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Weeknote 23 - 27 March 2020

4 min read

On business-as-usual when everything is different, enormous satisfaction from tiny successes and helping each other through all this. Being in the “backroom” of our corona virus response means I am pretty sheltered from some of the hardest work and toughest decisions. I only get to see a tiny part of what is going on and a few of the issues people face. With all of those caveats in mind I am pretty pleased with how we are doing.

As an organisation, the work of the Council is carrying on as normal - but in a completely different way. Obviously, a lot of priorities have changed, but, as normal, we trying to be as clear as possible about what the priorities are and focus our teams on that work. Some examples are:

  • No one is in the office but almost everyone is at work. We were already pretty good at the formal side of virtual meetings and team communication and are rapidly learning how to be lighthearted, but professional, from a distance. The unplanned interactions you get from being in the same location turn out to be really important and later we might look at how we recreate that effect remotely. Some of the team are having a virtual catch up in the “pub” later so I will let you know how that goes next week.
  • Local democracy continues and initial experiments suggest members will quickly adjust to virtual meetings. We might find the new ways are more accessible to the public - think of a local version of parliament.tv[1].
  • We’ve reviewed the priorities of all of our IT systems and projects and made some changes in light of possible scenarios of how the crisis will evolve and how government will need to respond.
  • Several of my projects were improvements which can wait. I’ve already shifted my time on to other things in my backlog and also helping out other people and teams who are working on the higher priority items. I’ve even had a quick intro into our IT helpdesk system so I can take a turn at getting through a spike in calls for help with remote working.

This sort of churn can be uncomfortable but can also throw up some nice surprises. Fixing my first incident to get a critical team working took just a few minutes but was one of the most satisfying things I did this week. Helping some of our call centre staff get their equipment up and running at home was also a tiny but rewarding way to be part of our response efforts.

A word about a good cause (or two)

The single trip to the shops was successful - yes, there was plenty of toilet roll - but I hadn’t factored in how much coffee I used to get from the New County Hall cafe so the milk won’t last. Perhaps we should do more to recognise the retail and delivery workers who are putting themselves at risk to keep the rest of us clean, fed and comfortable. We also had to reconfigure our family household to fit in with the lock down this week. Fantastic having one of my grown up kids in our home in Cornwall but my wife and I will be apart, only for a few weeks we hope, so she can stay isolated with a high risk relative.

There has been a massive response from volunteers across the country and Volunteer Cornwall[2] are coordinating things here. Tech communities have also sprung up to crowd source tools to help. These efforts are bound to be a little chaotic and inefficient but that is ok under the circumstances. We’ve got a little bit of time to get organised and effective before demand catches up with us. I’ve got a 90-year-old relative near Brighton and it is a great comfort to know similar local volunteers there who can help drop off essentials when needed.

I’ve been testing out a virtual version of the Software Cornwall Mission to Mars[3] and we hope we can launch this soon. In a sense this is going to be even more realistic as the teams will be sending their code to a distant rover and then see what actually happens over a video link.


  1. Parliament TV ↩︎

  2. Volunteer Cornwall ↩︎

  3. Software Cornwall Mission to Mars ↩︎

Originally published on by Richard Barton