We’ve had several discussions in recent months about how greater collaboration could be achieved between organisations promoting civic coding in the UK. Having worked on the Code for Europe project in 2013, it is noticeable that some things can be easier to connect at a national level.
Given the rise of Code for America as a force for change in civic tech and the launch of “Code for All” organisations in places like Ireland, Poland, Japan and the Caribbean, what might a “Code for UK” look like?
There is already a wide range of civic coding activity happening here in the UK:
- mySociety have an impressive range of civic software for the UK and worldwide. Having recently celebrated their 10 year anniversary they are forging ahead with a new civic collaboration initiative Poplus. They have also been running a series of hack nights at Mozilla London.
- Rewired State have a long history of organising hackathons around government and Coding a Better Country. This year they are expanding the National Hack The Government hackathon to include several local authorities. They are building in “modding days” to get hacks to viable service quality and have an amibitious 5-year vision to scale up impact.
- There are a bunch of camps such as UKGovCamp, LocalGovCamp, BlueLightCamp and discussions about a future VoteCamp (to name a few).
- Fellows programmes such as Code for Europe (of which Nesta is a partner) and the Greater Manchester Data Synchronisation Programme being coordinated by FutureEverything are introducing technologists into local government to foster more innovative approaches to technology and open data. Several Scottish authorities are exploring getting more closely involved in Code for Europe in 2014.
- The Future Cities and Connected Digital Economy Catapults are engaging with technology for public service and partnering on programmes like the Manchester Data Synchronisation Programme.
- Code for Europe has also launched Civic Exchange, a growing catalogue of civic software designed to increase more reuse of great open source apps and services.
- The LocalGov Digital steering group of digital champions in local government is pushing forward on several workstreams this year, including how to grow a wider network of digital collaborators working inside and in partnership with local authorities. Phil Rumens and myself will pitch a session about LocalGov Digital Makers at UKGC14 tomorrow. A LocalGov Digital Makers event is also planned for later in the year.
- FutureGov are coordinating a range of innovation programmes such as the Camden Challenge, the Public Service HubLaunchpad Scholar and Accelerator programmes and innovation labs with local government such as Shift Surrey and The Lab.
- There are startup funds such as Nesta Impact Investments, Bethnal Green Ventures and the PSLaunchpad Accelerator programme interested in helping to grow new civic startups.
- Nominet Trust, Nesta, ODI and others often run challenges with a civic focus, such as the current Open Data Challenge Series. Many local authorities are also running hackathons and challenges.
- GDS are showing the way in building gov.uk based on core principles and practices. There is increasing knowledge sharing between GDS and local government through Really Useful Days.
Please get in touch if you know of other great examples!
More will be needed if this is to scale up and create widespread, innovative, open, digital public services, for example:
- Find better ways to connect practitioners in and outside localgov around new projects and ideas. If one council wants to build an improved digital service, why not find several more and share resources?
- Build repositories of common APIs and data standards. New services should conform to these. Work towards government as platform.
- Explore deeper sharing of technology such as common platforms on open source systems such as Wordpress, Drupal, Umbraco.
- Consider what a LocalGDS or local version of gov.uk might offer. There has been discussed several times, more recently here and in several response posts.
Given the rich breadth and history of work already underway by a wide diversity of organisations, creating a new “Code for UK” may not be necessary, but there is a huge amount to be gained by investing more time to connect and collaborate across these networks.