Tag Archives: good practice exchange

Leaving the Good Practice Exchange

After four years at the Wales Audit Office, Dyfrig Williams will be leaving the Good Practice Exchange team on 11 August. Below, he blogs about his time with the organisation and where he’s off to next.

A photo of Dyfrig Williams at GovCamp CymruI’ve been interested in public service improvement since starting my career at the Wales Council for Voluntary Action, and this job has felt like getting paid to do my hobby for a lot of the time. I’ve been able to combine my personal interests, where I’ve attended events like GovCamp Cymru and LocalGovCamp, with my professional life where I’ve worked closely with both internal and external stakeholders in order to really interrogate what good public services should look like in the twenty first century.

Working with legends

I joined the team from a public engagement background having worked at Participation Cymru for three years. I’ve never lost the belief that public services work best when people have an opportunity to shape those services that they access. In some senses, it’s been really fascinating seeing how developments in technology have pushed that even further in recent years. Whichever sector or service you’re working in, there’ll usually be someone at an event that you’re going to who will be talking about the implications of digital for your work. And with that comes the inevitable focus on user needs that is the basis of successful digital services.

There are so many things about the job that I love, not least that it’s never failed to challenge me. That challenge has sometimes come as I’ve often been a generalist working with specialists to share their story. It’s sometimes been an intellectual challenge from social media, where this job has helped to connect me to people who are doing great things and are pushing the boundaries of what they do. And sometimes it’s been the supportive challenge of my colleagues, who are a fun and amazing bunch of people to work with. Thanks Beth, Chris and Ena, you’re legends! I’m going to miss your company and lunchtime leftover feasts.

I’m also leaving Wales, which means that I’m leaving behind an exciting time for Welsh public services and the Wales Audit Office. We’re one year in to the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act, which shapes the long term goals for Wales. As Nikhil Seth of the United Nations said, “what Wales is doing today the world will do tomorrow”. This is challenging and exciting for the Wales Audit Office too, as we grapple with what effective audit of this act looks like looks like.

Research in Practice

We’re also a year into the Social Services and Wellbeing Act, which again puts people at the heart of public service delivery. I worked with the Citizens Panel for Social Services in Wales (which was and continues to be one of the most incredible pieces of work that I’ve been involved in), which fed into the development of the act.

This experience will hopefully stand me in good stead when I begin my new role at Research in Practice as their Learning Event Co-ordinator. Research in Practice support evidence-informed practice with children and families. Here’s their Triangulation Model:

In my current role we occasionally get asked why good practice is a bad traveller (see this post by Chris Bolton for a brilliant riposte), forgetting that we’re implementing changes in tremendously complex environments. I really like how Research in Practice’s theory is grounded in practice and people’s everyday lives, and I’m excited to be a part of that.

I’m also really excited by the wide range of learning opportunities that they offer. One of our core principles at the Good Practice Exchange is that one size doesn’t fit all, so it’s great to see a project that doesn’t focus on training as the answer to all public service needs, as is often the way within the public sector. The way that they approach Change Projects in particular to identify solutions to specific challenges is fascinating.

And on a personal level, I had to cancel my interview last minute after my uncle had a heart attack to support my family. That they re-arranged the interview and gave me another opportunity speaks volumes for how people-centred they are, and I’m really looking forward to repaying them for the opportunity that they’ve given me.

Coming back to Wales

I’ll be coming back to Cardiff for GovCamp Cymru, which is the one day unconference about government and public services in Wales. I hope to catch up with a lot of you who have made my time at the Good Practice Exchange so memorable, and I look forward to catching up properly with my Wales Audit Office colleagues before I go. And thanks very much to you for reading my posts here over the last four years. I’ll continue to post on Medium, and please do stay in touch with me on Twitter so that I can stay up to date with the good things that you’re all doing.

Pob lwc with your work!

The Good Practice Exchange work programme: What’s it all about?

Darllenwch y flogbost yn Gymraeg

Over the past few years the Good Practice Team in the Wales Audit Office have held a series of seminars and webinars to support public service reform. Ena Lloyd and Bethan Smith look at our programme of events for this year.

