In May and June I wrote about how Citizens Advice is using technology to help society through the Covid-19 crisis. We’re now hiring a few exciting technical positions to progress this work:

The closing date is Wednesday 22 July. We particularly welcome applications from women and from black, asian and ethnic minority candidates — we believe great work gets done when you build a brilliant and diverse team.

Citizens Advice is an inclusive workplace where you can be yourself. We offer our roles part-time and flexibly, so they’re great…

At Citizens Advice we have some exciting plans to build up our technology team. You can read more about the work we’re doing here.

Every year, millions of people come to us for help solving problems. We help anyone that contacts us, across a huge range of life-changing issues, from managing out of control debts to tackling discrimination at work to helping renters with the threat of eviction.

As well as giving advice directly, we also work to fix the underlying causes of people’s problems. …

It just revealed what was already broken

If you wanted to test the welfare state, you couldn’t have designed it better.

Stop large parts of the economy with no notice, pausing or reducing income for millions of families, and see what happens next.

In Britain, some of the systems we use to protect against losses of income have worked well in response to Coronavirus.

Around 1.9 million people have claimed Universal Credit, the country’s newly integrated household benefit, since 16 March, and it’s providing a lifeline.

That’s six times the normal rate of claims and, by and large, the system has held up well—thanks to hard work…

Some crises knock you sideways. This one’s a shove in the back

In the last few weeks it’s been life-affirming to see how technology is being used for good.

From GOV.UK to NHSX to charities like Samaritans and Parkinson’s UK, good digital work is helping services to be more resilient, adaptable, and accessible.

We’ve seen the same at Citizens Advice, where our frontline service has pulled off the heroic feat of moving to remote advice.

Throughout this work we’ve seen how good technology can help — and how legacy technology can hinder — the delivery of great services for vulnerable people.

In some cases, our previous work has really paid off. …

What we learned after dropping the word digital

18 months ago we decided to drop the word digital and broaden our CDO function into a team we call Customer Journey.

We wanted to be clear that our digital work isn’t defined by digital technology – it’s the method and mindset that matters. Our intention was to use these approaches to pursue a deeper and broader transformation of our service to clients. To take our digital work to the next level.

It’s been a fascinating 18 months, so I thought I’d share an update, inspired by this post from Matt Edgar on the great work his team is doing…

Many words have been written about digital disruption in the private sector. Less has been said — with commendable exceptions — about how charities will adapt to the digital age.

So what will the non-profits of the distant future look like? Let’s ignore 3- or 5-year time horizons and think ultra-long-term, to a world in which capabilities like big data and machine learning are as easy to use as electricity is now. How will good be done in a world like this?

The challenger charity

One way into this question is to start with the changes we’re already seeing in the private sector…

How to lose the word and focus on the substance

One of the challenges of agile is the word ‘agile’. Even now, the word puts some people off. They get, understandably, sceptical about the jargon, dismissing otherwise helpful insights as yet another digital fad.

Meanwhile, other people end up embracing nothing but the jargon, without the substance underneath. They start standing up for their meetings and think this will deliver better outcomes for their customers or users.

This is an important issue for digital transformation which, after all, is much more about transformation than it is about digital. i.e. …

Our clients need an even better service, so we’re going beyond digital to try something new

Last year, Citizens Advice helped over 2.6 million people directly and our digital advice had 41 million hits.

The people that turn to us need help overcoming an obstacle in their lives — from debt to evictions to trouble at work — so it’s vital we support them in the quickest, easiest, and most effective way.

A few years ago, to do this better, we invested significantly in digital advice. More and more people were coming to us online to find the help they needed, and our online advice wasn’t up to scratch.

To fix this, we built a fantastic…

Big data is changing how markets work. From the way prices are set to how products and services are designed, consumer markets are entering a new and unfamiliar phase

In December, I published a piece in Prospect magazine exploring how technology is changing consumer markets. Last week, these issues came up again in a news story about personalised pricing in insurance. Meanwhile, the UK government is turning its mind to a Consumer Green Paper scheduled for spring. I thought this might be a timely moment to post a longer version of my article here. These are very much early thoughts, so I’d be really interested in people’s views.

The relationship between the market and the state is one of the oldest questions of public policy and, in the last…

Mobile phones and broadband are essential for modern life — they’re not luxuries like they were a generation ago. But policy and regulations haven’t caught up with this change, and this causes real problems for consumers.

Data we’ve released today shows that 60% of broadband customers experienced a slow or broken connection in the last year. Nearly a quarter of those who experienced problems (24%) say this stopped them working or studying. 21% say it impacted their ability to keep in touch with family and friends.

In the telecoms market as a whole, our landmark study of consumer detriment showed…

James Plunkett

I write about how digital technology is reshaping economics, charities, and the government. Posts here don't always relate to the day job.

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