18 December 2009

Seasonal greetings!

I would like to take this opportunity to offer all readers of this blog my sincere festive greetings and good wishes for 2010. May this forthcoming year and indeed the next decade of this century be healthy, happy and prosperous for you and all those whom you care about.

I do not send out printed cards in order to keep a few more trees in the ground, turning CO2 into oxygen. As part of this I have made a small donation to Adoptaword which is a charity which helps children who struggle to find the words they need to communicate. I ‘adopted’ the word abundant as I aim to help people & organisations tap into their abundant sources of ideas for improvement.

With warm regards & seasonal cheer


16 December 2009

Bus stop displays help with community safety

Bus stops in parts of Essex will be displaying personal safety messages over the festive season

The initiative has been organised by Sergeant Matt Mallett who has worked in partnership Essex Traffic Control at Essex County Council. This is the second time the scheme has run; the pilot ran during the month of April 2009. Sgt Mallett said: “We are constantly looking for innovative and creative ways of getting crime reduction and community safety messages across to people, particularly during the evening and night-time.

Info and full story from http://www.policeoracle.com/news/Essex-Police-Utilise-Digital-Bus-Stop-Signs_20973.html Thank you to them and Essex Police for this bright idea!

Customer Journey Mapping Workshop: the results!

A Customer Journey Mapping workshop was held Stoke-on-Trent City Council on Wednesday 4 November 2009. 12 candidates from various organisations attended the workshop, with delegates from Newcastle Borough Council, East Riding of Yorkshire Council, Derby City Council and Staffordshire Connects among the attendees.

The workshop, delivered by members of Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s Best Practice and Service Review Team, began with a welcome followed by an introduction into Customer Journey Mapping. This included an overview of what it is, how it can help bring ‘customers experiences to life’, what benefits can be realised by using Customer Journey Mapping, and Stoke’s own journey.

Following the introduction, delegates were introduced to Stoke’s Customer Journey Mapping toolkit and taken through a number of scenarios in groups to demonstrate use of the toolkit for data capture. During these exercises, discussion and interaction between delegates for different organisations was encouraged, reinforcing the learning and generating a sharing of ideas and views.

Once the data capture was completed, the group moved on to discuss how this data can be used to identify and deliver service improvements. A brief overview was provided, followed by breakout groups where delegates were encouraged to identify possible improvement initiatives using the data generated within the first part of the workshop.

Discussions continued over a networking lunch and the group left with the understanding of how this approach, as part of a business improvement toolkit, can help provide an important insight of how an organisation deals with its customers, as well as how this can help shape both policy and service delivery.

Comments received from delegates included, “It is a fresh look at Customer Journey Mapping from an authority perspective”, “The course did ‘exactly what it said on the tin’”, “I enjoyed the workshop with all delegates contributing”, “Straight and to the point” and “Practical and based on real scenarios”.

In all, the workshop was a great success, with delegates happy that personal expectations had been met and leaving with the confidence and understanding to implement and use the model. Since the workshop, there has been continued communication between delegates, sharing successes, discussing approaches and signposting colleagues to the toolkit. 

(Thanks to Will Haywood for this information.)

UPDATE 1: It is my understanding that this team has now been disbanded

15 December 2009

Community led sustainability in North Devon

Just spotted this story from North Devon in the village where I went to school and my Father was the headteacher:

A community led development in Bickington has been kickstarted today (Tuesday 15 December) with a major £850k funding boost from Devon County Council. The first phase of this innovative scheme, at Little Bickington Farm in High Bickington, will provide 18 new homes, two workshops for local businesses, a plant room for a woodchip heating plant and other community facilities. Planning consent has also been secured for a new community building and sports facilities, a new primary school, a Multi Use Games Area, a Health Centre and allotments.

Critically in the context of this blog:

David Brown, Chairman of High Bickington Community Property Trust, added “This is a great step forward that will be warmly welcomed by all those members of our community who have recognised and supported the need both for affordable housing for local people and also the other essential community services that will be delivered by the project.

The power of involvement and participation once again....

More information here

27 November 2009

24 November 2009

Wouldn't it be better if...

This is fabulous website brimming with ideas for improvement from the perspective of citizens. I would guarantee that any public agency looking through this list would leave with at least three ideas for where they could improve the services they deliver to their users and publics.

Please visit, browse, take or add ideas - it has certainly got me thinking!


(Thank you to the Cabinet Office for this link)

This is part of the work of the Innovators Council - I thought you might like to know...

13 November 2009

New eBook on Employee Engagement

and I helped to write it (along with 200+ other people)! David Zinger is the founder and host of the expanding Employee Engagement Network www.employeeengagement.ning.com

David posed the question "What would be the advice you would give to an organization to improve employee engagement? What if that advice could only be one sentence?" The eBook is made up of the eclectic contributions from members of the worldwide Employee Engagement Network. Have a read - there is some excellent stuff! Click the link here (pdf file)

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.

28 September 2009

Thinking outside the box

Great article here!

At a time of increasing financial pressure, service commissioners may be tempted to play safe with design – but Ruth Keeling finds that trying new approaches can produce better results and, ultimately, save public cash

After years of efficiency programmes, the state of public finances is such that departments are being asked to cut expenditure again. How will they do that? One answer may be a radical rethink of the way services are designed – at least, that is the idea behind the Design Council’s ‘Public Service by Design’ programme....

