A hiatus from The Satori Lab in 2018

Handwritten text reads "Unconference it's fun and it doesn't hurt"
GovCamp Cymru 2017 by Sara Long used under CC-BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/Z4qPeN

Nearly five years ago a small group of us felt that we could see a gap in Welsh public life.

We felt that Wales didn’t have a space where people delivering public services could come together to talk about the challenges that were over the hill. The big things that were coming round the mountain that organisations needed to be ready for.

So we decided to set up an unconference for public services in Wales: GovCampCymru. Because someone needs to get these things going: The Satori Lab volunteered to manage the process and look after the finances for the first three years. Those first three events seemed to go pretty well. So we made GovCampCymru 2017 happen too.

It’s 2018 now and we’ve given some thought to the prospect of a GovCampCymru 2018.

We’ve come to the conclusion that The Satori Lab won’t make this one happen. We want to take a hiatus and to be able to focus on some other things this year. And we don’t want GovCampCymru just to become another step on the hamster wheel. It should be a solution to a problem that a bunch of us agree exists. It should have passion and energy behind it and we have passion and energy for some smaller scale, more experimental ideas in 2018.

This doesn’t mean that there won’t be a GovCampCymru this year. It’s a community event not a company event and we’ll be very happy to hand over the keys and the resources to anyone from the community who wants to make it happen.

But we’re going to take a break.

We’re not saying we’ll never drive forward an event like this.

But we are saying we won’t do this in 2018.

GovCamp Cymru 2017: the stories, the pictures, the ideas

So much **SO MUCH** great stuff happened at #gccy17! Here are some of the materials that came out of the event…


This is the session grid, i.e. the agenda that was collectively created on the day and populated by GovCampers with the topics that they wanted to talk about. Check out the grid for all the topics, and follow the link from each session for the notes that were collated as an outcome of the conversation. 

Helen Frost of Frost Creative drew the notes of the sessions in this one magnificent piece. Follow this link to access the file in various formats if you want to use or share it – credit to Frost Creative.






Have more materials to add? Email the team@satorilab.org and we’ll add it in!

All About Pitching

The key aspect of an unconference that makes it so special is that there is no agenda. The whole day is created and led by those who turn up. The topics and ideas to be discussed are pitched by the attendees on the day to form a session grid.

Pitches can be about anything that interests you. What are you passionate about? What are you working on that you think others can learn from? If you’re stuck for ideas for pitching please check out this great blog from Ben Proctor http://govcampcymru.org/i-got-99-ideas-and-a-pitch-is-one/.

Pitches do not have to be formal. Unconferences are for everyone and we make it work together. So please pitch even if you’re new to GovCamp Cymru or unconferences in general. It is the diverse and interesting range of topics and ideas that brings such great value to the day. Pitches do not need to be rehearsed so if you have a moment of inspiration on the day please pitch away. The only things we would ask are:

  • Pitches should be short and to the point – ideally lasting less than 30 seconds
  • That the pitch should include 1 clear topic/question/idea/issue.

How are the sessions created?

At the beginning of the day everyone meets together in the main room to hear the pitches. Everyone who has a pitch to make lines up and has approximately 30 seconds to pitch their idea to the room. If you have a great pitch suggestion but don’t fancy standing up in front of everyone, then we will have a pitching station where volunteers are on hand to talk through your ideas and/or pitch on your behalf. When the pitches are made, people in the audience indicate if they’re interested in each topic, so that we can estimate what size of room will be needed for each session. The pitches are written on sticky notes and added to the session grid and that is the running order for the day. There are four session blocks, 2 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon with 5 parallel sessions running in each block lasting about an hour each, spread across 5 separate rooms .

What happens in a session?

Each session takes place in a meeting room. We have various sizes of room available. There will be chairs in a circle, and one of our volunteers will be there to take notes. The assumption is that everything happens in the open, so if you don’t want to be quoted in the notes please make sure you say that clearly. The session notes will be shared so that people who couldn’t be there can find out what was discussed.

