Our CivTech Scotland experience
In this post, we share our experience to date of the CivTech Scotland process, and our approach to responding to Challenge 7.13: How can we use technology to better understand the issues facing our town centres, and be a catalyst for revitalisation?
Why ‘Challenge 7.13’ and why Diagonal?
Challenge 7.13 immediately jumped out for its relevance to our work, and its links to our own ambition: to use our geospatial technology to help people understand and shape the urban environment. Our technology is designed to process large quantities of data, which is typically held in silos, to provide a very rich baseline understanding of a place. It can process data incredibly fast and therefore is not comparable to traditional GIS mapping tools. It also allows for co-creation and collaborative approaches to data gathering and analysis, which is a particularly powerful approach in the context of place-making.
What is CivTech and what does it involve?
In brief, the CivTech process is designed to match innovative and scalable digital solutions to problems faced by public sector organisations in Scotland.
The process started in September 2022 with a 3-week ‘Exploration Stage’. Diagonal was shortlisted alongside 2 other companies to propose solutions to Challenge 7.13.
The ‘Exploration Stage’ was a short but intense period of meetings and workshops to allow us to explore the problem further. We collaborated with challenge sponsors and spoke with stakeholders to prepare an updated, more refined solution response. Our proposal was selected as the successful solution to address revitalising town centres. The sponsors selected our solution because of the holistic approach we offer, and because of our focus on streamlining the evidence-gathering process for local plan development.
We joined a cohort of 14 other successful teams (each responding to a different challenge) to go through the 15-week Accelerator stage which kicked off in mid- October.
The challenge sponsors (i.e. the organisations setting the problem) are Scottish Borders Council and South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE). For the Accelerator, our project focuses on the Scottish Borders town of Galashiels. Our solution will support the Local Place Plans, as well as more broadly assisting with directing investment to the town in a very effective and transparent way.
We’re halfway through the CivTech 7 Challenges process and are now preparing for Demo Day which will take place in February 2023!
Our collaborative approach
We’ve been working very closely with our sponsors since inception and have welcomed their support and enthusiasm for our technology. This collaborative approach is intrinsic to our work: every step of the way we have sense-checked our assumptions with our sponsors and key stakeholders, and asked for input and feedback, digging deep into ‘needs’ and ‘goals’, and drilling into the essence of the challenge.
This approach is designed to ensure our tool meaningfully answers the challenge question but also potentially optimises wider organisational processes.
Our approach has been entirely transparent, creating a sound and trusting working relationship. In turn, our sponsors’ support has allowed us to meet with a breadth of subject matter experts and gain access to critical data to inform our analysis.
At this half-way point, we are pulling together the data that our solution will use to address the challenge. The data was informed by a review of strategic, national, and local planning policies alongside focused conversations with sponsors and key stakeholders. Our in-house planning expertise has been instrumental in our ability to navigate the breadth of relevant strategies and policies and identifying key priorities.
Alongside the data-gathering and review exercise we are building the wireframe for our solution. This prototype will be the interface between our technology and our users. This will allow us to test our tooling with key users to inform the final iteration of our MVP which we will launch at CivTech’s Demo Day, in February.
Watch this space for more updates on our progress, what to expect from us on Demo Day and any developments beyond this. And if the problem we are seeking to address is something you too are grappling with, feel free to get in touch: email@example.com