14 September 2009

Trust & creativity

I have just blogged on my other blog about what it takes to earn trust as a leader. (click here for the piece)

But it was an article about W.L.Gore & Associates that got me thinking about this topice. The article is well worth a read as it discusses how this company generates creativity and innovation. You can read it here.

I was left wondering - what would the NHS or a local council look like if it was run along similar lines? Answers on a post card to... (see contact points left!)

13 September 2009

What do I know?!

When I have time, I send out emails asking people for any ideas that they have come across. Many of the responses are shown below. I am hugely grateful for all the examples that have been sent to me. Please keep them coming!

But every now and then I get an email which deflates me a little. I won't reprint one I received in the last few days because - I want to keep to keep the organisation anonymous. Moreover, the email is at pains to make clear that according to the "Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2005 Act, sections 4 and 12" they have not given me permission to use the information.

However, I can say that had this organisation actually had:

  • A staff suggestion scheme
  • An annual efficiency statement
  • Initiatives that have provided a benefit of around £50k
  • Success stories communicated to the communications team
  • Directors who saw it as part of their responsibility to have some knowledge about these matters...

...then the organisation in question might just be providing a better and more efficient service to its clients and local citizens.

But what do I know, of course?!

03 September 2009

Press cuttings: There must be a better way...

I've been looking at some of the functions the communication and marketing department performs and how they can be performed with less people (we're losing staff through transformation). Specifically if by changing the way we do certain things we can save time and money, or if we can do it better... (rest here)

Useful posting and indeed overall blog about Web 2.0 strategies for local govt (specifically Newcastle City Council) - thanks for the link from http://twitter.com/NewcastleCC

McKinsey report bites the dust - another example of where the small creative ideas have been overlooked?

The government says it has rejected advice from management consultants to cut the NHS workforce in England by 10% over the next five years... Sir Gerry Robinson, the businessman who presented a BBC series about the NHS, said he saw an "enormous amount of waste" and jobs should go. He added he was "infuriated" by yet another report, which cost a lot of money and "tells you the obvious".

(BBC: NHS workforce cuts plan rejected)

Many years ago, I read a book by Edgar Schein (Process Consultation Volume 2: Lessons for managers and consultants - which is still available) and it changed my approach to consultancy. In it he describes three model of consultancy: The purchase of information or expertise, the doctor-patient model and process consultation. I have discussed these points at greater length on my other blog (click here)

I make the overall point that all too often the wrong kinds of consultancy are procured - and ownership of the problems are handed over to external consultancies.

It is my ambition that this blog will assist with ensuring that more credence and resources are given over to making sure that staff (including NHS staff) are empowered and encouraged to offer the small & creative ideas that are, can and will make more of a difference to service improvement.

28 August 2009

New initiative by Nick Clegg (leader of Liberal Democrats)

Nick Clegg has just launched a website designed to provide A Fresh Start for Saving Taxpayer’s Money

The website goes onto say:

Do you work in the public sector? Budgets are going to be tight for years, if not decades. There isn’t going to be any extra money - in fact there may be less money in some departments across the public sector.

We need to cut out all inefficiencies in order to protect front-line services. This Government has a staggering record on waste. We need to stop money from being thrown away – that means talking to the people who know best about how public services are run: public servants.

Your ideas for efficiency savings will make sure that all the money there is goes on providing quality services.

Naturally I would claim neutrality on the party political aspects of this initiative - but it is one that I would still support. The more than senior politicians - of all parties - get to hear about the 'small creative ideas' that are making a difference to the public services - the better it is, in my view. I would urge you visit the website and make your contribution.

Railway station pest control - back to the future!

An example of innovative pest control (I am told by Kevin Sorkin) at Marylebone Station!

I think I will avoid wearing any (fake) fur hats if I go there...

This also reminds me of a very early post on this blog - on creative pest control in a prison - click here.

Community cohesion - excellent resource

There is an excellent network and growing resource concerning community cohesion coordinated by the Universities of Coventry, Leicester, De Montfort & Warwick. Packed with good practice examples and networking opportunities - I commend you to sign up and share what you know!

Practitioners' Network

The iCoCo Practitioners' Network was established in May 2006 to bring together cohesion practitioners. The purpose, remit and aims of the Network are:

  • exchange ideas, discuss issues and seek solutions to problems
  • find out about successful initiatives operating throughout the UK
  • seek out, share and disseminate good practice
  • contribute to the development of training opportunities
  • provide a 'what works' enquiry system
  • identify the need for action research programmes and assist in their development
  • advocate on behalf of practitioners and community cohesion in general

Please visit it if you are at all interested in community cohesion.

Cyclehoop - instant cycle parks!

Anything that can be done to encourage more cycle use (and therefore less car use) is in my a view a good thing. So here is the cyclehoop! In the words of the website - it is a revolution in bike parking. It is a device which clamps onto existing street furniture instantly turning them into good places to park - and lock - your bike to.

More information - click here

And many thanks to Ruth Keeling and her blog for pointing me in this direction. Indeed thanks to Kevin Sorkin for directing me towards Ruth's blog!

27 August 2009

Novel way of raising cash for charity

A WRITING workshop is being held to help people create their own novel and raise money for charity at the same time. The one-day workshop has been organised by Lifeline Resources, a local cancer charity which organises four-day therapeutic breaks free of charge for cancer patients and their carers...

