31 October 2009

Cultural & Communities Resource Unit: Diversity and efficiency in practice

Yesterday I learnt about a fabulous project run by the Metropolitan Police Service. Established some years ago now - the project runs a database of officers and staff with specialist skills. The skills include understanding languages and cultures of the various (and many) communities of London. But the database does not stop there, members of the database offer any information about themselves that they think could help with an investigation or other police operational matter.

The Cultural and Communities Resource Unit is clearly offering an enormously helpful service to the Met. Below, using extracts from a variety of sources, I have outlined more of the detail. My purpose for doing this is to ask you two questions
  1. Should all police services have such units?
  2. And secondly - should all public services have such units?
I would suggest that the answers to both these questions is a resounding yes. Any public service organisation that is committed to diversity (in its widest sense) will be assisted if it has wide access to the diversity of the talents, interests, and insights of its staff.

One website describes the database: Staff submit their skills on a voluntary basis and are encouraged to list details of their lifestyle, knowledge of specific communities, extra languages and hobbies. The process is managed 24 hours a day by dedicated CCRU staff and co-ordinators, who also provide strategic advice for operational commanders. The theory behind the unit is that officers with a certain cultural background will be used more effectively in difficult investigations within minority areas. Similarly, staff with an unusual hobby or interest could prove vital if information on that subject is lacking during an investigation. (Thanks to InsideKnowledge for this quote)

In another article (thank you Personnel Today) it is explained that the concept was first used during the investigations of the Soho nail bombing and the murder of Damilola Taylor. Gay and black officers helped to build vital links with their respective communities to further police enquiries.

The value of the unit is put in another context in the 2006 Demos Report Bringing it Home - Community Based Approaches to Counter Terrorism which gives an example of how the Unit's database was used to tackle a particular policing problem: An early example of the success of the unit was when Inspector Steve Biollo, who was in charge of policing the predominantly Algerian community near Finsbury Park Mosque, turned to it for help. The area was home to radical cleric Abu Hamza, and had been the scene of several police anti-terrorism raids; there was a high degree of mistrust of the police among the Algerian community, many of whom did not speak English. The CCRU found Biollo a constable of Egyptian origin from another borough who went to work in the area for two to three days per month, and slowly introduced other officers into the community. Although not Algerian, the constable spoke Arabic and had an understanding of North African politics and culture; as Biollo put it, he ‘even went and prayed in the mosque’. The outcome was increased trust of the police among the Algerian community: local people began reporting crimes to the police, and some even made enquiries about joining the police service.34 The unit was successfully supported by the Muslim Contact Unit (see case study 2), which played a vital role in negotiating the relationship with Finsbury Park Mosque.The success of the unit meant that Fraser soon began to receive enquiries from other police forces around the country, and plans have been made to expand the scheme nationally, although this has not yet happened.

In the same case study, the CCRU’s founding director, Detective Chief Inspector Keith Fraser, is reported as saying "This database allows us to match up the ‘life skills’ – as well as the professional skills – that officers have with the needs of a particular case. The database contains all sorts of information, not only about an individual’s race, ethnicity, faith or cultural experiences, but also things like experience of child abuse, black magic, hostage situations, and so on. It is a really rich resource and allows us to bring new and subtle understandings to our work."
Setting up, sustaining and making the most of such a database is a complex task where issues about access, trust and confidentiality clearly need to be resolved. However once this is done - such a resource could help achieve three potent results:
  • A better, more diverse and sensitive service is delivered to citizens
  • Staff are valued and acknowledged for all of their talents
  • Operational practice is more effective and efficient (with less use of costly external expertise & more efficiently conducted operational business)
I wish the Unit well in the future and I hope the practice spreads.

30 October 2009

Productive Community Services - Improving frontline NHS delivery

Productive Community Services is an organisation-wide change programme which helps systematic engagement of all front line teams in improving quality and productivity. It is a practical application of lean based techniques that will vastly increase the organisation’s capacity and capability for continuous improvement.
More information here (for the access website) and here (for the pdf file summing it all up)

This website carries a very useful and persuasive video of people talking about this initiative from 3 pilot sites around the UK. The results are impressive. The package of support is available for download - but only if you are part of NHS England (not even Wales or Scotland).

(I am tempted to have a rant here about the public services & intellectual property - since I have helped to pay for this initiative through my taxes - but I won't bore you!) You can of course pay for this package of information if you are not of NHS England - details on the site.

Overall - this seems like a very positive and indeed productive initiative - I wish it well as it is rolled out across the country. (Maybe Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will get a look in too at some point!)

