23 December 2011

It has been a while... (and seasonal greetings!)

I have been busy with other things. But my apologies for not posting much on here in recent months.

So to refresh this blog - and remind people this blog is entirely searchable - I will say again why I started this blog. Two ideas really. I get fed up with the public services wasting money on large consultancies to tell them what their front line staff already know about ways to improve efficiency and effectiveness. And secondly, I just want people to be engaged and it saddens me when creative, resourceful and innovative people are overlooked in favour of some external bright thing who has the next best answer to slicing bread...

This blog is about documenting the remarkable ways that people have found to make public services better often with no more and often now with far less resources. How are you doing it? Please tell us here. Thanks.

If you are looking for an idea - have a look below. You will be delighted, amazed and impressed by the range of ideas. And if you cannot find what you are looking for - please email me - I may well be able to point you in the right direction. (Just click on the side bar for my email address).

And - moreover - it is free! There is no charge for this information and support. In how many other places would you find ways to save you and your taxpayers money whilst improving services.

Unlike others (whom I won't mention) this blog knows about VALUE as well as cost!

Finally - do have a great Christmas and New Year - 2012 will be tough for many people. I hope that this blog will go some way to making things a little easier.

16 May 2011

Developing IT Provision in Times of Austerity

Government, Local Authority & Third Sector 
IT Provision in Times of Austerity
Friday 10th June, Westminster Studios, Central London

The need has never been greater for public and third sector services to make the most of their existing IT infrastructures and systems, and harness the free and low cost options provided by the web. Options to procure new systems or expensive upgrades are now very much more limited due to fiscal pressures.

This 'open space' conference will offer you a unique and intensely interactive opportunityto investigate, develop and enhance your existing IT systems, and explore how web tools (such as dropbox, yammer and many other social media applications) can help you to achieve more with less.

The workshops will provide you with many opportunities to share, collaborate and devise shrewd strategies and deft innovations designed to make the most from the IT within your organisation and how you can harvest all that the net provides – often for free.

What is Open Space?

How many times have you been to an event and come away with two thoughts: the ‘break times were the most valuable’ and ‘how I wish we had talked about X subject’? How many events have you attended and discovered later that a colleague or contact was present but you never had the chance to sit and talk with them? How often have you wished to leave an elective workshop after the first few minutes and visit another, but felt compelled to stay?

Austere: IT’ has been designed with these experiences in mind: not only will you be able to create the agenda precisely around the issues that matter to you but also you will get to know all about what other discussions are going on as well. You will have the scope and flexibility to craft the day to exactly what you want it to be.

Or as Ken Eastwood of NOMADS (http://publicsectornomads.com/) has said “Having a conversational event around these issues will be most fascinating and helpful”

This event will identify critical ways in which existing central government, local government and third sector IT systems can be innovated to provide enhanced value for money with no or very minimal extra investment. As a consequence, the possible topics include:
  • Developing new ways in how to use low cost off the shelf packages, or free to use services on the web to deliver services to the public (such as http://www.dropbox.com/http://www.doodle.com/ and http://www.caffein.tv/
  • Using social media to ‘oil’ communication around public & third sector organisations (here is one example: http://danslee.wordpress.com/2011/02/14/case-study-how-yammer-can-help-local-government-innovate/
  • Redesigning the human processes to make more use of the IT systems 
  • Using unconferences, govcamps and other interactive means (face to face and web based) to create new applications with partners and users 
  • Making more flexible use of existing contracts with external suppliers to provide more for less 
  • Harnessing the insights, ideas and power of customers, users and other stakeholders 
  • Collaborating with neighbouring agencies and authorities 
  • Extending functionality to new areas and services 
  • Developing and adopting greater commercial leadership & ‘nous’ in negotiating with external providers
    This is not just about making do, or even mending what we have (though those can help) – it is critically about harnessing all the resources at our disposal – which includes many low cost or free services already available

