Monthly Archives: April 2017

The importance of recognising the relationship between research and language

Darllenwch y flogbost yn Gymraeg

What constitutes successful research and what role does language play in this? Ena Lloyd shares this post by Jeff Brattan-Wilson of Disability Wales, which is an independent, not for profit organisation established in 1972. They are a membership organisation of disability groups and allies from across Wales.

A photo of Jeff Brattan-Wilson of Disability Wales

Jeff Brattan-Wilson of Disability Wales

On St Valentine’s Day I attended the launch of The Wales School for Social Care Research at the Temple of Peace where I met Jeff Brattan-Wilson from Disability Wales. Jeff asked a great question to the keynote speaker, Peter Beresford OBE. It was one of those occasions where I really wanted to capture the message and share it wider. I chatted to Jeff afterwards and asked if would share his thoughts on our blog.  Here’s his story:

In February this year, I attended the launch of ‘The Wales School for Social Care Research’ at the Temple of Peace.

Peter Beresford OBE (Emeritus Professor of Social Policy at Brunel University London and Professor of Citizen Participation, University of Essex) gave a really thought provoking presentation on the impact of research.

Peter was talking about how many significant pieces of research, written over many years, mainly written for specialist journals, usually sit in libraries, on shelves, often presenting as completely inaccessible to people who may not come from a research background.

His talk made me really think about all the research that has taken place in Wales, a large proportion of which could result in profound changes or make a huge difference in Wales, particularly in relation to minority communities.

A question came to me: how do we measure the impact of such research? Is it through the type of journal it is published in? How it successfully progresses one’s career? Or is it about how the findings are actually used in the community and whether they have any significant impact on people’s quality of life?

I asked Peter, “What can we do together to ensure that research is written in everyday language, so that many sectors in Wales can access it and use it as a benchmark to consult with the community?”

The answer was that really we all need to work together; universities, scholars and academics need to understand that they are creating barriers between themselves and those in the wider community by using complex, jargon-heavy language.

Language, we can argue, should be a pathway to promote meaningful conversation – not to be used to promote one’s own language superiority.

Afterwards, at my table, there was a discussion regarding service provision for older people in Wales. It struck me again that while there may well have been multiple strands of research taking place, and multiple solutions found, I fear that it may have all been lost due to the writing style, published only in specialist journals that few people will have heard of.

It’s easy to evidence that people from many different sectors would like to consult with the various communities that exist in society, e.g. various spoken language minority groups or even the British Sign Language community. (British Sign Language is the 3rd indigenous language in Wales, after English and Welsh). In order to consult with the community, it is important to use everyday language.

Now imagine – what if all that research had been written in everyday language? We would have a wealth of ideas, answers, solutions and creative thinking, all readily available at our fingertips.

From the work that Disability Wales has done, it’s clear that the best way to get around this is to co-produce with others. If an academic wants to research the views of a particular group, or the Government wants to consult on matters relating to a specific community, surely the best way to do this is in co-production with that very same group? That way those meaningful conversations can be had, in the everyday language used by those people. Common sense, no?

On writing this blog, I realise that perhaps by being open to how we use everyday language, we are likely to attract a much more diverse range of people who might consider undertaking research themselves, with the range of topics as a result becoming as equally diverse.

Hopefully, funders can take note and request that findings from research should be published in everyday language and in mainstream journals so that all sectors (and all people) can have equal access to it.

One other thing I felt was an important thing to take away from Peter’s presentation: he told us that his mother would read his work. She would tell Peter if she understood it, or not. If she could understand it, then it was suitable for most people; if she couldn’t, then Peter knew he was doing something wrong. I thought this to be a humbling and honest thing to share with the audience. I made a mental note to try to do something similar.

Reminds me of a quote that readily became one of my favourites:

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”

Nelson Mandela – Former President of South Africa

Keep Wales Tidy and Gurnos Men’s Project: Delivering social, economic and health benefits

Darllenwch y flogbost yn Gymraeg

Keep Wales Tidy are known for protecting our environment. However you might not know that they work in other ways to make our communities better places to live. For this post, Ena Lloyd talked to Jake Castle about the Gurnos Men’s Project.

