w/c 21 and 28 January: sniffles and a bit of culture

Two weeknotes in one. Partly because I took a day off to do Cultural Things and partly because I spent last week feeling sorry for myself while I battled with a cold. I’m pleased to report that copious doses of hot Ribena have had the desired effect and I’m feeling much better this week.

Feedback from Members

I had the opportunity to give updates on our team’s work to elected Members at the Council’s Scrutiny Panel and Audit Committee over the last fortnight. Both of these conversations were very encouraging and I was especially pleased to hear Members giving positive feedback about the work we’ve done together with our colleagues in fostering and housing. Our elected Members are an important link with our residents and it was positive to hear that they’re getting good feedback about the impact of the work we’re doing.

I was asked some good questions about how we are working to make sure that we are designing inclusive services and how we’re building partnerships with colleagues in other service areas to make sure that Hackney is being ambitious and looking to maximise the positive impact that digital service design, technology and data can have for our residents. It was good to have plenty of examples to refer to which illustrated how we’re meeting these challenges.

(For anyone who enjoys reading Council reports, the reports I took are here: http://mginternet.hackney.gov.uk/documents/s63672/20190121%20Scrutiny%20ICT%20and%20digital.pdf and here: http://mginternet.hackney.gov.uk/documents/s63751/20190128%20Audit%20Sub%20Committee%20report%20ICT%20update.pdf).

Linking up with other services

Last Monday we had a joint management team session with colleagues in the Council’s Strategy, Policy & Economic Development division. This was a good opportunity to look at ways that we might work together to be ‘more than the sum of our parts’ and we used the 1–2–4-All approach to distill out a small set of ideas that we can explore further together over the next month. The ideas we agreed to focus on were:

How might we…?

  • Build on our work focussing on user needs to design equalities and sustainability into services
  • Grow a network of enthusiastic change practitioners
  • Help colleagues with insight into political leadership and the ‘golden thread’ between the work they are delivering and the corporate plan
  • Develop deliberative and accountable approaches for community engagement

We identified groups of 2 or 3 people who are going to explore each of these through quick, targeted actions and have agreed that we will get back together for a follow up session at the end of the month to reflect on what we’ve learned through that.

This discussion links with a report that I read a few years ago and thought was interesting, suggesting that support services should be seen as ‘force multipliers’ for ‘frontline’ services (https://drive.google.com/open?id=1_XZW4DHCz2IlfqFH8z2f6cnHVPik7-HH). It’s become fashionable to talk about ‘back office’ services as overheads that aren’t core to service delivery, but I think this misses the really important point that, done well, support services can liberate time and add focus to ‘frontline’ service delivery and if they’re not working well ‘back office’ services can have a significant negative impact on the ‘frontline’. I think it’s really important to define our success as being measured by the impact that we have together on delivering services to our residents, not simply carrying out our different professional disciplines.

Other highlights from my last couple of weeks were:

  • An interesting conversation about data and analytics with Liz and colleagues from Camden and Waltham Forest.
  • Good progress with colleagues in housing, agreeing how we will update our governance arrangements to help maintain the momentum that has been built for the work we’re doing together.
  • Joining the One Team Gov breakfast that Cate organised in our Town Hall, which included interesting conversations about public service reform and culture change.
  • The end of Discovery for our project to explore the Hackney Spacebank manifesto pledge. The team have done great work digging into the opportunities and challenges, and we’ve agreed to move forward into an alpha stage that will test out some prototypes for ways we might deliver on this.
  • Introducing Cllr Carole Williams (Hackney’s lead for employment and skills) to some of our new apprentices and a great conversation talking about the different things they had done before they joined Hackney and their thoughts on starting work with the Council.
  • A great catch up with the director for another service which included very positive feedback about the ways that our teams are working together to help shape and deliver transformed services for our residents.
  • Meeting some new colleagues from other services as part of the ‘Let’s Network Hackney’ introductions programme, which was also a good opportunity to show them how we can use video meetings to meet up even if we’re not in the same location (I was working from home shaking off my cold).
  • Some really inspiring progress updates from the work with colleagues in Temporary Accommodation which Matthew shared with me. This is a really important part of the Council’s work and I was incredibly impressed by the work that the teams have done together.
  • Intro meetings with Matthew and Bukky from our development team and Susan and John from our Print team, finding out about how their experiences of joining our team and what they were doing before they joined Hackney.

Something I’m learning

Like @Cate (https://weeknot.es/weeknotes-47-skills-talent-and-practise-3e8b33c37b66) I went to the Tate Modern to see the exhibition of Anni Albers’ work. As well as being impressed by the quality and detail of her work and finding the history of her life very interesting, there were also a few things I noticed that I found thought provoking.

The first was the observation that Anni made to her students about the importance of understanding how products will be manufactured in factories once the design part is done and thinking that through from the beginning of a piece of work. I liked the respect this showed for the whole process of making a thing, not just the ‘glamorous’ artistic bit. I also thought it was interesting to see the photos of textile factories from the 1950s and 60s, which I thought had interesting parallels with the discussions about robots taking over people’s work that you read in today’s media.

I also liked looking at the letters and correspondence that the Tate put on display as part of the exhibition. I thought it was interesting to see how brief some of them were — much more along the lines of what we’d put into a text message these days, whereas in my mind I’d expect an actual letter to be a much longer piece of prose.