    Register today and save £200 (All delegates registering by Friday 6th June will be entitled to a £200 discount. To register please follow this link.) If you have any questions regarding the event please email Katie Gilroy. (Account Manager- Local Government, Neil Stewart Associates. Direct Line: 020 7960 6852)

    More information here


    Brendan Harris - Interim Director of Knowledge and Innovation
    Services Directorate Support Team Manager
    Local Government Improvement and Development

    will be giving an opening presentation

    21 April 2011

    Questioning Engagment

    Here is a link to the latest e-book from David Zinger's ning - a set of brilliant questions for leaders to ask their staff, colleagues and bosses - in order to create more engagement.

    There is nothing as powerful as a good question, in my view!

    20 March 2011

    Austere:IT' ...sweating the existing systems

    I am now in the advanced stages of organising a conference on a 'make do and mend' approach to public services IT. It will be a different style of conference - a highly interactive and dynamic conference - in that all present will be able to shape the agenda on the day - towards what can be done to sweat, tweak, exploit (etc) existing IT in order to achieve more with less.

    This is in the context of there being no money to buy expensive new systems or upgrades - hence the title.

    If you are interested in finding out more, possibly attending and getting involved in the debate - please contact me: jon@jonharveyassociates.co.uk . Thanks

    The date to pencil into your diary is 10 June 2011

    Otherwise - please watch this space for further details...

    10 March 2011

    New digest: 330+ ideas & counting!

    This blog has now had over 20,000 page loads so I thought it was about time to produce another digest of all the ideas in an readily accessible pdf format. You can download it here (from Google docs)

    Please search, peruse and plunder practices that will help you deliver more with less.

    09 March 2011

    Slugging: a sustainable response to higher fuel costs?

    ...Public transit never shows. But, eventually, a blue Chrysler Town & Country does. The woman behind the wheel rolls down her window and yells a kind of call-and-response.
    “Horner Road?”
    “Horner Road?” repeats the first woman in line.
    “Horner Road!”
    And two women get in the van, heading, presumably, for Horner Road...
    People here have created their own transit system using their private cars. On 13 other corners, in Arlington and the District of Columbia, more strangers — Oliphant estimates about 10,000 of them every day — are doing the same thing: “slugging.”...

    A (long - and I have not read it all) post about how commuter behaviour has altered in the US in response to high occupancy lanes - a self organising system for sharing transport - that appears to benefit all. (Click here for the full document)

    Yesterday I tweeted about the system that Devon has in place to help people organise car sharing (see below) - and why more councils should be copying this approach. 

    But perhaps what is needed is the space to create slugging in this country... So come on local government - can you create conditions in which this might happen in this country too?

    24 February 2011

    DotGovLabs: Innovation Hub

    Just been sent details of this website which is designed to provide "a virtual space enabling digital innovation of public services."

    The philosophy of the Innovation Hub will help you learn more about how the hub brings together users, innovators, investors and government to shape and build radical digital solutions to social challenges. The Innovation Hub provides new ways to collaborate. Finding solutions to social challenges and breaking down barriers

    Here is the link: https://dotgovlabs.direct.gov.uk/Page/Home

    So it is a place to find out more ideas on how to deliver public services in innovative ways. Please visit!

    (Thanks to Noel Hatch for the invitation)

    23 February 2011

    Do you know where you smalls are?

    Regular readers of my ramblings will know I run two blogs: one about leading change and development from a whole systems perspective and this one about the small and creative ideas that are making a difference in the public and third sectors.

    I am posting this - just to remind people that this blog has over 300 ideas for how to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of local services.

    This blog is:
    • Totally free
    • Totally searchable
    • Totally open to more ideas being added!
    In these stringent times - there may just a few small ideas in here to help you reduce costs while still maintaining or even improving services.

    The blog also stands up for public service organisations 'home growing' their own improvements rather than spending buckets of dosh on consultants who borrow your watch, tell you the time, keep the watch and slip a needle in to carry on drawing blood too.