I hadn’t realised until recently that the Keep Wales Tidy office was across the road from our Cathedral Road Offices in Cardiff.  I caught up with their CEO Lesley Jones, as I wanted to know more about the Gurnos project, which is about supporting men into employment. Were there also some health and social care benefits? Lesley said that it would be helpful if Jake Castle, the Senior Project Officer blogged about this really rewarding project that he is leading on.

Here is what Jake shared about the project:

I am the Project Officer for Keep Wales Tidy in Merthyr Tydfil. I work with community groups, schools and individuals to carry out practical environmental projects. One of the most rewarding (and often entertaining) of these groups has been the Gurnos Men’s Project.

The Project was formed two years ago to give a group of long-term unemployed men on the Gurnos Estate the opportunity to get together and take part in a range of activities to help improve the community and develop their own skills and learning. It merged new and existing Keep Wales Tidy volunteers and links to Communities First. At that time, over 90% of the people that were engaged with the local Communities First cluster were women and so there was a clear lack in provision and support for men.

A photo of 6 men who are working in the woods on Gurnos Men's Project

Gurnos Men’s Project

The group soon became dedicated to their work and carried out regular clean-ups, gardening and school grounds improvements. They also take part in basic reading and writing, horticulture and countryside skills courses. I meet with them every fortnight to help plan and deliver local projects and with the help of Communities First we regularly review their activities to ensure their own needs are being met while serving the wider community. I was pleased when I recently secured funding to organise formal training for the group; the combination of their ongoing dedication, hard work and this training has had such positive results.

As no one in the group had taken part in any accredited training for many years, they were all anxious about being tested. It was important that I support them and select appropriate training, six men have now successfully achieved NPTC Level 2 in Safe Use of Brush Cutter and Trimmer Operations. This formal qualification is hugely valuable as it doesn’t expire and the skills gained have helped to improve the confidence of the group and the standard of the work in the community.

All six participants (shown in above photo) are keen to pursue grounds maintenance work as a form of employment;

This has been great for me. I’ve been out of work for a few months now and this is the kind of work I’d like to get back in to. I know this ticket will be needed for loads of jobs and it shows I’ve been active and trying to better myself.

Antony Dunn, volunteer (shown second from the right in the above photo)

The group have been visited by elected representatives and were hugely grateful for the chance to talk about how the work and training had boosted their self-esteem, helped them manage mental health problems and alcoholism, provided them with lots of skills and helped the wider community. The wife of one of the group who is suffering from dementia also spoke of how the group had been a huge help to the both of them, easing the burden on the health and care systems.

It was acknowledged that there’s a real value in the provision for these individuals. Supporting people into employment is, of course, the goal and we are all aware that this may be a long-term process. This model suggests that the interim period (before finding work) can also prove valuable in several other ways.

It seems to me that success for this group has involved a healthy mixture of skills that benefit the individuals, and activities that benefit the community – not forgetting the occasional structured activity for routine and enjoyment! The community benefit is hard to measure; it goes well beyond litter picks as it brings a reduced demand on our health and care services.

In my opinion, the Men’s Project can help increase employment levels and improve Valleys communities. The focus for us all now is to quantify that wide-ranging contribution.

There are many more projects that Keep Wales Tidy are involved in, including Blue Flag, Eco Schools, Green Key. All our programmes are available on our website.

Being open by default

How might an audit office open up its systems so that information becomes open by default? Dyfrig Williams spoke with Tom Haslam about the approach of New Zealand’s Office of the Auditor-General.

The logo of the Office of the Auditor-General New Zealand

As part of the Wales Audit Office’s Cutting Edge Audit project, I am working on an Open Data prototype. During this work, colleagues told me that we could improve our approach to data. Not acquiring new data though – most colleagues said their biggest issue was better knowledge of, and access to, data that the office already held.

