Shortening the innovation cycle in local public services

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Successful innovation in one part of the public sector that ought to spread rapidly to other parts. After all, there’s no competition to worry about and lots of what is done is replicated all over the place. But of course, it doesn’t work like that in real life. There are many barriers, including procurement processes, cultures, hierarchies and above all, the business-as-usual, analogue thinking and practice still prevails in too many places.

Lack of awareness of what is possible, and what is already being done elsewhere is also a barrier. We’ve all visited innovation showcases in their first blaze of publicity – once. If you build it, they won’t come. Try to re-find that thing you saw somewhere on the web the other day, and you can’t.

As any student of media knows, what you have to do is take your stuff to where the people are already. It was this thought that led us to wonder whether the Better Connected platform might have a role to play in sharing and promoting innovation.

As Socitm supporters will know, Better Connected surveys all 416 UK websites each year to assess their usability and the quality of the digital services they present, covering planning, rubbish & recycling, social care, libraries, housing, highways and more.

The results have always been of interest to web and customer service managers, but since we started to publish results service area by service area, leads in planning or social care or highways are increasingly being drawn to our publicly accessible advice on best digital practice. Senior leaders now recognise that the state of the corporate website, as revealed by Better Connected, can be a telling indicator of a council’s digital engagement and maturity.

What better place then, to add a digital innovations showcase? Councils simply upload details of their innovations to the linked site Public Service Digital Exchange. Innovations can then be highlighted on the council’s Better Connected landing page – which is free-to-view with no login. See the example of the Better Care application for social care that appears on Kirklees Council’s landing page.

Innovations described ‘on the page’ can be a bit dry – although video uploads to Public Service Digital Exchange do bring things to life – so we have also developed a live ‘pitch & talk’ innovation showcase format.

Pitch & talk, first used at the ADASS Care Apps Showcase earlier this year is a cross between Dragon’s Den, an unconference, and a speed dating session. It allows participants to hear about lots of new ideas and then engage immediately with their developers in face-to-face discussions.

Featured apps and innovations are uploaded to the Public Service Digital Exchange in advance so that participants arrive with some idea about the things they most want to hear about.

The event programme features very short, elevator-pitch style presentations from participants who are briefed to forget ‘death by Powerpoint’ and reveal just enough for the audience to decide whether they would like to find out more.

Each presenter hosts a table throughout the day, where delegates can join them for follow-up discussion sessions to share knowledge, find synergies, and create opportunities and collaborations.

Audiences like these events because they get to hear a lot of new ideas very quickly, and can satisfy themselves equally quickly of their relevance (or not) to their needs. There just aren’t any of those present-the-corporate-slide deck-and-disappear-before-any-difficult-questions presentations we are so familiar with from traditional conferences featuring the usual suspects.

Pitchers like these events because they get to see a lot of potential customers and collaborators really quickly, and gain invaluable feedback through the follow-up discussions.

In short, the ROI for both presenters and audiences is very high.

We are running two days of pitch & talk innovation sessions at the Connected Local Government Live event on 28 & 29 June. We’ve published some confirmed sessions to give an idea of what to expect, but more will be added ahead of the event.

If you’d like to pitch an innovation in this session, upload it to the Public Service Digital Exchange or use the Contact us facility to discuss it further. SMEs, start-ups and public service organisations prepared to share their innovations may be selected from the PSD uploads to present their innovations free of charge.

You can also watch our short video about how it works.

Shortening the innovation cycle in local public services

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