Category Archives: People

Frontline Futures: changing behaviour and empowering people

Darllenwch y flogbost yn Gymraeg

How do we ensure that organisations work together to provide the right service in the right setting, with better outcomes for frequent users of public services? Dyfrig Williams spoke to Melys Phinnemore to learn from the Frontline Futures Programme.

Is Housing fit for the future? The Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) Cymru have undertaken research on where the housing sector is and where it needs to be, because service delivery is taking place in a rapidly changing environment. The Wellbeing of Future Generations Act means that public services will have to work together in a different way too. Not only that, but there’s much less money to go around, and the financial footing of Housing Associations is less secure now that Universal Credit is paid directly to claimants instead of housing associations.

Huw Vaughan Thomas, the Auditor General for Wales repeatedly talks about the need to take well managed risks. The above situation is one such situation, where housing associations cannot continue to work in the same way.

What is Frontline Futures?

CIH Cymru developed Frontline Futures to help organisations to work differently in this changing environment. It‘s a practical course where learners identify, plan and develop a change project for their organisation. The programme is attended by a mix of about 3 or 4 people per organisation and typically this might be a number of frontline workers and a supervisor or line manager. They each identify and work on a change challenge after learning about the theory behind change. The programme is based over 5-6 months for a day a month. CIH have run two cohorts so far, which have looked at changing behaviour, practice and mindset.

Melys Phinnemore and Penny Jeffreys are working with CIH Cymru to develop and deliver the programme. They are particularly interested in leadership and cultural change. How can we enable people who access social housing to be the best that they can be? And how can we get staff, whose behaviour may have inadvertently taken away people’s independence, work differently. Supporting not advising by having coaching conversations with people?

Melys says that parent child type of caring or advising conversations very rarely change people’s behaviour. Saying “ I need to advise you that if you don’t stop doing this or start doing that ……you will or could become homeless” rarely leads to a better outcome. Neither does doing things for people, like filling out forms. Our helping behaviours don’t empower people to take control or encourage people to develop confidence in their own abilities. Our legacy of helping has meant that typically people will expect their social landlord to sort out noise nuisance and ball play where as private home owners do this for themselves.

Melys feels that frontline workers need to be empowered to use their discretion so that they can free up and target their resources based on need and take the well managed risks that the Auditor General describes.

What does all this mean in practice?

Melys shared an example with me of how changes had been made at Gwalia by a frontline worker. When a house became void, materials within the house were disposed because of health and safety guidance, whether they were useful or not. This rationale would have been enough to stop many projects, but this frontline worker set out to prevent this waste and developed a recycling project. She organised people to become patent qualified so that they could test and recycle electrical goods. When it was suggested that the Housing Association would be liable if anything went wrong, she worked on developing disclaimer forms. There is now an exchange shop supported by community volunteers which is thriving and not only are there savings from landfill many tenants’ are having a better start with semi-furnished homes. Early indications suggest that one of the side benefits has been some of the hard to let properties are now full and turnover at these properties has reduced. Gwalia are now looking at whether there may be an opportunity to expand this approach and even maybe develop an upcycling scheme.

How do we get people on board with changes in service delivery?

The above example clearly shows an empowered staff member that’s making tenants’ lives better. It’s early days, but staff have changed the nature of the way they talk to tenants. How can we help this change to happen within our organisations?

Melys mentioned the use of Johnathan Haidt’s theory about the elephant, the rider and the path, which is handily summarised in the video below. Haidt says that in order to enable change, you need to think about the rational system, the emotional system and the external environment.

The rider represents the rational system, which plans and problem solves. The elephant represents the emotional system that provides the power for the journey. There is a power imbalance here, so changing behaviour is difficult. The path represents the external environment. The two are more likely to complete their journey if you remove obstacles that stand in their way and it’s as short as possible. Haidt recommends that you:

  1. Give direction to the rider, so that they know where they are going
  2. Motivate the elephant, so you need to tap into emotion
  3. Shape the path to allow for easy progress.

Melys says that you have to empower and support people to make a change – give them the power to make incremental change through small initiatives that they can take ownership of. Once they’re party to the design and development of the initiative, it takes off. They can’t be part of the solution if they don’t understand the argument that’s being made. Having encouraging coaching conversations with staff help empower them to go back into their organisations and lead change.

Melys also referenced Simon Sinek’s TED talk on inspiring action, where he suggests that you should start with a clear purpose and outline your cause. He says:

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it… Why is it important to attract people who believe what you believe? Something called the Law of Diffusion of Innovation.”

In the Law of Diffusion of Innovation, innovation relies heavily on human capital and must be widely adopted in order to self-sustain. Sinek describes how changes aren’t embedded until a tipping point – the early majority won’t try something until someone else has tried it first.

