For millions of schoolchildren around the world, show and tell is a first gateway to new learning, new experiences and new ideas. At Public Digital we never lost that childlike sense of wonder at seeing new things and sharing with others. Over the years we have formalised this as Show The Thing, a key tool in our approach of open, agile and collaborative digital development.
We encourage all teams we work with to use Show The Thing as a regular, open-invite event, irrespective of their size, function or industry. Whilst the format and frequency may vary, it typically consists of a presentation about progress on a project or engagement, and a subsequent question-and-answer session.
Importantly, this is not a simple status update. It is a chance to ‘show the thing’ in action - whether it’s a prototype, a demo or a new design - and to get feedback from a talented, multidisciplinary audience. Show The Thing helps us build momentum and excitement in an innovative and inclusive way.
We feel privileged to introduce a new global series of Show The Thing, supported by the Rockefeller Foundation. We will bring government digital teams together to share ideas and experiences and, ultimately, learn from each other to improve the lives of citizens whether they be in Toronto or Taipei, London or Lagos.
Shaping our digital future: how it all began
In June 2022, the Rockefeller Bellagio Center played host to a digital leaders' convention titled Shaping Our Digital Future. Delegates reflected on the state of digital in a world emerging from the Covid19 pandemic. The event provided a valuable opportunity to share with each other about what governmental digital units had learned. There had been significant and unfamiliar challenges with digital services under the spotlight of intense media scrutiny and unprecedented user demand, making innovation and collaboration a necessity. Much went well, some did not.
One of the immediate next steps suggested was to establish a new, regular opportunity for government product teams to learn from one another, with the heads of five digital units initially committing to sharing this opportunity with their teams. Others soon followed and a plan took shape.
Five key aims were established:
provide a regular “inspiration booster” to government product teams
improve the discoverability of Digital Public Goods and other products and components
accelerate learning and reuse by governments around the world
help teams save time by preventing duplication and common pitfalls
help practitioners build international peer networks
As a global leader in delivering transformative digital approaches to complex and prominent institutions, our team at Public Digital were invited to host these events.
We have lined up engaging subject matter experts, such as David Eaves (Associate Lecturer in Digital Government at the University College London, UCL) to co-host the sessions alongside Public Digital experts.
Open, participative, practitioner-led events
The nine monthly events will be centred around presentations by delivery practitioners representing the digital arms of national and regional governments and focused on a transformative digital service or approach that has been tangibly applied.
These sessions will not be recorded. We are encouraging presenters to be as open and transparent as possible, sharing not just the benefits and successes, but also the limitations. We want to hear about the barriers and challenges - the difficulties of scaling operations and overcoming deep-rooted objections to embedding digital-era practices in institutions that predate the Internet.
Above all though, we seek participation. We invite participants to use the sessions to ask questions, to share personal experiences, to provide feedback and to explore opportunities. Our intention is for these events to be a touchpoint for change. By putting a human face to digital teams around the world, we can act as a conduit for information exchange during - and beyond - the sessions themselves.
Between all of us, we have the lived experience to apply digital expertise to a public purpose. If we can tap into our hive mind, we can find solutions to significant social challenges that impact citizens everywhere.
How to get involved
We have already engaged with teams from 15 countries spanning five continents and arranged several sessions in advance. We hope that over time, Show the Thing can grow.
We would encourage you to get in touch if you want to be part of this conversation. If you do wish to share your story, the Public Digital team will work with you in advance to refine your presentation and provide their expertise to encourage maximum impact. We will also support and reinforce your key messages by providing a follow-up blog post issued shortly after the session.
We’re really excited about Show The Thing and hope you are too. We can’t wait to hear about some of the great work you’re doing to improve the lives of citizens through digital government.
If you would like to get in touch with us, please do so at [email protected].