Rural Skills

Working together since 2009, Gwalia (Pobl – @poblgroup) and the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority (@BreconBeaconsNP) have developed a series of outdoor projects which have enhanced the lives of those living in supported housing and outreach clients.

One of the first initiatives was Brecon Beacons Community Champions which, with funding from NRW (Natural Resources Wales @NatResWales), supported young people in outdoor activity training. Participants all achieved their Bronze National Navigation Scheme Award (@nass_office) and went on to independently arrange and take part in their own choice of activities.

The activity projects so inspired the service users from the Brecon Foyer (Gwalia) they formed a local committee and constituted themselves as a group. The aims of the group were to provide inclusive and accessible activities and learning opportunities through anti discriminatory practice, to improve the image of young people and to increase awareness of issues affecting them. The group has since successfully gone on to secure funding for projects including an educational trip to Auschwitz following a project on Jewish History; a residential outdoor activity trip to Devon; visits to London and Rome and a healthy living project.

Further joint projects have included Geocaching Development 2010-12, Rural Skills 2012- 2014, Park Pathways 2014, Mental Health and Wellbeing Day 2015 and most recently Awards for All funding which has enabled the 2016/17 Rural Skills training programme to go ahead. This project has been hugely successful with all participants successfully achieving Agored Cymru (@AgoredCymru) accreditation in Outdoor Skills, Cutting docks, brambles,hedges and Practical Woodland Skills.

The combination of training and increased confidence in participants has been inspirational and resulted in the following outcomes: 1 individual has gained full time employment;

4 individuals have engaged with and participated in the BBNPA/Princes Trust (@PrincesTrustWales) Get into the Brecon Beacons programme including a two-week “Get  Into” programme  and Explore Enterprise, 2 individuals successfully recruited onto the BBNPA/  Princes Trust partnership  Get Into the Brecon Beacons 3-months work programme as Trainee Rangers – see ITV Wales coverage of the trainees here.

Matt Baker and the team from BBC Countryfile (@BBCCountryfile) joined the group on a Geocaching activity day to discover how accessing the natural environment with a little bit of new technology can trigger new ways of keeping active and improve mental wellbeing.

Inside Housing (@insidehousing) followed on from the television coverage and produced this article highlighting how Housing Support can enrich lives beyond just tenancy support.

The enthusiasm, participation and progression of everyone engaged in these projects  demonstrates the potential this work has to make a significant difference to the ways in which socially excluded groups view, access and derive socio-economic benefit from the outdoor environment.

In summary these locally focused projects have been developed by both partners to give the best possible support to young disadvantaged people living in both urban and rural areas of the Brecon Beacons National Park to help increase their access to education, employment and training opportunities.

Rural Skills

Using alternative delivery models to deliver public services

In researching this year’s alternative delivery models event, one common theme kept coming up: the importance of safe and secure housing and the organisations which are providing this service. 

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, written in 1943, describes shelter as a fundamental physiological human need, alongside air, water and food.  You don’t get much more important than that.  So perhaps it isn’t surprising that in looking at alternative models for delivering public services, we found housing in the middle of it all.

But it isn’t just that the provision of a warm, safe and secure home is crucially important to a person’s stability and wellbeing.  The various organisations across Wales which are charged with delivering housing services are leading the way on some innovative, preventative, collaborative and impactful projects across a variety of service areas.  They are delivering services which might normally have had to be delivered by another public body or that are preventing demand on one or multiple public bodies; and they are partnering with public bodies, third sector, citizens and each other to deliver these services.  In terms of the Wellbeing for Future Generations Act, despite not being legislated by it, the housing sector is leading the way on how to implement it.

Housing organisations are well-placed to understand the needs of their tenants, they are ‘on the doorstep’, and are pushing forward with a wide range of projects to support their tenants.  Trish Hoddinott (Melin Homes), who is presenting a workshop at our event about a schools programme, summed it up for me when she said, “These are our tenants of the future and we want them to be healthy, happy and economically viable.”  This is the kind of preventative, long term thinking that will help to deliver the Wales We Want and to fulfil the seven goals of the Wellbeing for Future Generations Act.

