Year note, 2019

Looking down at the market in Antananarivo, Madagascar
Looking down at the market in Antananarivo, Madagascar

We’ve had another fantastic year at Public Digital.

There’s loads to talk about, but I’m going to start with the 2 themes that have run through most of our work for the year: affiliates and international development.

Working with new people

In December 2018 we had no affiliates. During the course of 2019 we announced 33 of them, in three batches (January, May and November).

They’ve made a huge difference to our capacity to deliver in more places around the world, faster than we could before. The network has also grown into new areas of expertise, which also brings new opportunities we’re excited about.

For example, among many other things:

  • Dafydd Vaughan helped us run a technology assessment for a large private sector client
  • Arthi Vish has been working on recruitment strategy with our partners at IDEO
  • Dave Rogers went to Australia to advise on setting up a new digital unit with our partners BCG
  • Stefan Magdalinski visited the government digital team in Madagascar to help with a digital capability assessment
  • Dave Guarino helped the team with their alpha kick-off in Sacramento
  • Emily Webber helped a team in Peru set up communities of practice

More people have done other things … you get the idea.

Looking down at the market in Antananarivo, Madagascar
Ali presenting to affiliates
Looking down at the market in Antananarivo, Madagascar

In November we hosted a half-day event for affiliates, to share what we have been up to and to help us understand their skills better. We live-streamed the event on the web, so that affiliates in other countries could tune in, and Heidi Uchiyama presented to the group from Lima in Peru via a Zoom video call.

Affiliates have also made a difference to our culture. PD’s office is quite small, nowhere near big enough for all our staff and affiliates to sit down in one place. But it’s nice when different people pop in and out every day, bringing different stories and experiences with them.

Lawrence Kitson at the the whiteboard
Davina Sirisena and Mike in the office
This year we also welcomed our first two summer interns, Sonja Schneuwly and Alessia Aquaro. They helped Emily Middleton and Emma Gawen with several engagements this year and we really enjoyed working with them. Sonja wrote about what the experience was like.

Working in new places

Looking down at the market in Antananarivo, Madagascar
Emily adding a pin on Madagascar on the map

Another big thing this year for PD has been our work in international development.

Since the beginning of the year, Emily Middleton has been understanding how PD can help governments and organisations in the Global South. She’s been speaking to lots of government officials, donors and peer organisations to understand the needs of organisations in an international development context.

Looking down at the market in Antananarivo, Madagascar
With the team in Madagascar

As a result, PD started work with the Government of Madagascar to kick-start its digital transformation. We helped the team produce a roadmap, hire a CDO, plan recruitment, start working in the open, and we’re expecting to be doing a lot more work with them in 2020. Emily has led all the work to set up a new international development practice in PD and secure such an important piece of work so quickly.

We think this is just the start of something much bigger and we intend to invest more in our international development work next year.

Looking down at the market in Antananarivo, Madagascar
Where we travelled in 2019

Working with new teams

Looking down at the market in Antananarivo, Madagascar
Some stickers about teams
We talk a lot to clients about how they should “build a team, not an app”. This year, we’ve been privileged to help set up and work with some particularly impressive teams, including:
Looking down at the market in Antananarivo, Madagascar
Emma at the lecturn at Harvard

This year we co-hosted the second Digital Services Convening with digitalHKS at Harvard in July. This year was focused on platforms and the two-day event had representatives from Bangladesh, Argentina, Estonia, Peru, the USA and the UK.

Looking down at the market in Antananarivo, Madagascar
Ben presenting at Red Gealc
Ben travelled to Buenos Aires to give the keynote at Red Gealc, the annual meeting of digital leaders from across South America, and met up with our friends Daniel Abadie and Angie Kenny.

Working on telling our story

Looking down at the market in Antananarivo, Madagascar
All the Signals so far

This focus on international development and affiliates is reflected in our publishing activity this year: the summer edition of Signals included practical advice for teams, all written by affiliates. That edition is now available to read online.

The winter edition (just published – you can request a copy here) focused on wider themes around international development, with contributions from colleagues in the UK, USA, Rwanda, Bangladesh and India.

Emma has also been continuing our regular newsletter, which is now up to about 1900 subscribers.

More work next year

We’ve really enjoyed 2019, mostly because we got to work with even more diverse teams who want to deliver great things for the benefit of citizens and society. They taught us a lot and brought new perspectives to the way we do things.

This year has been big, but next year will be much bigger. We already have 11 trips in 4 continents planned before the end of March, and will be growing our team too. We recently advertised for 2 new roles, and we’ll have more to say about those. We’re looking forward to a break and we’ll be closing the office from Friday 20 December, re-opening on Monday 6 January. See you then.

Looking down at the market in Antananarivo, Madagascar
Doing a blind tea taste test
Looking down at the market in Antananarivo, Madagascar
Diane and Simon keeping the show on the road

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