the quality suffered. Audio isn’t too
 +bad though. To see all videos, start to play and mouse over lower
 +screen. If you don’t like the showplayer, you can see the videos more
 +easily [on YourTube here](http://​www.youtube.com/​my_playlists?​pi=0&​ps=20&​sf=&​sa=0&​dm=0&​p=B9B0940010A842B1).
 +
 +I’ve pulled out some of the key issues. These are **not** direct
 +quotes - rather more summaries of points, with names attached to issues
 +to make it easier to find the appropriate video if you wish.
 +
 +This week we’ll be discussing with Consumer Focus how to take this
 +exploration forward, leading to a workshop in about a month. If you are
 +interested, please join the [Digital Public Services group
 +here](http://​socialbysocial.net/​group/​digitalpublicservices). **The
 +overall challenge**
 +
 +\* There are two main dimensions to service delivery: the complexity of
 +the services and the sophistication of the users. In banking it is
 +relative easy: the service is relatively simple, and users
 +sophisticated. In government the services are often complex, and many of
 +the users that you wish to reach may be unsophisticated online. In order
 +to make improvement you have to move on both dimensions - Mark O’Neill
 +
 +**Addressing internal barriers to change** \* Service managers may be
 +fearful of losing control of the way the services that they own are are
 +designed and developed. They often live in a bubble of purity … wanting
 +to retain their empires. However, there is a massive shift needed in how
 +services are provided, involving communities - Carl Haggerty\
 +
 +\* Video clips can be used as a way of bringing user and front line
 +experience to the attention of managers, and transforming the
 +organisation. However, it depends on leadership from the top to achieve
 +these changes and create the culture necessary - Mark Watson
 +
 +### Service users becoming service providers
 +
 +\* The big issues for councils is how to save money. One way to do that
 +might be for councils to follow the example of commercial brands and
 +build communities around their services. Then users can ask and answer
 +questions themselves, solving problems before they get to the council.
 +That way ratepayers are saving themelves money. - Ingrid Koehler
 +
 +\* Government needs to be open to other people providing services that
 +Government has in the past, and collaborating in those developments. If
 +mums are running a great services for mums, encourage them to do so. -
 +Ivo Gormley
 +
 +\* We will need to redefine the social contract on service provision; we
 +need to have adult conversations about who provides what in different
 +circumstances. - Carl Haggerty
 +
 +### Involving users in service design
 +
 +\* Don’t assume people know what you mean by digital public services -
 +people need online skills in order to be involved. Focus on upskilling
 +people, and you may then find that they start to create the ways to
 +access services for themselves. If you want to ask people what works for
 +them you have skill them up so they can engage. That applies to the
 +service providers as well - Nick Booth
 +
 +\* We need to separate service design with users, from the way services
 +have been developed in the past. - Carl Haggerty
 +
 +\* Think Public uses video to research and tell user stories, building
 +this into a film that can be shown prior to a workshop. It helps build a
 +shared understanding of the issues. - Ivo Gormley
 +
 +\* If you are open about the challenge you can bring people into the
 +design of services at the same time as you are trying to understand
 +their needs - Ivo Gormley
 +
 +\* The most advantageous way to design services is to work with the
 +entire collection of people involved - the users, developers, designers
 +and services managers to walk them through the service in order to make
 +it as simple and easy as possible. Make people think through their
 +assumptions. It has to work collectively. - Mark O’Neill
 +
 +\* Think Public uses video to research and tell user stories, building
 +this into a film that can be shown prior to a workshop. It helps build a
 +shared understanding of the issues. - Ivo Gormley
 +
 +### Delivering services online
 +
 +\* One channel of communication for all is doomed to fail. People will
 +increasingly design their own interfaces for accessing services - just
 +as they are using different apps on their phones. - Steve Dale
 +
 +\* Government should wholesale service provision, allowing a lot of
 +different retail options - Steve Dale
 +
 +\* The challenge for services is to provide packages that can be
 +reconfigured for different channels, so people can choose which way they
 +access them. We also need to measure how far people use different
 +channels. It’s fine to have all services in one place - but we also have
 +to provide alternatives in the places and channels they use online. -
 +Carl Haggerty
 +
 +### Session reports
 +
 +We ran a one hour session on the theme of user involvement in design and
 +delivery of digital public services
 +
 +\* [Report by Lauren Ivory](http://​digips.wikispaces.com/​ukgc10)
 +
 +\* [Report by Michele Ide-Smith](http://​www.ide-smith.co.uk/?​p=448)
 +
 +[Round-up of coverage of Govcamp from organiser Dave
 +Briggs](http://​davepress.net/​2010/​01/​24/​that-was-the-ukgc10-that-was/​)
 +
 +[Main ukgovcamp site](http://​www.ukgovweb.org/​)
 +
 +Thanks to Dave Briggs others for the organising, and demonstrating how
 +an good unconference should work. [More here on the
 +fomat](http://​en.wikipedia.org/​wiki/​Unconference)
  
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