Imagine that you’re 16 years old and you can’t live at home with your family because it’s not safe, for you and your family. You’ve lived with different foster carers, moving every six months or so, when the carer says it too hard to look after you. For the past two years, you’ve lived mostly in residential care homes, with other young people. It’s not right for you — too loud, too many people, too many rules. Every time you move in with a new carer, it happens again: fights, blame and you have to move on. You feel angry, and trapped.

Stories like this are real. We hear them again and again during research with young people as part of our work on fostering services. Based on our findings we design products and services that aim to improve the experience of young people in care and the people looking after them. One example of a new service we designed is a specialist fostering service for young people in care who can find it hard to cope with difficult situations. As part of this service, foster carers receive specialist training, to support the young people better and prevent placement breakdown.

Testing and failing fast in high-risk environments

To understand if a new service is working or not, you need to test it with users. This involves observing the service in roughly the same shape for a period of time. For example, taking the time to research and understand if young people are able to cope better with difficult situations as the result of different approaches and policy in fostering.

One of the mantras of innovation and technology startups is “fail early, fail fast, learn early, learn often”. It’s always better to find out something new won’t work before you’ve spent a lot of time and money on it, rather than after. But what if you’re operating in a high-risk environment, where failure could mean another traumatic care experience for a vulnerable young person?

Safely testing a new service in a high risk environment

From previous projects I’ve learned that there are two effective ways to safely test a new service that supports people in vulnerable situations:

  1. Building additional support around a ‘pilot’

By keeping the number of people involved to a minimum and putting additional and personal support in place, it’s possible to observe a new end-to-end service, while managing and reducing risk. This approach has a higher initial investment.

For example, we can look at the specialist fostering service I mentioned earlier. As part of a three month pilot, we provided three young people, as well as their carers, with additional support. The young people had daily contact with their own support worker and the foster carers attended additional supervision meetings. They also contacted their own support worker on a daily basis too. This way we were better able to identify risks and provide support when and where it was needed.

2. Testing parts of the service in a gradually expanding way

Another option is to identify parts of the new service that can be tested either separately or in low-risk ways. This approach has a lower initial investment, but it takes longer to test a full service or even a minimum viable version of an end-to-end service.

For example, after the first pilot of the specialist fostering service, we decided to lower the risk and test the service in a more stable environment by only involving highly experienced carers. This meant we would learn less about identifying, recruiting and training the right types of carers. It did allow us the increased stability to gain better insight in specific areas and its impact on young people’s experience and ability to cope.

Broken systems, not broken lives

These approaches are about finding out where systems break and how to make them better, while minimising the disruption and negative impact in people’s lives.

Fostering is just one example of a complex service operating in a complex environment, with lots of broken parts. Hearing the experiences of young people who have been in care makes the impact that this has on their lives painfully clear. It can be really daunting to try and change that for the better, but it’s also really important. We can do that by focusing on people first, always. Shaping and testing solutions with those involved and impacted by the change.

I’m sure the two approaches I described are not the only ways to safely test a new service in a high-risk environment. I would love to hear your experiences or if you have any questions / comments, let me know!

Follow Nina on Twitter, or sign up to receive our weekly newsletter, Yammertime, for plenty of internet goodness.

Failing fast when failing is not an option was originally published in FutureGov on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Original source – FutureGov

There’s a common theme to a lot of mySociety sites: enter your postcode, see something that relates to you.

From FaxYourMP—the mySociety project so old it predates mySociety itself (paradox!)—through to TheyWorkForYou, FixMyStreet, and WriteToThem, as well as a few of our commercial projects like Mapumental and Better Care, we’ve discovered that asking for a visitor’s location is a super effective way of unlocking clear, relevant information for them to act on.

So perhaps it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that, while doing some regular monitoring of traffic on this website, we noticed a fairly significant number of people attempting to search for things like postcodes, MP names, and the topics of recent debates.