We don’t provide any other equipment for sessions (except for a few post-its notes and biros), so if you want flipcharts or any other materials to support your pitch, you will need to bring those yourselves.

We have very few rules:

Good sessions tend to:

  • have someone who introduces the session and gets things going
  • have a clear topic
  • encourage discussion, with a chance for everyone to join
  • include a few minutes at the end to close the session down
  • generate ideas for things people can do after camp

If you’re considering pitching a session and have things to say yourself during the session, you could consider asking someone to act as a facilitator to keep things flowing and make sure everyone gets to speak who wants to. We’ll have a few volunteers on hand on the day who will be able to do this for you, or ask one of your friendly fellow govcampers who may be willing to help.

Still unsure about pitching? Check out these great videos from Barod:

Thoughts about a Universal Basic Income for Wales

This is one of a series of guest blog posts on topics relevant to public services in Wales, written by Neil Tamplin.

What is a Universal Basic Income?

A basic income is a periodic cash payment unconditionally delivered to all on an individual basis, without means-test or work requirement.

That is, basic income has the following five characteristics:

  1. Periodic: it is paid at regular intervals (for example every month), not as a one-off grant.
  2. Cash payment: it is paid in an appropriate medium of exchange, allowing those who receive it to decide what they spend it on. It is not, therefore, paid either in kind (such as food or services) or in vouchers dedicated to a specific use.
  3. Individual: it is paid on an individual basis—and not, for instance, to households.
  4. Universal: it is paid to all, without means test.
  5. Unconditional: it is paid without a requirement to work or to demonstrate willingness-to-work.

(above definition from http://basicincome.org/basic-income/)

Why might we need a Universal Basic Income?

Opinion is currently divided as to whether the combination of automation (robots) and Artificial Intelligence will swallow jobs wholesale or if they will augment humans and free us all from drudgery to pursue more fulfilling endeavours.

What most people can agree on is that technology is rapidly transforming the world around us. Each wave of technological advancement brings with it a new set of opportunities and challenges.

The difference with this new industrial revolution is the speed at which these changes are taking place. Vast cross sections of society are already feeling the affects of a smaller, more connected world. And we have yet to grasp the widespread implications of emerging technology like autonomous vehicles, augmented/virtual reality and 3D printing.

As business becomes supercharged by digital innovation, how much time will people have to get ready for the next wave of jobs that don’t exist yet? How easily can people retrain and reskill? How secure is new found employment? Does work pay enough to meet a basic living standard? Are people being used as temporary placeholders for robots?

Universal Basic Income is essentially a safety net that shelters people from the unexpected twists and turns of the future. The loss of employment. The gap between ‘gigs’. The need to retrain for a new career path. The need to care for a parent, partner or child.

We are all working longer and it is more likely than ever we will change jobs (or even careers) multiple times during our lives. New digital business models mean that more people are venturing into the world of self employment than ever before. Wouldn’t it be better if we all had a way to smoothly transition through these different chapters without courting huge amounts of risk and debt?

How would we pay for Universal Basic Income?

How could we afford to pay every citizen, no questions asked? It’s not as crazy as it sounds. After all, we tax everyone for existing.

Here are some suggestions for ways to fund a Universal Basic Income.

  • Money reclaimed from vastly simplifying the means tested welfare system.
  • Land Value Tax: A tax on the use of public resources (land, air, sea etc.).
  • Carbon Tax: A tax on carbon emissions.
  • Automation/Robot Tax: A tax for companies that heavily utilise automation instead of manual labour.
  • Data Tax: A dividend from the likes of Google and Facebook for citizen data.
  • Mining Space Asteroids!: No, seriously. People are working on this. There’s an abundance of resources floating around waiting to be used.

How do we know if any of this works?

Honestly, we don’t! Not yet anyway.

There are a lot of moving parts to account for and we could probably debate the pros and cons all day long without making much headway. What we really need to advance the conversation is hard data.