A bell curve graph that illustrates when people adopt new innovations, from early innovators to early adopters,early majority,late majority to laggards

A graph illustrating the law of diffusion of innovation

Frequent users of public services who regularly contact organisations make up a significant proportion of the demand on services, which amounts to huge costs in terms of time and resource. CIH Cymru’s practical approach to learning and development is leading to financial savings and improved public services. It’s been fascinating learning about the changes that are being made, the theory behind them and most importantly about the empowered staff and tenants that the programme has produced. The Good Practice Exchange at the Wales Audit Office is currently working on a national study on behaviour change, which will share examples where public services have changed behaviour effectively. If you’re changing behaviour or the way that you allocate resources to frequent users, we’d love to hear from you.

More information about the Frontline Futures programme can be found at the CIH Cymru website at www.cih.org/cymru/frontlinefuturesprogramme.

The future of parks and their positive impact on wellbeing

How can we make parks sustainable and boost the wellbeing of the people that we serve as Welsh public services? Bethan Smith reflects on the lessons learnt from last year’s Parks seminar.

In a recent report on The State of UK Public Parks 2016, The Heritage Lottery Fund says park managers expect further cuts, and a huge loss of skilled staff over the next three years.

In Wales, 80% of councils anticipated budget cuts of 10% or more over the next three years, and 70% of parks are expected to be declining in the same period, the highest figures across the whole of the UK. [1]

When I read the report, I was startled by the figures. Parks are a major part of most communities, they are a place for children to play, a place to walk the dog or a place just to sit and relax. Most of us at some point in our life have used parks, and they can play a big role in improving our wellbeing.

The report reminded me of our event last year on ‘The future of parks and their positive impact on wellbeing’. At this event, we showcased a number of examples of organisations that have tried and tested new ways of working to maximise use of parks and help improve wellbeing.

Go to the Park

One of those examples was ‘Go to the Park’. Based in Towneley Park (Burnley’s largest heritage park covering 200 hectares) and extending across five other heritage parks, ‘Go to the Park’ developed an alternative model of park and green space management that sustainably manages large areas of parks and green spaces using ecological and permaculture techniques. The project has tested the opportunities to save money by adopting ecological and permaculture techniques to manage heritage parks, earn money from wildflower crops, bees and wood fuel, engage people through their ‘Volunteer in Parks’ programme and increase the wildlife value of our green spaces.

My favourite part of this initiative was the development of the world’s first urban bee hive cage which provides protection to honey bees. Funded through Nesta, Heritage Lottery Fund and Big Lottery ‘Rethinking Parks’ programme, the initiative aims to improve habitats for bees and other pollinators such as butterflies in Burnley parks and green spaces.

beekeeping-image

You can find out more information on this initiative through Nestas website and it’s worth reading Simon Goff’s blog on the impact the project has had.

Digital giving technologies

Bournemouth Borough Council created a foundation for parks across its authority so peoples’ affection for their parks and gardens translates to giving. The team explored how new digital giving technologies can make it easy for people to give to the parks in real time. They also tested whether the opportunity for people to leave a legacy donation is a viable option to sustain their parks and gardens. The approach is based on learning from models already being used in the United States, such as in Seattle.

You can find out more information on this project through Nesta’s blog.

Actif Woods Wales

Actif Woods Wales is a project that helps people improve their health and wellbeing by getting them involved in activities in woodlands. It’s delivered by a small, part-time team at Coed Lleol, the Welsh arm of the Small Woods Association, in partnership with a wide range of voluntary, community-based and public sector organisations and numerous independent activity providers in 5 areas of Wales.

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The project started in 2010 and has come a long way since then. Dr Kate Hamilton, who presented at our events, wrote a fantastic blog for us last year which provides more information about the project. Further to that, Kate also wrote a blog which shared their evaluation processes within Actif Woods Wales.

The Rethinking Parks programme has resulted in a number of fantastic initiatives where organisations are using different approaches to utilise parks. The report on Learning to Rethink Parks is well worth a read.

Parks are such an asset to our communities and we need new visions of how parks can be managed differently, how they can empower communities and be sustainable.

[1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-37288115

GovCamp Cymru: Can we change behaviour for better public services?

At GovCamp Cymru Dyfrig Williams pitched a session on how behaviour change theory can help to embed ideas generated at unconferences into organisations. Below he outlines what he learnt from the session.

This year’s GovCamp Cymru was a great event. I pitched a session on changing the behaviour of people within organisation to enable public service improvement. Whilst I’d done some work beforehand on key issues that I felt needed to be resolved and how we might do that, the session was very much a pooling of ideas and experiences, so I’ve got to say a big thank you to everyone who came and to everyone who provided input before, during and after the main discussion. The Storify that we put together gives a good overview of what was said during the day.