Random sample of search terms, July–December 2017
animal sentience corbyn
germany CR0 2RH
theresa may facebook
EN3 5PB fire
ruth davidson HG5 0UH
eu withdrawal bill diane abbott

By default, the search box on this site delivered results from our blog post archive (it goes all the way back to 2004 don’t you know!)… which is pretty much what you’d expect if you know how we do things here at mySociety. We have this centralised website to talk about ourselves as an organisation; then each of our projects such as TheyWorkForYou or FixMyStreet is its own separate site.

But, looking at these search terms, it was pretty clear that an awful lot of people don’t know that… and, when you think about it, why should they?

The most obvious solution would just have been to direct visitors towards the individual sites, so they could repeat their searches there. Job done.

But we figured, why inconvenience you? If you’ve made it this far, we owe it to you to get you the information you need as quickly as possible.

Handily, we’ve got rather good at detecting valid postcodes when our users enter them, so programmatically noticing when a user was searching for a location wasn’t hard. And equally handily, TheyWorkForYou offers a powerful API that lets developers exchange a user’s postcode for detailed data about the boundaries and representatives at that location.

What do you get when you combine the two? Automatic search suggestions for TheyWorkForYou, FixMyStreet, and WriteToThem, when you enter your postcode on

The search page is also aware of the most frequently searched-for MPs on our site, and will offer a direct link to their TheyWorkForYou profile if you search for their names.

And finally, if you search for something other than a postcode, we give you a single-click way to repeat your search, automatically, on TheyWorkForYou, opening up decades of parliamentary transcripts to you, with a single tap of your finger.

It’s not a big, glamorous feature. But it’s something we know will come in useful for the few hundred people who search our site every week—possibly without their ever noticing this little bit of hand-holding as we steer them across to the site they didn’t even know they wanted. And most importantly, it should introduce a few more people to the wealth of data we hold about the decision-makers in their lives.

Header image, Flickr user Plenuntje, CC BY-SA 2.0

Original source – mySociety

Meet Marie, one of our service designers at DWP Digital.


Marie Cheung

Marie Cheung

Tell us about the type of work that you do?

I work with DWP Digital teams to design end-to-end services that will improve outcomes for citizens.

What was your first job in technology?

I was a graphic and web designer.

What attracted you to DWP?

The many opportunities for designers to help create better human-centred services for people.

What technology excites you most and why?

Chatbots – they create an exciting opportunity for people who want to self-serve to get things done independently.

Tell us about a project you’re working on

I’m creating a service map to create a wider understanding of all our working age services, such as providing digital access to citizens and getting financial help for emergencies.

What problem does it aim to solve?

It will enable us to see how we can reuse things we are designing to build services and solve problems more quickly.

What is one surprising fact that people don’t know about you?

I went cycle touring in the north of Scotland for 2 weeks.

Name one career goal you would like to achieve in the coming year

I’d like to present the work we’re doing at DWP at conferences and events.

Name someone living or dead who inspired you in your career

Amelia Earhart.

Original source – DWP Digital

Another cold, damp Saturday in January, another bright warming day of Govcamp.

Unconferences are by their nature somewhat random and formless in their nature, but looking below the surface of that randomness reveals patterns, both within any one event and across time. This post is about some of those patterns, and the directions that might point us in for the future.


The first session I went to this year was led by Clare Moriarty on action and atmospherics, in which she posed one of those questions which it is easy not to notice, but becomes overwhelmingly obvious as soon as it is pointed out. If we know what it is that needs doing, why is it so hard actually to do it? That question is of course a variant of a broader one: why is change so hard, even when it is clear that change is necessary? Not surprisingly, the question got a wide range of answers (with a sense of the conversation captured in this note). I offered the idea that it had a lot to do with relentlessness. It’s unrealistic to think that any single action will shift an organisation, but there is good reason to think that sustained action can do. That’s for two main reasons. The first is that always takes longer than you would think possible to get a message across: keep repeating yourself until tired of your own words and you might just be beginning to be heard. The second is more subtle, but even more important. In order for people to trust that change is real, they need to see that it is sustained and consistent, and that inevitably takes time – often quite a lot of time, particularly if, as if often the case, there is a history of the rhetoric of intended change falling well short of the experience of actual change. No one off event, however brilliant, will lead to sustained behaviour change – except perhaps among those who had a predisposition to make the change anyway. Leadership isn’t demonstrated by setting out a vision of a better future; it is demonstrated by consistently behaving in ways which help to get there.

