Scaling up public sector innovation

A few months ago I was interviewed by some very nice civil servants from BIS and CLG about how central government could help support and scale innovation in local public services.

I can’t remember much of what I said, but I’m guessing that ‘get out of the way’ probably featured several times. Oh, and ‘don’t impose models, tools or platforms from above’ as well.

Anyhow, the team have reported their findings, which focus on four main areas for action:

  1. Create the conditions that maximize the capacity for innovative ideas to scale across the public sector;
  2. Ensure that the public sector have the organisational culture, leadership, and people conducive to supporting the scaling up of innovative ideas;
  3. Establish networks that facilitate the dissemination of innovative ideas that could be scaled, supporting the spread of knowledge; and
  4. Use appraisal and evaluation of innovative ideas to provide the business case for scaling, to ensure the right ideas are implemented and driven forward.

You can download an executive summary of the report (PDF) or the whole thing (also PDF).

It’s worth a read.

‘Official’ local gov blogging

Simon writes a nice post celebrating the existence of the new official BIS blog, and provides a handy list of existing Whitehall “formal, properly-designated corporate ‘blogs'”.

Here they are – I’ve also added UKTI’s blog to the list, which I’m sure Simon will do too on his when he gets a moment:

I’m pleased, because as I have written on many occasions, I think blogging is a fantastic way for organisations to tell their stories, unhindered by having to go through third parties, media organisations and that sort of thing.

As Simon makes clear, these are public, official blogs, corporately branded and not the personal blogs of civil servants or politicians, which is a quite different thing. So what makes a blog an official one like this? I’d say some, not necessarily all, of these are factors:

  • Use of corporate departmental or organisational branding
  • Sitting on the official domain of that organisation
  • Linked to (reasonably) prominently on the standard corporate homepage
  • Written by a group of people rather than an individual (or a collection of individuals’ blogs, like in the FCO case)

There probably are others too – please do suggest them in the comments.

I’d like to start looking at which local councils are blogging officially, like the central government examples above. At the bottom of this post, you should find a form to complete if you have any to submit. If you can’t see it, that might be because you are looking at this in an email or your feed reader. Viewing the original post is your best bet.

My next post on this topic will be on how we can get more blogging happening in this way, and perhaps what Kind of Digital can do to help! 😉

Sharing and flexibility

Nice post from BIS’ Neil Williams on deciding up on a commenting system for the department’s website.

Go read the whole thing, but he summarises:

So what have we learned?

  • People blogging about what they are up to is dead handy. Stephen and Jimmy writing their posts, me reading them, has saved you thousands of pounds. Direct cause and effect.
  • Having the flexibility to embed stuff is awesome. Insist on it next time you buy a CMS. Hats off to the guys at Eduserv for really coming through for us on this one. We couldn’t put pages together like this and this and this without it.
  • The growing availability of embeddable stuff is way cool. I’m excited about what else we might be able to achieve without dev work – like page ratings using Bazaarvoice and forums using Talki.
  • We all need to think differently now. Few things we might want our website to do are going to be unique to us. Gov webbies, and suppliers of government web services, need to adapt and thoroughly check out 3rd party plugins before embarking on any kind of jiggery-bespokery. Why pay for our own learning curve when others have already been through it?

My take (which pretty much repeats what Neil has said:

  1. People sharing stuff via blogs is good and has measurable impact.
  2. In whatever you do, being flexible and open means you can make the most of developments in technology, or whatever.

Bookmarks for March 13th through March 15th

I find this stuff so that you don’t have to.

You can find all my bookmarks on Delicious. There is also even more stuff on my shared Google Reader page.

You can also see all the videos I think are worth watching at my video scrapbook.

Teach us a Lesson

I’ve been working with BIS and Becta quite a bit recently on the Learning Revolution project, which is all about improving access to informal adult learning – that is, learning which doesn’t generally mean a qualification. So, stuff like book groups, choirs, yoga classes, basic computer skills. That sort of thing.

One part of this project was helping to manage the delivery of a DirectGov hosted website, ably put together by the Dextrous Web team, which provided an interactive calendar and map for the Festival of Learning throughout October. It’s a lovely looking site with a load of interesting features. We also have been running an online community, on good old Ning, for providers of this type of learning to get together and share knowledge and information.

But there remains a question over how a national, permanent directory of informal learning might work, and what it would look like. To try and find out, Becta have launched a competition, called Teach us a Lesson.

It’s based on Show us a Better Way, and allows ideas to be submitted from anybody. These will be vetted for filth and stupidity, before going live on the site, and other users will be able to comment and rate them.

As the ideas flow in, we’ll be organising an unconference in November, to get everyone together to connect and collaborative on ideas that fit well together. After that, the best projects will be judged, with a pot of £25,000 being split amongst up to five projects, so that prototypes can be delivered by March 2010 at the latest.

If you have any ideas on how such a directory might work – which could be anything from “I think it ought to be blue!” to “I know the SQL syntax we need to make this work” (I know, I know, I haven’t a clue what I’m talking about…) – then do submit them into the site and be a part of this exciting initiative.