So in terms of my session, here are the key things that I learnt:

Leadership is important

That might seem like an incredibly obvious statement, and in some senses it is. We spoke about how staff model the behaviour that leaders display within their organisations. But what was heartening was that there was discussion around what constituted a leader – it’s not necessarily about being at the top of your organisational hierarchy. It might be about thought leadership, or staff might take it upon themselves to lead change within their organisation or instil that leadership role in other people. It’s all too easy to cede responsibility to others because we don’t have a leadership role bestowed upon us, so it was great to hear attendees talk about what they could do to seize the initiative. But we also discussed how some organisations are hostile to mavericks, so it’s important to think about how you are perceived within your own organisation.

The behaviours that good leaders might display started with really simple things like saying “Thank you” to make staff feel valued. Spice Cardiff talked about opening up agendas of meetings, and we also spoke about the importance of risk taking. The public sector can often be risk averse, but we dug a little deeper to think about why that might be. The point that “The people who design change have less to lose than the people who implement it” really struck a chord with me, and if we are asking people to take a leap of faith on working differently, then we need to ensure that people feel supported and that they won’t be hung out to dry if things go wrong. We spoke about approaches that may help us to mitigate risk, in particular the value of prototyping to demonstrate new ways of working when you’re told that a new method can’t work.

Legislation is a sword and a shield

I love this quote, which came from a discussion on the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act. We spoke about how the act could be used as a shield to safeguard staff who are trying to make change happen by providing a clear rationale for change, or a sword to fight with in order to take the initiative to kickstart meaningful change within our organisations. People seemed to agree that all levers of change should be aligned, but that there wasn’t a “one-size fits all approach”. Legislation certainly plays a role in behavioural change, but so does culture, leadership, politics and the public that we work with and for. We need a range of tools and tactics so that we use the most appropriate tool for any given situation.

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A photo by Nigel Bishop from GovCamp Cymru

We learn by talking, thinking and doing

Despite it being a session about organisational change, there was nobody that worked in Human Resources at the session. Regardless, the consensus seemed to be that organisational learning was too important to be left with one centralised team and that we should all take responsibility for it as individuals, especially as there are so many online resources available.

In the session people agreed that one of the ways in which unconferences can add value is by growing networks and learning from others. But we have to consider how inclusive we’re being – are we bringing people from our organisations along with us on the change journey? As I mentioned in the discussion, Carl Haggerty has written a great post where he reflects on how he learns and how he helps others. Another way of embedding change within an organisation is to get someone who’s already done it to come in to talk about it and demonstrate the difference. The connections that we make at unconferences can help us to spread good practice and new ways of working.

There was also a discussion around having ‘champion’ roles within the organisation, where the pressure to spread the change is taken away from an individual and shared much wider. An example was given around the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act, where the responsibility is shared around staff members to embed the cultural change within their teams in order to meet the requirements of the act.

Will GovCamp Cymru help to change behaviour?

The points raised at my session certainly made me think again about how change takes place within organisations. I’m currently working on a Data and Tech project that will look at how the Wales Audit Office challenges our existing use of data and technology, the assumptions we normally take for granted, and how we can offer radical solutions when we use new technology to transform our audit and business processes. If we’re looking to change the way we work, we’re going to need to bring our colleagues with us on the journey. The feedback from this session has been really helpful, and I’d love to hear from anyone else who puts the learning from the session into practice within their organisations in order to deliver better public services.

WFG Act Early Adopters: Six months on…

Hazel Clatworthy and Matthew Gatehouse, Monmouthshire County Council, presented at a shared learning seminar on the Future Generations Act back in March, when the legislation hadn’t actually come into force.  Their experience was based on their work as “early adopters” of the Act. Six months on a lot has changed…

Getting our own house in order

Back in March I shared feedback from Wales Audit Office’s light touch assessment of our preparedness for the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act.  This was really helpful and mainly focussed on in-house processes and policies, which we’ve been developing further.

Over the last six months a lot more work has taken place on training and awareness raising about the Act and what it means for officers, Members and partners.  The Act is prominent in Induction training for all new starters, we’ve held our second and third member seminars on the subject, plus specific training for scrutiny and there was standing room only in the council chamber when we did a lunchtime talk for staff on the subject – with more watching via YouTube. We’ve revised our Sustainable Development policy, curated a comprehensive range of resources on our intranet site for officers and Members to refer to and given the Act far more prominence on the council’s website to help our residents and businesses understand how central this is to our work.