More information (thanks to The Plymouth Herald) - click here

Great idea!


Not quite a 'small' creative idea - but a rather big one!


Dream: Jaume Plensa's landmark sculpture on the former Sutton Manor Colliery in St.Helens, Northwest England

I like the idea of a sculpture to encourage people to dream. It certainly is

a triumph, a stunning visual feast, and a spectacular object lesson in the "art of the possible", demonstrating what can be achieved when committed people with a shared vision work together towards a common goal.

In my view - the core purpose of the public services is to assist people to dream, have ambitions and realise these - either through providing the tools to enable this (such as education) or remove the barriers to their achievement (tackling ill health and crime). I hope this beautiful sculpture inspires people both as citizens and as service providers - to make more dreams possible.

Congratulations to St Helens!

Environment & Transport savings

  • Carrying out bulk, skills training in-house with the external trainers coming to us rather than sending staff away. We did a 2-week in-house road safety training scheme (Rospa) and it is estimated that £8000 was saved . We also ran a risk assessment course in house and saved around £4000.
  • Developing skills inhouse rather than using external consultants. By example we have trained up our safety engineers to do safety audits (of new scheme designs). External consultants would charge around £2000 per audit, we now use internal staff at much lower cost.

Thanks to Suffolk County Council for these examples.

Efficiency savings from Audit Services in Suffolk


Area of work

  • Activity
  • Amount if quantifiable

Internal Audit Programme

  • Use of IT Auditor from NHS Audit Services as opposed to private sector IT auditor
  • At least £2,640


  • Contract Audit Training - Cost of course £70 per delgate. Cost of same course on an individual basis provided externally would be at least £600 per delegate
  • Approx £2,000

Internal Audit Programme

  • Re de-commissioning of 14 day care centres across Suffolk over a period of 15 months. An 'Establishment Closure Finance Certificate' has been introduced by Audit Services. 12 days for one audit leader at £35 per day
  • Approx £3,000


  • VFM Training - Cost of course £50 per delegate. Cost of same course on an individual basis provided externally would be at least £300 per delegate.
  • Approx £1,500


  • West Dean Training Course - Cost of course £500 per delegate. Cost of same course on an individual basis provided externally would be at least £2000 per delegate.
  • Aprrox £3,000


  • Audit Commission Presentation; free course. Cost of same course on an individual basis provided externally would be at least £150 per delegate.
  • Approx £450

Internal Audit Programme

  • Use of IT Auditor from NHS Audit Services as opposed to private sector IT auditor
  • At least £2,200

Internal Audit Programme

  • Use of IT Auditor from NHS Audit Services as opposed to private sector IT auditor
  • At least £1,470

  • West Dean Training Course - Cost of course £500 per auditor. Cost of same course on an individual basis provided externally would be at least £2000 per delegate.
  • Approx £6,000


  • Delegate under 19 years old and AAT is therefore free
  • £540

Records Management

  • Review & disposal of files held in storage - destroyed 250 boxes, storage now costs £38.54 per month, or £462.48 per year.
  • Annual £2,640

Internal Audit Programme

  • Use of IT Auditor from NHS Audit Services as opposed to private sector IT auditor
  • At least £2,310

Galileo Training

  • Provision of Galileo training to Audit Services staff - Training to 15 members of staff - estimated cost £200 per delegate
  • Approx £3,000

Many thanks to Suffolk County Council for these examples.

26 August 2009

New Adopt a Box Scheme to Combat Graffiti - Harlow

Local residents are being asked to help combat graffiti on cable TV and phone boxes through the new Adopt-a-Box scheme.

Dozens of the boxes are targeted each year by vandals but, due to their locations in public areas, there are few ways of protecting them. The Council is now asking local people to help by adopting and repainting boxes in their neighbourhoods....

More information - click here

Reading group - in a pub

Walsall Council Central Lending Library support a reading group in a pub - seems like a good idea! More information - click here

And details of the pub itself is here

(I wonder if they will include James Joyce's Ulysses?)

14 August 2009

Customer Journey Mapping Workshop

One of the earlier posts on this blog featured details of how Stoke-on-Trent Council have developed a model for Customer Journey Mapping (see the post below for more information). This has created such interest that the Council have decided to put on a workshop - here is their notice:

In response to all the feedback we've had about our blog posting about our Customer Journey Mapping model we've decided to hold a half day workshop.
The workshop will be held in Stoke-on-Trent at our Civic Centre on the morning of the 4 November. The workshop will be £95 per person for public sector employees including lunch. If anyone is interested in finding out more or coming along to our workshop please contact will.haywood@stoke.gov.uk or telephone Will on 01782 237610. We'll be providing more information about our workshop soon.

Great to see this and I wish them well with their workshop!

UPDATE: And here is a link to the details of the workshop:

UPDATE 2: I have blogged about this whole issue on my other blog here

UPDATE 3: A report of this workshop is above

UPDATE 4: It is my understanding that this team has now been disbanded.

07 August 2009

This blog is not on holiday...

Cornwall and then Tunisia beckons - so this blog will be quiet for the next couple of weeks. Thanks to everyone who has visited over the last few months - so far there have been over 5000 page impressions.

Whether you are a regular visitor here (and there is a growing number) or you have wandered in by accident or come here for the first time - you are most welcome. Please browse and be inspired by all the good ideas I have managed to assemble so far.