Ffotograff o Jess Hoare yn cymryd rhan yn nhrafodaeth panel Caerdydd

The plenary session at last year’s Digital Shared Learning Seminar

The Wales Audit Office created the Good Practice Team to bring together ideas and approaches to help public services improve. When we first started out, we used to get some quizzical looks! I guess it’s not something you would naturally associate with an Audit Office. But then, not every Audit Office has an Auditor General who feels so passionate about wanting to help public services improve. Huw Vaughan Thomas is one of a kind. He gives us a ‘safe to fail’ space to research, engage, learn from others and share knowledge, ideas and approaches in a variety of ways. Whether it be a seminar, webinar, blog, videos, twitter, or good old emails!

You can’t help but want to go the extra mile when you are given such trust and space, and why wouldn’t you.

What we have learnt over the past few years, is our Good Practice mantra of:

  • We don’t advocate a one size fits all approach;
  • Equally we don’t believe in re-inventing the wheel;
  • We believe in adapting not adopting; and using our very privileged position in the Wales Audit Office to bring together colleagues from right across the public, third sector and where appropriate the private sector.

How does the programme get pulled together?

We often get asked how we arrive at the topics in our programme. Our ‘starters for ten’ is our Wales Audit Office Strategic Plan in terms of our key priorities. So you won’t be surprised to see such topics as Digital, the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act and Early Closure of Local Government Accounts included as part of the programme. The topics also have to work across public services and where we can, work in partnership with at least one other organisation. The more partners, the better. We then take soundings from our internal colleagues as well as many people who represent, design and deliver public services in Wales. In fact, the list of people who we chat to virtually or face to face gets longer every year! We meet some great speakers and delegates who just totally blow us away in terms of what they are doing. If you have any ideas about topics you’d like to see in our programme, please do get in touch!

What’s this year’s programme about?

In this year’s programme, if there was one theme that underpins the majority of events, it’s the Wellbeing of the Future Generation Act.

Here’s the programme overview. We have used working titles to give you a flavour of what the seminar is about. However, once we have worked with partners to determine what the focus is, the finalised details can be found here.

The bottom line though, our litmus test so to speak, is what public services colleagues think. At the end of every seminar, we ask for 5 minutes of delegate’s time to complete a ‘Call to Action’ form. Over 1000 delegates attend our events over a period of a year, so it’s a rich source of feedback. We always stress how important it is to us for delegates to complete these forms, not only does it provide us with feedback on the event, but what actions delegates will be taking away and what they’d like to see taken forward by us or other organisations. The feedback we receive also helps shape our programme.

Our events are completely free of charge to all public and third sector organisations in Wales. All we ask in return is that you come to our events armed with ideas, solutions and any issues or challenges in relation to the topic of the event. Our events are called ‘shared learning seminars’ which speaks for itself – we really want delegates to share and learn as much as they can, and take away as much useful information from the event as possible.

For those that have been to our events before, I’m sure they’ll say it’s a packed morning, and we make no apology for that. Our events are purposely designed to equip delegates with as much information and contacts as possible, in order for them to continue conversations after the event.

Every year we seem to have an increasing demand on our events which is brilliant, it means public services are really keen to work together and share ideas and approaches. We have a small budget for our events and whilst they’re free to public services, it is so important to let us know if you can no longer attend before the day of the event as we often have a reserve list for events. We understand work pressures take priority but we’d really appreciate advance notice so we can re-allocate your place to someone else.

Other than events, how else do you share information?

We understand the importance of sharing information in a variety of ways. Whilst seminars might work for one person, videos or blogs work better for another person. With that in mind, our various information channels are listed below:

We share details of seminars/webinars on our website– so keep a look out for them – or if you want to us to add your details onto our mailing lists to receive info for all or some events, then please email good.practice@audit.wales.

We are passionate about not re-inventing the wheel

One of the four pillars of the Good Practice Exchange’s philosophy is that we don’t believe in re-inventing the wheel. If we came across an approach or project which has achieved reasonable success in the public, private or third sector from anywhere in the world, we want to promote it. We think it’s quite likely other organisations will have a similar problem.