The Welsh Government’s recent publication of its Programme for Government, ‘Taking Wales Forward 2016-2021’, puts secure housing as a priority for a Prosperous and Secure Wales.  It also talks about improving and reforming public services and facing issues through new ways of working, joined up programmes and working across traditional boundaries.

With this seminar, we will be showcasing some of the projects that we found during our research for this event.  These projects are tackling issues with young people, older people, domestic violence, mental health, supported housing, and in rural communities.  They are supporting people to stay in their homes and to ensure better outcomes for them.  They include partnerships, collaborations and multi-agency projects from across the sectors.  They are exemplifying prevention through intervention.  They are breaking through traditional boundaries.  As Matt Dicks (Chartered Institute of Housing), one of our panel members, stated “Small projects and frontline changes to the way we plan services could drive and push forward changes at a higher strategic level”.

There are many challenges that lie ahead for all organisations providing services to the public.  How best can we all work together to deliver the most effective services possible for all citizens?  Who needs to drive partnerships?  Who needs to be around the table?  Who is best-placed to deliver that service?  Thinking differently about how services are delivered is what alternative delivery models is all about.

Our Alternative Delivery Models event is being held in Cardiff on November 22nd and in Llanrwst on December 7thClick on the link to register.

Should we be moving away from appraisals?

In our latest blog, Russell Higgins, Human Resources Learning Partner at the Wales Audit Office, looks at the appraisal process and shares his experiences from the CIPD learning and development show back in May…

Over the last few of years a growing number of employers have been moving away from the formal annual appraisals in favour of holding dialogue with employees. Leaders everywhere are realising their people are their organisation’s greatest asset, and traditional performance management processes don’t influence employees’ skills and abilities. Research has suggested that rather than motivating and supporting people to do better, the appraisal is often dreaded because of the time and energy it was taking.

Should we be moving away from appraisals?

In May, I attended the CIPD learning and development show, where I attended a session on moving from appraisal to coaching and continuous feedback. Both organisations have moved away from traditional annual performance appraisals, to regular check-ins and ongoing feedback and development. Speakers from both River Island and General Electric shared their reasons of moving away from appraisals in order to increase productivity and organisational performance. The aim of the session was to explain the reasons why the organisations had moved away from the appraisal

What struck me at the very beginning was just how well attended this session was!

The speaker from River Island shared that previously only 7% of annual appraisals were being completed as required and therefore the traditional approach to performance management was not working. Many staff in the family owned River Island felt disengaged with the whole appraisal process, when they researched the performance management they realised that what was important to them was:

  • Individuals knowing what is expected of them;
  • Individuals knowing what the department goals are; and,
  • Individuals knowing what the business priorities are.

With this in mind they moved from a traditional performance management scheme to one that focuses on having 1-2-1 feedback quickly (in the moment), instead of at the end of the year. Within River Island, 1-2-1 discussions need to be appropriate and conversations do not need to be an overly complicated drawn out formal discussion. What struck me about career development is that the responsibility is owned firmly with the individual and not the manager, therefore personal responsibility and accountability is the key.

General Electric shared with the audience that they have rebranded feedback and now call it insights, as they suggest that the word feedback has negative undertones for people. If staff within GE observe a behaviour that is impactful and effective then they share that insight with the person straight away, this is known as continuous 360 degree feedback. In addition, if staff observe behaviours that have an negative impact then this insight can be shared.

These examples show just how organisations are moving away from the traditional methods of performance management. However there was recently a case where an “overly promoted” medical practice manager won a constructive dismissal case against her former employer, where the employment tribunal said that if employers fail to properly conduct performance management procedures for employees they consider to be underperforming, “issues and resentments [will be] stored up for the future”.