Our organisation has two specialist practices – financial audit and performance audit. This division facilitates specialism, so that we have colleagues with incredibly good knowledge in their fields of expertise. However, it also means that we have to work hard to break down organisational silos, sometimes reinforced by the systems we have in place.

Safeguarding data is an important feature of the way we have set up our information systems. Network folders are protected. Access is only available to specific teams and personnel, which means that the data within them is closed to others by default. Our SharePoint system is also set up in a similar way and the search functionality is not as good as it might be. All of this means that unless you know where the data is held, you’re unlikely to find it.

Learning from other audit offices

In my last post on the Queensland Audit Office’s work, I mentioned a well-travelled colleague called Tom Haslam. Tom has worked at the Office of the Auditor-General (OAG) in Wellington, New Zealand. And while there, the OAG identified similar problems with how they organised and held their data.

To address this, the OAG implemented a new SharePoint-based information system and complemented this with some pilot cross-office groups known as ‘iShare’. These groups were based around cross-cutting functional topics (for example the Transport iShare) with the aim of helping to break down organisational silos and promote a one-team approach across the office.

Adopting a new information system gave the OAG an opportunity to debate the relative merits of information systems being open or closed by default. This was discussed across the office through various channels.

The previous information systems had encouraged a mainly ‘closed until open’ approach. But the general feeling was that closed data might prevent the office from making the most of the information that they held. The natural tendency of all auditors is to be cautious, so under a ‘closed unless open’ approach, setting information as ‘open’ might be viewed as a risk best avoided, even if this approach wasn’t justified. On a practical level, having information closed off requires various permissions and access rights to be set up. This alone can be a barrier to sharing data.

The OAG structured its new information system so that information was ‘open unless closed’ with metadata to help staff find what they wanted. This approach facilitated sharing, encouraging staff to think about how they could add value by joining up information. A default setting of ‘open until closed’ made staff think more carefully about why they should want to close off access, for example material with national security implications or identifiable personal information.

On a technical level, a cleaner configuration of the IT system without endless permissions and restrictions made the system run more reliably. The improved reliability of the new SharePoint system led to time savings, and increased staff confidence and satisfaction with IT. The iShare pilots encouraged group members to look actively for opportunities to work jointly and share information.

As these pilots progressed and reported their successes to the wider office, they encouraged a more open outlook across teams – ‘look we shared stuff and worked together and it hasn’t all turned to custard’ as our kiwi cousins might say.
Tom also thought there was a trust dimension. Handling sensitive client information is part of an auditor’s day job. Therefore, opening up data was a clear signal that the OAG was a high trust environment.

However, change is a journey and the OAG report that its experience is no different. It continues to encourage and aim for an environment where information is open until closed. But it hasn’t always been plain sailing since introducing the new information system. Some staff have embraced the opportunity to openly share information. Others have been more hesitant in sharing information more or are yet to change what they have always done to be more open. The OAG has had to periodically promote and reinforce the new approach. It recognises that a change of this magnitude won’t happen overnight or without a sustained effort. But the end – using collective knowledge to influence improvement and improve accountability – justifies the effort.

How this fits with the work of the Good Practice Exchange

Our Good Practice Exchange work on effective data sharing shows that this relies on the principle of adopting proportionate steps when safeguarding data.

In a previous blog post on whether data sharing was a barrier to public service improvement, I included a quote from the Information Commissioner, which said ‘People want their personal data to work for them. They expect organisations to share their personal data where it’s necessary to provide them with the services they want. They expect society to use its information resources to stop crime and fraud and to keep citizens safe and secure.’ It’s also well worth watching Anne Jones, the Assistant Information Commissioner for Wales, outlining how data can be shared effectively.

The upcoming General Data Protection Regulation will ramp up the safeguarding of data a few notches, but it’s also an opportunity to reconsider how we can share data effectively. Particularly, how we make sure that auditors are confident enough to make the most of data collection and sharing.

