Accelerators, intrapreneurs and changing organisations for the better

Lucy Watt shares an excellent, honest post on the FutureGov blog about their learning from the PSLaunchpad project.

Having regularly spoken to one of the teams on the launchpad, Martin Howitt and Lucy Knight from Devon, I’m aware of the transformative impact the experience had on them, and their attitude to work.

As Martin himself reflects in one of his own blog posts about the Launchpad, there are some pretty big takeaways for local government as a whole from a process like this.

There is undoubtedly a tension between existing Council culture and the sort of thinking and process that accelerators typify. I don’t personally believe that there will be another PS Launchpad that involves local government in the same way. I think we are more likely to see a specifically local government version of it instead and this is something I would strongly advocate and be keen to be involved with in some capacity.

Lots of the conversations I am having with people across government – but particularly in councils – is about how traditionally bureaucratic, process heavy organisations can move quickly: make speedy decisions, get new products and services out faster, learn from feedback and respond in a timely fashion.

Being in a process like an accelerator such as PSLaunchpad provides many of the skills and experiences needed to answer these questions. Being told you have to ship something in two weeks, being advised from feedback that you’ve built the wrong thing and need to pivot quickly, having the authority to make decisions and plot a course accordingly yourself, without lengthy governance processes.

But not everyone can spend weeks out of the office on a programme like this – in fact, it’s probably impractical for many more than a handful in any one organisation.

Perhaps the answer is to run this type of programme internally, to embed it into people’s work. Got a change project on the go? Run it within an internal accelerator. Set some boundaries and some rules, put those working on it in a different room and let them get on with it. Put them in touch with potential mentors who have completed similar projects before, in the same sector and in different sectors.

It doesn’t have to be difficult, it doesn’t have to cost any money. It’s just a case of trying something different and not doing things the same way they always have been.

CommsCamp14 session ideas

I’m looking forward to CommsCamp14 in a week’s time, and have pitched a couple of session ideas on the event’s Ideascale site:

User centred comms

What does user centred comms look like? Who actually is the customer? How do we find out what they want to know and how they want to know it?

Online community management

A session on online community management – what it is, how to do it well, and where it fits in the public sector comms kitbag of skills.

If you’re interested in either of these topics, please go and vote for them!

Why be a councillor?

Pretty damning stuff from Cllr Roger Gambba-Jones:

If somebody was to ask me about becoming a councillor nowadays, I’m not sure what I would tell them were the benefits of doing so and I don’t mean to the councillor. Government funding cuts and more and more centralisation of power, hidden behind the facade of Localism, means that getting elected is more likely to become a exercise in frustration and disappointment, than a fulfilling experience in serving the community.

Podcast episode 5 – Anne McCrossan

Here’s my fifth podcast. This is becoming a thing!

I’m joined in this episode by Anne McCrossan, who runs Visceral Business. Anne’s thing is getting organisations perform as genuinely social businesses.

Here’s a link to download the original mp3 file if you would like to do that.

If you would like to subscribe to the podcast in your favourite podcasting app, the feed is http://davebriggs.libsyn.com/rss or you can find the podcast on iTunes.

Show notes and related links (in a slightly jumbled order):

LocalGovCamp 2014 thoughts #5 – tools

I found LocalGovCamp a really refreshing and cheering event this year. I’m going to spend a few quick posts writing up my thoughts.

There’s a kitbag of tools and approaches that can be used to tackle the problems facing us. Not everyone knows about them and this needs fixing.

I’m not necessarily talking about digital tools either – although there are some of those of course.

It’s more than that – it’s some of the emerging practices and processes, and mindset too. They don’t even cost money, most of these things.

Take the example from Carl Haggerty. At Devon they have a meeting room, decked out with fairly random, non-officey furniture, that can’t be booked out. It’s a room for the curious and the collaborative. You can have meetings in there, but be warned that anyone might turn up and join in. Or you could take your laptop in and get on with your day to day work, only sitting next to people who you don’t normally get to meet.

Like organisations acting responsively to their users. Being agile in the way services and products are delivered. Iterating in response to feedback. Co-designing to improve the way things work.

It’s also about a plurality of tools and systems to be used to help fix problems. I know this is a recurring theme of mine at the moment, but one size fits all solutions are dead.

People and organisations have to be flexible enough to be able to deliver different services in different ways to different groups depending on their needs.

This mindset, these tools and practices need to be rolled out to people in ways that will really help them bring about change. I don’t think training courses or online tooklits will cut it, somehow. We need something new.

LocalGovCamp 2014 thoughts #4 – communities

I found LocalGovCamp a really refreshing and cheering event this year. I’m going to spend a few quick posts writing up my thoughts.

Communities always come up a lot, in terms of engagement and also new methods of service delivery.

The trouble is that organisations such as local authorities like scalable, repeatable processes – and communities fit neither of those things.

Communities are messy, unique things. Even ones that sound the same are usually very different, depending on the history, the personalities. In one area, a service that could be delivered by one parish council couldn’t be delivered by another, say. One neighbourhood watch group is likely to be unlike any other.

What’s more – communities, whether formal ones of the type I just mentioned or more informal social groups, are pretty much all facing exactly the same problems that councils are – lacking money, lacking volunteers, facing the sudden need to make dramatic changes to everything they do.

I’m on the board of my local Citizens Advice Bureau and we are facing the fact that our core funding is being reduced, needing to find new sources of income, and needing to help our clients to move towards self service online over face to face interactions, so we can save money and time while still delivering a service. Sound familiar?

So, “community” isn’t a panacea – but it can be part of the solution. It won’t, however, be a simple solution, but one that is based on meeting the needs of the communities you are working with as much as it is those communities meeting yours.

LocalGovCamp 2014 thoughts #3 – collaboration is key

I found LocalGovCamp a really refreshing and cheering event this year. I’m going to spend a few quick posts writing up my thoughts.

Mary McKenna brilliantly facilitated an excellent discussion on collaboration – why it is needed, why it hasn’t worked that well up to now, and how that might be fixed.

Some great input came from FutureGov‘s Dom Campbell, who spoke about the some of the challenges trying to implement their Patchwork tool across multiple agencies.

There was also discussion of the limitations of the traditional approach to partnership working – overly bureaucratic, slow to make decisions, agencies working individually to deliver what should be shared objectives, really boring meetings, and so on.

What’s needed is a more agile, responsive and flexible approach to working in partnership to deliver shared outcomes.

This needs to mean organisations sharing people, resources, systems, data and more – and not just tick-box style partnerships.

What’s also vital to to this working are grown up conversations are needed about who can deliver what with the resources they have. This is no time for pride.

LocalGovCamp 2014 thoughts #2 – don’t panic

I found LocalGovCamp a really refreshing and cheering event this year. I’m going to spend a few quick posts writing up my thoughts.

Another thread of discussion was around – as it often is – how do we engage more people with process x, or y.

Catherine Howe led a very interesting session on local democracy, and forming a more holistic view of what that actually is (clue: think active citizens; not politics, elections and councils). My takeaway was that we shouldn’t panic when something we do doesn’t seem to be important to people any more.

Things change, people move on, stuff dies. Something else replaces it.

It’s fine.

Don’t spend too much time and energy trying to prop up a thing that nobody else wants any more – find out what they do want, and build that – whether you’re talking democracy, services, products, whatever.