The goodly folk of The South West RSA Fellowship Team have been busy recently pulling together a series of important events for the south west.
Inspired by the recent Northern Futures initiative, the aim is to kick start a new style of conversation about the future of the South West’s economy by asking people to get involved in formulating radical new growth strategies for the region.
The invite is open to anyone from local authorities, businesses, social enterprises, academics and students in identifying key challenges for the region and collaborating to solve them, to drive open policy making, open innovation using creative problem solving tools and design thinking methods.
The South West Futures Open Ideas Day is a pilot project. There is an online call for ideas, seeking to generate topics to explore on July 7th, and develop solutions that can be shared at a follow-up event with key partners in September.
As a pilot prototype, if it is successful then it could lead to an even bigger project in 2016.
On July 7th, parallel events are being held in the following locations:
Places are very limited but FREE, there is space for around 20-30 people at each event.
The events will be good fun and challenging and they are particularly seeking participation from people who are passionate about making positive change and are willing to collaborate across sectors and boundaries.
You know when you catch up with someone who you previously worked with and they are doing really cool things – well that happened to me earlier in the summer.
I caught up with Katie Bacon who used to work at Devon as a Youth Engagement Practitioner and who I helped worth through a complex set of policies to help her explore the use of social media about 3-4 years ago…well time flies and it appears so is Katie and she has recently published some interesting survey results relating to Digital Engagement
The survey was conducted earlier this year and involved (60 professionals) and group discussions (25 professionals) to understand and gain an insight into the experiences of youth practitioners and teacher’s use and application of social media within their everyday professional practice. As there is increasing awareness of the need to adopt and integrate social media and digital tools into the everyday professional practice of youth professionals and teachers.
You can access the Finding the Digital Edge Survey Results (2013) Full report here.
The research identified 77% of 85 youth practitioners/teachers use social media in their work with young people. Of note there is nearly an equal split in usage between communication (broadcast, notify, connect) and teaching.
It also identified a remaining cohort, 23% of respondents, who advised that they did NOT use social media in their work with young people. Within this group there was a real sense of the concern around the blurring of professional boundaries and potential imposition on the privacy of young people. This continues to be one of the challenges facing people and is one of the most common I still hear at the council and rightly so.
The outputs have been summarized into 3 groups including Students, Practitioners and Senior Management each with a 2 page summary identifying opportunities and challenges followed by a page with recommendations.
Please drop Katie an email if you would like to learn more about our Digital Edge Social Media course for young people/adults email@example.com
June is a month for breaking down barriers – First and foremost Create and Innovate is about thinking differently it will be about experimentation, discovery, play, learning and reflection.
One of the reasons for holding Create / Innovate is to respond to a recent Council report to our Corporate Leadership Team in relation to the Barriers to Digital Innovation. The key findings of that report stated that we had a diverse set of reasons why digital innovation specifically was difficult and they were different across the organisation and in different service areas, however across the council it was a combination of one or more of the following barriers:
The attitude to risk across different service areas, some were naturally more relaxed than others
The cultural challenges and associated issues
Policy constraints and issues arising from a few conflicting policies
Technical barriers and issues – these were not just about ICT access as information security concerns were also affecting usage
Resource issues and perceptions that the “flood gates” would open and we would struggle to manage the multiple channels effectively
Corporate Leadership Team supported the report and tasked Corporate Communications in collaboration across the council with a series of actions which would start to unpick and address the barriers. The actions which have helped trigger Create / Innovate are listed below:
approve the review and rationalisation of relevant policies and guidelines and re-present to staff
approve a continued programme of staff engagement, awareness raising and training delivered in creative and innovative ways;
support digital and social media pilots/prototypes and the establishment of digital leaders across service areas
So why Create / Innovate?
There were three things really, which led to the idea of Create / Innovate being a month long series of events and activities, although originally it was only planned for one week as it seemed more realistic to fill one week with activities.
The first was a conversation with colleagues at the Met Office in Exeter who recently held a similar event. In conversations I explained my aspiration to hold a similar event somehow at the council and mentioned that our Corporate Leadership Team were really supportive, so they offered a room at the Met Office for our Corporate Leadership Team to hold their first meeting in June. After a further conversation with our Chief Executive and his Executive Assistant about the practicality, they agreed that they would give it a go and try it to see how using different spaces helps change the dynamics of the conversations and decisions. So on Monday 3rd June, the councils Corporate Leadership Team will be holding their meeting in the Met Office, they will be using digital devices and smartphones and it will be reported live to staff via the councils yammer network.
The second thing was a conversation with a local Service Design Agency Redfront Service Design (Simon Gough and Phillippa Rose) who organised the recent Service Jam event in Exeter back in March (XJam) and there was an opportunity to host and get involved in supporting a specific Service Jam for the public sector in June (GovJam), which locally we have called XJamGov www.xjamgov.co.uk – this takes place between 4-6 June.
The idea of GovJam is to work around a common theme, small Teams meet at multiple locations, working for 48 hours on building innovative approaches and solutions towards challenges faced by the public sector.
GovJams are especially relevant to local government and public sector professionals, and will give us the opportunity to grow collaborations – exchanging techniques, insights and ideas with colleagues near and far, while working on concrete projects addressing key issues inspired by the common Theme.
35 locations around the world are currently hosting an event including: LA, San Francisco, Barcelona, Warsaw, Eindhoven, Bologna, Mumbai, Berlin, Helsinki, Santiago, Montreal, Toronto, Perth, Canberra and Melbourne – In the UK only Exeter and Dundee are currently hosting events.
The third opportunity also came up through a twitter conversation with the Local DirectGov Team which added more scope to a months long event, was to host a Really Useful Day at County Hall – it is in so many ways similar to the Jam experience although we know the topic in advance.