A number of countries interested in the idea (Finland, Canada and Scotland to name but three) are running small scale pilots to gather that data and answer some interesting questions like…

  • How much basic income would each person need to live a basic lifestyle?
  • Does basic income mean that people work less?
  • Does basic income help people become more entrepreneurial by reducing risk?
  • Is basic income more effective at helping people find work than traditional welfare models?
  • Does basic income give people an escape route from grinding poverty?
  • Should children be paid basic income?

So… in the face of huge amounts of change, should we in Wales be thinking about what Universal Basic Income could do for us? What would it take to run a Welsh Basic Income pilot to start answering some of these very same questions on our own doorstep?


Neil Tamplin works with technology in the social housing sector. He is interested in ways we can apply the tools, cultures and practices of the digital age for social good. He is on Twitter as @NeilTamplin and contributes to @BasicIncWales.

GovCamp Cymru 2017 is happening on 14th October.  Join the conversation online on the GovCamp Cymru Slack. (New to Slack?) Join the mailing list for ticket releases, the first batch will be available on Monday 26th June, 10:00am. Find us on twitter and Facebook!

Do you fancy contributing a guest blog post on a topic relevant to public services in Wales? Get in touch with noreen@satorilab.org.

Volunteering at GovCamp Cymru (and why you should)

This is  a guest blog post about GovCamp Cymru written by our long-standing (and favourite but shhh! don’t tell her, she might blush) volunteer, about what her experience has been like. Written by Kate Williams. 

GovCamp Cymru 2017 will be my fourth year of volunteering at the event. And, as with every year, I’m excited to be helping out. So why do I keep returning each year and why do I volunteer?

Firstly, why do I keep coming back to GovCamp Cymru? I’m passionate about public services, the intricacies, the faults and the potential. I care about public services and how we can collectively work to help create a better future for our communities. Attending GovCamp Cymru enables me to be witness to thought provoking conversations and learning that I can incorporate back into my own working practices and share with others in my organisation. I am not a “game changer”, an influencer, or a shining example of a public servant but I care, I get to meet people who are those inspiring examples and I learn something new each time I attend.

So why do I volunteer to be part of GovCamp Cymru? I get to work with amazing people who I love, who inspire me and who welcome me into their fold. Volunteering gives me the opportunity to feel like I’m a part of GovCamp Cymru and that, even in a very small way, I’m helping to make it happen.

From a personal perspective, I struggle with social anxiety that can be severe at times. Walking into a crowded room fills me with fear and though you may not see it from the outside, inside I am filled with panic. Being a volunteer at GovCamp Cymru gives me a sense of purpose and focus that helps to counteract the overwhelming fight or flight instinct.

I often worry that I’m not clever, experienced, or eloquent enough to attend GovCamp Cymru. At the previous events I have met some amazing people who are extremely clever, experienced and eloquent. And these amazing people have always been welcoming, kind and eager to hear different perspectives. Despite this, because of my introversion/anxiety/shyness I find it difficult to contribute during the sessions. Not because I’m not welcomed to, the groups are always inclusive and friendly. Volunteering for GovCamp Cymru lets me contribute in a different way. Taking the notes for the sessions is probably one of my favourite tasks as it allows me to have a clear purpose to being witness to the discussions without the pressure to speak. There are many roles and tasks that people can get stuck into when volunteering that means everyone can play to their own strengths and contribute in a way that they are comfortable with.

Volunteering isn’t just for the quiet introvert, the gregarious extrovert (and everything in-between) can be equally at home when volunteering. There really is a part for anyone and everyone to play at GovCamp Cymru. But don’t just take my word for it:

“Volunteering at GovCamp Cymru gave me the chance to learn so much about what’s happening across Wales and beyond. It’s a unique opportunity to meet great people who are passionate about improving public services.” @DyfrigWilliams

So why should you volunteer? For all the reasons above. Volunteers are a vital part of GovCamp Cymru and you would get to be part of a friendly group of dedicated people who care about public services, helping to make GovCamp Cymru  possible. Whilst being an attendee is a great experience, being a volunteer takes it to the next level of involvement, providing opportunities to contribute in a multitude of different ways. We need you so please sign up today and you will create amazing memories, gain knowledge and experience what is involved in running an unconference.