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After our session in March a lot of people contacted us to get a copy of the Future Generations Evaluation we’d introduced six months earlier.  I’d like to be able to say that lots of decisions have radically changed as a result of using this evaluation, and that decision making is now inherently more sustainable.  And I’d like to be able to say that officers are automatically using these at the earliest stages of decision making, rather than the night before the deadline.  But in all honesty I can’t say that…yet!  However, I can say that I’ve had conversations with officers from parts of the Council I would never have dealt with before, as they ask for my help or advice on how to complete the evaluation.  And I can say that Members have been challenging officers if they feel that the evaluation hasn’t been done properly or has missed something – one Scrutiny committee refused to hold a meeting when the reports they were presented with had somehow slipped through the system without an evaluation!  Small steps but all in the right direction!

We are making progress on our other policies and strategies like procurement where we are developing a Community Benefits policy.  We’ve also embedded the seven wellbeing goals and five sustainable development principles in our service planning process.

So we are gradually building on our early adopter work and implementing the WAO recommendations, and I think it is beginning to make a difference – awareness of the Act is certainly much higher than it was, and hopefully this awareness, together with the policies and processes in place to back it up will mean that Monmouthshire genuinely becomes a more sustainable place.

Looking outwards

I’ve been visiting lots of partnerships which sit underneath our newly formed Public Service Board and talking to them about what the Act means for us, for them and how we can work together.  Levels of awareness varies, but all have welcomed the chance to understand the Act better and think about how they can contribute to the Wellbeing Assessment and Plan.

wellbeing-assessment-pic

In August we started a big public engagement exercise called Our Monmouthshire to help inform our Well-being Assessment.  We have plenty of data, but to try and avoid falling into the “lies, damned lies and statistics” trap, we are going to events, shows, markets, coffee mornings, schools, support groups and more to find out what people like about living in Monmouthshire and what they think would make it even better.  We have commissioned Our Monmouthshire banners, big maps, postcards and fact and future trends cards to stimulate discussion and debate, and Council officers and other PSB partners are going out and about to get feedback to shape the Well-being Assessment.

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We’re trying to make it as easy as possible for people to feed in their views, so as well as face to face, people can also contribute online and via social media.  Residents can feed in their views and ideas via a short online questionnaire, or via Made Open, Monmouthshire’s online digital engagement platform.

madeopen

The Wellbeing Assessment is a huge piece of work, and the more far reaching our engagement work, the more information we have to process, but it should result in a rigorous and well informed Assessment which will well equip the PSB to decide on priorities for the Wellbeing Plan in 2018.

So, in summary so far, I think I’d agree with the guidance on the Act, which says that sustainable development isn’t an end point, but the process of improving well-being or a way of doing things.  Embracing the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act as a way of working, rather than just complying with the letter of the law, is a journey.  And I believe that it is a journey that we are well on the way with.

What does modern Learning and Development look like?

How relevant is learning and development (L&D) within today’s workplace and does it have a positive influence? Russell Higgins of the Wales Audit Office recently completed a study to assess the impact of L&D within the workplace with particular focus on evaluation. For the study Russell used the Wales Audit Office as a case study organisation.

My research covered a variety of objectives which included how effectively and efficiently L&D needs were identified and delivered in the workplace, how to measure and quantify the relevance of L&D and how organisations can benefit from its effective measurement.

Identification of learning

The thing that struck me in the very beginning was that with financial budgets becoming tighter and tighter, it is essential that both public and private sector organisations deliver cost effective L&D solutions. In order to do this L&D professionals need to make sure that the learning is accurately identified and focuses on organisation’s priorities which in turn will bring a positive return on investment and expectation. The L&D solution should also aim to raise individual skills and motivate them to do things differently.

L&D needs can be identified in various ways – from an organisational point of view (a top-down process where the organisation is thinking about goals and vision) and via the appraisal process, where the line manager is key in identifying the right learning and development solution. The line manager therefore has a key role in the identification of L&D.

The role of line managers

Line managers have the opportunity to identify the L&D needs of the people they manage and can use this information to provide guidance and coaching.  Research findings suggest that this opportunity is frequently missed as managers do not always have the skills, confidence and / or motivation to identify and address the L&D needs. Indeed some research conducted by Penny Hackett stated that some line managers see all performance problems as training problems and expect trainers to provide solutions. If line managers are not knowledgeable about clear identification of L&D then it is likely that the learning identified will not be aligned to the organisational business strategy. Following my research I believe it is important that line managers have regular contact with members of staff throughout the year to discuss and review individual L&D requirements. Line managers should be skilled and knowledgeable enough to ensure that when L&D is identified it is delivered in the most appropriate manner and not only via the traditional classroom based manner.

