UnMentoring – 5 rounds in and counting

UnMentoring-main

I posted a while ago about the changes that UnMentoring went through, mainly the switch to a professionalised system which takes all the hard work of administration away and simply connects people. Well after 5 rounds of UnMentoring I was keen to see what was actually happening and how connections were being made or not as the case maybe.

I also looked at the growth over the months as well and whilst it has been up and down there is a steady growth which is good…the initial peak was due to the change from the previous version (managed by excel spreadsheets) to this new system.

UnMentoring Growth Graph

 

One of the misconceptions affecting growth is that some people think this is just for local government people. UnMentoring is open to anyone who is passionate about the improvement and reform of public services and the broader the people involved the richer and more diverse the conversations. So if you are interested then please sign up.

The interesting thing within the network diagram as each round develops is the number of connections that didn’t get a chance to meet or didn’t confirm whether a meeting occurred. The red lines in the pictures/gallery shows the number of connections that didn’t meet.

I think this is something we need to think about and maybe the monthly commitment is hard to maintain, so we might experiment with a longer time frame and see if that helps people as well as asking a number of people as to some of the reasons why connections didn’t happen. Feel free to share some of your insights on the post by the way ūüôā ¬†Without your feedback we will innovate in a vacuum.¬†The previous excel system most probably had the same issues but they weren’t visible in this way, but now its visible we can start to something about it.

One thing we¬†do know is that for some people these random conversations are transformative and the simple offer of connecting people is a valuable service to offer and we can only develop richer and more diverse connections if more people join and connect too. It doesn’t work for everyone although¬†we do have and provide other ways to help people connect such as the events we help put on for example LocalGovCamp,¬†#NotWestminster and the new peer groups around things like the Service Standard.

With all the focus on technology and technology innovation, the challenge we want to help address is connecting and bringing diverse groups of people together to find common understanding and to solve problems and improve public services for everyone.

 

 

 

UnMentoring Rebooted – Round 1 and Round 2

Back in January we relaunched UnMentoring because we were offered a chance to improve the process and hopefully the experience by Spark Collaboration who provided a platform to help manage the process.

Two months on and I’ve experienced 2 rounds of UnMentoring and have found the conversations fascinating as always. I’m a big supporter of learning from others and connecting people together to break down silos and to challenge our own individual mindsets so we avoid the group think scenarios.

You can register at any time and we welcome anyone who has an interest in public service transformation.

This post is going to reflect on two things:

  1. The conversations I’ve had with some great people and,
  2. How the platform is helping and providing a new insight on the connections

So lets start with the conversations

Round 1 – Sarah Roberts

Sarah works for the Fire Service and is working on employee engagement projects. We initially spent the first part of the meeting introducing ourselves talking about what interests and motivates us and then got into the challenges we face in our work.

We found some good synergies in the work we are doing so we shared some learning, insight and basically supported each other. It is always refreshing to get a sense check with other people in different organisations who share similar frustrations, similar opportunities and are keen to share that openly and honestly.

One of the areas we shared some learning around was story telling and I shared a project we are doing called 100 days of Change which is about collecting stories from within and across the council about the learning people are doing and the impact on them. The power of story telling as a way to support cultural change is fascinating and we are starting to capture some great stories from people.

100 Days of Change

We agreed to stay in touch and keep each other updated on some projects we are working on.

Round 2 – Sharon Dale

The most recent conversation was with Sharon who is doing work in central government with GDS, DWP and Civil Service Learning.

Luckily I’d had some previous contact with Sharon before via twitter so it was good to get stuck into what we were both doing and picking each others brains about things we were both looking at.

One of the conversations was about push and pull leadership

The Art of Change Making - Local Leadership Centre
Screen grab from The Art of Change Making – Local Leadership Centre

I shared some examples of how understanding this better has had a significant impact on my approach in meetings and how it is having a positive impact (that’s my perception anyway)

We also spoke about skills development in two forms, staff but also how we can start to work across organisations to think about skills development within the market and helping to create a more open route into some disciplines around digital. Tom in my team is doing some work on this where we are looking at how we can work with others to support a new apprenticeship opportunity.

Again we agreed to stay in touch and continue to learn from each other.

My reflections on both conversations are that is really doesn’t matter who you talk to, you’ll always find a common ground where you can discover and learn new things. You just need to create the space and allow the time for those connections to happen. ¬†It doesn’t take a long conversation to make this happen either, both conversations were about 30-45 minutes which isn’t long. If you think about how long you spend in formal meetings. Ask yourself how much do you really know about the people in the room and how can you find a way to reach beyond the agenda and create space for different conversations and discussions to emerge.

The Platform

So as mentioned before, we shifted from a process that took hours in excel to something that now essentially manages itself. It has certainly freed up my time and allowed some extra space to emerge.

What the platform does in terms of measurement and visualisation is also really cool.

Below is an image of how the system visually displays the people within round 1 – groups of pairs disconnected in a network and isolated from each other…as you progress from round to round this picture changes and creates a flow of people who are connected – see the second image below.

unmentoring - round1
Round 1
unmentoring - round2
Round 2

This visualisation of how the network of people is developing based on the connections people make (assuming of course everyone actually gets to complete their match).

It will be fascinating to look at the levels of connectivity within the network as it grows…I’m keen to see how the visual display of the network reacts as new people sign up along the journey.

I will continue to share insights from UnMentoring as they happen and part of our work with Spark Collaboration is we look at evaluating the impact of this method and tool has on developing connections and relationships across the sector.

