The relationship between citizen and state can only transform if we create and maintain meaningful relationships with government departments.
That means explaining what we do in GDS and how we can help, but it also means listening. As an organisation, we must get better at listening to our colleagues across government. I believe that face-to-face meetings are the best way of making that happen.
I’m really pleased to say that the inaugural GDS roadshow has led the way in developing those relationships and facilitating conversations.
The roadshow gave us the opportunity to hear people’s views on the challenges departments face when delivering the Government Transformation Strategy and how GDS can support them. It gave us a chance to understand departmental priorities and explore what more we can do to support and enable transformation activity.
I’d like to share some of what I learned from the roadshow.
People are happy to see GDS outside London
Just the act of getting on a train and leaving London for the regions showed we were committed to working collaboratively and the organisation is a credible transformation partner.
Senior leaders from GDS travelled to Bristol, Manchester, Newcastle, Leeds, Glasgow, Birmingham and Sheffield (Swansea and Liverpool are still on the roadmap) to meet with other departments and local authorities.
People told me how glad they were to see us outside of Aviation House having face-to-face conversations.
The atmosphere at each location has been informal, interactive and designed to encourage participation. For this first series of roadshows, we limited attendance to between 40 to 60 delegates which gave everyone the chance to be heard. We’ll be adapting the roadshow to ensure that the right people know about them in good time.
...and GDS people are happy to be outside London
I couldn’t help but notice how much our own staff enjoyed interacting with colleagues they’d perhaps not come into contact with on a day-to-day basis.
It is so much easier for our colleagues across government to learn about our products when there is someone from GDS at hand. The delegates at the roadshow are users of our services and there’s no better way to ensure that we’re meeting user needs than when they’re right in front of us giving feedback.
GDS staff gained energy when they heard from users and were enthusiastic when they were asked for help or advice.
The feedback we’ve had from the roadshows has indicated that there is a desire for GDS to be more local.
In terms of improving the national visibility of GDS, the Digital Academy will be a huge part of our efforts.
Back when it was owned by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), the purpose of the Digital Academy was to provide learning opportunities for civil servants. The courses on offer enabled them to work on agile digital development projects that build services to meet users' needs. As GDS adopts the Academy, we’ll be expanding the curriculum to offer more learning opportunities in data and technology.
We know that every objective in the Government Transformation Strategy is important, but hearing about the challenges people face in the pursuit of transformation helps us to prioritise.
We’ve learned a lot about ourselves as an organisation - not all of it has been easy to hear - but we’re committed to iterating and improving.
Our next roadshow takes place in Swansea on the 20th April. Email GDS events if you work for the UK government and want to find out more.