In my absence - please do add your "small creative ideas" either by making a comment here or email me jon@jonharveyassociates.co.uk if you would like. The idea does not have to be yours - if you spot what someone else is doing and think it deserves a mention here - there is scope to add a link.


Very best wishes to all.


Good neighbours

Good Neighbours awards (From Knowsley Council)

Do you know somebody in your community who deserves a special thank you?

A person who does that extra little thing that makes your neighbourhood a better place? Someone who has helped you with your garden, or done the shopping for you when you couldn’t? Perhaps they have looked after your children so you can have a break or even go to work? Maybe they’ve just been there when you needed someone to talk to.

If you live in Knowsley, the ‘Good Neighbours’ Awards are your chance to pay tribute to someone special, either adult or young person, whose kindness has made a real difference to your life or that of another neighbour.

The awards are run by the Knowsley Partnership, in conjunction with the Knowsley Challenge.

What a great idea! More information here.

06 August 2009

Swine flu: crisis management (local authority)

When a six-year pupil tragically died of swine flu in the London Borough of Hillingdon, the media spotlight turned on the council. This case study looks at how its communications team supported schools, council staff and the primary care trust.

Further information & helpful guidance on the IDeA website here

UPDATE: There is also an ongoing discussion on the IDeA forum as well - that you may find useful - here

05 August 2009

Get ur voice heard...


Great initiative from Devon County Council - seeking to open up dialogue with young people involved with the Children & Adolescents Mental Health Services. They have a you tube channel as well:

Take The Rap: The consequences of gun grime

The consequences of gun crime - a short film from Knowsley Youth Service. The film features amateur actors from the Knowsley area.

Watch it here

Great to see an initiative like this.

Thanks to http://twitter.com/KnowsleyCouncil

03 August 2009

Two improvements from Basildon

  1. Investment in electronic payment methods allowed the Council to centralise its cashiers offices also improving the payment options and providing better access to the service. The total saving (including the additional investment costs) is approximately £218,999 per year.
  2. Additionally a major insurance exercise was carried out with a view to redcuing the insurance premiums. This resulted in the previous insurer being relaced by five different insurers achieving a saving of approximately £678,000 per year.

Thank you to Basildon District Council for these two examples.

01 August 2009

Unfurling creativity - being all we can be!


The irrepresssible Tom Peters talks about being remarkable and how to innovate. This is a short vid to get you thinking - how can you be remarkable today? Not by be emulating someone else... but by just being remarkable in your own right!

In a way this sort of makes this blog redundant... Are you here to copy other people making small creative changes? That is a good thing, of course. Please do carry on and do that.


How will you use the ideas contained in this blog to do something uniquely remarkable yourself?!

On reflection - this is really what this blog is all about - assisting, helping, inspiring, documenting, celebrating, prompting & prodding you to be as creative and innovative as you can be! (Although you do not need this blog to that, of course!)

Within all of us is a universe of creativity just waiting to unfurl.

(Thanks to Cris Beswick http://www.letsthinkbeyond.com/ for the Tom Peters link)

31 July 2009

BME Cancer Advocacy Project wins award

An innovative volunteering project which helps to provide support for people from black and ethnic minorities (BME) who are living with cancer has won an award. The BME cancer advocacy project in Newcastle won the Celebrating Diversity Award 2009 for the North East...

More info: http://www.northoftyne.nhs.uk/news/press-releases/bme-cancer-advocacy-project-wins-award

28 July 2009

Employee engagement - yet again!

I have just joined a 'ning' group - you may be interested to join as well:

Lots of interesting facts, opinions and contacts in the employee engagement field.

27 July 2009

We asked, You said... (WAYS)

Officers in the Bensham area of Gateshead are listening to local residents and acting on their concerns.

On June 22 survey work started in Bensham on Operation WAYS (We Asked,You Said) to find out what local residents are worried about - and do something about it...

More info: http://www.northumbria.police.uk/news_and_events/news/details.asp?id=16299

24 July 2009

Leeds Share and Learn

Leeds Share and Learn has been set up as a way to share information, knowledge and experience between health and social care professionals in Leeds. Whether that's details of some learning, an event or training, a useful podcast, a relevant article or some upcoming awards.... If there's something you think would be useful to include just drop us an email and we'll do the rest....


A blog rich in ideas about improvement in the health & social care network - in Leeds (but lots of info about improvement generally!)

Have a look

22 July 2009

Employee engagement matters - again!

No surprises here - but an excellent review of why employee engagement is so critical to overall sucess.


4 themes emerged for David McLeod in his reseach:
  • Clear sense of where the organisation is going
  • Really engaging managers with lots of reinforcing feedback
  • Real employee voice - everyone understands how the business is doing
  • Bringing together of stated values and behaviours

David MacLeod and Nita Clarke were commissioned by the Department for Business (BIS) to take an in-depth look at employee engagement and to report on its potential benefits for organisations and employees. The Secretary of State for Business, Lord Mandelson, encouraged the independent reviewers to examine whether a wider take up of engagement approaches could impact positively on UK competitiveness and performance, and meet the challenges of increased global competition....

21 July 2009

CSO gains sign language award

A Community Support Officer in Cramlington has been working to bring the police and the deaf community closer together.

Barry Elliot, who has served as a CSO in Cramlington and Seaton Valley for the past four years, identified a communication issue between police and the deaf communities in Northumberland.