GovCamp Cymru 2017 is happening on 14th October.  Join the conversation online on the GovCamp Cymru Slack. (New to Slack?) Join the mailing list for ticket releases, the first batch will be available on Monday 26th June, 10:00am. Find us on twitter and Facebook!

Do you fancy contributing a guest blog post on a topic relevant to public services in Wales? Get in touch with noreen@satorilab.org.

How to make learning from failure a reality

This is one of a series of guest blog posts on topics relevant to public services in Wales, written by Ffion Jones.

The internet is liberally peppered with quotes and stories from the world’s highest achievers, from Richard Branson to Mark Zuckerberg, about how learning from failure has been a central part of their road to success. Virgin Cars, Virgin Cola and Virgin Brides (!) all failed but taught Virgin a valuable lesson – to ensure there was a real gap in the market and fill it with something of genuine use before launching a product.

But the real question for me is how do we translate these examples from billion dollar companies into our day to day lives? When we run learning activities we make sure everyone understands that failure is good, we’re expressly here to learn and failing i.e. risk taking is the key to making progress. The question leaders and team members alike struggle with is how to find the confidence to take those real world risks.

Matthew Syed gives a series of well researched case studies in his book Black Box Thinking of how rigorously acknowledging and implementing the practical lessons learned from systems failures has worked.  One that I found most striking was the story of Dr Gary S Kaplan taking the famous Toyota Production System into the Virginia Mason Health System in Seattle. He says, “The system was about cars, which are very different from people… But the underlying principle is transferable. If a culture is open and honest about mistakes, the entire system can learn from them.” Kaplan introduced a system which encouraged staff to report errors that could harm patients, from which practical changes could be made to lessen risks.

However, the critical piece of information is that it wasn’t adopted widely until it became clear that reported mistakes were praised, not punished.

Amy Edmondson of Harvard Business School describes her book, Teaming: How Organizations Learn, Innovate, and Compete in the Knowledge Economy, as a real world guide for business and HR leaders on collaboration. Learning from failure and building a culture of psychological safety are pillars of her approach. In this article and video she says, “Executives I’ve interviewed in organizations as different as hospitals and investment banks admit to being torn: How can they respond constructively to failures without giving rise to an anything-goes attitude?  This concern is based on a false dichotomy. In actuality, a culture that makes it safe to admit and report on failure can—and in some organizational contexts must—coexist with high standards for performance.” Readjusting our perception of failure is a good first step, using the Spectrum on the left to understand why a failure occurred and decide what type of change is needed.

Three key lessons to make learning from failure effective today are:

  1. Build a culture of psychological safety in your team. This means talking openly about failure and being willing to admit both inside and outside your team when something has gone wrong.
  2. Find a way to implement small, every day changes to processes from your learnings from failure. This can be as simple as creating a ‘failure space’ in your team meetings for new learnings and updates on resulting changes. People quickly develop an appetite for small, incremental improvements within their sphere of control.
  3. Use the Spectrum of Reasons for Failure to challenge your own perceptions and those of people around you of why failures occur to help move away from the blame game.

Failure is worth working hard for.


Ffion Jones is Learning & Development Manager (UK) for Opus International Consultants. A great lover of all things learning, with a strong belief that the deepest learning and best ideas come direct from teams working together. If we give people the power and the space to learn from each other, great results happen. Ffion’s goal is to create environments in which people and teams thrive through learning and idea generation. LinkedInTwitter.

GovCamp Cymru 2017 is happening on 14th October.  Join the conversation online on the GovCamp Cymru Slack. (New to Slack?) Join the mailing list for ticket releases, the first batch will be available on Monday 26th June, 10:00am. Find us on twitter and Facebook!

Do you fancy contributing a guest blog post on a topic relevant to public services in Wales? Get in touch with noreen@satorilab.org.

