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.

Ted Talks – Teaching design for change: Emily Pilloton

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As if being at Gartner Symposium wasn’t enough for me this week, i’ve been checking out some Ted Talks this morning.

This particular talk is about Designer Emily Pilloton who moved to rural Bertie County, in North Carolina, to engage in a bold experiment of design-led community transformation. She’s teaching a design-build class called Studio H that engages high schoolers’ minds and bodies while bringing smart design and new opportunities to the poorest county in the state.

So for me, this made me think about 2 things

  1. Social Enterprise’s as a way to address local social, economic and environmental issues
  2. Big Society isn’t about the “Big Stuff”, it’s about doing little stuff in your community and making a real difference – In order to do good, you must first do something.

Have you asked yourself “What is the point?”

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Many times over the last 3 months I’ve asked myself  – What is the point – I mean really what is the point to what we do?

Prompted by a number of things going on in my work life, outside work life, blog posts, research and a range of other external factors – I seem to be focusing on the underlying issue of Value. I’ve also started to apply this to myself in a self evaluative way to ensure that should the situation arise and my employment be terminated I know for sure what my value is and even who would benefit the most from it.

I won’t go into the details of all the contributing factors but lets just say that the current economic situation is also a major driver in why I am looking at this – personally and professionally.

So the issue of Value is an interesting one in Local Government and the wider Public Sector right now, as many councils embark or are embarking on consultation exercises to find out what the general public think about services and what is important to them.  We will get many perspectives on value and what is important and people will ask many times throughout the next few months “What is the point of that service?”.

When that question is asked  – do we really know what the point is? I mean over and above the set of indicators we are or even used to be measured by? or the numbers of people who use the service? I’m sure most service managers will be very aware of the outcomes they are trying to deliver and what objectives drive there work. But can they answer the simple question – What value do they offer?

For me once we get to the answer we can start to have conversations about who is best placed and has the capabilities to deliver that value – I think Big Society is sort of focusing in this area but isn’t looking at the right thing in my humble opinion.

If we get to a point where a community agrees to the value of a particular service and understands what capabilities are required to deliver that value then we can consider options for delivery. Lets just suggest for a moment that “Private Business” has the right capabilities to deliver a particular service, but the values are compromised due to the type of business. We have a number of further options to consider at this point:

  1. Do we compromise the value created and go for the Private Business based on its ability to meet the capabilities – we would end up asking ourselves even more “What is the point”
  2. Do we suggest that the Private Business changes it business model to deliver social objectives  we actually refocus the organisation and become a Social Enterprise.
  3. In Big Society Style – Do we create our own organisation with the right capabilities and the right values – set up a Social Enterprise.

So when it comes to asking “what is the point?” ask yourself instead – What value is being created here and am I best placed to create it.

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.

I’m now a School Governor…and how not to run a campaign

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Before the schools broke up back in July, the school that my two sons attend had elections for the School Governing Body.  I put myself forward and wrote a brief description of why I wanted the position – To be honest it was  about personal development and an opportunity to inform and influence how the school is run. I’m assuming this is the standard reason most people would put themselves forward as a governor – and if I’m honest I thought that I’d be unsuccessful – but always worth putting yourself forward..sometimes you’ll get lucky!

In a vain attempt to try to influence the voters (other parents), I launched a very poor and uncoordinated campaign on twitter (didn’t bother with Facebook) using the hashtag #voteforcarl and unfortunately it failed as I made some simple school boy errors:-

  1. I didn’t research my market.
  2. I didn’t compliment with any offline materials or supporting literature.
  3. I didn’t inform any other parents that I was running a campaign and would value their support.
  4. I didn’t bother continuing the campaign after one day – I personally got bored with promoting myself (there is a lesson in there!)
  5. I failed to follow or even encourage other parents to follow me…
  6. I really wasn’t that bothered if I failed to get elected (don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy to have been successful, but there are other things in life that I can worry about!)
  7. I may have actually forgot to use the hash tag #voteforcarl!! Can’t remember and searching for the hashtag yields no results!!

How I got elected is a mystery, maybe the strange world of the playground and the fact that whilst I may not know many parents, they may actually know me or even my wife who is a Teaching Assistant at the school or my two sons, who are quite popular – if the truth be told…So If you ever want to get elected into a post, please don’t ask me for help or advice, there are many experts out there and I’m lucky this time that I didn’t need to engage with one of them.

Whatever the reason the other parents voted for me, I feel an obligation to them – to do what i can to improve the school (it is already a good school) ok, so maybe to ensure we maintain standards and excel where possible, i’m not sure yet.

So I now embark on a learning journey about the school, being a School Governor and all the details that most parents don’t need to know about but probably should. I’m hoping that I can get access to Modern Governor from Learning Pool as it looks like an excellent resource for someone like me.

I do actually have (and some of you maybe surprised here) some ideas that I think will help improve the school and its role in the community that I need to work up and of course I’m keen to meet all of the other School Governors.

I may blog from time to time about my experiences as a School Governor in a broad sense as I am aware that it is a naturally sensitive area.

This is not the post to talk about School Governors and the Big Society – that will be another day!