More information: http://www.northumbria.police.uk/news_and_events/news/details.asp?id=16126

20 July 2009

The truth about... creativity

As readers of this blog will know - I am always on the look out for interesting websites & books designed to support creativity. I just came across this book - which although I have not yet read (it has only just been published) - seems like it will contain a good number of helpful nuggets of wisdom. The book is by Patrick Harris - a well respected practitioner in this field.

You can get some details here:

And some more info and a chance to buy at Amazon - here.

A book for some Summer reading perhaps?

15 July 2009

The 'real' NHS innovation websites

Prompted by my thoughts below - I wrote to Lord Darzi. I received this reply today.


Dear Mr Harvey,

Thank you for your email dated 9 July to Ara Darzi regarding innovation in the NHS. I have been asked to reply.

The website that you refer to, namely www.innovations.nhs.uk , is not the flagship site for the Innovation Commitment that came out of the High Quality Care for All report and is not sponsored by the Department or the NHS, nor is it endorsed by either. It is unfortunate that you came across this site. However, I can assure you that progress is currently being made to close it down.

The site that I think you would find more helpful, which is sponsored by the Department of Health and hosted by The National Innovation Centres website, is to be found at www.nic.nhs.uk. Here you will find tools and advice to support innovators at all stages of the Identify, Grow and Diffuse Innovation cycle, as well as a forum for front line clinicians to suggest areas in need of innovation and a collaborative space for solution providers to engage with them. There is also a range of ‘How To’ guides to support innovators which you may find of particular interest.

The ‘Showcase’ section of this site flags recent or soon coming innovations to the service. These, in turn, are fed by the outputs to the Innovation Hubs, the National Innovation Centre, Universities and companies, and will feature the outputs of the Strategic Health Authorities (SHA) Innovation Funds when the outcomes from these new Funds emerge into the healthcare world.

Research conducted during the Next Stage Review highlighted the need for better adoption and diffusion of innovations. In April, the Department launched a series of initiatives to address this, particularly NHS Evidence and SHA Regional Innovation Funds, which I hope will be of interest to you.

The NHS evidence site, www.evidence.nhs.uk, is a one-stop portal bringing together all clinical and non-clinical evidence on treatments, and will better equip everyone in the NHS who makes decisions about treatments or the use of resources, and also patients who want to know more about their care. The evidence will be comprehensive, quality assured and made available both in its original form and through guidelines, pathways, tools and other resources. It will inform patient care, commissioning and service management.

The aim of SHA Regional Innovation Funds is to provide a dedicated pot of money (£220million) to spend on the development and diffusion of new and innovative ideas, reducing the time it takes to get ideas from ‘bench to bedside’. Where funding was not previously available to support, test and pilot new ideas that will deliver better health, better care or better value for the patient, these can now be accessed through the R egional I nnovation F unds . The se funds will also encourage 'open innovation' in the NHS - working with partners from academia, the scientific community, the private sector, third sector and areas to develop joint solutions to healthcare challenges, encouraging collaboration rather than competition.

Other initiatives supporting the adoption and spread of innovation include:

a series of NHS Innovation Challenge Prizes totalling £20million that will be launched later in the year, and will recognise and reward breakthroughs in the provision of health services;

  • a Legal Duty which is now placed upon SHAs to promote innovation. This is the first time any body or organisation has had a statutory responsibility linked to innovation;
  • academic Health Science Centrewhich will bring together world class research, teaching and healthcare delivery so that developments in research can be more rapidly translated into benefits in patient care in the NHS and across the world;
  • better support for the planning and measuring of uptake of pharmaceuticals and, in response, a number of measures will be introduced, and also to simplify how medical technologies pass from development into wider use, and benchmarking and monitoring uptake; and
  • establishing Health Innovation and Education Clusters,phase one 2009/10 has been introduced. We are currently inviting application bids from multi professional partnerships between academia, education, health services and wider industry/ independent sector.

I hope that you will find this information useful and are able to access your local networks in continuing your innovations efforts.

Yours sincerely,

Martin Gatty

Customer Service Centre


A very constructive & useful reply, methinks. So grateful thanks for this information which I am happy to put on this blog.

St Albans suggests...

1) Replace the colour photocopier in our reprographics department to enable it to take more in house jobs. This was coupled with better promotion of our in house design and print team to enable us to getter better value for money out of the facility.

2) Early delivery of post by Royal Mail which has freed up three member of staff's time to work in other areas of the business

3) Creatively looking at our training process for Customer Service staff handling planning enquiries to ensure that staff can be trained to a high standard quickly and competently.

4) Sale of Council redundant computer equipment which has generated income for the council as well as ensured that we do not pay a fee for disposing of electronic equipment as previously. It also fits in with our principle to protect our environment.

5) We are currently looking at how our teams are laid out in the council, to ensure that there is maximum interaction between officers to share information.

Suggestions arising from the St Albans City & District Council's staff suggestion scheme - thanks for these examples

General Ideas for developing more small creative ideas

Gather intelligence and ask for user ideas and input at every opportunity – informal conversations, registration desks at meetings, phone conversations and so on. Your customer research doesn’t always have to be formal or costly

Share ideas (while acknowledging colleagues’ contributions) – don’t reinvent the wheel with a report or idea which other colleagues or organisations have used or developed (note that this is more difficult to do in the private sector but is encouraged in public service)

Don’t be hidebound by job titles and protocol. Ask people for help or to join your projects where they can be of assistance. Cultivate allies and people you can work with as you find them, not just as they present themselves to you. If the “accepted” way of working doesn’t work for you, find a way that does – at least until someone stops you and tells you off! At the same time, if people who are supposed to be helping you don’t come through, don’t waste time making them help if you can find another way or bypass them altogether. The very fact a particular colleague is not acknowledged on a piece of work is likely to speak volumes about them in any case.