Co-production and what it means for organisational culture

This is one of a series of guest blog posts on topics relevant to public services in Wales, written by Noreen Blanluet. Reposted from an original on Medium.

Co-production in public services: a complex journey of change

“Co-production is an asset-based approach to public services which enables citizens and professionals to share power and work together in equal and reciprocal relationships.” (Co-production Network for Wales)

Co-production is a journey, not a binary measure. It is the organisational equivalent of a personal path to self-actualisation, in which it isn’t possible to finally arrive, stop growing, and tick the “done” box. Instead it is a constantly evolving process of striving with curiosity, collective learning, and incremental improvement.

Effective co-production relies on five core practices:

1. Recognising that everyone without exception has something to offer, and beginning with the strengths that are present in our workforces and communities;

2. Building networks of peers and networks of networks, that can share knowledge, expertise and experience and bring together a diverse range of contributions;

3. Focusing on what matters to the people using public services, and shifting the focus from the systems to the humans involved in them;

4. Establishing strong relationships based on trust, respect and equality;

5. Organisations taking on a facilitation role in which they enable communities to draw on their resources first, and then offer relevant and suitable expertise to fill gaps in provision.

Certainly at the beginning of the co-production journey, public service organisations hold a duty to open the conversation and break away from the conventional model of remote decision-making and service development. However this must be done with an ever-renewed awareness of the locus of power: while you can invite people into a conversation, imposing an agenda and a process is simply not co-production.

This is why community development practices have an essential role to play to re-energise and re-enable citizens suffering from cynicism and resignation at not having been heard for too long. It’s a delicate balance: organisations must create a space and keep it open, but in return citizens must step towards this open door and contribute their voices. Where opportunities, responsibility and power are being tentatively offered, communities need to be able to meet organisations and match them as partners in this evolutionary conversation. Community development can and should enable this in parallel with organisational transformation.

More and more public services are recognising the need to adopt co-productive practices in order to create long-term effectiveness, cost savings, and improve delivery in a complex and ever-changing social and economic landscape. Legislative or policy compliance can provide the initial nudge by imposing a statutory duty for them to “do co-production”. However they are being required to navigate, without a map, the tension between investing time and resources to create sustainable future services, while delivering essential provision right now under increasing pressures.

Many might be hoping for a new, simple, one-size-fits-all, fast and effective system that will solve that tension. Unfortunately co-production isn’t simple: while its principles are straightforward, their practical application requires flexibility, innovative thinking, and adaptability to constantly evolving contexts. It cannot offer a one-size-fits-all solution. People, situations, teams and communities are endlessly variable. The beauty of co-production is that identifying and building on our specific set of assets and resources will return the best possible result for us, which will look different from everyone else’s. But this means that the same core principles will result in context-specific outcomes created with care and awareness, not rolled out blindly regardless of local needs. Nor is co-production fast. Building the solid, trusting relationships that underpin it requires time, commitment, and showing up with openness and consistency. It’s an inner journey as much as an organisational one for all involved.

That is why successfully working to co-production principles requires a radical mindset shift, which translates into a significant culture change for the whole organisation: becoming a learning organisation means getting comfortable with the uncertainty that characterises complex systems, approaching situations with the cultural humility to listen with openness and draw on a range of expertise, and taking calculated risks to test and iterate potential solutions, before scaling those that work in a context-specific way. This requires an authentic leadership that recognises the importance of building genuine relationships of trust, and that enables both the workforce and the recipients of services to be engaged and empowered.

Without this understanding, attempting to roll out co-production as a process-based approach will at best have limited success, and at worst may fail spectacularly. Process-based “co-production” cannot truly deliver effective and sustainable change, because it is missing the point.

For services already under huge pressure, it might seem like too big an ask. It is undeniably a big commitment that will take time; however it is still a better solution than continuing to struggle in vain with increasingly failing systems. By applying a co-productive approach internally to begin with, we can realise that we already have a lot of what we need in the assets and the resources of our teams and workforce, as well as our service users and their communities. It requires breaking with routine to take a bold step and ask: “What matters to you?”, and then truly listening.

