Tag Archives: unconference

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.

GovCamp Cymru 2016: Using behaviour change to improve public services

How can behaviour change theory help to embed ideas generated at unconferences into organisations? Dyfrig Williams outlines his pitch for GovCamp Cymru.

Logo GovCamp Cymru / GovCamp Cymru's Logo

This year will be my third GovCamp Cymru, which for the second year in a row will be held the National Assembly for Wales’ Pierhead Building.

For the uninitiated, GovCamp Cymru is an unconference, where attendees make the agenda by pitching what they’d like to talk about at the start of the day. I’ve avoided pitching so far, but having attended a few unconferences now I think that now’s the time for me to finally get involved.

Behaviour change

This year the Good Practice Exchange at the Wales Audit Office has been working on Behaviour Change Festivals across Wales, with the event in Swansea taking place in the run up to GovCamp Cymru. I’ve heard about some fantastic examples of behaviour change over the past few months – from the Chimp Shop App that helps people to cut down on their drinking to the WiFi that encourages people to move out of the sun.

I’m really interested in how Behaviour Change theory could be applied to help change to happen as a result of an unconference. I’ve found unconferences to be great events that enable people to develop their thinking and gain new contacts. Many unconferences are rightly proud that they attract passionate people who are prepared to give up their weekends to make public services better. But what happens when we get back to the office, get back to reality and have to persuade everyone else to buy into the brilliant ideas we’ve had or heard over the weekend? How do we persuade our colleagues to make that innovation a reality?

Some theory to get us started

This is what I’d like to examine in my proposed session. How do we bring all our colleagues along with us on the public service improvement journey? As a starter for ten, Chris Bolton has written a good post on getting ideas accepted. To break down his post to a very basic level (via a slightly brutal overview, sorry Chris!), people might:

  • Pretend they’re not a maverick
  • Get leaders on side
  • Wait until the organisation is likely to be receptive
  • Or find a host organisation that accepts you

Helen Bevan also has a great presentation which is directly aimed at change makers that suggests that people:

  1. Start with yourself
  2. Work out what might help others to change
  3. Build alliances
  4. Don’t be a martyr

So if these are starting points (come to my session if you disagree!), how can we enable positive behaviour and service improvement to take place as a result of unconferences? I’d also love to hear about examples of how people have got their colleagues to buy into changes in order to improve public services. I reckon that by pooling our experiences and our knowledge, we can go a long way to figuring out how we can better implement changes to improve our work.

GovCamp Cymru

GovCamp Cymru

This year the Good Practice Exchange is supporting GovCamp Cymru, which is an unconference for people working in or with public services in Wales. The event aims to bring people together to discuss and improve public service development and delivery.

As the Good Practice Exchange exists to share public service knowledge and practice, this is an ideal event for us to get behind.

Having supported the NHS Hack Day in Cardiff, we’ve seen what happens first hand when you give people who are passionate about what they do the time and space to improve their work. There were lots of fantastic ideas developed during the weekend, including the use of iPads to chart eye movement, and better learning from quality improvement audits.

There have been some inspiring unconferences this year, with lots of useful resources coming from LocalGovCamp in particular. GovCamp Cymru is in a good position to build on some of the learning from this, as LocalGovCamp was sponsored by the Satori Lab, who are running the event. This Guardian article from Sarah Lay is fascinating reading – will the same key themes crop up in Wales?

Photo issued under a Creative Commons licence by Official BlackBerry Images (https://www.flickr.com/photos/blackberryimages/8032817785/)

Photo issued under a Creative Commons licence by Official BlackBerry Images

On the GovCamp Cymru explained webpage there’s a bit about how people might pitch sessions. I’ll get my thinking cap on and start thinking about issues that I’ve come across that may need tackling. I wonder whether anyone will put forward sessions on collaboration (as Glen Ockso blogged about for We Love Local Government) or digital tips for councillors (from Swansea’s own Dave McKenna) like in LocalGovCamp?

There are also some great blogs reflecting on the event, with a healthy debate going on as to how the event met the sector’s needs, from Phil Jewitt’s post on how central digital is to LocalGovCamp to Kate Bentham’s post on whether she should have attended. It’s great to see such an open, transparent and respectful approach to feedback and learning.

With austerity and numerous graphs of doom being bandied around, we’re constantly reminded that public services face challenges that they have never faced before. If public services have changing needs, then we can’t expect supporting events to stay the same either. This event comes at an important time then, and we’re really looking forward to working with you all to improve public services at GovCamp Cymru.

Dyfrig