The Wales Audit Office have been working on ensuring that the appraisal system isn’t a burden and really adds value.

As we look at what performance management looks like in the future, instead of looking backwards, an enhanced conversation with the employee that looks forward may be helpful in ensuring that the organisation is forward thinking and looking at what the future holds. For me, we need to be thinking about what support, development and management the employee needs in order to reach their true potential. The importance of on-going feedback is key and should not be left until the end of the year, it should be discussed on an on-going basis. Employees should take ownership for their individual personal development plan (PDP).

How might the Wales Audit Office take Open Data forward?

The Wales Audit Office is looking at how we share Open Data, before leaving the Good Practice Exchange, Dyfrig Williams looked at how the organisation might take this forward.

I’m leaving the Wales Audit Office having led on the Cutting Edge Audit Office work on acquiring data. Part of my work looked at how we made better use of Open Data as an organisation, both in terms of making use of data that’s released by other organisations, and how we release our own Open Data.

Where to start with Open Data?

The Good Practice Exchange held an introductory webinar on Open Data, as it had been raised to us as a topic that lots of people were interested in, but had little idea of how and where to start. This is a good starting point for anyone who is interested in why this is important.

Key things for us to do in future

When we published our first Open Dataset, we published it to as high a standard as our resources and expertise allowed. The 5 Stars of Open Data give us a guide for how we can improve our datasets, and the website also has a costs and benefits section that outlines what we would need to do.

Our visit to the Netherlands Court of Audit was really useful as it gave us an opportunity to look at how another audit body is making use of data. Some of the most useful feedback was from Roline Kamphuis around how they purposely remove personal details from data to make it easier to share between departments. We need to look at the data that we gather and interrogate what types of data we need and what’s stopping us from sharing it. If it’s the fact that it’s personal data, do we need those personal details? The data spectrum from the Open Data Institute may be really helpful in helping us to better understand when it’s appropriate to share data.

the data spectrum

Internal Networks

It was also really interesting to learn about how the Netherlands Court of Audit have set up communities of practice. Staff working with data in the Wales Audit Office have so much knowledge that can be tapped into, but we also need to ensure that they can make the most of their expertise so that they can get to grips with really meaty projects. Once we have an initial team in place, we should consider how we can build expertise and capacity so that knowledge isn’t held within a silo of the Wales Audit Office. There will be some learning from the group’s set up as part of the Cutting Edge Audit prototype to share good practice around use of Excel.

It’s also important for us to think about how we store that data and whether it has any implications for how easy or difficult it is for us to pool our data internally at the Wales Audit Office. Do we need to look again at our data gathering process to see how we can make maximum use of the data to benefit other parts of the organisation? This gives us an opportunity to make better use of our resources and to extract more value from the data. How this data is held and shared is important – it needs to be easily accessible so that it can add value across the Wales Audit Office.

We also need to think about how we add value internally by making data open. Are there reports that we have to generate time and time again that we could automate that would benefit staff and the public? Is there potential for us to release performance reports in a different way? Could the data for our annual report for instance be gathered as a dashboard and released as Open Data? Could the automation of this data help to streamline reporting and save staff time? Lucy Knight from Devon Council shares some great ideas in her Open Data Institute Lecture.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YlJkoaCZSlM

External networks

Being an active part of external networks has been key to our success, both in terms of socialising our ideas and in releasing data that people find useful.

The Open Data Institute Node in Cardiff have created a dynamic map to show levels of Council Tax per head of population in Wales and also a hex map of the Total Gross Expenditure. This has come from actively sharing our datasets with interested parties through networks that the Good Practice Exchange have developed from the Open Data webinar and more established networks like the Open Data Wales Slack channels. Our attendance of unconferences and support for events like GovCamp Cymru have also helped to develop these relationships. We need to cultivate these relationships and continue to work openly so that people can build on our datasets and add value to them. In turn, this will also help us to develop our own expertise and discover useful datasets. Events like Open Data Camp are run annually, and are full of people who are making practical use of Open Data that we can learn from. Blogging and sharing our journey has been very helpful in making these connections.