The 70:20:10 model

A visiual representation of the 70:20:10 model, as described in Russell's postMy research found that learning and development was splitting onto 2 i.e. traditionalists and modern workplace learning. Traditionalists tend to focus on traditional classroom training or e-learning, whereas the modern workplace learning practitioner is more likely to work with line managers to develop the most appropriate way of learning, using the 70:20:10 model – 70% of the learning takes place in the workplace (on the job learning), 20% from other forms (like mentoring and coaching) and 10% through the traditional classroom method. This is a massive change for the way that staff learn and develop, and a big change for the L&D function so that they think about things in a different way. Modern workplace learning also puts the emphasis on getting people to take accountability for their own learning, rather than it being done to them.

A visual representation of the Kirkpatrick Model as a pyramid, as described in Russell's postThis therefore presents a challenge in terms of evaluating the impact of learning within your organisation. When thinking about the Kirkpatrick model of evaluation (there are loads of different models available, but this is the most common one used by L&D functions) which focuses on four key areas – reaction, learning, behaviour and results. My research found that very few organisations are actually looking at all four aspects, especially level four which is results – did the learning have any return on investment?

I also found that organisations tend to use a generic evaluation form, however quite often these should be tailored so that they fit the specific learning and development objective. In order to be useful to the organisation, the evaluation needs to go beyond the first two levels of the Kirkpatrick model (reaction and learning) and in order to do this, the line manager role is essential – have they seen a change in behaviour, has there been a return on investment on the activity?

I believe that L&D functions of the future need to be fully in touch with all departments to ensure that they are providing L&D interventions that are fully aligned to business requirements and organisational strategic objectives. There is also a joint dependency between the line manager and L&D function. They need to work together to ensure that all aspects of the Kirkpatrick evaluation model is followed.

RHP: Great customer service, great employer

A photo of RHP's 5 year strategy mural

RHP’s 5 year strategy mural

It’s impossible to have effective public services without staff that are committed and motivated to deliver them. So how do we go about doing that? Dyfrig Williams visited London housing provider RHP Group to learn more about their approach.

I’ve always been interested in how organisations make the most of their staff. When I worked at Participation Cymru, we noticed that organisations that harness their staff’s knowledge and capabilities tend to be the ones who are good at involving the public when planning their work.

So I was really interested in the work RHP are doing, and when the opportunity came to visit the organisation after meeting their Chief Executive David Done, I was as keen as mustard.

Culture

One of the first things that struck me is the effort that RHP put into building and maintaining the culture of the business. RHP recruit people based on behaviours, and subsequently measure performance against these skills and behaviours rather than qualifications. The assessment centres at interviews focus on that, and once employees have been appointed, all new starters go through a “wow 3 weeks” of induction that ensures that all new starters have the same experience and are aware of the organisations’ values.

Their approach to culture and empowerment isn’t something that just applies to new employees. Existing employees had said that they wanted the opportunity to stay and progress within the organisation, so RHP developed a Climbing Frame approach to staff development that allows existing staff to move up the organisation through promotion, or move sideways through a secondment.

Learning and Development

A photo of RHP's meeting room, which is nicely decorated to provide a relaxed environment

RHP’s meeting room – a bit different to your average one

RHP’s learning and development approach is based on gaps in their business, for example their approach to risk management and decision making. I’ve often felt that the traditional training course approach to personal development is a tick-box exercise (I think only about three of the courses that I’ve attended have genuinely changed the way that I work in about eleven years of working in public services), so it was interesting to see how RHP is favouring a bite-size approach to events that last between ninety minutes and half a day.

This approach includes the Great Place to Think sessions, where external speakers are invited to speak on topics that are relevant to the organisation. Wayne Hemmingway has spoken on creativity and Gerald Ratner spoke about resilience and bouncing back from failure.

The Great Place to Debate sessions also give staff the opportunity to debate contentious issues. RHP is moving into offering five year tenancies, and points from the “All new social tenancies should be offered on five year terms – yes v no” debate informed its approach.

The Live Lounge also harnesses staff’s own learning, as employees lead discussions on their areas of interest, including topics as diverse as social media or politics. Live Lounges are 3-2-1 discussions (held at 3 o’clock, 2 way discussions for 1 hour). One employee who is a personal trainer spoke about health, and another employee movingly spoke about their mental health experiences.

The Good Practice Exchange has been working with public service partners on Behaviour Change Festivals across Wales, including in Bangor, where the Centre for Behaviour Change used gamification to influence attendee behaviour (it’s worth checking out Participation Cymru’s blogpost on this for more details). So I was really interested in how RHP are using the approach to look at how employees react to high pressure situations. They developed games with an external company, where points are rewarded on decisions they made during the game and whether they made the right decisions and the consequences of those decisions. The scenarios were based on what people experience at RHP, so employees could see and empathise with the challenges that their fellow employees faced. And as someone who has a dubious taste in murder mysteries, I absolutely loved how they have used those scenarios to test how staff make decisions under pressure!