We feel passionately about this. For instance, an organisation might have already done some serious leg work on pulling together a business case to change their approach to a service. Our view is that there will be at least some lessons learnt from the project team, which we think should be shared widely to benefit other organisations. Knowing what things to look out for, avoid, do more, do less of and manage differently is bound to be of benefit in terms of both time and money for other organisations who are or will be in a similar position.

Imagine further, what if the business case approach was of such a similar nature to what an organisation was intending to pull together that it saves hundreds of staff days? Doesn’t it make complete sense for us to promote the business case?

[On behalf of the Good Practice Team, I need to be quite clear; we are not saying this is THE approach to take, but that this is AN approach you could consider taking. The same thing goes for when we talk about good practice case studies as opposed to Best Practice. We think that Best Practice suggests that we are saying that this is THE approach, whereas, in reality what we are saying this is AN approach. In essence, we don’t advocate a one size fits all approach].

A good example of a business case which we have promoted is the Agile Working Business Case from Monmouthshire County Council (as part of our Agile Working Shared Learning Seminar). The Council have implemented their agile working well over two years ago now. We feel the Council is in a great position to share all the things that worked well, what didn’t worked so well and what they would do differently if they had their time over again.

Sian Hayward of Monmouthshire County Council is a great advocate of sharing her learning from the Agile Working project. She has had visits/telephone conversations from almost every local authority in Wales as well many other organisations, and you can hear her discuss this in the above video. We think this is an effective way for organisations to learn, adapt the business case and take it forward at a greater pace as they are not starting with a blank sheet of paper.

Another example of not re-inventing the wheel is that of a Welsh Social Enterprise called Indycube. This company has successfully set up a series of WiFi enabled offices in Wales where individuals or companies can hire a desk for £10 a day. What about the idea of organisations working with Indycube in setting up a site in their organisation? Listen to what the owner Mark Hooper has to say about the idea and different approaches taken by current organisations using the different locations.

So, if after reading this blog you know of an approach or project which other public services would benefit from, why not drop us a line? We’d really like to hear from you, as we are about sharing the experience…and the results.

Ena

The magical world of Podcasts

Podcasts

We’ve created a fair few podcasts since I started working for the Good Practice Exchange. It’s been a great way of capturing people’s views and evidencing what kind of impact our activities are having, and to also hear from people how we can best take our work forward.

For anyone looking to do cheap podcasting, phones and tablets are able to record good quality files these days (we’ve been using our personal ipads and Asus tablets), you can edit them using free software like Audacity (which is open source), and you can host them online using social media such as Soundcloud (where you can host up to 2 hours worth of audio for free) or Audioboo (where you can host an unlimited amount of audio files that are under 3 minutes long).

I’ve been doing this a while now, but since I’ve begun working here I’ve realised that the podcasts I’ve been recording aren’t as good as they could be. My colleague Chris’ podcast with Helen Reynolds first made me question the way I was doing things. Whilst I was recording clinical interviews capturing exactly what I needed to know, Chris’ effort was uplifting and captured both his and Helen’s personality. This was reinforced by an interview he conducted with Dr Sharon Evans from Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board, where the personal touch again works wonders.

Around this time I began attending the Geek Speak events in Cardiff. At the first event I went to Gareth Morlais led a session on digital storytelling. After his session (which was great), I relayed my thinking both to him and others around my podcasts.

Gareth’s digital stories are full of emotion, and I realised that that is what made them great – they are very human accounts of people’s experiences. Whilst I was getting the information I needed out of my interviews, they didn’t have the warmth I was looking for. I was getting people’s views to fit into my own story, as opposed to listening to people tell their own. I realised that I had been conducting interviews in a very old fashion way. In a world of web 2.0 where we share and interact with others, I was working in a one-sided model.

Now I’m very keen to collaborate with people so that both own the podcast and we both get what we want out of it. After all, it’s hard to sound excited about something you’ve had little input into.

My first couple of months here have been great. I’m learning new things from my colleagues all the time, and I can’t wait more of what I’ve learnt into practice.

– Dyfrig