The story of UnMentoring – From Alpha, Beta to Live

 

Last year LocalGov Digital launched a prototype randomised coffee trial offer called UnMentoring. It was very simple in its approach, a google form enabled people to sign up and I managed a spreadsheet and then sent out emails every month to connect people. It was basically an alpha.

The good news was it grew and grew and we had quite a few people signed up which meant that the administrative process became a but more of a burden and more complex with every month. It wasn’t a problem but it did mean that we need to start thinking about moving from an Alpha service to Beta and then Live.

In September or October last year I contacted Dan Harrison (Wizard of Excel) to get some advice and help on how i could automate or at least simplify the process in excel to reduce the time it took to match people together. Dan was fantastic and provided some excellent support and advice and even spent (i imagine) hours on making it work, which it did for a few months. So THANK YOU Dan for your help, you moved us forward.

Just before Christmas i was contacted by Michael Soto from Spark Collaboration via Linked In who mentioned their platform which was designed specifically to support randomised coffee trials. I was naturally very interested in how this could work out.

Anyway to cut a long story short, I hooked up with Michael via skype, he showed me the system and we chatted about how LocalGov Digital could use it and we are now in a position to provide a much better experience and one which has moved us from alpha, through beta and into live.

 

If all of this sounds interesting to you then you can sign up to have a random conversation with someone who passionate about public service transformation.

It only takes 30 seconds to complete and you will need to validate your email. The main difference is that you are in control of your profile and your details which means you can update your profile when things change.  You can also add links to your social platforms which should help provide some context for the introductions. You can even add a photo if you wanted to!

The next round of UnMentoring will start from 8th February so please sign up ASAP

 

The launch of UnMentoring

UnMentoring-mainSo my blog post reflecting on the Steering group meeting gave a very very brief overview of what we are intending to create around an UnMentoring offer.

So what is UnMentoring?

So in the true spirit of adapting something that exists already¬†we have essentially reworked¬†Nesta’s Randomised Coffee Trials. It will start during¬†March 2015.¬†UnMentoring (Randomised Coffee Trials¬†in disguise).

To sign up and find out how it works check out the LocalGovDigital site for details

 

#LocalGovDigital Steering Group on tour in Huddersfield

On Friday 6th February a small number of the steering group came together at Kirklees Council and we do what we usually do at the steering group – we think, do and share stuff around the workstreams and it was very interesting meeting in many ways.
Sarah Lay has shared her reflections here and¬†I don’t want to repeat everything Sarah has already said but do want to reflect on how far the group has come and how we have adapted and evolved in response to the people in it and those starting to engage.
So the group came together because of people who were passionate about seeing something change and also how as a group of people who originally felt disconnected and isolated how we could better help ourselves and others connect together to do bigger and better things.
Our vision is something we simply won’t compromise on which is to demand something better, to see world class local public services and to see local democratic process redesigned to meet the the immediate and future demands of citizens and communities. ¬†We may not often articulate it like this but what brings us together as a network is that we won’t compromise on the direction, but we will be pragmatic through iterative developments so we can at least start to see a new model emerge from the grassroots.
As Sarah highlighted in her post, some people have expressed concern about the pace by which we as a volunteer group can affect change. I’m not worried about that as at least we are working on the ground to build a movement, a set of simple tools which will start to address some of the barriers people talk about.
We are not a large single organisation with a mandate, but we are a responsive network, full of people who give up their own time on top of sharing what they do in their work time to do something better.
We can’t do this alone, we need more people to work across the network and if you don’t know how, then simply offer some help, through one of the workstreams…as a network we don’t have any money, we currently struggle accessing money but this won’t stop us trying to work with people to release money in creative ways.
The focus of the network is on practical things…there are a few of us who like and focus on the strategy aspects and less tangible things (myself included) but the primary focus of the network is about practical iterative change…
The steering group is not the network, it is simply the group of people who are prepared to extend their focus to a national level and this is not a fixed group, it has changed significantly in the 2 and bit years we have been going but yet we are still pushing, growing stronger and gaining personal and collective confidence with every event, output and celebrated success that we see.
The network has to adapt, evolve, respond to the environment we work in, we originally set out a number of workstreams where some have made no real tangible progress, not because of the people but because I guess upon reflection they were not actually priorities for people…We have changed the way we work to be even less formal, we don’t have minutes of our meetings, our agendas are crowd sourced on trello and anyone could pitch something for us to discuss or come along and join in.
To ensure that we continue the personal and collective growth of the network we want to introduce something which we are calling unmentoring basically this is a simple commitment by people to give up 30 minutes to think, do and share with someone. It is similar to what the NHS are doing in the school of social care radicals in their randomised coffee trials.
Unmentoring Рhow will it work?
We have to work out a simple mechanism but we essentially ask people to submit some basic details: Name, phone, email and optional googleID/skype and we provide a tool which randomly connect you to someone else and you commit to having a conversation and then sharing some basic outputs, a tweet or a blog post about what you learned. It is an experiment we want to try and we want to test the assumption Рconnecting people even randomly will help challenge your thinking.  This has been tested offline already in events like localgovcamp, UKGovCamp and any unconference so we know the benefits exist, we want to know whether an online model exists.
As a steering group (those who were there) have committed to putting ourselves in the pot and would want to invite other to join in.
We just need to rapidly prototype the actual process so we can launch it properly
If you are interested let us know and we will keep you posted…