I also learnt how RHP have developed RHPedia, an online knowledgebase in the mould of Wikipedia that equips people with the knowledge they need to deal with any enquiries and to deal with specific issues. What I loved about this approach to knowledge sharing is that anyone can add their expertise to the site. The next stage will be to offer this site to customers

And if all that wasn’t enough, RHP also have an internal volunteering scheme. Whilst that isn’t unusual in itself, 107 people volunteer out of the 250 people who work for the organisation (which includes people who donate to support the projects that employees volunteer on).

Benchmarking

If you’ve made it this far through the blogpost, you’ll be unsurprised to learn that RHP is an Investors in People gold organisation. RHP have used the Times 100 to benchmark it’s success in the field, where it came fifth in the UK, and it now uses the Great Place to Work Award. This year, RHP were placed at number one for this award. They also use the Customer Service Index to see what others are doing and what makes them good, whilst also asking customers what a very good service would look like.

And the feedback shows that all this work is worthwhile.96% of employees are satisfied with working for RHP and 83% of customers said they are satisfied with the service they receive. And Geraldine Clarke, RHP’s L&D Advisor told me that “If you want to be great at customer service, you’ve got to be a great employer. You can’t be one without the other.” If you’re similarly looking at how you can make the most of the people within your organisation, we’d love to hear from you.

LocalGovCamp: Being the change you want to see

How are councils across the UK making the most of digital for their work? Dyfrig Williams attended LocalGovCamp to find out.

Over the weekend I went to my first LocalGovCamp in Birmingham, an unconference for local government across the UK, where attendees set the agenda by pitching ideas for discussions.

What is local government for?

The notes from Kelly Doonan's session

The notes from Kelly Doonan’s session

The most thought provoking discussion for me was in Kelly Doonan’s opening session, which asked “What is local government for?” A seemingly straightforward question, but with no easy answers. My takeaway from the session was that local government should be an enabler to help people make their local area a better place to live. What particularly fascinated me was that this chimes with Kelly’s team’s approach to their work. I’ve previously had a great Unmentoring conversation with Kelly about how an enabling mindset means that they’re helping people at Devon County Council to deliver better services. I’m going to steal Ghandhi’s wisdom and pass it off as my own here – this seems to be a great example of “being the change that you wish to see”. We can’t provide enabling services for citizens without applying the same approach to our work with our colleagues.

Gameification

Glen Ocsko’s session on Gameification allowed me to reflect on the work that we’re doing with Good Practice Wales and Bangor University on Behaviour Change, where we held a Festival in Bangor to share public service approaches. At the festival Professor John Parkinson looked at Gameful Design, and Professor James Intrilligator looked at Drinking, Games and Behaviour Change, which included a fascinating discussion on the Chimp Shop App that encourages people to drink less. It was great to compare and contrast this with approaches from the session. Nick Hill shared The Fun Theory’s work, who have lots of great examples of gameification that could be applied to encourage positive behaviour change.

Blockchain and government

Ingrid Koehler led the Blockchain and government session, which gave me a good chance to ponder what the emerging technology might mean for the Wales Audit Office’s Financial Audit work. It was amazing to think about how transactions could be tracked across government. We spoke about what a small, safe to fail pilot might look like (it’s well worth reading Chris Bolton’s post on Trojan Mice for more on this approach), where money raised from charges could be tracked so that you can see exactly what it was spent on. A potential new era for government financial transparency? But it could also be something more – Benjamin Taylor shared a fascinating link on building a democracy contract on the Blockchain, and what do the open processes mean for public trust? Ingrid shared this interesting report on what it might mean for government.

Why we hate the voluntary sector

Just to be clear, I don’t! But I attended this spikily titled discussion by Pauline Roche as I worked in the sector for eight years, and Huw Vaughan Thomas, the Auditor General for Wales, always talks about how public services won’t be delivered by any one sector in the future. It was fascinating to hear how a fear of lack of control leads to local authority services being kept in house, but also really interesting to hear how groups like Snow Angels could add expertise and value in crisis situations.

The best bit… the networking!

But the most useful part of the day was the opportunity to network and share ideas. It was great to meet new people who are doing great things, as well as finally meet people who I’ve spoken to online in my role (hello Albert Freeman!).

When I caught up with Kelly Doonan after the event for a chat, we spoke a bit about the potential for the Wales Audit Office to do our good practice work differently. Kelly told me about how immersing yourself in examples of alternative approaches can help you to understand how the nuts and bolts of particular approaches can be applied in complex environments.

Devon County Council visited a a user research company, Revealing Reality, to look at how they recruited candidates for a diary study. Participants received a hard copy A4 diary and a pack of stickers to represent different channels and devices. They were shown how to complete the diary, which involved putting in some personal details and then recording their media consumption for a week by writing in the diary and adding stickers. They were able to look at the diaries and ask questions about the techniques and the data.