Surprise people by presenting ideas in a different way (for example, in otherwise formal meetings, using differently formatted reports, workshops instead of formal presentations, posing questions to work through in discussion in small groups). You are likely to find that they will react in a different way to you, and work with you more productively.

Thanks to St Albans City & District Council for these suggestions

09 July 2009

Building confidence in the police

St Wilfrid’s Primary School in Northenden is set to be the first school to receive child size PC and PCSO high visibility vests from the Northenden Neighbourhood Policing Team.

The miniature vests, which fit three to four year olds, have been specially designed for children to use during roleplay in lessons and will be presented to every primary school and nursery in the area....

More information:

Neat idea which I hope will go some way towards building positive links between the police and the communities that they serve. Two thoughts though:
  • Do they have a miniature low visibility criminal uniform too for the role plays?
  • Secondly (more seriously) there is no mention of evaluation... I do hope they will assess the impact of this initiative?
Readers may be interested in my other blog articles on confidence in policing:

http://jonharveyassociates.blogspot.com/2009/04/hitting-single-target.html - discussion about the implications of the new single measure

07 July 2009

NHS Innovation Hubs

England has nine regional NHS Innovation Centres (hubs), aligned to Regional Development Agency and Strategic Health Authority boundaries. They can all be accessed via this site:


The Centres were established in 2004 / 05 with a dual mission; to champion the cause of healthcare innovation and to identify, develop and commercialize innovations and Intellectual Property created by NHS staff. The multiple drivers for this activity include improved patient care, enhanced service delivery, increased business and enterprise activity and additional revenue that NHS Trusts can re-invest into patient services.

I would really like to be able to say that these websites are packed with innovative ideas that can be applied across the NHS and even to other parts of the public services. However - what they appear to be about are the ins and outs of intellectual property, details of the how NHS innovations can help you (etc.) and a smattering of case studies - if you can find them on these websites...

On the London site - you get a link to:

Community Services Wandsworth’s Approach to Assurance, Clinical Governance and Quality Improvement: http://www.nhsinnovationslondon.com/filestore/documents/Team%20Tool%20Factsheet%20Final%20(2).pdf

... which seems to be an advert for a commercial product you have to buy...

Come on NHS innovations - you can do better that this!

If Lord Darzi's dream of there being lots of 'eureka' moments in the NHS - we need more ideas, more case studies, less emphasis on intellectual property and more openness!

Interestingly - I justtried emailing this organisation at the link given on their website: info@nhsinnovations.co.uk

It does not work! Nor indeed does info@innovations.nhs.uk Is this the basis for innovation in the NHS?

STOP PRESS 14/7/09: Lord Darzi has resigned...

I sincerely hope that a new minister takes up the innovation challenge!

STOP PRESS AGAIN 15/7/09: It turns out this website is not sponsored or endorsed by the Deaprtment of Health. See my posting above.

06 July 2009

Community Therapy Service Rehabilitation Assistants

Community Therapy Service Rehabilitation Assistants (Community Therapy Service, Independent Living centre, SCH )

From Wirral PCT "Simply the best" awards programme - This is an award for individuals or groups of staff within the PCT or from independent contractor organisations (GP, dental, optometry practice or community pharmacy). This was the 2008 winner.

Why should the nominee receive an award?


This was a simple idea, using readily available resources, to:-

1) Enhance and improve the provision of equipment to patients in 1 single visit

2) Help Community Equipment store(CES) to meet their delivery targets

3) Reduce the number of contacts for the Community Therapy Service (CTS) thus improving cost efficiency.

4) Set up satellite store in CTS so that all staff could take smaller pieces of equipment out for assessment and leave so patients are safely provided with equipment on same day

In the last 12 months, how has the nominee used innovation to successfully change practice or improve results?

A CTS rehab assistant noticed the availability of delivery vans on certain afternoons. A pilot was proposed. Competency of proposed staff was assured. An audit was undertaken to determine the provision of a satellite store.

Processes for assessment, ordering and delivery of equipment were reviewed and simplified for both CTS and CES. CTS are heavy users of CES so this has had a positive knock on effect in that the need for individual delivery of equipment by CES has been reduced.

How was the need for innovation identified?

Pressure to provide timely assessment and provision of equipment prior to patient admission to the Independent Treatment Centre. The majority of these patients were considerably younger than the usual cohort and so were still working. Access during normal working hours was difficult. An approach was made to CES to see if it was possible for CTS staff to use the vans. Generally, return visits to patients and also to CES were driving up mileage costs and were expensive in terms of clinical time spent driving.

In what way have actions or practice been innovative?

Improved and enhanced service to patients – extended hours and same day delivery. Extended roles for rehab assistants. Maximised use of available resources. Reduced costs in terms of clinical resource and mileage.

In what way has this innovation made a difference, and to whom?

