Overarching feeling of the week
Not too bad really, a varied set of things going on which have been interesting. Meaty puzzles to grapple with (which I love). Some nice interactions and new people. That’s good.
Some good non-work related news came in on Wednesday which has lifted my spirits a huge amount, and lead to a reshuffle of priorities for next week to spend more time at home, that’s also good .
Five things that happened (more than five things happened)
ONE. Conference woes. I went to a conference which was supposed to last for two days but I left on the afternoon of the first day.
The reason was because of some conduct I’d seen which I didn’t think was constructive and verging on unacceptable.
The event was hosted at a Youth Centre and there were a number of young people in attendance, that was great, but I felt that the way some of the other attendees engaged with them wasn’t productive and certainly not generous.
It really hit home for me the importance of communicating with attendees to make sure they understand what is happening on the day and to explain things, as well as the importance of codes of conduct (and enforcing them).
I didn’t feel that was a constructive space to be in and so I left.
I did some work in the evening and went into work the following day, which was handy as I had a bit of catching up to do.
TWO. Joe Broadway. Actually, not just Joe Broadway but a good morning generally that featured Joe Broadway . On Thursday I was lucky with the trains! The train arrived into London in good time and I got to the cafe at the Treasury building by 8.45! This is unheard of at the moment with the trains.
Blah blah ~trains~ blah blah. I am boring myself. Sorry .
Anyway, I had a couple of minutes to eat my breakfast and read my book and then shared a quick coffee with Joe. I really enjoyed the conversation and it felt good to catch up on what is happening for him. Then I headed off to…
THREE. Service Assessment time! This week I was lead assessor on a service assessment. I love service assessments.
I firmly believe that they are one of the most important things we do as a department. We assess services before they are released into the world and available for the public to use.
We make sure that teams really understand who will be using the service and what drives them to do it. We spend lots of time talking through what researchers have found out about their user’s behaviour and needs. I love that because learning about how people behave is inherently fascinating.
It’s a concentrated day. There’s a huge amount to take in from the service team and you have to stay on the ball for several hours to make sure that you’ve covered off everything that you need, in order to be able to make a decision. That can be tiring.
When we assess we have a panel of experts from GDS or across government who cover service design, user research, technical architecture, content design, and performance analysis.
Then there’s me, someone who is none of those things but who understands a bit about all of those things.
I love working with those other experts because they all care a great deal.
FOUR. Stickers happened. I have had so much joy giving out my stickers to people. It’s actually surprised me how much pride it gave me to see other people using them. A couple of people sent me pictures of their stickers “in the wild” and I love them so much. Thank you.
Simon popped his sticker next to the amazing Janet Hughes’ BE BOLD sticker. I hadn’t meant this to be a counterpoint or even a pastiche, but seeing them together is satisfying.
All the stickers are gone now (because I have been too generous?!) .
I’m going to do a reprint because I think it’s definitely worth it for the generosity feels (and I would like to have some in my back pocket for #OneTeamGovGlobal.
While we are talking about stickers, what’s the etiquette on reprints? Should I do exactly the same design or should I change it up a little?
FIVE. Subs. I’ve started putting together my first spend controls submission. This is great but also slightly worrying, I’m sure I have all of the information together, but I am trepidatious because it’s my first one. Fingers crossed.
We are edging (not edging, rapidly speeding) towards the unconference now and things are really starting to come together. I’m chipping in with whatever I can and the team have done an absolutely stunning job of getting together sponsorship from across government. It’s going to be really good!
We’ve had some great #MyOneTeamGov stories which we’ve been tweeting and we are also starting to share some thoughts from attendees around the world about what they want to get out of the day.
We still have some tickets available so if you haven’t signed up yet then go to: http://bit.ly/2sFHoge
In other news…
This is an interesting article and the data visualisation is a compelling way of showing the information. It’s worth a read.
I read this story:
I raised it at One Team Gov breakfast club because something about it troubled me and it took me a while to be able to articulate why.
I’ve spoken before about my imposter syndrome, and actually, some of that stems from not seeing myself as academic (I have a degree, but somehow my brain is able to discount this). As someone who works in central government, i increasingly find that I am working with lots of other people who have more qualifications than me.
Masters, MBAs, PHDs and more. From universities I find intimidating, in subjects I find daunting.
These are exceptional achievements for the people who have gained those qualifications, I appreciate they are not easily won. And, I certainly wouldn’t argue that government don’t need highly intelligent people, of course we do. And everyone is different and has taken different paths.
That is cool.
But to suggest that the academic route is the “proper” way to learn doesn’t seem right. It would be disingenuous to believe that civil servants aren’t taking opportunities to learn whenever they can. This also discounts other ways of learning. For example, I read a huge amount around the subjects I think are important, but that’s not formalised.
As I get older I also understand more about how I learn, and I’m not suited to the academic route. I learn by working, with people, and through discussion of ideas.
I think we need to get better at identifying more ways of helping people achieve, not trying to fit more people into a small box.
Kit also tweeted on this subject:
There is something here about valuing the learning we get from interacting with users of our services and learning about them. If only we ascribed the same value to the learning we gain from speaking to users.
Finally, (acknowledging my own privilege alongside my imposter syndrome) if I feel like this, and if we want the civil service to be more representative of the people we serve, then what does this kind of discussion do for other people who don’t see themselves as academic?
If you come from areas where very few people go to university, then how could you picture yourself working in the civil service? Who are we potentially excluding by speaking in this way?
And now for something completely different…
I heard that the BBC plan to close Maida Vale and it made me really sad.
I went there only once, and honestly, it was a very special and exciting thing. I won tickets on the Radio 1 Chris Moyles breakfast show  to see Mylo in session for Steve Lamaq.
When I tried to leave I got lost in a corridor and ended up in a massive space, and this sounds incredibly superstitious but honestly, there is a feeling there that is hard to explain.
This article which Helen Beavan shared was really interesting.
The team (now DCMS, previously GDS) published the Data Ethics Framework. You may remember this from my previous blog about AI.
It’s really good and useful and worth reading!
This article is about advertising but it speaks to biases that exist all over…
And on that note…
Finally here’s this week’s playlist:
I believe this to be my first ever Paul Rudd gif. I may be wrong. But if I’m right, that feels like a pretty huge oversight.
 I’m not being deliberately cryptic I just don’t want to write about this because it’s not to do with work and it’s not really about me. I’m leaving this here though because it’s a reminder that we are all humans with home lives and those things necessarily creep into work life and that’s absolutely ok.
 I’m not sure when it happened but at some point in knowing Joe Broadway I became unable to call him by anything other than his full name. Even though Joe isn’t even his real name.
BONUS SPECIAL TRAIN TALK FEATURE: I was “lucky” with the train in the sense of the one I usually miss by a minute was 5 minutes late which enabled me to get it… The trains are still SO AWFUL! How many delay repay claims do I have to make?! Again. I know this is boring. But UGH. This is such a pain in my life right now…
 Yes, really. No, I’m not proud of it.
I fully intended this weeknote to be shorter than usual but it didn’t pan out. Sorry.