Previously I have blogged about our staff trust event, where we heard that trust is essential if public services are to take well-managed risks, innovate and deliver public services that are truly fit for the 21st century.

Tom is leading on a separate project within the Wales Audit Office to look at how we’re using our information systems including SharePoint. One option we’re considering is the use of SharePoint Online, which would make it easier for us to develop an area that could be accessed by external bodies and partners – a portal. Leigh Dodds ‘s post provides a good overview of what a portal might contain.

A portal would allow us to share data with audited bodies and partners more effectively. We’re testing this concept with a SharePoint based prototype portal for some of our health colleagues. Learning from this will feed back into Tom’s project. And if working on the Cutting Edge Audit project has taught me anything, it’s that joined up and collaborative approaches are the best way to ensure we add real value to the work that we’re doing.

Bod yn agored yn ddiofyn

Sut allai swyddfa archwilio agor ei systemau fel bod gwybodaeth yn agored yn ddiofyn? Siaradodd Dyfrig Williams â Tom Haslam am ddull gweithredu Swyddfa Archwiliwr Cyffredinol Seland Newydd.

Logo Swyddfa Archwiliwr Cyffredinol Seland Newydd

Rwy’n gweithio ar brototeip Data Agored fel rhan o brosiect Archwilio Sydd ar Flaen y Gad Swyddfa Archwilio Cymru. Yn ystod y gwaith yma fe ddywedodd cydweithwyr i mi y gallem wella ein ffordd o drin data. Ond nid trwy casglu data newydd o reidrwydd – dywedodd y rhan fwyaf o’m cydweithwyr mai’r mater pwysicaf iddyn nhw oedd meithrin ymwybyddiaeth well am y data sydd gan y swyddfa yn barod, a gallu cael gafael ar y data hynny mewn ffordd rhwydd.

Mae gan ein sefydliad ddau ymarfer arbenigol – archwilio ariannol ac archwilio perfformiad. Mae’r rhaniad hwn yn hwyluso arbenigedd, fel bod gennym gydweithwyr sy’n hynod wybodus yn eu meysydd arbenigedd. Fodd bynnag, mae hyn hefyd yn golygu bod rhaid i ni weithio’n galed i chwalu seilos sefydliadol, sydd weithiau’n cael eu hatgyfnerthu gan y systemau sydd gennym ar waith.

Mae diogelu data yn nodwedd bwysig o’r ffordd rydym wedi gosod ein systemau gwybodaeth. Mae ffolderi rhwydwaith wedi’u diogelu. Dim ond timau a phersonél penodol sy’n gallu cael mynediad atynt, sy’n golygu bod y data sydd ynddynt yn gaeedig i bobl eraill yn ddiofyn. Mae ein system SharePoint hefyd wedi’i gosod mewn ffordd debyg ac nid yw’r swyddogaeth chwilio cystal ag y gallai fod. Mae hyn i gyd yn golygu eich bod yn annhebygol o ddod o hyd i ddata oni bai eich bod chi’n gwybod yn union ble mae fe.

Dysgu gan swyddfeydd archwilio eraill

Fe wnes i sôn am gydweithiwr o’r enw Tom Haslam yn fy mlogbost diwethaf ar waith Swyddfa Archwilio Queensland. Mae Tom wedi gweithio yn Swyddfa’r Archwilydd Cyffredinol yn Wellington, Seland Newydd. Nododd ei swyddfa nhw problemau tebyg i’r rhai sydd gennym o ran y ffordd roeddent yn trefnu ac yn dal eu data.

I fynd i’r afael â hyn, rhoddodd y Swyddfa system wybodaeth newydd ar waith sy’n seiliedig ar SharePoint, ac i ategu hyn gwnaethant sefydlu grwpiau peilot traws-swyddfa o’r enw ‘iShare’. Roedd y grwpiau hyn yn seiliedig ar bynciau swyddogaethol trawsbynciol (er enghraifft yr iShare Trafnidiaeth) gyda’r nod o helpu i chwalu seilos sefydliadol a hyrwyddo dull gweithredu un tîm ar gyfer y swyddfa gyfan.

