How we're supporting local governments

At MAV conference awards ceremony

At MAV conference awards ceremony

A few months ago we rolled out a Research-Fellowship program at City of Ballarat, Geelong and Melbourne. Last week our program won the MAV Exemplar Award of Excellence at the MAV Technology Conference. This is how it happened.

Open data and digital transformation is driving some of the biggest changes government agencies have experienced. Transparency, engagement, accessibility and efficiency are some of the benefits of embarking in this journey, but there are also many challenges to overcome.

The Cities of Ballarat, Greater Geelong and Melbourne have embarked on the open data and digital transformation journey through various initiatives including:

  • recognising the value of open data and digital transformation
  • engaging and participating at community-driven events
  • committing expertise and funding to accelerate and support work

MAV has supported councils’ work in various ways, including educational forums, conferences, open data workshops, GovHack sponsorship and funding support for the 6 week Code for Australia Fellowship Program.

About the Fellowship Program

Code for Australia’s Fellowship Program sends teams of experienced technologists, designers and community organisers into governments to work full-time in partnership with government officials.

The Pre-GovHack Research Fellowship Program focused on preparing the Cities of Melbourne, Ballarat and Greater Geelong to participate in GovHack2015.

Over the six weeks of the project, the fellows immerse themselves across departments, the community, researching council needs, meeting with stakeholders, proposing solutions, and collaborating with their respective council to:

  • find robust challenges to solve at GovHack

  • accelerate the release of resources to support solving challenges

  • build momentum in the community around GovHack

Outcomes

Published datasets

  • Fellows supported the release of a total of 214 datasets across the three councils.

Engaged with the community

  • Through the Fellowship events, social media marketing and the Code for Australia network we engaged with universities, local businesses, citizens and councillors. We estimate we reached nearly 2,000 people throughout the program.

Developed challenges

  • 17 challenges developed.

Findings

What went well

  • Open Data Maturity Acceleration - Having Fellows working inside council supported the open data maturity of each organisation.
  • Cultural Change - While the product of the Fellowship was the challenges submitted to GovHack and relevant datasets released to the community, the process acted as a vehicle for driving cultural and structural change inside of each council — encouraging involvement from other departments, increasing understanding of open data and departments engagement with the community.

  • Creating a team environment is important for the sustainability of the Fellowship. The three Fellows created a strong bond and had complementary skillsets.

  • Support for GovHack - Local GovHack organisers thought the Fellowship program supported them in the following ways:

    • Increased government involvement

    • Whilst all three councils were committed to run and participate at GovHack, the Fellowship program allowed broader participation from council departments

    • Whilst GovHack has continued to grow in popularity, GovHack organisers felt Fellows helped to raise awareness of the event.

  • Community engagement - Through the Fellowship program councils were able to:

    • Establish collaboration opportunities with the local developer community and private sector

    • Receive direct input from the community on government projects and strategies

    • Develop stronger relationships with skilled professionals

Here is to more collaboration, transparency and civic engagement!