The purpose of the day is to learn about and explore customer user journeys. It aims to map existing user journeys and take people through a process so that participants are more aware of how the real user journey can be improved – the following challenge is then taking that back into the work place and implementing it.
The great thing about both of these events is that they aren’t exclusively for staff at the council and will be attended by a diverse group of people from across the region which helps us to build new connections and collaborations.
Encouraging a culture change
Like most people the real challenge is trying to change a culture from the edges and this won’t happen in June alone. Culture change is a complex thing to make happen and we are fortunate here in Devon that we are in a climate where the whole organisation is starting to shift and there is more awareness of a new culture emerging.
The council has also spent the last twelve months exploring the next 5-10 years under the heading “Future Landscape” which has provided a lot of internal momentum and has engaged around 300 staff across all services and at all levels in thinking differently, so we won’t be starting from scratch in terms of engaging people in opportunities to think differently and challenging existing cultures.
My aspiration is that if we can nudge or disrupt people forward by 5 steps and then in July they take 4 steps backwards, at least we would have moved. The greater challenge will be in sustaining the momentum from some of the staff and amplify that and make it more visible.
Adding value and the wider benefits
We’ve also looked at how some of what we do can involve the wider public and although the primary focus is to challenge the internal culture of the organisation, we have an opportunity through some of our public facing services to involve and engage the public in helping us to think differently as well as challenging them to think differently around how our services are provided.
One of the most active service areas is Libraries, where we have adopted a more public image called “Time to Make and Play” which we hope will help people engage in small scale activities in some of the libraries to help them explore how the spaces can be used and how collaborative approaches within communities can use those spaces more effectively as well.
Some examples of the activities happening in libraries are, Raspberry Pi Jam, Gadget Days, Free to Play tables, Musical drop in sessions, Smartphone advice and make a noise in libraries.
Lessons so far…
Working collaboratively with a wide group of people from different orgs requires you to be flexible in the tools you use and how you communicate with people.
Sell the idea
Don’t sell a programme of completely fixed events, although start with something to build around, do sell an idea and ask people to help fill the programme with activities and events they believe will help challenge thinking and provide opportunities to do things differently – this allows you to capture all the variations of events and activities that people feel are required, from the more formal events like XJamGov to simply having a social media surgery so people can understand how to use smartphone more effectively.
Be patient, keep focused and relax
There were times that I didn’t think this would happen, I was initially getting concerned by the lack of progress in setting things up and sorting the logistics etc, but being patient, staying focused and involving people means you can relax a little and things do and will happen.
Be flexible and prototype
An absolute must, no matter what you originally thought would happen and wanted to happen, you need to be flexible and be prepared to change plans, adapt to other peoples ideas and timescales and most of all, let go of any notion of a formal plan…after all the whole month is a prototype of how we can engage people in different things.
My aim has been to ensure that Create / Innovate is a creative and fun approach to addressing barriers to digital innovation and a key objective is to start to build sustained awareness and understanding of the opportunities for staff to be more creative and innovative within the council.
We are trying to disrupt people in fun and creative ways and we also hope to inspire people to try new things…the whole idea is really a prototype, so some things may not work out as we expect but that is ok so long as we learn.
So this post is focusing on some of the middle area of the picture…in particular the box around leadership and decision-making. This part of the journey is critical not just in a wider context of leadership and decision-making but in ensuring that we have open and transparent local decision-making as well as a clear accountability in terms of local representation.
To recap I previously explained this area in this way:
We require strong visible leadership to enable transformation and strong decisions that ensure that we all contribute to creating a climate for growth and wellbeing. The leadership can also come from anywhere not just local public service providers
Capacity Building / Networks and Networks of Networks
Stimulating local action and identifying and connecting with networks and networks of networks to generate and create new opportunities and markets.
These connections can and will come from anywhere, this is not solely down to the council or local authority – this is about people and places.
Now all this is easy to write and even easier to say, but the practical implications of this are slightly more complicated and require a shift in thinking about what we should expect of our future leaders and decision makers and how we help those people become networked and connected.
Now the great thing about the internet is that you can always find and connect to people who are in a far better position to dig deeper into the thinking and that is exactly what Catherine Howe has done in relation to the Networked Councillors project. It came out of two things:
If we are going to have more networked and digital citizens we are going to need politicians with the right skills – we will need networked councillors but we have not yet really explored what that means
Just showing people how to use twitter doesn’t solve the problem
I’m really pleased that Catherine has shared this work as I personally think it validates the wider framework and also adds a layer of detail which I was obviously lacking (on purpose of course)
The report on the website is well worth a read and is easy to digest.
I want to pick out another quote form the report which to me helps to proactively link this to the wider framework and the language of the framework which is:
The qualities that the Networked Councillor should embody are found in the way in which Next Generation Users are approaching and using technology. We suggest that the following qualities, which can already be evidenced online, will be inherent:
Open by default: This is open not just in terms of information but also in terms of thinking and decision-making
Digitally native: Networked Councillors will be native in or comfortable with the online space, not in terms of age but in terms of the individual adopting the behaviours and social norms of the digital culture
Co–productive: Co-production is a way of describing the relationship between Citizen and State which brings with it an expectation that everyone in the conversation has power to act and the potential to be active in the outcome as well as the decision-making process
Networked: A Networked Councillor will be able to be effective via networked as well as hierarchical power as a leader
This is obviously one part of a wider complex environment and although this report is focused on councillors specifically it also applies itself to future leaders and decisions makers whether a local councillor or not….however for me this is a fantastic start to the discussion and conversation.
You can watch and listen to the meeting here as well and you might be interested to know that at 7 minutes and 48 seconds you can hear Cllr John Hart welcome the “tweeter” and recognises that it an important new development and opportunity.