Sharing the GDS approach with Code for America

Last week I spoke about GDS at the Code for America Summit in San Francisco, and I thought I'd share a few of my highlights from the event.

I was on a panel chaired by Jennifer Pahlka, founder of Code for America, with two great women; Nicole Tecco Reece from Case Commons and Jessica Lord, Code for America Fellow 2012. Nicole talked about the need for a human centric, design and user led approach to social work case management that  her company have pioneered over the past six years.

Jessica gave an entertaining and enlightening talk on her work with Macon County Georgia called See Penny Work. See Penny Work is a data and budget visualization tool for cities that closes the consultation loop in a really effective way for citizens. She also included a brilliant visualization as to why some city websites don’t work but you need to see that in the context of her overall presentation (she got a little gentle ribbing on Twitter from a few city web managers as a result).

I focused on both on our approach to Citizen Experience in GDS and my previous role in the London Datastore which included reference to work done by Matthew Sommerville and Francis Berriman on the Live Tube Map for London.

Public service didn't stop with GDS

On day one Sheba Najmi from Honolulo demonstrated their use of GOV.UK code in developing Honolulu Smart Answers, and also spoke about their recent Write-A-Thon, an initiative to crowdsource content for Honolulu Answers.

Sheba is now in further contact with Sarah Richards and Janet Hughes in GDS to continue the conversation, and she will be blogging here on the Honolulu experience for us soon.

Ernie Gray, founder of Aunt Bertha, spoke about how his mother's illness motivated him to start his company. A direct consequence of having to initiate power of attorney, his was a moving description of why we need to make things easier for citizens to find the services they need - particularly when they are experiencing moments of high stress in their lives.

Yancy Strickler, CoFounder and Head of Community from Kickstarter, talked about the work they are doing in the creative space, but increasingly also in the civic space. To date Kickstarter have supported over 1,000 civic projects raising in excess of 10 million dollars. It will be fascinating to see how this element of Kickstarter’s work develops and what models might emerge that will be of value to us in government.

Other stand-out talks included Ann Milgram, former Attorney General, State of New Jersey who spoke about Data Driven Decision Making (or as she called it Moneyballing the Criminal Justice System). We have now connected Ann with some members of the Crime and Justice Transparency Panel here in the UK to see where there might be some snyergies in our work and hers.

And Tim O'Reilly had an easy job interviewing Todd Park, CTO, USA who spoke of his experiences as an entrepreneur in the private sector but who really lifted the roof when he said "the most amazing and most entrepreneurial experiences" he has had in this whole career has been serving the US government over the past three years. For those public officials in the audience it felt like a real endorsement that innovation is not the sole preserve of the private sector and a testament to the many talented and passionate people working in government to make things better for citizens.

It feels unfair to cherry pick presentations because of the overall high quality of contributions, so you can find a complete archive of the talks here.If you are interested in government and innovation then they are well worth a look.

GOV.UK on a global stage

From the outset it was clear that the work we are doing in GDS is being followed on a global stage. It's exciting to see how many in the US audience were familiar with the principles behind GOV.UK from the Design Principles to our approach to transparency and openness.

I hope that I gave a strong message to the many companies who presented that we here in GDS are building government as platform in a way that can facilitate collaborative working and that we have an open door to individuals and SME’s (or SMB’s as they are referred to in the US) who, like us, share a passion for making things simpler, clearer and faster for citizens.

We approach another milestone with the launch of GOV.UK on 17 October, and we know that not only will people in the UK be watching but friends and colleagues in the US too.

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