27 October 2009

Having fun with Wordle

Just because I can - here is a 'wordle' of the themes from this site: http://www.wordle.net/show/wrdl/1271206/Small_Creative_Ideas

MOD: GEMS Annual Awards

As if by magic - this arrived in my in box this afternoon

Award Winners for 2009 GEMS Annual Awards:

  • Most Environment Friendly: Flushing procedure to reduce waste material.
  • Most Safety Improving: New design for a universal deployment frame.
  • Most Innovative: Maintenance - revised use of Air Supply to pressure test VC10s.
  • Most Operational Benefit: Designed a training programme for C130 simulator airframes.
  • Most Business Improving: Making better use of ammunition and Qinetiq facilities
  • Best example of Modernisation: Using a Sony Playstation Portable for Mobile Learning Technology Training

Award Winners for 2008 GEMS Annual Awards:

  • Most Environment Friendly: Anvis MK9 Helment Rail Assembly Transfer
  • Most Safety Improving: Use of Onboard HM Ships Stretcher and Baxstrap Spinal Board. & Up and over Fire Attachement re-design
  • Most Innovative: Strategies for Mitigating the Impact of Data Security within systems
  • Most Operational Benefit: Field Service Pack
  • Most Business Improving: Unscheduled Fault Sympton Coding System
  • Best example of Modernisation: Boat – Bowman on a Trolley

Now I must admit I have no idea what most of these things are in practice - but clearly they are of huge value to the Ministry of Defence. I applaud the fact that an organisation as large and complex as the MOD has such a lively and innovative suggestion scheme. Moreover it is great that the people who come forward with their suggestions are honoured & praised in this way.

Why can't all organisations do something similar? I wholly believe that the leadership commitment and administrative support required to make a suggestion scheme 'fly' would be paid back in bucketfuls by the improvements in results and staff motivation that would come about.

Well done MOD!

I know - not many new posts! (but watch the MOD)

Regular readers of this blog will note that I have not been posting many new articles and ideas. I am sorry! Mostly because I have been very busy, I have not had the time to write to people enquiring about small & creative ideas.

I did some email writing a few weeks ago (mostly to Central Government Departments) but I have very little response apart from the Ministry of Defence (thank you) with a link to this site: http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/AboutDefence/WhatWeDo/Personnel/GEMS/ which promises to have some very useful information forthcoming soon.

GEMS is the MOD-wide staff suggestion scheme that recognises and rewards ideas which are implemented. The GEMS scheme encourages all MOD civilian and Armed Forces personnel, ex-employees, directly employed MOD contractors and their staffs to contribute constructive ideas for improving efficiency and organisation anywhere within the Department, and recognises the value of their contribution.

So please watch this space!

(I just adore the fact that they even open up their suggestion scheme to ex-employees)

26 October 2009

Invest in efficiency, says sustainability boss

Good article on the Civil Service network - with some good tips about how efficiency and sustainability must go hand in hand:

“We are in an invest-to-save scenario,” Jordan argues. “There are quite a lot of measures that you could invest in that would have a pretty rapid payback in cash terms. “It is my job, in part, to persuade government departments that would be a good investment now, when they still have better prospects of making the investment.” Jordan said the difficulty of finding money for investment in sustainable improvements was a “very important question”.

Read more here.

08 October 2009

Raising awareness in caring for those with a learning disability

Buckinghamshire Hospitals NHS Trust - 'Treat me, not my knee'; raising awareness in caring for those with a learning disability - KLOE 5.2

Buckinghamshire Hospitals NHS Trust rolled out a programme of training open to all staff in May 2008. This was in partnership with Talkback, a local charitable organisation supporting people with a learning disability. Fourteen innovative and interactive two-hour sessions took place over the following year across the Trust with 142 staff members trained, spanning more than 25 clinical and non-clinical areas.

More information here

Excellent practice - good to see!

07 October 2009

Good Relations Grant Fund - Belfast City Council

A good idea from Belfast City Council - providing small grants to projects involved with building common ground. Even the application form is relatively straightforward - although I think it could be simplified further.

Go to http://www.belfastcity.gov.uk/goodrelations/goodrelationsfund.asp for more information

The Good Relations Grant Fund is for community relations and cultural diversity projects. It is open to community groups and other organisations involved in reconciliation and cultural diversity. The aim of the fund is to promote good relations between people of different religious and political beliefs and different racial groups.

For me this is evidence of the public services engaging in 'empowered citizenship' which I have talked about on my other blog (http://jonharveyassociates.blogspot.com/2009/05/empowered-citizenship.html) - supporting citizens to take effective action to help create the kinds of social outcomes we all want.

Good to see.