More relentlessness

Those long sweeps of change show up in govcamp itself – and its history is now long enough for them to be clearly visible. I first went to govcamp in 2010 and the notes I wrote then make for interesting reading (to me at least). There was the same sense of energy and commitment, there were some of the same names and the same topics. But while govcamp has stayed the same, it has become very different. Back then, it was much more narrowly focused:

I found my concerns about personal data and transactions and about government as service provider rather than information broker feeling a bit on the margin.

But what was then on the margin has come to the centre. Digital perspectives, approaches and people still supply much of the energy of Govcamp, but the problems that energy is applied to are broader and deeper than those of the early years. That is emphatically not to criticise the pioneers who made amazing things happen then and sowed the seeds for much that has happened since. It is to make the point that relentlessness has had a very real effect, both as a reflection of changing times and very much as a contributor to the change.


As well as being more extensive of scope, Govcamp has become dramatically – and very deliberately – more inclusive of people. Govcamp has always been made new each year with a healthy influx of first time participants, but this year there was a much more active and explicit focus on welcoming, celebrating and supporting all participants. It is deeply admirable that everybody at Govcamp shares an ambition to make the world a better place. It is deeply heartening that that ambition is increasingly applied to Govcamp itself – and Govcamp is, of course, no more and no less than the people who make it up.

That is also a consequence of a decade of relentlessness. There were a lot more user researchers and service designers, for example – but that’s possible because there are many such people working in and with government now and there were none or very few not many years ago. Digital has evolved well beyond its technological roots, to the extent that Pete Grzeszczak led a session (which I didn’t manage to get to) on defining digital and considering whether to abandon the word. For what it’s worth, I think and have argued that the concept is becoming vacuous, but the point here is again that there isn’t a single sudden change, but the maturing of ideas and people which makes both problems and solutions look different.


Back in 2011, I described the people who came to Govcamp as starry eyed pragmatists. That still feels like a pretty good description. More recently I have taken to describing Govcamp as useless. That’s not a pejorative statement, on the contrary I think that uselessness is its undervalued strength. It’s a place for conversations to happen, for connections to be made, for a set of overlapping tribes to gain strength from coming together.

Relentlessness is also about not giving up.  For the last couple of years, Govcamp had been losing a little of its magic for me. This year it had returned in full. The frustration of choosing between sessions competing for attention felt more acute, and I deliberately chose to go to more sessions than slots, which adds both breadth and a different kind of frustration. In the time slot in which I was jointly leading a session, there were at least three others which I would almost rather have been at.

Govcamp looks effortlessly relaxed. That is of course an illusion. It takes an extraordinary amount of grinding hard work to pull off that illusion and we luxuriated in the care of an organising team at the top of their game. The fact that so many smart people saw that as a worthwhile thing to do makes a huge contribution to the virtuous circle of becoming even more worthwhile.

And so back to relentlessness

The idea of relentlessness can be seen as an admission of weakness or failure. Can we really do nothing but wait for change to play out over years, limited to minor influence at the margin?

There are three answers to that. The first is that there are big forces playing out and there is power in understanding them. Amara’s law states that:

We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.

The corollary (which I have just invented) is:

We tend to overestimate the pace of organisational change in the short turn and underestimate the impact of change in the long run.

