Saturday 1 January 2011

'Shared services'

I've just read this post from @amandacomms (don't just read that post, there's some really good stuff in there from the woman who brought you #gmp24 - she's another #jfdi innovator, we need more like her).

This isn't a cohesive post because it's New Years Day and well, I'm a little sore around the edges but I read that post and I thought 'she's right, there's no money and we do need to do more with less so exactly what do we change, how do we change, to ensure that thast happens'.

Something I'd like to investigate and chew over further is shares resources as well as shared services. If there are, say, something like 50 local authorities in England (I know it's more but I can't bear to get into Metropolitans and Municipals and suchlike today) then I'd imagine that at some point during the year, all of those authorities might want to communicate the same thing to their citizens at the same time. Or, for example, 3 might be having local elections at the same time. Instead of each individual authority coming up with new marketing and communications approaches, it seems to me that combining back end resource might be a good idea.

Of course, it comes back to social media which doesn't have geographical barriers, in theory enabling such collaboration easily. But the end users we want to see the campaigns are geographically fixed, but can crosss over, and in the case of Twitter are in one massive melting pot. And yes, people who follow @blackburndarwen are ostensibly only going to be local residents but a RT passes it on out into the masses and I'm simply musing here.

I am thinking very specifically of the Greater Manchester Polices magnificent 'Drunk and Disorderly Inn' campaign. Every police force in the country, one imagines, wants to reduce the amount of 'check in's' each night to their cells. If we all have less to spend, cross resourcing seems sensible. But I am struggling to think of campaigns away from heath and policing which would benefit from this approach i.e. local government, apart from local elections and citizen engagement and cohesion - are these local things which should be contained in a local bubble or is local voter turnout something which can be tackled with the same campaign in Blackburn with Darwen as it could be in, say, Peckham or Streatham? Are the messages needing to be sent the same?

I don't know. If you do, please shout. It's just another case of dropping a message in a bottle into the great digital sea, and seeing if it floats.


  1. Louise, you've interrupted my Saturday stupor and got me thinking...
    There must be loads of activity across all sort of areas that could be improved if resources and ideas were shared. But it is crucial to retain local identity. I know I place great emphasis on this as a resident of my local area, and I recall from my days on local newspapers how readers wouldn't have anything to do with neighbouring authorities or even other parish councils. So, shared services yes, separate identities; quite important.
    Where it could work really well across different counties and online, is when a neighbouring authority is doing something really well and people elsewhere want to challenge their own authority to do better.

  2. Hi Tim, sorry! I'm not quite switched on myself. I think something which might be quite useful to look at more frequently is the example of the You Choose website which was coded, I think by someone in central gov, made open source, and the code shared with every local authority, so that we could all take the core code, fill in the gaps, put our 'colours' on it and incorporate it into our website. I think that's the best example I can think of where each local bubble has their own site, but the resource behind the scenes is shared.

  3. When I used to work on the Planning Portal, we had to deal with more than 300 Local Planning Authorities in England and Wales, and it was extraordinary how much emphasis that the local authorities put on trying to differentiate themselves. We have national laws for town planning, and a national professional organisation in the RTPI, yet there was enormous resistance to a national planning application form.

    My impression was of an extraordinary waste of resources, and the attitude of the LPAs was very unpopular with residents and professionals like architects and surveyors. Most people move house more than once in their lifetime, and we expect consistency, rather than differentiation, from government.

    I live in Teignbridge, but my GP is in Totnes, and if I drive to a car park, library, swimming pool, or a recycling centre, I could find myself in Teignbridge, South Hams, Torbay, or Dartmoor National Park. And if I go to an NHS hospital, I could end up in Exeter or Plymouth.

    Why these authorities need to treat themselves as 'brands' and give themselves a distinct identity is a source of mystery to me. I don't have any choice which local authority I deal with, or whose regulations I obey: it's entirely a matter of location.