Tag Archives: unmentoring

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!

Could you go without internal email?

Is email bound up in the future of the way we work, or can new ways of working help us to share information more efficiently? Dyfrig Williams spoke to Lee Mallon of Rarely Impossible to find out.

LocalGovDigital's Unmentoring Logo

We all know the feeling of returning to work after a holiday to find a mountain of emails waiting for us. I always have a nagging feeling that I need to get to grips with my emails before I can start with the “real work” that I have in front of me.

My colleague Beth recently blogged about the recent review of our Randomised Coffee Trials, which pair people randomly to discuss the topic of their choice.

Alongside that, I’ve been taking part in LocalGovDigital’s Unmentoring, which is their version of Randomised Coffee Trials. In my latest discussion I had the chance to see if email really is a help or a hindrance by catching up with Lee Mallon of Rarely Impossible, who have ditched email for all internal correspondence.

Why chat about email?

Email has some issues, and a lot of that is down to behaviour. Whether it’s sending unsolicited emails or a dodgy use of the cc function to justify a sense of importance (check out Chris Bolton’s series of posts on bad email practice), a lot of the problems that come with email are down to us as users. The latest Natter On podcast gives a good account of both sides of the Email: good vs bad debate.

Another issue with email is that it tends to focus on work that specific individuals do rather than teams. That’s where tools like Slack can potentially help, as the format encourages people to work in teams. Tools like Trello can also help – why don’t we just log in and check the current state of play instead of sending a long series of email updates?

That’s not to say that changing the means of discussion is an answer in itself. Adopting a new tool comes with its own issues. People may not be particularly happy about having another source of communication to check, and an informal work tool like Slack (which comes with Emojis and GIFs) may be an anathema to some organisations’ working culture.

But if society is changing, and people’s expectations of public services are changing, do we as public service providers need to change too? A lot has already been written about how we can’t continue to communicate in the same way when using social media (including Helen Reynolds’ great post on psychopathy and social media). Can we really connect with communities when our day-to-day staff communications are inherently different? There are already signs that young people are choosing to communicate through apps instead of email.

What are Rarely Impossible doing?

I found my conversation with Lee really valuable. Not only was he happy to share his experiences over the phone, but he was also happy to share resources afterwards. It was fascinating to hear about the channels they were working through after 6 months, and their “1 year on post” is a fantastic “How to guide” for reducing your reliance on email.

And in case you think that it’s one thing for a private company to go email free and quite another for a public service, check out the work that’s taking place at Halton Housing.

Although email is our current default means of online office communication, we’re in a fascinating time where new tools are being developed all the time. If your organisation is thinking of ditching email, we’d love to hear from you so that we can share the learning from your experiences and whether it’s helping you to deliver better public services.

Unmentoring 3: Digital thinking and staff trust

In the latest of a series of posts on LocalGovDigital’s Unmentoring, Dyfrig Williams reflects on a discussion with Kelly Doonan of Devon County Council.

When the Auditor General for Wales opens our shared learning seminars, he advocates well managed risk taking, as public services will not be able to continue in their current form.

In a recent blogpost, Phil Rumens examined the five stages of digital transformation. This really shows the added value of thinking about services in terms of digital provision. With that concept in mind, my latest Unmentoring discussion with Kelly Doonan of Devon County Council was timed perfectly.

Devon’s attitude to digital

Kelly’s written a great blogpost that outlines why publishing information online should be approached differently to traditional print media. She also gave a great example of how they’d put this thinking into action when they were asked to create a paper directory of local services for veterans.

The Communications Team didn’t support it because it would date almost immediately. It’s also difficult to measure its effectiveness, there was no budget to reprint or maintain it and there was no planned way of getting the directories to the veterans.

A screenshot of the proposed Devon County Council Veterans Site

A screenshot of the proposed Devon County Council Veterans Site

What I love is that rather than hinder the project, the team looked at how they could enable a better online product that could be accessed by veterans in Devon or those that haven’t been discharged yet, but are planning to come to Devon.

Kelly met with professionals who work with veterans to discuss it, and the Armed Forces Wellbeing Partnership revised and improved the plan from their feedback. They then held a discovery session with veterans to find out what they wanted to know, how they would search for it and how they would want a website to look. Kelly then created a sitemap, started writing content and the designer created the wireframe.

The first iteration of the site will go live on 8 December. All of a sudden a one-off print run has developed into a product that meets user needs and has a longer term effect – fantastic stuff!

What did I share?

Kelly mentioned the added value that the embedded comms team in Devon Council could provide to communications work. I mentioned Professor Ros Searle’s presentation at our shared learning event on staff trust. One of Ros’ points was on how internal communication can preserve and build trust within public services.

According to a CIPD report on trust, senior managers are overly optimistic in terms of how much frontline workers trust them, as 34% of staff don’t trust their senior managers. The problem is particularly acute in larger organisations, and especially hierarchical organisations where there is a perceived distance between managers and their staff. Internal communication is really important to ensure that lack of trust doesn’t degenerate into counterproductive behaviour such as theft and fraud. In fact with 37% of job satisfaction coming from trust, a high trusting organisation is likely to have staff that put in more effort, with improved co-operation, recruitment and better performance.