    And this links back to my other abiding interest: leadership. What are leaders doing or should be doing... (apart from not signing cheques for large consultancy contracts that add no value) to foster the necessary levels of engagement / verve / commitment / creativity (even in these austere times) amongst public service staff?

    Answers on a postcard - or better still - please post them on the parallel post on my other blog here


    10 February 2011

    A festival of ideas

    News from the Innovation Unit of exciting developments in Leeds:

    Local authorities helping innovators

    Yesterday, Innovation Unit hosted its tenth Festival of Ideas in partnership with Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership looking at greening public services. In the room, were senior colleagues from local authorities across the Yorkshire and Humber region, social investors who work closely with innovators from the community and voluntary sector and eight innovation projects working to green our public services...

    Full story here

    31 January 2011

    Direct debits: making savings

    Prompted by an enquiry on another site - I did a brief piece of research into good practice on increasing the numbers of people paying their council tax by direct debit. Here is what I turned up:

    Here is some details from Wandsworth - in case you have not already seen this: here and here

    There also appears to have been a London wide campaign: click here

    And here are some more links too:


    27 January 2011

    The BEST in Birmingham

    There is a good summary of the BEST programme that Birmingham City Council runs to harness the ideas of the staff here

    The BEST programme: 
    Improving employee engagement in Birmingham City Council


    Change for any organisation can be hard. The frontline workforce can often feel left out. Birmingham City Council has placed its staff at the heart of the process, boosting their motivation in the process. Birmingham has set up a network of groups that are helping shape the future.

    Key learnings for other councils...

    26 January 2011

    Welcome to this blog!

    I have just written to a large number of public service bodies alerting them (again) to the existence of this blog. If you have been prompted to come here as a result of that email - thanks for coming to visit!

    This blog now has over 300 ideas for how to increase efficiency, effectiveness and overall service. The aim of the blog is to disseminate, celebrate and stimulate practical improvement ideas in the public and voluntary services.

    Given all the huge pressures facing local services, I thought now would be good time to remind people that this blog exists – to help where it can.

    • Have a look at the blog – browse and search it – there may be an idea there that you could use – it’s free and no sign up is required 
    • Let other people know - anyone who you think might be interested in ways to improve efficiency 
    • Write back to me with an idea (or two) that you would like to add to the blog 
    The blog has been browsed now nearly 20,000 times in the last couple of years.

    Everyday people from the UK (and often from places further afield) visit the blog for inspiration.

    I would be most grateful for any ideas you would like to contribute. (They don’t have to be amazingly creative, or unique or even that small... just an idea that you know of, or implemented yourself, that you think is making a positive difference. I will assume that whatever you send me can be uploaded with your name & organisation attached – unless you tell me otherwise. Non attributed postings are quite OK.)

    Thank you.


    U Suggest

    A local District Council writes:

    The scheme was set up in October 2007, and awards are made approximately quarterly.  Of the nearly 90 ideas sent in to U Suggest so far, 23 suggestions have received awards.  The types of suggestion we receive include operational improvements; the highlighting of areas of our service which would benefit from review; suggestions for improved staff facilities; suggestions for carbon emission reduction; ideas for improving internal communication, and so on. 

    I would draw to your attention the following two suggestions, both of which received significant awards under our scheme.

    Suggestion regarding Council Direct Debit changes

    An award was made to an officer for his suggestion that changes to benefits for Council tenants paying by Direct Debit should be generated by an electronic report. This suggestion was made by someone from outside the relevant department, who realised that such a report could save much staff time.  The idea has been successfully implemented. 

    Suggestion regarding testing of Lifeline equipment

    Instead of officers carrying out visits to customers using Lifeline equipment purely in order to check that the equipment was working, telephone testing was suggested.  Of course, in view of the vulnerable nature of many of these customers, this suggestion would not be feasible or desirable in certain cases, but where appropriate, remote testing will take place, thus saving officer time.  

    Thanks for this