One way of fleshing out these networks are through Hack events. The Good Practice Exchange have previously supported the NHS Hack Day in Cardiff, and potential models to look at include Accountability Hack (a two day event for the UK Civic Tech community to connect, learn from each other and impact the UK’s democratic process using technology and open government data) and also the Netherlands Court of Audit’s own Accountability Hack. By liaising closely with partners such as ODI Cardiff, we could look at how our data could be better used and fits with the Wales Audit Office mission to help public services to improve.

Useful resources for our Open Data journey

How different methods of engagement can help involve the citizen in public service delivery

In our latest blog, Kevin Davies, Head of Public Engagement at the National Assembly for Wales talks about the importance of engagement with citizens…

Improving engagement with the people of Wales is a big priority for us at the National Assembly for Wales, where we run a variety of projects to engage citizens from all over Wales in order to build long term engagement, understanding and trust between the Assembly and the people it represents, and to encourage direct public participation in the Assembly’s work.

A few years ago the Big Lottery Fund funded Pathways through Participation, a research project which explored how and why individuals get involved and stay involved in different forms of participation. The project was run by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, in partnership with the Institute for Volunteering Research and Involve.

This project found that the following factors play an important role in determining if people start, continue or stop participating:

  • Personal motivation, such as helping others, developing relationships, to have influence, an interest in an issue of importance to them;
  • Trigger, such as a reaction to a decision, or a recent life experience like ill health, moving to a new area or having children;
  • Resources, including time, money, geography, access to transport, health, skills, experience, knowledge, and confidence; and
  • Opportunities, an appropriate environment with conditions and opportunities to translate motivation to participate into action.

blog pic

The way that we deliver our activities and how we measure their effectiveness considers these factors, to ensure that whilst we are measuring if we are meeting the specific short term objectives set for individual projects, we also understand the impact that different activates has on citizens that are involved, with the desire to encourage long term democratic participation.

Recently we gathered feedback from participants from two projects. The first was with small business owners across Wales who took part in video interviews to share their views with Assembly Members for a committee inquiry on Business Rates in Wales.

The feedback told us that all participants would take part again if given the opportunity, and that they felt that they had the opportunity to express their views. The most significant changes as a result of their participation was evident in the response to following statements:

  • ‘People like me don’t have a say in the decisions the National Assembly for Wales’: none of the participants disagreed with this statement before taking part, compared to 67% who disagreed with the statement having taken part.
  • ‘I have the confidence and information needed to get involved in politics’: half of the participants disagreed with this statement before taking part, where as 88% agreed with this statement after taking part.

A similar feedback exercise was conducted following an event to engage with individuals with a lived experience, and those working in a frontline capacity, as part of a committee inquiry into Perinatal Mental Health. What we found from this feedback exercise was that:

  • None of the participants had previously directly engaged with the Assembly, and all of them said they wouldn’t have taken part in the consultation if they hadn’t been invited to the event;
  • All felt they had been given enough of a chance to have their say during the event, and they would all take part in something like this again;
  • Participants had a real variety of political interest, just over half had a great deal/quite a lot of political interest, the remainder claimed to have some/not much political interest;
  • 7% claimed to have a great deal of political knowledge, 52% a fair amount and 41% not very much;
  • When asked whether their levels of knowledge of Welsh politics was better than it was before, the majority agreed or strongly agreed;
  • When asked whether their understanding of the difference between the National Assembly for Wales and the Welsh Government had improved, the majority either agreed or strongly agreed.

Our intention is to seek to gather this type of information for the range of different engagement initiatives we deliver at the National Assembly, to better understand their effectiveness and improve our offer in the future, ensuring that those participating in our work are better placed to continue as democratically active citizens.