Trust is also linked to innovation. To go back to the Auditor General’s point, will staff be prepared to take well managed risks if they don’t feel they will be backed and trusted by their managers? For the kind of innovation we need in a time of declining resources, trust is key.

Bara Brith Camp

I’ll be sharing the key messages from the Staff Trust event at Bara Brith Camp, which is a free event that’s been organised by The Satori Lab to provide a space to progress conversations from GovCamp Cymru. If you missed the unconference, we’ve produced a Storify and the below video to summarise the day.

So I’ll hopefully see you there – I’m looking forward to finding out from attendees how we can help to improve trust levels in Welsh public services, and to boost levels of productivity and innovation in the process.

Unmentoring 2: The return of Randomised Coffee Trials

What can Welsh public services learn from Kirklees Council? Dyfrig Williams discussed digital with Steve Langrick.

UnmentoringWe’ve been running Randomised Coffee Trials, where random participants are drawn together to discuss their work, since our Wellbeing seminar in March. We’ve had some great feedback, where people have discussed a range of issues from job interviews, to mentoring and working closer together.

At the same time I’ve been taking part in LocalGov Digital’s Unmentoring sessions, which are along the same lines as Randomised Coffee Trials. My first Unmentoring blog looked at my conversation with Paul Inman of Warwickshire County Council, and this time I had the opportunity to talk with Steve Langrick of Kirklees Council.

I spent much of the conversation getting as much info as possible out of Steve, who fortunately was happy to share his work and how the council are embracing digital developments.

Going mobile

As a higher proportion of people in Wales access the internet through their phones than any other part of the UK, I was intrigued to hear how people access Kirklees’ website and how it influences the council’s work. In two years there’s been an increase of 300% in the use of mobile to access the website, which is now close to 50% of traffic to the website. With stats like that, a responsive and easy to use site isn’t just a ‘nice to have,’ it’s a necessity.

Cyngor Kirklees

BetterOff

With more people accessing their information through mobile, Kirklees are tailoring their approaches accordingly. They’re developing a new site called BetterOff to help benefit claimants through their applications and to show them how much they might be better off in work. As this can be quite a long process, the council can potentially save a lot of money by moving the service online. They can then focus their resources on the more complex enquiries they get on the issue. It’s also preventative as it guides people through the right steps up front, which helps them to avoid potential sanctions.

BetterOff also embraces the concept of Assisted Digital, where people who can’t use online services are helped to access them. The site itself is not an inhibitor, as people can come in and get support to access the site and the service.

What’s next for Kirklees?

Public services are constantly evolving and adapting to the environment in which they’re delivered. Kirkless Council are a good example of that, because even as they’ve undertaken a lot of work in the field, they’re constantly looking to improve. The Alpha version of their new website is online so that people can see what their new site will look like and comment on how it meets their needs. Like Kirklees Council, we can’t rest on our laurels if we want to deliver the best services possible for the people of Wales.

Unmentoring and Randomised Coffee Trials

Unmentoring

We launched Randomised Coffee Trials for the first time at our Wellbeing Seminar. For the uninitiated, they aim to get random people together to discuss their work. This guide by David Gurteen is a really useful introduction. In order to explain the concept to attendees, we played this video by the Red Cross on how they’re using it.

Happily, LocalGovDigital launched their Unmentoring at about the same time, which is based on the same principles. Perfect – a chance to experience the method and to learn about someone’s work at the same time.

I was paired with Paul Inman of Warwickshire County Council, and it was a great chance to learn more about their work and compare it with what’s happening this side of Offa’s Dyke.

Warwickshire have been undertaking some work around customer journeys and channel shift. An online transaction can be much cheaper than meeting in person – a transaction costs an average of 15p online compared to £8.62 in the flesh. It’s interesting to hear how small changes can make a difference, like prompting people to go to the website when they’re on hold on the phone.

Warwickshire County CouncilThe pleasing thing is that Warwickshire haven’t forgotten about people in all of this. Kate Bentham’s blog is a great example of why we should keep our people focus when making changes. In terms of their website, Warwickshire believe in evolution, not revolution. This means small changes along the way, like making the margins smaller on mobile, rather than big PR headlines. But each change makes a small difference, and people don’t have to re-learn the site.

In terms of what I brought to the party (apart from my own cup of tea), I expanded a little on how the Wales Audit Office are using Yammer and the Good Practice Exchange’s Effective Use of IT event, where we looked at the National Library of Wales’ disaster recovery.

Our next Unmentoring chat is at the start of next month, so we’ve both got a bit of time to reflect on our first conversation and delve a bit deeper into things. But what’s been really useful is the opportunity to take some time out to reflect on what a ‘good IT service’ might look like, and also to spend some time talking to somebody about the challenges public services face who has a different perspective to my own.

Most of us have worked in silos at one point or another, and it’s all too easy to get entrenched in these with our own specific ideas and perspectives. It’s been fascinating seeing how Unmentoring and Randomised Coffee Trials can play a part in breaking down barriers to information sharing, and I’m looking forward to learning more about Warwickshire’s work going forward. Mark Jeffs has outlined how we need to work differently. The inspiration for that has to come from somewhere, and hopefully Unmentoring and Randomised Coffee Trials can be that spark that helps people to think about things in a new light.

Dyfrig