Collaborative Consumption and Public Services

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Over lunch earlier today I starting watching some Ted Videos as I subscribe to their feed in my google reader and I enjoy getting inspired listening to the talks and they create little sparks of thought, most to be honest never make it to a blog post but some do.

The talk I watched featured Rachel Botsman, who is the co-author of the book What’s Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption.

Rachel States:

Collaborative Consumption describes the rapid explosion in swapping, sharing, bartering, trading and renting being reinvented through the latest technologies and peer-to-peer marketplaces in ways and on a scale never possible before. If you’ve used a car sharing service like Zipcar, experienced peer-to-peer travel on Airbnb, given away or found something on Freecycle or lent money through Zopa, you’re already part of the rise of Collaborative Consumption.

Collaborative Consumption is a game-changing opportunity for networked technologies to transform business, public services and the way we live.

I do very much like this concept and the movement that it promotes, however I started thinking that it does seem very similar to the concept of LETS:

A Local Exchange Trading System is a local, non-profit exchange network where all kinds of goods and services can be traded without the need for money, using an interest-free local currency so that direct bartering does not need to be done.

It offers many social as well as economic benefits, through regular core group meetings, trading days and social events. LETS is a truly international movement, although there is no global governing body. There are similar groups in places as diverse as France, Japan, the USA, and Hungary.
Via Exeter LETS Scheme

Considering the new focus on technology enabled collaborative consumption schemes and the existing LETS schemes – are these another key foundation and building block for Big Society and Public Service Delivery.

Then it struck me again that I’d already seen something which pretty much does this and is using technology as well as providing social care services –  Southwark Circle states on its website:

Southwark Circle members get together to enjoy a variety of interests and activities, and to learn new things through the Member Calendar. They can also buy tokens to get help from local, reliable Neighbourhood Helpers. Some members also help out fellow members and can earn tokens for doing so.

So I’d suggest that any public service people thinking about connecting with groups who can help get involved in providing services either formally or through connected networks or strong neighbourhood groups, then I would take a look your local LETS.

Strategic Commissioning and Enterprise Architecture

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I suspect like many other local authorities in this financial climate, there will be a great deal more talk about commissioning services and the role of Strategic Commissioning in enabling councils to reduce costs but also ensure the needs of the communities we serve are  still being met.

So like any other curious person I started to read about Strategic Commissioning and how it differs from procurement and traditional purchasing. A colleague of mine sent me a link to a slideshare presentation which i found very useful in helping me understand the difference. Some slides are hard to read but the diagrams are what really helped me.

I also did what most people would do, I conducted a few google searches around “What is Strategic Commissioning” and this is where I found that it started to get really interesting, especially because some aspects of what Strategic Commissioning does is what Enterprise Architects do, well at least in the broad definition anyway. I am in no way saying that they are the same thing, but I’m sure both disciplines could benefit from understanding the methodologies of the other.

The results of my google search gave me the following:

Strategic Commissioning is the activity that ensures the vision and strategic objectives of the organisation are aligned and assessed against customer needs for the short and long-term.
It is the process of translating local people’s aspirations and needs through specifying and procuring services that deliver the best possible outcomes and makes best use of available resources.

Strategic Commissioning is a continuous cycle of:

  • Analysing the need for change through joint strategic needs assessments;
  • Planning the change;
  • Enabling and acting on the change;
  • Ongoing review of progress against required outcomes.

It is also worth acknowledging that Strategic Commissioning skills will be critical when trying to understand how the Big Society will work in your local area.

I know there are many, many local definitions of Enterprise Architecture and they are just as much organisational and context specific, but I suspect most people could agree that the above is pretty similar in strategic terms.

To illustrate my point I include a definition for Enterprise Architecture as defined in my Job Description here at the Council.

Translate business vision and strategy into effective change within the Council and its partners. To do this the Architect will need to understand the people, processes, information and technology of the Council, and their relationships to one another and to the external environment

Now one of the key fundamental differences that currently exists between the two roles is that Enterprise Architecture is still see very much as a discipline within IT.

Enterprise Business Architecture roles would in my view get more involved in shaping the strategic commissioning side of things, but in some ways why is this still seen as a separate function from Enterprise Architecture? Surely you can’t get any more strategic than “Enterprise”? Or maybe I have completely misunderstood the whole thing?

Methodologies that Enterprise Architects employ could well add a huge amount of value in the strategic commissioning field  – I don’t know enough to say whether or not they use these similar methodologies or not.

