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.

LocalGovCamp 2014 thoughts #1- culture

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

Lot and lots of discussion about culture and culture change. This discussion has been going on since forever, and if we are being frank with ourselves, it isn’t going to change dramatically soon.

So what to do? Don’t lets make the culture change discussion stop us from doing things. Have a go, fix what you can right now.

It could be that by having enough people doing this at the same time the culture will look after itself.