While policy and legislation are setting a direction of travel as well as a statutory obligation, too many organisations are still uncertain how to tackle the transition. For co-production to really become the basis of public services, investment is necessary not only in training and toolkits, networks and resources, but also to transform leadership mindset and organisational culture. Explicit support is required to accelerate the pace of change, and to help our public services grow into the co-productive organisations that we need them to be.

Noreen is a strategic co-production consultant who has been observing the recent evolution of public services and is convinced that more positive change is in the works. Linkedin. Twitter.

GovCamp Cymru 2017 is happening on 14th October.  Join the conversation online on the GovCamp Cymru Slack. (New to Slack?) Join the mailing list for ticket releases, the first batch will be available on Monday 26th June, 10:00am. Find us on twitter and Facebook!

Do you fancy contributing a guest blog post on a topic relevant to public services in Wales? Get in touch with noreen@satorilab.org.

Thoughts on digital democracy and what it means these days

This is one of a series of guest blog posts on topics relevant to public services in Wales, written by Leah Lockhart from the Democratic Society in Scotland. Re-posted with kind permission from an original on Medium.

‘I don’t know how to use a computer!’: the stories of our most dangerous public servants

Last month I was invited to Birmingham University to take part in a discussion called ‘✊Democracy #LOL :): digital participation in local governance’ which was hosted by Local Government Studies (INLOGOV). I was invited along to share my stories and experiences of working with local government and community groups in Scotland that are integrating digital engagement into their participatory budgeting (PB) activities.

I shared examples from the past six months of the digital PB project where I have seen very important impact on a public service team or in a community group happen because of their decision to augment their face to face engagement with digital engagement. I also shared examples of things that keep me up at night and send me into a spiral of internal debate.

One of these examples was a story I roll out *all the time* as an illustration of the attitude of public servants to ‘digital’: earlier this year heard a senior civil servant announce in a public forum that she didn’t even know how to take a screenshot so surely ideas about innovative digital solutions for creating better public services would go over her head.

After I went through my slides and stories, we had a group discussion during which I was asked why I seem so frustrated with people in public services who don’t use or want to use digital tools or platforms for engagement. The person asking the question seemed to hear my frustration and my screenshot story as throwing shade at public servants who aren’t willing to jump on a digital engagement bandwagon and burst onto the internet scene to tweet and blog, that I was being a bit cliquey. Fair enough comment, really. I have to hold my hands up and say I don’t always explain things as well as I could, especially if it’s something I’m close to. So here’s a fuller explanation than I managed to spit out on the day…


When someone in public service says, ‘I don’t even know how to take a screenshot’ I hear, ‘I am a security liability with no interest in knowing about modern ways of working.’ It’s no secret lack of computing skills, including understanding various basic practices around safety and security, are low in public sector workforces. In fact I’d argue public services nurture these low skills and send people down a spiral of de-skilling with their outdated browsers, outdated operating systems and messy IT infrastructures…which may have been procured by the senior person who doesn’t know how to take a screenshot. Snake eating tail. Just recently Martha Lane Fox published a piece about the lack of sophisticated debate about the internet at a UK government level and the inability of policy makers to keep up with the pace of technological change being issues of national security and one of the most pressing issues of our time. Self-effacing comments about not being able to push a couple of buttons somewhere are no joke.


When someone in public service says, ‘I don’t use social media. No one wants to know what I had for breakfast! *chortle*’ I hear, ‘I don’t have the vaguest interest in understanding how an increasing number of citizens get information or choose to interact.’ The last person you want to let loose on your organisation’s social media is the person who *really* doesn’t want to be using social media. So this isn’t about shading those who choose not to use social media themselves. This is about having an understanding of how social media works, why they are used, what online communities look like and sound like and acknowledging the importance of social media to government for *so* many reasons. Understanding at a higher level means permission for more active or meaningful use of social media over an organisation, including a lift on bans in public services that mean staff sometimes literally can’t see the internet. Because, you know, it’s unsafe (said the public servant who has no real idea what interaction online looks like.) Snake eating tail.


