Collaboration and learning — what it’s been like for us!

Welcome to our first post for the Centre for Digital Public Services (CDPS) blog. We’re the three project managers from @NPTCouncil, @BlaenauGwentCBC and @torfaencouncil working with the first Centre for Digital Public Services digital transformation squad. We’re looking at how we can improve services for the user in Adults Social Care.

Why we’ve got involved

We’re excited to be involved in this project which is the first of its kind. We all live in Wales and are passionate about designing public services that meet user needs and want to be champions for change. We know this is a chance for us to be guided in a new way of working that will get to the nub of the problem, engaging everyone involved from the service user to the service itself.

We want Wales to be at forefront of using innovative ways of working that will not only improve how users engage with our services, but also make Wales a great place where our children want to work. We want to be part of something that is exciting and cutting edge. We cannot stay as we are.

This is also a great opportunity to work across Local Authorities whose geography would probably not normally lend itself to collaborative working.

Stepping back

This project is allowing us to step back and see where the pain points are in our services for the user rather than for us. We’ve taken the time to ask ourselves who we really design services for and be confident to challenge if it’s not right. We don’t always make it easy for our users to access our services, there is minefield of information out there and some cannot access it, as some of it is only available online. We can’t assume that everyone has a smart phone or laptop.

It’s also allowed us to learn a new way of working that focuses on collaboration and delivery. We’re learning new skills to allow us to work in a different way and understand how we can design services with user need at the centre!

Using ‘Agile’

We’re using Agile methodology for the first time and that means a new language and new terminology. Some of this has been challenging for all of us (we’ll talk about that in a future post) and some of it has been exciting with on-line approaches to problem solving showing that in this COVID-19 world of work it is possible to find alternatives to workshops that work! The speed of change and adapting if something is not working as well as it could be is fantastic.

It’s also really helped that we’re working with a great group of people who are focused on getting things done. It is great to have their support and combined experiences to help us understand the current situation and to gain insight into things that can make life harder than it needs to be. The feedback from the expert squad from CDPS at each stage has ensured the momentum for the project, keeping us all on track.

What we’ve learned so far

We’ve only been involved in the project and working together for about 6 weeks, but we’ve already learned so much. We wanted to share some of the main points with you and hope to continue sharing our learning in future posts.

· Collaboration — we’ve found we have lots in common so it is well worth seeking to collaborate with others that you don’t usually work with. Not only can we get a better understanding of our own problems but we also get additional insight into other approaches.

· Combining data with the experiences of service users and front line staff to make decisions rather than working on assumptions is already opening up an exciting range of opportunities.

· Using Agile methodology allows us to work at pace and get results sooner, continuously reviewing what we have done in short periods (every 2 weeks) learning from what’s not working so well and adapting. Celebrating success as we go along.

· Exposure to various technologies that support workshop sessions has been new to some of us. Using these has been hugely successful in ensuring that all stakeholders have the opportunity to share ideas and ask questions, all whilst working virtually. Great learning for future projects!

So far, the experience has proved really valuable in helping get under the skin of the problems faced by residents and staff when accessing Council services. The intelligence gained from both user and staff research will be pivotal to our next steps, helping put the resident at the centre of any process.

We’ll keep posting about the experience, what we’re learning and how the service is developing and hope that sharing our experiences can help others delivering public services in Wales.


Nita Sparkes @NPTCouncil

Mandy Butcher @BlaenauGwentCBC

Mark Sharwood @torfaencouncil

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