Breaking down barriers between people who deliver services and people who use services

 

sophie howe

Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner for Wales 

“The issue of whether we have the Wales we want, has to be answered through a two-way dialogue with the public,” says Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner for Wales; “the way we involve people must move beyond traditional methods of consultation. Opening a conversation with people is vital to transforming public services.”

The Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act places a duty on public bodies to carry out sustainable development through the five ways of working. This includes planning for the long term future, preventing problems before they arise or get worse, integration of services and across the seven national well-being goals, collaborating with the right partners and, crucially, involving people in their decision making.

In fulfilling these duties, getting involvement right from the outset is crucial to the Act’s implementation. The Wales ‘we’ want must go beyond civil servants and local government – it has to involve and engage with communities and individuals to ask them: what is the Wales that you want; what do you want for your family and community now and into the future. Starting from the perspective of people who live in Wales and use public services can often give a much simpler solution to intractable problems we wrestle with as officers.

George Bernard Shaw said that the single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place. Could this be a description of our current culture of consultation in the public sector? We are often instructed to ‘consult’ with the community and stakeholders, but this is often far from real, ongoing involvement.

It is often said that public bodies don’t have the resource to follow the National Principles of Public Engagement and involve people in a meaningful way. But this doesn’t have to be about intensive face-to-face engagement (although this is very effective), there are numerous ways that we communicate now in our home lives that involve cost effective digital means. How can we make this more possible in our professional worlds too?

Unsurprisingly, the people of Wales have noticed. IPSOS Mori revealed that only 13% of the public felt that they had a stake in the services they received. In working with Good Practice Exchange to pilot the software tool, ‘SeneseMaker’, to involve people in setting the Commissioner’s priorities, many people told their story of feeling disempowered, disengaged and by now, disinterested, by what’s going on. People felt that they had been consulted too late, provided with information that was in technical language, asked the wrong questions and many did not know what impact their input had.

Perhaps this highlights that the average person is not interested in service boundaries and funding provision, or appreciates being labelled as a ‘service user client’ or part of a ‘protected group’. The language we insist on using to talk about the public we serve, and the public sector insistence on constructing a process, has had the effect of dehumanising public services.  Perhaps we have become experts at asking the right questions, to tick the right boxes, but often we have become adept at missing the point.

A recent example is where several people commented on a consultation by a council on the closure of schools. In line with equality legislation, they asked parents detailed demographic information. However, the consultation questionnaire failed to ask if any of the parents were unable to drive, despite the school only being accessible by car.

This example serves a lesson that, in involving people, we’re actually talking about “people!” People who are mums, dads, sons, daughters, neighbours and friends.

Sophie Howe believes: “I think we could go a long way in breaking through bureaucratic barriers that can sometimes exist between people and services. Surely by walking a mile in their shoes, we can all make public services a little more human?”

The Good Practice Exchange are holding an event on ‘How different methods of engagement can help involve the citizen in public service delivery’ on 6 September in Cardiff, and 28 September in Llanrwst, Conwy.

These seminars begin to explore how good we are at getting the true picture from our communities, on understanding the lives that people lead, what methods can we use to understand the challenges people have, what motivates them and what would help them to lead happier, more fullfilled lives.

A discovery into data at the Co-op

Thanks for sharing your working out in the open Rob, its really helpful.
Cheers Ena

Digital blogs

We’ve been looking at how we handle our data. Over the years we’ve had recommendations from both in-house and consultancy teams about how to do this, but now we want to break the cycle and finish what we started.

Above all we’ve been thinking about how we can take a more ‘Co-op’ approach to our data. We pulled together a multidisciplinary team from across the business to look into this and they’ve become know internally as the ‘data layer’ team (explained in more detail by Rob in his being trusted with data post).

So, where to start?

We want to be trusted with data, and use data to inform what we do. The purpose of the discovery was to explore how we should go about creating the right conditions, both online and offline, to support this; and where to start.

We wanted to understand:

  1. How we deal with data now.

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