When someone in public service says, ‘My job is so boring. No one would want to read a blog written by me’ I hear, ‘I am not willing to be open, transparent and accountable.’ Issues around confidence and identity are here alongside lack of skill and institutional cultures and behaviours so this one isn’t straightforward. In my years working with public servants, conversations about working out loud and the honest reflection it requires are some of the most difficult- and emotional. The support our public servants need to change their relationships with the public is heavy and it’s not usually coming from inside- external forces are necessary (that’s you and me!)

The conversations I have with public servants when I’m helping them plan digital engagement always start with purpose, resource and goals and it usually catches them off guard. Planning and reflection? But the internet is magic, right? Asking people to consider the why and the how for digital engagement often surfaces anxieties, barriers and systemic problems that mean *generally* public engagement with a view to involvement are not well thought out or very meaningful. It’s a very exposing process. While there is a lot of discussion and rhetoric flying around the public sector about ‘digital innovation’ and ‘transformation’, these are really high level and don’t ever really address the live issues closer to the front line. The success of the transformation camp is dependent on the success of the confidence and skills camp. How can we bring these conversations closer together?

Associated reading:
Leah also wrote: Outside in – how the internet is improving public services, and Ben got excited about the Welsh Assembly’s Digital Taskforce report. What do we need to be thinking about to “do” digital effectively in Wales?

Leah Lockhart describes herself as a coordinator, collaborator, guide; exploring social good enabled by digital things; and doing digital engagement work across Scotland with Democratic Society Scotland. LinkedinMedium.

GovCamp Cymru 2017 is happening on 14th October.  Join the conversation online on the GovCamp Cymru Slack. (New to Slack?) Join the mailing list for ticket releases, the first batch will be available on Monday 26th June, 10:00am. Find us on twitter and Facebook!

Do you fancy contributing a guest blog post on a topic relevant to public services in Wales? Get in touch with noreen@satorilab.org.

Getting your head around open data

This is one of a series of guest blog posts on topics relevant to public services in Wales, written by Ben Proctor.

Open data is simply data that anyone can access, use or share. Data, in this context, could be any piece of information. The Open Data Institute has a helpful guide to open data.

Most data is not open. Data might be closed (locked within an organisation or a department), shared (available to people by agreement or because they are in particular roles) or open (where anyone can access it, use it or share it). The Open Data Institute calls this the Data Spectrum.

To be open data has to be published (on a website for example) but publishing it is not enough. To be open it has to have a licence which makes it clear that anyone can use or share it. This means that it isn’t possible to charge people for open data. The format that data is published in also has an impact on how useful it is by different groups of people. There are other factors that can affect how useful open data is. Sir Tim Berners-Lee has described a star-rating system for more and more useful open data

Any organisation that owns data can choose to open it. In the UK, parts of the public sector have opened lots of their data. You can find lots of open data from the UK government on the data.gov.uk portal. In Wales the Welsh Government has published an open data plan and set up a website to make it easier to find geographical data

A key argument for opening data is that it enables people to build services using that data. Because people don’t need to build the infrastructure to collect the data this means services can be delivered much quicker and it enables more innovation. It is not all a one-way street. As people build services on a dataset, they frequently clean and improve the data, spot errors, and mix it with other datasets to generate unique insights. Many public bodies publish open data with the aim of enabling innovative services. Many private companies are also publishing open data for the same reasons. Jeni Tennison (now Chief Executive of the Open Data Institute) wrote about open data business models a few years ago

Some examples of services built, at least in part, on open data include:

  • City Mapper which gets people around London using a combination of open data from Transport for London, its own data and algorithms
  • Mastodon C which has published insights into antibiotic prescribing based on open data 

There is a thriving community working with open data across the UK. Regular Open Data Camps are held, the most recent taking place in Cardiff in February 2017.  At that camp there was a workshop on Open Data for beginners which is written up here

What are your thoughts on Open Data, and how it could help government and public services in Wales?

