Changing behaviour for better digital public services
The Good Practice Exchange at the Wales Audit Office is running a seminar on Improving digital leadership and ownership. Dyfrig Williams shares how the work was developed in the post below.
Last year the Good Practice Exchange at the Wales Audit Office held an event on Redesigning public services: The strategic importance of digital. From our point of view, it was a very successful event. We had the highest satisfaction rates that we’ve ever had from any seminar, and our speakers also found it a useful way of socialising ideas around how they were developing their good practice. Cllr Barry Parsons told us that the seminar had been incredibly valuable to him, and I certainly found the workshop that he delivered with Carl Haggerty thought provoking – so much so that I subsequently blogged about it.
Our blog posts on the seminar were some of the most widely read that we’ve ever written. We also tested some new ways of working by developing personas with Y Lab to get the right delegate profile. This was successful in that we managed to attract staff who wanted their services to be more agile and responsive to user needs; staff who wanted to work across public service boundaries; and staff who see digital as an enabler of public service reform.
However we didn’t quite manage to access all of the delegates that we wanted. In planning the seminar we realised that there is a gap between people who may have the authority but who lack the expertise to enable digital services, and those who have the expertise but lack the authority. We hoped that the seminar would serve as an opportunity for decision makers to connect with the people who know how to make digital transformation happen. Unfortunately, we didn’t get as many decision makers attending as we had hoped.
Digital as an enabler
Digital is a key theme of our work over the next few years, so we’ve decided to change tack for the second of our digital seminars. We’re going to use an assets based approach to work with the skills that we have in the room and to look at how attendees can affect digital change in their organisations.
Paul Taylor from Bromford has written a great post on how organisations may stifle community creativity. In it he reflects on how controlling organisational environments can also stifle citizen and community strengths. This links perfectly with the thinking that we’ve developed.
My first few pieces of work when I joined the Wales Audit Office was on the theme of asset management. I remember thinking that it was a really dry topic, but it was actually a perfect introduction to the philosophy of the Good Practice Exchange. My colleague Ena Lloyd got me thinking completely differently about the whole thing – we weren’t looking for buildings that were equipped with flashy technology, we were looking for buildings that actively made public services and communities better. We were looking for better outcomes for people, not statistics. I remember really enjoying our seminar on Facilities Management, which I would have said was impossible a few months before. I facilitated a workshop by Charlotte Lythgoe of the Wales Millennium Centre, where she looked at moving beyond style over substance approaches into delivering real change.
We’re looking to apply this thinking to our digital seminar. We’ll be looking at how digital can be an enabler for better public services, rather than an end in and of itself. We’ll be looking to equip changemakers with the knowledge and the tools to ensure that their organisations are fit for purpose in the twenty first century.
Kelly Doonan from Devon County Council will look at how some of the digital projects she worked on within the council and how she identified and worked with the power that she had to make change happen. I’ll be sharing learning from the Cutting Edge Audit Office project, which was developed to sidestep traditional organisation bureaucracies and power structures. We’ll also hear from Theo Blackwell of Camden Council about how they’re changing services to make them more effective and efficient.
The Good Practice Exchange are working on our first national study this year, which focuses on behaviour change. In the final session Chris Bolton will lead a discussion on how attendees can look to change behaviours and implement digital thinking within their organisations.
As the above demonstrates, we’re an iterative project that builds on our learning as we go. The development of this seminar has been very much based on the outcome of our previous work. Much like the event itself, we are a work in progress, always looking to develop how we work in order to best meet the needs of our stakeholders, and most importantly, the people of Wales. This event is only happening because of the thoughts and ideas we received. If you have any ideas on how we can improve our work on this theme or any other, we’d love to hear from you.