Come and study in the wonderful Centre for Social Informatics at Edinburgh Napier University!

Click the graphic to see the full-size PDF.

At a turning point in my life, I applied to study for a part-time MSc in ‘Information Systems Development’ at Edinburgh Napier University. Apart from meeting my wife and becoming vegan, this is probably the best thing I’ve ever done. Now there are two PhD studentships available, so you can join me at the university’s Centre for Social Informatics. Continue reading

Initial lessons for Scottish PB (updated)

This is an update of a post from my first week in São Paulo, with input from my much better half. Mistakes of course are my fault, not hers.

  • If we don’t get PB right first time, people will lose confidence in it.
    • In this lesson, right can be replaced with good enough, because nothing is perfect, and Scotland is just learning to do PB.
    • This lesson means we need effective processes so that people know they have made the choices.
    • It also means that what is promised must be delivered near enough on time and near enough on budget.
      • This should happen in any context, no matter how much (or how little) money is involved.
      • We can argue about what near enough means at appropriate points.
  • Projects must be monitored as they proceed.
    • Also, due diligence/monitoring must happen at the end of project periods.
    • And that data must be analysed to see what is effective.
    • There should also be the possibility of discontinuing projects if it turns out that they are unlikely to be delivered, or if the benefits can be delivered in better ways, or if an urgent need arises for the money allocated to the project.
      • But this must be done transparently, and must not even appear to be party-political.
  • Don’t rely on revenue forecasts, because what is forecast may not materialise!
  • Annual cycles, i.e. projects that must be started and completed in a year, may be sub-optimal.
  • LeithChooses’ 2018 turnout (1000/20,000 = 5%) is good.
  • The current Scottish model of PB should have a deliberation stage before projects are formulated.
    • At the moment, PB process-runners (e.g.LeithChooses steering group) set themes, then invite projects.
    • The Brazilian model involves participatory deliberation on what the themes should be.
  • There should be some data gathered on who participates.
    • This is to show whether PB schemes are truly participatory, and whether they attract votes from people who need the services PB would offer.
  • Don’t build up an unhelpful bureaucracy around PB.
    • This may lead to clashes between parts of the bureaucracy that support different aims and objectives.
    • While spending money to create and perfect process is valid, wasting it on un-neccessary process is invalid, and puts people off the work.

Scottish Open Government Action Plan: launch event #OpenGovScot #OpenGovScotLAUNCH #OpenGov

I’ve been a mostly-quiet member of the Open Government Network Scotland for about two years. I’ve not done much, just quietly supported the idea that if we have access to facts and ideas, we can make more informed, and hence better, decisions. However, in December I spent a weekend proofreading a late draft of the new Open Government Action Plan, so I was delighted to be invited to this morning’s launch of the finished document.

As ever, this post is to consolidate and review my thinking and learning, as well as to share it. So errors and omissions in this account are mine.

Here is the agenda for the day. My tweets, thoughts and write-up follow it.

9:30 Official Launch (Livestreamed): Welcome speeches by, then Q&As with, co-chairs of Open Government Steering Group:

  • Cabinet Secretary for Government Business and Constitutional Relations, Michael Russell
  • Member of the Open Government Partnership International Steering Committee, Lucy McTernan
  • COSLA (Convention of Scottish Local Authorities) – Cllr Graham Houston, Vice President
10:30 Break
10:50 Workshop: Delivering the Action Plan in partnership and beyond

Group discussion questions: How do we work in partnership?
How do you want to be involved? How can government and civil society/third
sector work collaboratively together? How might this work? How do we take
this forward?
Table 1: financial transparency
Table 2: participation and public involvement
Table 3: access to information
Table 4: being more accountable
Table 5: transparency on Brexit

12:15 Closing remarks – Stephen Gallagher, Director of Local Government
12:30 Lunch and networking

Continue reading

Write Now! (Again.)

(copied, with sincere thanks, from Frances Ryan’s blog post, then edited slightly)

Three years after Write Now! was launched, it’s back! This time around I’m the project lead, because I benefited from many of the sessions during the first year and so I was keen to get it going again. My colleague Frances Ryan has joined in on the project bit to add her expertise and experience, and to assist in setting up the writing sessions each week.

Write Now! is a series of writing sessions supported by Edinburgh Napier University’s Research and Innovation Office. The sessions are held at our Merchiston campus in the Triangle Café to re-create the experience of writing in a coffee shop.

The sessions are held on Wednesdays from 2.30-4.30 pm. There is no obligation to join us every Wednesday. However the sessions are held at the same time each week so that participants can add the on-going events to their calendars. This will essentially block time out in advance so that they can protect this valuable time slot from being taken over by other meetings. It’s a great way to prioritise writing time.

Write Now! is for research students and academic staff who want time for concentrated writing. This time can be used to work on thesis chapters, journal or conference submissions, research grants, or other academic writing.

The sessions are self-led and participants manage their own writing processes. On arrival, participants are given a voucher for a drink and snack before they start writing. At the end of the session, they are asked to fill out brief (anonymous) progress cards noting what their writing goal was (and whether they met that goal) and the approximate number of words they wrote during the session.

Join us every Wednesday through May (and maybe into June)!
Triangle Café (downstairs at Merchiston)
2.30-4.30 pm
Free drinks and snacks
And don’t forget your laptop (or pen and paper if you’re Old Skool like that!)

System down in Sao Paulo

I’m not sure why but AppleMail on my slaptop keeps crashing. Email on my phone is so far unaffected. Email on my main Mac in Edinburgh also appears to be unaffected. (Pause to worship Teamviewer.) Accessing email via webmail or my university’s VPN also works, but these are rather slow.

So if you need to send me any files to work on, please let me know first so I can find wifi then log into webmail.