Foreword

Welcome to Signals.

One of the ways we explain Public Digital’s work is saying that we advise presidents and practitioners. We spend time with leaders who make decisions about an organisation’s direction, and the people at the sharp end, designing and building things for users.

Signals is written for practitioners, by practitioners. They are people we’ve worked with, either through Public Digital or earlier in our careers. They are people with something to say, whose wisdom we’ve learned from. They are people we trust and respect a lot.

They’re global, too: these are signals from Argentina, Australia, Peru, South Africa, the United States and the UK.

2018 was a big year for Public Digital. We’ve built a bigger team, set up partnerships with IDEO and Boston Consulting Group, and found an office. We didn’t spend that much time in London though. Between us, we’ve visited 21 different cities in 14 different countries.

The reason we’re on the road so much is that no matter how digital the world gets – and now we’re at the point where video conference facilities actually work sometimes – there’s no substitute for face-to-face. Meetings are a chance to ask questions, offer therapy, unblock problems and tell stories. We tell lots of stories. Most of them finish with us saying “Someone I know wrote a great blog post about that problem. I’ll send you a link.” Working in the open is still the quickest, cheapest and easiest way to share things. Hyperlinks come with no postage and packing charges. Sometimes though, ideas deserve a little more reflection.

That’s partly what inspired us to make Signals. Think of it as a collection of interesting blog posts from smart people. Rather than having to remember to send you a link, we can hand you a copy in person.

We want Signals to capture something of what practitioners and delivery teams around the world are thinking. Client confidentiality means we can rarely discuss details, but when we hear about a team encountering problems, it’s rare they are first to do so.

None of this would have been possible without the hard work of our contributors.

Because they’re excellent at what they do, they’re already very busy. But every one of them was happy to give up some of their valuable and all-too-limited time to write something for us. We’re immensely grateful to everyone who helped us out. Thank you.

Signals isn’t about what Public Digital thinks; it’s about what our contributors and their teams are thinking, told in their own voices. These are signals and signs from the people on the ground, meeting the users, doing the research, building the thing.

We think they’re voices worth hearing.


Emma Gawen is a Partner at Public Digital.

This is part of Signals, Winter 2018

NEXT: Organising around outcomes, by Alice Newton-Rex