Ben is the Technical Director of ODI-Cardiff. ODI Cardiff is the Open Data Institute node in Wales and is working to enable innovation with data across Wales and beyond. He is also a director of The Satori Lab. Linkedin. Medium.

GovCamp Cymru 2017 is happening on 14th October.  Join the conversation online on the GovCamp Cymru Slack. (New to Slack?) Join the mailing list for ticket releases, the first batch will be available on Monday 26th June, 10:00am. Find us on twitter and Facebook!

Do you fancy contributing a guest blog post on a topic relevant to public services in Wales? Get in touch with noreen@satorilab.org.

Why should I be thinking about Data Maturity?

This is one of a series of guest blog posts on topics relevant to public services in Wales, written by Dyfrig Williams.

Over the past few months, I’ve been working on the Cutting Edge Audit project for the Wales Audit Office, which looks at how we can challenge our existing use of data and technology and assumptions that we normally take for granted. We’ve been thinking radically about how we might use new technology to transform the way that we work.

I’ve been working on how the Wales Audit Office acquires data to give us deeper knowledge and fresh insight. That’s involved looking at how we produce and make use of Open Data, how we make data accessible and data warehousing.

Why is Data Maturity important?

In the course of my work I’ve come across some organisations who are making fantastic use of the data that’s available to them, such as the Queensland Audit Office. But we’re very much at the start of our journey, so how do we begin?

Data Maturity is the journey towards improvement and increased capability in using data, and the concept gave us a tangible vision for our work. We began looking for frameworks that could be helpful (and there’s more out there than you can shake a stick at), and we found Data Orchard’s Framework to be particularly simple and user friendly. It’s especially useful as it’s looking at what this looks like for not-for-profit organisations. I particularly like this breakdown of it from a great post by Ben Proctor, as it’s so easy to understand:

  1.     Ad-hoc gathering of data in some areas
  2.     Pulling data together centrally
  3.     Starting to use data looking backwards
  4.     Using data in real time to manage the organisation and move resources rapidly
  5.     Modelling the future before making decisions to enable better decisions to be taken
  6.     Modelling the future the organisation wants and working backwards to understand what needs to happen now to deliver that future

This framework has really informed my thinking. It’s helped me think about how we get to point 6, where we’re modelling the future that the organisation is working towards, and ensure that the things that I’m working on set us out on the right path beyond the lifespan of the Cutting Edge project.

Learning and sharing

Throughout this project, we’ve been talking to other organisations to learn from what they’re doing, and we’ve been able to learn from good practice and from what they’d do differently if they had their time again. It’s been great learning about how the Office of the Auditor General for New Zealand have reduced the complexity of their systems by making them open by default. Our project has also been working iteratively to produce small tests and prototypes so that we can build on our successes, but also learn from our failures.

This is where unconferences like GovCamp Cymru are really useful. It’s a unique opportunity to meet people who are passionate about improving public services, who share what’s worked well and what they might do differently if they had their time again. If you’re making the most of the data that’s at your organisation’s metaphorical fingertips, please do give me a nudge at GovCamp Cymru – I’d love to have a chat with you so that I can learn from what you’re doing.


Dyfrig Williams is a Good Practice Exchange Officer for the Wales Audit Office, where he encourages public service improvement through knowledge exchange. He is on Twitter as @DyfrigWilliams and blogs about public service improvement at http://medium.com/@DyfrigWilliams.


GovCamp Cymru 2017 is happening on 14th October.  Join the conversation online on the GovCamp Cymru Slack. (New to Slack?) Join the mailing list for ticket releases, the first batch will be available on Monday 26th June, 10:00am. Find us on twitter and Facebook!

Do you fancy contributing a guest blog post on a topic relevant to public services in Wales? Get in touch with noreen@satorilab.org.