Weeknotes #2 – revisiting the past with fresh perspectives


So, here I am, back for weeknotes #2!! Last week’s inaugural set got over 80 reads and some lovely comments; which I am amazed at. This week we shall see if that was a fluke, or whether there might be something to this weeknoting lark after all…:-)

I thought I’d pick a title to keep the whole reflective learning thing going. The truth is, it’s been a rather eclectic week with lots of otherwise seemingly unconnected activities.

But, it’s involved two fascinating meetings in locations that have played a part in my journey over the last 20 years. It’s not so much that I simply revisited the places. But rather how, with a storytelling and reflective lens, these meetings can be seen (if one chooses to) as helping bring together significant strands of work I’ve been doing in the last 10-20 years, and giving me a helping hand to pull off what I’m trying to deliver now and through to January 2020. Let me explain…

Monday was a working from home day with business admin, prep for the weeks meetings and interviews, and drafting up notes for the West Midlands Open Data Forum, on a plan we’re working on (more on that in future weeks).

Tuesday it was off to London for a meeting at the Institution of Civil Engineers on their Sustainability Route Map. I’ve been fascinated by this work since stumbling across it in May, because they have made storytelling one of the three core pillars of the roadmap. In other words, the ICE wants to help engineers tell their story, the human story, of how they are learning and aligning their work to the UN Sustainable Development Goals; a more sustainable future for the world.

We met in the Resources Centre on Floor 2, at the (I would say aptly named) Round Table….!!! [no, I didn’t have to draw Excalibur’s sword in order to sit down, but I shall recommend a toy one for the shelves!]

Looking down from Floor 2 in One Great George Street, London, home of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE)

This is where revisit to the past #1 comes in: it was 10 years ago (2009), having just moved divisions in Mouchel from Environment to Highways, that I joined the committee of the National Highways and Transport Network (NHT) Highways Benchmarking Clubs, which I would go on to chair for a while.

The NHT held their annual conference at the ICE One Great George Street, and it was through this network that I got to learn about, and meet, the movers and shakers of the data-inspired local highways world.

I was absorbing their key messages, saying that the industry needed to communicate better, on a human level to put the great work they do into the context of users (i.e., why what we do in local highways matters to people), and use data (it was a benchmarking club after all) to assist in this. But I heard the same messages each year (still do!), with little obvious sign of significant progress in achieving it.

So, in 2013, when the opportunity came for me to leave Mouchel, it was this experience with the NHT committees that inspired me to JFDI (in honour of weeknotes #1 – see?!). I reasoned I needed to go and learn the skills that would help me solve this local highways communication challenge. The perfect course that called me to adventure (a nod to the Hero’s Journey, from the work of Joseph Campbell) was the MA in Online Journalism at Birmingham City University, led by Paul Bradshaw.

Wednesday it was back to London again, this time for a Data Discovery Centre bid interview in the afternoon. The morning was a mix of preparation for that, along with some other client work, and evolving the thinking from yesterday’s exciting meeting. (We didn’t win the bid, but the experience was useful, and expanded our DDC expert team into another area for future exploration).

Thursday was a real trip down memory lane, a visit to Cardiff, where I spent 3 years studying Geology (BSc) because I enjoyed it, and then a year studying the MSc Applied Environment Geology because I needed to get a job – which I did, in Parkman (later Mouchel), where I stayed until 2013.

But this meeting wasn’t about Geology, it was about highways and transport data, with representatives from Cardiff Council, Transport for Wales and the Welsh Government (hence the pic at the top; Welsh Government building in Cathays, right next door to Park Place where I studied for 4 years).

I spend quite a bit of time volunteering for organisations and activities with missions close to my heart. And attending this Welsh meeting was spawned from a discussion at the most recent Transport Data Initiative meeting in Bristol. (Heads up, the next one is on Last Mile Delivery and DfT Data Standards, in London on September 24th )

It was great to get an insight on the Welsh perspectives around highways and transport data. But what I found most inspiring, was a reminder (how could I have forgotten?) that Wales is the first country in the world to have legislation designed to protect future generations through the decisions made today. The Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act is a heartwarming inspiration of what is possible in the battle to think longer term, about the impact of the decisions we make today on the lives of our future generations.

And, it also ties very nicely back into the Round Table discussion on the ICE Sustainability Route Map at One Great George Street on Tuesday.

Friday – recovery and coordination day, moving things forward from the week’s learnings. Also, preparing for a big push this coming week on the programme for the Highways UK Local Authorities Hub. Exciting times…!

Ahhh, you were wondering if I’ve forgotten to explain what it is I’m trying to pull off between now and January 2020..? Well, if I give the game away on that today, there’d be no interest in future weeknotes, right? :-). There are some nice breadcrumb clues to set the scene in the above though…if you follow the links and go on a journey through tables, stories and adventure!

But if that’s too much right now, or you simply don’t know what on earth I’m talking about, just enjoy coming back next week for the next installment and a further glimpse into some deeper aspects of the big plan….