Roedd mabwysiadu’r system wybodaeth newydd yn gyfle i’r Swyddfa drafod rhinweddau o systemau gwybodaeth sy’n agored neu’n gaeedig yn ddiofyn. Trafodwyd hyn ym mhob rhan o’r swyddfa mewn sawl cyfrwng.

Ar y cyfan, roedd y system wybodaeth flaenorol yn annog dull gweithredu lle’r oedd gwybodaeth yn ‘gaeedig nes ei bod yn agored’. Ond yr ymdeimlad cyffredinol oedd y gallai data caeedig rwystro’r Swyddfa rhag gwneud y gorau o’r wybodaeth a ddelir ganddi. Tueddiad naturiol pob archwilydd yw bod yn ofalus, felly o dan ddull gweithredu lle mae gwybodaeth yn ‘gaeedig oni bai ei bod yn agored’, gellid ystyried bod gwneud gwybodaeth yn ‘agored’ yn risg y byddai’n well ei hosgoi, hyd yn oed os nad oes cyfiawnhad dros wneud hyn. Yn ymarferol, mae gwneud gwybodaeth yn gaeedig yn golygu bod angen gosod hawliau mynediad a chaniatâd amrywiol. Gall hyn ynddo’i hun fod yn rhwystr rhag rhannu data.

Fe wnaeth Swyddfa’r Archwilydd Cyffredinol strwythuro ei system wybodaeth newydd fel bod gwybodaeth yn ‘agored oni bai ei bod yn gaeedig’, gyda metadata er mwyn helpu staff i ddod o hyd i’r hyn y maent yn chwilio amdano. Roedd y dull gweithredu hwn yn hwyluso rhannu data, gan annog staff i feddwl am sut y gallent ychwanegu gwerth drwy gydgysylltu gwybodaeth. Roedd gosodiad diofyn lle bo gwybodaeth yn ‘agored oni bai ei bod yn gaeedig’ yn gwneud i staff ystyried yn fwy gofalus y rhesymau dros gau mynediad, er enghraifft deunydd ag iddo oblygiadau o ran diogelwch gwladol neu wybodaeth bersonol adnabyddadwy.

Roedd y system Technoleg Gwybodaeth yn rhedeg yn fwy dibynadwy gan ei fod wedi’i ffurfweddu’n fwy taclus heb ganiatadau a chyfyngiadau diddiwedd. Fe wnaeth dibynadwyedd gwell y system SharePoint newydd arwain at arbedion amser a chynnydd yn hyder y staff a’u boddhad â Thechnoleg Gwybodaeth. Gwnaeth y cynlluniau peilot iShare annog aelodau’r grwpiau i chwilio am gyfleoedd i gydweithio a rhannu gwybodaeth.

Wrth i’r cynlluniau peilot hyn fynd yn eu blaen, ac wrth i’r swyddfa ehangach gael gwybod am eu llwyddiannau, gwnaethant annog agwedd fwy agored o fewn y timau – roedd pobl yn gallu gweld bod modd rhannu data a chydweithio heb i bopeth fynd o chwith.

Roedd Tom hefyd yn meddwl bod ymddiriedaeth yn ffactor. Mae ymdrin â gwybodaeth sensitif am gleientiaid yn rhan o waith bob dydd archwilydd. Felly, roedd gwneud data yn agored yn arwydd clir bod y Swyddfa yn amgylchedd ymddiriedaeth uchel.