One good example of this would be Capability Modelling

Gartner analyst Mark McDonald posted on the Gartner blog: Capability is more powerful than Process and gives a nice explanation of capability thinking which i feel provides an example of how we in the public sector could think about and apply Business Capability Modelling to support Strategic Commissioning.

iTunes illustrates capability thinking.  First off, iTunes is build from a collection or resources: the Internet, digital rights management software, the store, the delivery vehicle (iPod) and a set of relationships with artists and record companies.  Sure there is a process in there, but the process of how you sell digital media is not the focus, the outcome is the focus that lead to assembling a range of resources – most of which Apple did not own or exclusively control.

Process advocates and devotees will say that I am mincing my words, but look at the relative value of the physical supply chain the music industry invested so much in and the business value flowing through the alternative capability.  There is an advantage in thinking broader and beyond processes.

The good news is that process thinking is an integral part of thinking about capabilities.  It is just that capability thinking opens the door to new combinations required to create outcomes, rather than to support process steps.

The interesting connection for me is that in the above scenario we could see ourselves as “Apple” as we require the capability of other stakeholders to drive forward a strategic set of outcomes that come from our Community Strategy. We have the Community Leadership Role, the question is are we really prepared to use it in this way to deliver the right outcomes for people.

What we need to understand better first is what capabilities we have and those of our Partners and stakeholders. We also need to truly understand what outcomes we are trying to deliver and the value they create.

Another aspect to this would be to ensure that we could explore what it would mean to model the capability of our communities and the civil sector in support of the Big Society.

All of this requires much more thought and I’d welcome feedback and thoughts from anyone on this.

What all of this make me think about is that the synergy points to the kind of skills and disciplines that CIO’s will need to become part of the strategic leadership of organisations and especially in Local and Central Government.

The Big Society isn’t really for everyone

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It’s true the Government does understand the principles of social media and the principles of reuse as Big Society is relaunched yesterday (was the the 3rd time, i personally lost interest and count during the election).

Anyway yesterday the twitterverse was awash with a variety of views on what is and what isn’t Big Society and how risky it could be and whether capacity exists in communities to do what essentially paid employees do now – but for free. Also without any money how will this actually happen, which services, how it will turn government on its head and transform society and bring us all together like one happy family…it really was a fascinating discussion you can check it all out here.

I have thought about this quite a bit since i first heard about Big Society, well actually since i started thinking about digital participation and engagement (to be honest i can’t even remember when now, but it was definitely before yesterday!!) and have wondered how inclusive it really is and who actually will be part of this Big Society.

It is worth saying that i think the concept of the Big Society is a good one, it is afterall already happening in many parts of the country right now. It will be a difficult challenge, but i fear unless we really appreciate the impacts, effort and commitment required we will end up creating poor quality replacements that could put people’s lives at risk. We need to be clear about the risks and mitigate and manage these.

People do this all of the time, but these people are few and far between, the following comments are generally concerned with a wider adoption by society of this and my at time somewhat cynical view. BUT i am trying to be optimistic about this, after all it will happen – we need to shape how good is actually is.

I did like reading Shane McCracken’s post about how he saw the Big Society developing and emerging (even though it isn’t a new idea – just new branding – Shane points to an asset transfer scheme which is almost identical)

One thing that did occur to me though after reading Shane’s post and it joined the dots in my head about this also is that the Big Society isn’t really for everyone.

The Big Society will *really* test people and communities and their tolerances around the quality and variety of services available to them. As Shane points out in his post the Big Society is already here and is well established across communities up and down the country – what the government wants to more of it so that the impact of cutting or stopping services is reduced by the willingness of active and committed people.

I spot Flaw number 1 – Active and Committed people….Hmmm, well when i look around my community now i do see active and committed people, some are only temporarily active and are based on issues but on the whole there is a good few people – notice the use of *few*.

I was also thinking about what type of services people – the active and committed kind – might be tempted to run – well this to me seems like and endless possibility really as there are already groups that exist that manage quite complex services and are accountable (this is a key aspect which we must not lose sight of) an example being School Governors. They really do an excellent job and it isn’t something you would do because you felt like it, you would need to be passionate about the school and the education of the children in it. You would be a committed and active person. This is why not everybody becomes a school governor nor actually wants to – for some it just sounds like *a bit too much like hard work* and for what return? Flaw number 2 – Motivation.