To patients:-

  • They have only been inconvenienced by one visit
  • It has extended service provision beyond office hours.
  • Same day delivery
  • Timely provision of equipment prior to hospital admission which offers reassurance to patients.

To provider services :-

  • Improved delivery times for CES. Fewer deliveries direct to patients to further free up resources
  • CTS although 2 staff have attended it has been 1 visit in all,
  • Overall mileage has been reduced,
  • Reduced need for follow up visits.
  • Satellite store – Equipment is instantly available and so all CTS staff can take smaller pieces with them for assessment, delivering same day provision. Supports further service development e.g. Emergency Response

Thanks to Wirral PCT for this example - of a scheme and the idea.

03 July 2009

NHS Innovating (South East)

NHS Innovations - South East: Case studies


Not many on this site yet - but watch it grow... (I hope!)

One example from the list:

‘Your Life’ – Education Pack is a form of community mental health provision for adults and young people. Referrals come from primary care, education, adult mental health, social services and the voluntary sector. Individuals are encouraged to take responsibility for positive change in their lives and taught to do this in a non-threatening way. Courses for small groups are based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. They are video-taught and facilitated by trained, non-medical personnel. The courses are run in community venues and are delivered over a number of sessions. The use of non-medical staff and operating in a community-setting means that the courses are inexpensive and cost-effective. The team has had very positive feedback from clients....

More at: http://www.innovationssoutheast.nhs.uk/downloads/9_NISE_Life.pdf

Let's Move

"Let's Move" was developed by Clare Kettlewell and Karen Craig, Paediatric Occupational Therapists from NHS Dumfries and Galloway, working closely with families and schools to assist children's skills and learning.

The programme is designed to meet the many needs of children of various ages and developmental stages as well as those with diagnoses such as autism spectrum disorders, developmental co-ordination disorder and other developmental conditions.

More information: http://www.scottishhealthinnovations.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=187&Itemid=67

More information on other innovations in the overall website: http://www.scottishhealthinnovations.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=189&Itemid=261

The Gateway Experience (Signed) - Kent TV

This film is about Kent's very own Gateways system, providing a range of public sector services under one roof. (Sign Language Version.)

Not exactly a 'small' but certainly a creative idea for reshaping citizen access to a whole range of local / national services. I like the fact that this is signed as well - reflecting the accessibility of the whole service.

My only gripe is the constant use of the word 'customer' when they should be using the word 'citizen' in my opinion. Whilst I believe in good customer service, of course. In my view - the public services do not have customers in the same way as say Pizza Hut has customes - where you pay your money and get some food. The relationship between citizens and our public services is a much more complex one. I have expanded on this point on my other blog:

That said I recommend a visit to the Kent TV site - a good example of services being delivered to the public in a way that makes sense to the public.

UPDATE: Just to let you know - the Kent TV site may soon be closing down (http://www.localgov.co.uk/index.cfm?method=news.detail&id=86356)

02 July 2009

Dignity in Care good practice event

Kirklees Council Adult Services was invited to a July event to showcase its work in Dignity in Care which is an initiative designed to make sure that older people in care are treated with respect.

This regional event took place on July 1 and was attended by the ‘Dignity Ambassador’ Sir Michael Parkinson; Minister of State for Care Services, Phil Hope; Minister for Pensions and the Ageing Society, the Rt Hon. Rosie Winterton, and other Dignity champions.

A key part of the event was the ‘Dignity Activity Market Place’ where examples of good practice from across two regions were exhibited. There was also a ‘Question Time’ panel chaired by Sir Michael Parkinson and a forum theatre...

More information: http://www2.kirklees.gov.uk/news/onlinenews/newsdesk/fullstory.aspx?id=1190

Excellent stuff - but it would have been helpful to have a link to the details of the good practice...

30 June 2009

Success for Barnsley sexual health website launch event

An event held at the Alhambra shopping centre to launch the newly revamped sexual health information website - www.whatdoyouknow.org.uk - has been hailed a success by NHS Barnsley’s teenage sexual health co-ordinator, Richard Hart.

Richard said: “The event has been a fantastic vehicle to help promote and raise the awareness of the new website amongst younger people locally. Over 2,000 leaflets were handed out and many people stopped to talk about sexual health issues.”...

More information: http://www.barnsley.nhs.uk/default.aspx?locid=02tnew01q&Lang=EN&htm

Success for Street Marshals project

Harlow Council is hoping to continue a three month pilot project that has been reducing anti-social behaviour in Harlow town centre.

The Street Marshals project started in March 2009 with funding from the Government. The funding paid for the employment of two trained and licensed staff to patrol the town centre at weekend evenings when there is the highest risk of anti-social behaviour. The role of the Marshals is to provide additional assistance to Police patrols and the existing Taxi Marshal scheme. Their presence helps to ensure that small scale incidents do not escalate in higher levels of criminal damage or violent behaviour.

The scheme has proved successful and over 16 nights of patrols the marshals dealt with numerous incidents...

Combined communication in Herefordshire

What the Idea was: The development of Herefordshire Matters

Results achieved: The council and the Primary Care Trust has combined its communications channels so that all information on services and developments are featured in one publication - called Herefordshire Matters - which is delivered to every household in the county. All leaflets or advertisements are channelled through one publication, which saves £1000s in design, print and advertising costs. The publication has been recently evaluated and its readership levels are greater than any other newspaper serving the county.