Kelly also visited the DVLA in Swansea for a user research GDS Cross-Government Meet up, where speakers literally show you exactly how they are working – explaining in detail what software, tools and methods they are using and with pictures to show you what it looks like. You can attend a session and then go away and adapt the approach to meet your needs.

So all in all, LocalGovCamp was a great day. If you’re looking for something similar in Wales, GovCamp Cymru has been confirmed for the 24th of September. If you fancy meeting new people and developing new approaches, put the date in your diary and get involved! I’ll see you there!

Randomised Coffee Trials: Encouraging networking

Could Randomised Coffee Trials help people within your organisation to network and share information? In this blogpost, Bethan Davies reviews the Good Practice Exchange’s use of the method.

Some of you may already be aware that the Good Practice Team have been piloting Randomised Coffee Trials for the past year, as a way of encouraging delegates to continue conversations after our events. Dyfrig Williams blogged about the use of Randomised Coffee Trials last year.

Back in January, we thought it would be good to get a feel for how the process is going, and whether it’s something we should continue with or whether we need to find a new approach. We decided to survey our seminar delegates to seek views of those that had taken part, and those that hadn’t, and find out what they thought.

We received 65 responses to our survey, with some really interesting responses and overall, most were positive. Some of the reasons people like the Randomised Coffee Trials were:

  • It’s good to know that colleagues in the public sector face the same frustrations and challenges!
  • It’s a good opportunity to discuss current work, share good practice and learn from each other
  • It provided the opportunity to have helpful discussions with people that would otherwise never cross paths in their day to day work
  • It’s a great way to learn about what other organisations and people do and helps identify potential opportunities that could aid own organisations work

For those that didn’t take part in the trials, the reasons varied from people not having the time to take part on top of their day to day jobs, they were not interested in the process, or that they just didn’t understand the process, which is a lesson for us.

The feedback made me think about how we ensure all delegates have the same opportunities to engage and continue conversations after our events. Having a busy day to day job may mean some people don’t want to make that extra commitment to meeting up with someone new. An interesting bit of feedback that we had from one delegate was that we should set up a Randomised Coffee Trial during or after our seminar – a bit like speed dating! That would enable everyone to take part, hopefully provide further clarification for those that don’t understand the process, and enable those who want to continue to do so. Something for us to keep in mind!

Another suggestion was about having an online space where people can share their stories and find new partners/ organisations that have similar issues to discuss. A recent example of an organisation doing something similar is Monmouthshire Made Open.

A screenshot of Monmouthshire Made OpenMonmouthshire Made Open allows people to raise challenges; crowd-source solutions; pitch ideas and ask for funding, volunteers or materials on a single platform. Unlike other social media it allows people to turn problems into actions in a single place, people make and build connections and form groups, people can ‘like’ ideas and help shape solutions which can help build consensus and a movement for change.

Monmouthshire Made Open is still in its early stages of development, but is definitely worth looking at. Monmouthshire Council hope this platform becomes a key tool in involving people in the development of the wellbeing assessment for the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act and help them identify innovative and shared solutions.

We’re going to continue with Randomised Coffee Trials for the foreseeable future, but if you have any suggestions for us please get in touch!

As we all face complex and challenging times, no single individual or organisation has the answers, so it’s so important that we encourage communication between organisations and encourage learning.

National Theatre Wales: Living the dream…. and their values

Public service employees in all sectors want to improve their communities. But what can we learn from how the National Theatre Wales is adding value to the arts community? Dyfrig Williams visited Devinda De Silva to find out.

Since starting my working life in the voluntary sector, it’s been clear to me that there’s no shortage of people with public service values providing services. When I facilitated cross-sector networks at Participation Cymru it was abundantly clear that these values aren’t confined to the voluntary sector, and that was reinforced when I attended GovCampCymru, an unconference where people pitch discussion sessions on how technology, new thinking and public services can improve society.

It was through chatting with Kevin Davies of the National Assembly for Wales, who I met at GovCampCymru and who has shared good scrutiny practice with us, that I heard about how the National Theatre Wales (who developed the Big Democracy Project) are embedding their values in their governance and their staff’s job descriptions.

Just visting the National Theatre’s Office is enough to persuade you that the organisation’s approach to community is a little different. Instead of a large theatre, they have a small office in Castle Arcade – right in the heart of the city.

Governance and outreach

Governance isn’t a particularly sexy subject, but the Theatre are managing to make it quite exciting through their work with their TEAM panel. The panel is 10 people from various communities who voluntarily give their time to the Theatre and who have a say in how the organisation is run at every level.