However society isn’t made up of active and committed people – i very much see these people like i see the high value contributors in social media spaces. They generate most of the content and develop the conversations for others to engage in and consume – The sad truth is that the majority of society are in fact *lurkers* and they are happy to consume and participate in a low-cost way – providing it doesn’t take up too much time.  Here comes Flaw Number 3 – *Time* – Now i agree with Shane in that those people who are passionate will find the time, but i suspect that these people are *already busy* and more than likely using all of their available *participation bandwidth* supporting services which the government has already decided not to support or simply wouldn’t exist without their input.

One of the  biggest challenges to Big Society for me is not identifying which services a community might decide is too important to lose but how the community itself – the people in the communities who are already active and committed – can tap into and access the people on the edges, the people with *participation bandwidth* and provide the sustainable connections to maintain the service.

In my post the World of GovCraft it refers to  “gamers” and the super powers they have developed and how these super powers can help us solve the worlds problems.

The 4 super powers that gamers have are:

Urgent Optimism – extreme self motivation – a desire to act immediately to tackle an obstacle combined with the belief that we have a reasonable hope of success.
Social Fabric – We like people better when we play games with people – it requires trust that people will play by the same rules, value the same goal – this enables us to create stronger social relationships as a result
Blissful productivity – an average World of Warcraft gamer plays 22 hours a week: We are optimised as humans to work hard and if we could channel that productivity into solving real world problems what could we achieve?
Epic meaning – attached to an awe-inspiring mission.

All this creates Super Empowered Hopeful Individuals – People who are individually capable of changing the world – but currently only online /virtual worlds

There are clearly lessons in there about how we can all tackle the issues facing us and how those active and committed people can support a new kind of active citizen, one who has being doing epic problem solving and giving huge amounts of time willingly for the sake of a wider community.

Perhaps the challenge is about defining community and associating stuff to it for people so they see value in helping to keep it alive.

I think i’ll need to blog again on this at some point as there is of course the models by which communities and groups can organise themselves to manage and provide services, which will provide better opportunities to bring communities together – Social Enterprise anyone!!

The World of GovCraft

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Inspired by the excellent Joanne Jacobs at the recent Likeminds event in Exeter to think more about the role of games and game play in solving problems and creating solutions.

I started to think about how Government in general could be seen as a game so that we could not only engage people in the problems and challenges we all face but actually inspire them to be part of the solution and help make changes happen.  In the lunchtime session that Joanne facilitated she spoke very passionately about the role of games and how we all play games all the time but just don’t realise it.

I kind of hit a blank wall as the big picture of Government is pretty boring, but the individual components that make it are actually interesting. So how do you start to get to a level of engagement and participation that inspires the average person on the street to want to get involved.

I then came across this excellent TED video of Game designer Jane McGonigal who spoke about harnessing the power of game mechanics to make a better world. Surely this is the stuff that Government innovators should be thinking about.

In the video she talks about “gamers” and the super powers they have developed and how these super powers can help us solve the worlds problems.

The 4 super powers that gamers have are:

Urgent Optimism – extreme self motivation – a desire to act immediately to tackle an obstacle combined with the belief that we have a reasonable hope of success.
Social Fabric – We like people better when we play games with people – it requires trust that people will play by the same rules, value the same goal – this enables us to create stronger social relationships as a result
Blissful productivity – an average World of Warcraft gamer plays 22 hours a week: We are optimised as humans to work hard and if we could channel that productivity into solving real world problems what could we achieve?
Epic meaning – attached to an awe inspiring mission.

All this creates Super Empowered Hopeful Individuals – People who are individually capable of changing the world – but currently only online /virtual worlds

So what is the chance of Government creating a meaningful game that inspires people to get involved, help change the world around them and contribute positively to the social fabric around them – Hold on a minute, haven’t we got something that is supposed to do this = Democracy? The challenge we have to make engagement and participation more engaging not just to young people but to people in general is to start inviting people into the game and make the game more interesting to start with.

So some observations:

If people have “Urgent Optimism” then what are we doing to tap into that to help solve and tackle obstacles?

if people have a “Social Fabric” what we are we doing to build trust with them and do we play by the same rules and share the same goals?

If people have “Blissful Productivity” then what are we doing to mobilise and optimise the people around us in our communities to work hard at solving real world problems

If people can be inspired around “Epic Meaning” what meaning are we providing in our engagement  and participation offering?

We should recognise that games are powerful in more ways than we can imagine, we need to think hard and fast about how we can develop the right kinds of games to engage people and to involve people in shaping their future and solving common problems

The video is 20 minutes but is well worth watching.