Fodd bynnag, mae newid yn daith ac mae’r Swyddfa yn ategu hyn o’i phrofiad ei hun. Mae’n parhau i annog ac anelu at amgylchedd lle bo gwybodaeth yn agored nes ei bod yn gaeedig. Ond nid yw pethau wedi bod yn hollol ddidrafferth ers i’r system wybodaeth newydd gael ei chyflwyno. Mae rhai aelodau o staff wedi croesawu’r cyfle i rannu gwybodaeth yn agored. Mae rhai eraill wedi bod yn fwy petrusgar ynglŷn â rhannu mwy o wybodaeth, neu maent yn dal i weithredu yn yr un ffordd ag o’r blaen a heb newid i fod yn fwy agored. Mae wedi bod yn ofynnol i’r Swyddfa hyrwyddo ac atgyfnerthu’r dull gweithredu newydd o bryd i’w gilydd. Mae’n cydnabod na fydd newid o’r maint hwn yn digwydd dros nos na heb ymdrech barhaus. Ond mae’r diben – sef defnyddio gwybodaeth gyfunol i ddylanwadu ar welliant a gwella atebolrwydd – yn cyfiawnhau’r ymdrech.

Sut mae hyn yn cyd-fynd â gwaith y Gyfnewidfa Arfer Da

Mae gwaith y Gyfnewidfa Arfer Da ar rannu data yn effeithiol yn dangos bod hyn yn dibynnu ar yr egwyddor o fabwysiadu camau cymesur wrth ddiogelu data.

Mewn blog blaenorol fe wnes i ceisio weld os oedd rhannu data yn rhwystr rhag gwella gwasanaethau cyhoeddus, ac ynddo fe wnes i grybwyll y Comisiynydd Gwybodaeth. Dywedodd ef fod pobl eisiau i’w data personol weithio iddyn nhw, a’u bod nhw’n disgwyl i sefydliadau rannu eu data personol lle bo angen er mwyn iddynt darparu’r gwasanaethau maen nhw eisiau. Dywedodd hefyd fod pobl yn disgwyl i gymdeithas ddefnyddio ei hadnoddau gwybodaeth i atal trosedd a thwyll a chadw dinasyddion yn ddiogel. Mae’n sicr yn werth gwylio Anne Jones, Comisiynydd Gwybodaeth Cynorthwyol Cymru, yn amlinellu sut y gellir rhannu data yn effeithiol.

Bydd y Rheoliad Diogelu Data Cyffredinol sydd ar ddod yn tynhau’r trefniadau diogelu data i raddau, ond mae fe hefyd yn gyfle i ailystyried sut y gallwn rannu data yn effeithiol. Yn benodol, sut rydym yn sicrhau bod archwilwyr yn ddigon hyderus i wneud y gorau o waith casglu a rhannu data.

Rwyf wedi blogio’n flaenorol am ein digwyddiad ymddiriedaeth staff, lle y clywsom fod ymddiriedaeth yn hanfodol er mwyn i wasanaethau cyhoeddus allu cymryd risgiau sydd wedi’u rheoli’n dda, arloesi a darparu gwasanaethau cyhoeddus sydd wir yn addas ar gyfer yr unfed ganrif ar hugain.

Mae Tom yn arwain prosiect ar wahân o fewn Swyddfa Archwilio Cymru i edrych ar y ffordd rydym yn defnyddio ein systemau gwybodaeth gan gynnwys SharePoint. Un opsiwn rydym yn ei ystyried yw defnyddio SharePoint Online, a fyddai’n ei gwneud yn haws i ni ddatblygu maes y gallai cyrff allanol a phartneriaid gael mynediad ato – porth. Mae blogbost Leigh Dodds yn rhoi trosolwg da o’r hyn y gallai porth ei gynnwys.

Byddai porth yn ein galluogi i rannu data â chyrff a archwilir a phartneriaid yn fwy effeithiol. Rydym wedi profi’r cysyniad hwn gyda phorth prototeip sy’n seiliedig ar SharePoint ar gyfer rhai o’n cydweithwyr ym maes iechyd. Bydd yr hyn a ddysgir drwy hyn yn bwydo’n ôl i brosiect Tom.

A’r prif beth y mae gweithio ar brosiect Archwilio Arloesol wedi’i ddysgu i mi yw mai dulliau gweithredu cydgysylltiedig a chydweithredol yw’r ffordd orau o sicrhau ein bod yn ychwanegu gwerth gwirioneddol at y gwaith a wnawn.