Thanks to Herefordshire Primary Care Trust for this example

Working in Partnership in Herefordshire

What the Idea was: Development of Public Service arrangements with Herefordshire Council.

Results achieved: Herefordshire is the first place in the country to have a Chief Executive leading both the Council and the Primary Care Trust. Chris Bull Joined Herefordshire in December 2007 and his first major task was to establish a new integrated management team and joint organisational structure, which was determined in March 2008. The new structure is enabling much closer and effective partnership working in order to improve public services and achieve greater efficiency.

Further details of the Working in Partnership can be found in Herefordshire Primary Care Trust’s Annual Report and Accounts 2007/2008 on page 12. A link to this document is below.


Thanks for Herefordshire Primary Care Trust for this example

Winging it for animal conservation

Designers of Cherwell District Council's new Spiceball sports centre in Banbury are taking a flutter on protecting local wildlife. As part of the contract for the development, construction firm Kier Moss is installing bat tubes and swift bricks which will provide nests and roosts for the creatures living nearby.

More information: http://www.cherwell-dc.gov.uk/index.cfm?articleid=4477

(I keep hoping that a bat will nest in the box I put up in my garden last year...)

29 June 2009

Brainpark unleashes the wisdom of the crowd

CEO of democratic software company practises facilitative leadership (from an article by Camille Jensen)

It’s an approach Mark Dowds says many are too afraid to try, but the CEO of Brainpark says adopting facilitative leadership can unleash the wisdom of the crowd, opening a business to new ideas, practices and directions. Brainpark, a California-based software development firm, models its leadership after the principles of Open Space Technology, a facilitational process for meetings that allows the agenda to be set by the floor...

More information at: http://www.axiomnews.ca/NewsArchives/2009/May/May19.html

In my view Open Space offers a near perfect forum for the generation of small creative ideas that can make a big difference! It is my hope that it will be used more & more by those in the public and 3rd sectors.

26 June 2009

The Big Lottery Fund unveils new funding strategy

Voluntary sector will receive at least 80 per cent of funds and an extra £45m for the recession...

Full article (and thanks):


New cash income from rents on usage of land.

This is rental income from mobile phone transmitter masts situated on Council (open spaces) land

Thanks to Bath and NE Somerset Council for this example

Readers might want to have another look at my blog posting on creative ideas around income generation - of which this is a great example:


Improved efficiency & sick cover of dog bin emptying

The Council has a number of dog bins located in parks and open spaces in Bath. In the past these have been emptied by a dedicated operative and the waste treated as "clinical waste". Guidance is now that this can be treated as other (domestic) waste and does not need to be separated as it can be co-mingled with other waste streams. The authority has therefore combined its operations for emptying of parks litter bins and the dog bins, leading to a saving in time (and labour costs) and better sick cover.

We are now looking to combine this operation with the emptying of street litter bins to improve efficiency and free up street cleaners so they can focus on their primary task (and not be required to empty bins into their barrows on their rounds).

Thanks to Bath and NE Somerset Council for this example

22 June 2009

Neighbourhood reduces burglaries

A scheme to cut down on crime in an area of Bourne has been a success and now other streets are being urged to do the same.

Following a series of burglaries during the winter months in Stephenson Way, Bourne, police community support officer Graeme Parrott encouraged residents to set up a neighbourhood watch scheme, which has reduced the burglaries "significantly"...

More information: http://www.bournelocal.co.uk/news/Neighbourhood-reduces-burglaries-.5382540.jp

18 June 2009

Resources available for innovation in the Third Sector

Funding Central is a free smart website for the whole voluntary and community sector, including social enterprise, providing access to thousands of funding and finance opportunities, plus a wealth of tools and resources supporting organisations to develop sustainable income strategies appropriate to their needs.

Phase one of Funding Central was launched on 17 June 2009 with further enhancements and additional tools and resources being released in September 2009. This is a growing resource and we welcome any feedback that you might have to help us improve our service.


A possible resource to support and fund small creative ideas perhaps? Have a look and let me know what you think.

Thank you to 'Third Sector' for highlighting this

16 June 2009

Unique garden share scheme cuts allotment lists

A unique new scheme is cutting waiting times for allotments and helping older people take care of their gardens. Waiting times for allotments have reached an all-time high across the country as a new fad for growing your own takes hold. Under the Garden Partners scheme, people who are on the Wandsworth waiting list are being matched up with people over 60 who are unable to tend their own gardens.
The scheme is a partnership between the council’s allotment’s department, Age Concern Wandsworth and NHS Wandsworth, and is believed to be the first of its kind in the country...

Cllr Jim Maddan, cabinet member for adult care services, said the scheme helps solve a number of different problems. 'This is such an obvious solution, I’m surprised we didn’t think of it before. Gardening has been proven to be very therapeutic and a way to help the disabled as well as the elderly to remain active and enjoy a full life. This scheme reduces the allotments waiting list, helps older people take care of their gardens and encourages people to get to know older people and become friends with them.'

(link repaired - previous one broken) 

What a great idea!

UPDATE: Maybe now not so unique... Here are details of two other schemes in existence:
UPDATE 2: Here is a website dedicated to sharing 'spare ground' as well http://www.spareground.co.uk/ - thanks to Rachael Mallender, Police Officer who posted on this info on this story earlier today (27/4/10) http://www.localgov.co.uk/index.cfm?method=news.detail&id=88323 "Councils under fire over allotment waiting lists"