The model is now 6 years old. In the first year they did 13 shows in 13 different locations, where they did intense outreach work. Subsequently people in these areas got involved through the shows. And by looking at theatre in the widest sense, the Theatre managed to involve people who would not have traditionally gone to see a show. For instance theatre wasn’t a big interest in Cardiff’s Somali community, but by sponsoring a small football team, they have a way in to run small workshops with people and to get their feedback on productions.

A few years down the line and the panel is actively shaping the organisation’s strategic direction. Two TEAM panel members attend every board meeting and one permanently sits on the Board, which means that every strategic decision the organisation makes involves people from the community. The panel also feeds into the organisation’s Strategic Plan.

As a small organisation, the TEAM members give a big boost to the capacity of the organisation. Although they only directly employ 18 people, the 10 panel members are trusted to attend events on the organisations behalf and represent them. This has also helped panel members to progress their own careers, and some have got jobs with other arts organisations, got on to a college course or started their own companies. It’s a self-supporting network, where panel members support each other in their projects.

Staff recruitment

The TEAM Panel is also involved in the recruitment of staff, as a panel members sits on the panel of each interview. This helps to make sure that the staff that they employ really buy into the community focused culture of the organisation and its values. The National Theatre Wales’ approach echoes some of what Richard Branson has said about recruiting for values instead of skills.

I’ve already mentioned how the Theatre’s outreach work is built in to their governance, but their outreach and engagement is also a core part of every staff member’s role. Their staff, including the Artistic Director and office staff in Communications and Finance are all expected to work with the community, for example by running surgeries with community groups and freelancers in their areas of expertise. They offer support throughout the year, and their partners are also encouraged to work this way by incorporating a more community-focused approach to their practice when they work with the National Theatre Wales.

Open working, open feedback

And if all that wasn’t enough to show the open nature of National Theatre Wales, they also open up the last dress rehearsal to a specially invited audience from the local community before shows like Candylion go public. They encourage people to give their feedback on social media, as it gives them ideas on how to improve the show and also helps to generate a buzz around it.

Public service organisations are beginning to work in the open, with the Bromford Lab using it as an opportunity to hear about people’s ideas, reduce duplication and to share learning from failure. Leeds Data Mill’s Dashboard also shares what’s happening in Leeds in real time. We’d love to hear from public services in Wales about how you’re working openly, and like the National Theatre Wales, living your values.

The benefits of working with the Good Practice Exchange

Sophie Knott talks about her experience of working with the Good Practice Exchange on a forthcoming webinar.

Here at the Wales Audit Office we’re encouraged to work together across different areas of the organisation to share knowledge and provide a better service to clients and the public. However, sometimes time and resource pressures mean we can overlook aspects such as utilising the Good Practice Exchange team during our routine audit work.

As well as sharing good practice guidance and case studies online through their website and blog, the Good Practice Exchange team run shared learning seminars and webinars. I’ve always known about these events but didn’t realise that the team run on average more than one a month, and on such a broad range of key themes for the Welsh public sector. The Good Practice Exchange recognise that sharing information is not a one size fits all approach, so webinars and seminars can be useful as a different approach for people to take information on board.

My experience

Sophie Knott

Sophie Knott of the Wales Audit Office

Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to work with the Good Practice Exchange on a forthcoming webinar on developing the public service workforce. The webinar came about on the back of our national study on Managing early departures across Welsh public bodies, published in February 2015. While the initial thought was to link directly to the report’s key themes, I undertook more research into what other conferences and seminars were talking about, any other news articles or blogs, and the webinar content evolved from there.

I’ve subsequently been involved in identifying potential speakers for the webinar, and the key questions that we will pose; and discussions about the webinar with the Auditor General, which led to him wanting to be one of the speakers! I’ve also developed material to brief speakers and created the diary marker for delegates to be emailed and placed on our website.

Future tasks include some Twitter training so I can schedule tweets for the day; pulling together slides for the webinar presentation; not to mention actually attending the webinar to coordinate asking speakers the additional questions sent in by delegates on the day, and live tweeting from the event. This engagement on the day is really important and allows delegates to share their thoughts directly to the panel and other delegates, but the webinar is also recorded to allow people to listen at a time convenient to them.

Benefits for all

It’s been really interesting to get involved in something a bit different and learn some new skills along the way. It’s giving me the opportunity to speak to people I wouldn’t normally, like a local authority Chief Exec. It’s also potentially extended the impact and readership of one of our national reports, having included details of it in the webinar diary marker. I would recommend that all staff consider the opportunities for a webinar or seminar within your own work, even if you are only at the planning stage. I’m sure the GPX team would love to hear from you!

The webinar ‘Developing a workforce to meet the challenges of public service reform’ is taking place on Thursday 14 January from 10.30 to 11.45. You can sign up here or Wales Audit Office staff can listen on the day in Room 14, Cardiff office or Room 1, Ewloe office.