There is nothing new or surprising about that, it’s been true of every technology driven change ever. Diane Coyle put it very well in a blog post a few years ago focused on the innovative impact of cars and electric motors:

With any new technology, people have a tendency to over-hype the short-term effects massively (so we get tech bubbles) and under-estimate the huge long-term effects (for example, that railways made urbanisation possible). The error of hype is because new technologies often have such great wow factors. The error of not noticing profound change is precisely because many people find it hard to see the cumulative effect of all the many contextual changes needed for a technology to be widely used.

The second answer is that we shouldn’t underestimate the power of relentlessness. Putting Amara’s law into reverse, while the pace of change can often feel frustratingly slow, we don’t have to look back very far to see a world which looks very different, and in particular looks different in just the ways which Govcampers want it to be.

But the most important answer is that relentlessness is a strength. It is not a sufficient strength, but is a very necessary one. After a day of govcamping, I am feeling more relentless. I suspect that  many others are too.

Original source – Public Strategist

is it time time to get more from social media.jpg

Is it time to sharpen your social media planning & improve results? If so these new workshops might just be for you…

by Darren Caveney

Social media. It’s changed the way we engage with and listen to our customers, residents, patients and communities. Comms teams are feeling increasing pressure to deliver improved results, and as individuals we’re being challenged daily to achieve greater returns on the time we’re all investing in tweeting, posting, following, commenting and connecting.

Well, as usual, comms2point0 has your back.  Brand new for 2018 is SUPERCHARGED SOCIAL MEDIA, a one day workshop designed to help you sharpen your social media planning, hone your delivery & improve your results.
Delivered by me, Darren Caveney, SUPERCHARGED SOCIAL MEDIA workshops have been designed specifically for public sector communicators. They’ll arm you with smart planning tools, creative content ideas and a fresh approach to delivery and evaluation based on industry experience, latest sector intel and peer best practice.


  • where social media sits within your multi-channel approach
  • interactive exercises to review current social media practice
  • evaluating accounts and answering the chief executive’s ‘why bother?’ question
  • objectives planning, tactics & platforms
  • best practice examples & award-wining work
  • creating, delivering and maximising killer content
  • mastering tone of voice and personality
  • when, where and why you should be posting & being active
  • social media for great customer service
  • social media for professional networking

Over the course of a full day of training, I’ll lift the lid on what I’ve learned and work with you to ensure you leave with a head full of new ideas, ready to squeeze a whole lot more out of your professional and corporate investment in social media.

I’ve sourced some exciting venues too so that we can have a creative and different day away from the office.






Want the workshop run in-house and tailored for your team?
If you would like me to deliver this Supercharged Social Media workshop for your in-house team please drop me an email at

Darren Caveney is creator of comms2point0 and owner of creative communicators ltd

image via Tullio Saba

Original source – comms2point0 free online resource for creative comms people – comms2point0

stephen 2-562-101-72-bw(1).jpg

by Jean Jarvis

We at FuseCiC think the answer is quite a lot and so have brought together some of the sector’s leading thinkers to share their thoughts, insights and expertise on how social housing providers and social enterprises can come together to address some of the challenges tenants are facing today.

The event is aimed at social housing providers, including public sector housing providers and those working in the social enterprise sector.

There will be a keynote by ‘The Phone Box Millionaire’, Stephen Fear, who will share his thoughts on how we can ignite the ambitions of the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Stephen, when aged just 15, started his first business using a red phone-box on the Bristol council estate where grew up. Now, known as the Phone Box Millionaire, he is a renowned entrepreneur, businessman, philanthropist and author with nearly 50 years international business experience.

We’ve also brought together a series of workshop learning opportunities, including on ‘How Virtual Reality (VR) can be used for social good.’

Our speakers include:

Paul Sutton, Director of Assets & Development at Connexus, who will talk about his time at Shropshire Housing Group where he oversaw an imaginative, community-led development, to renovate a disused local pub and create a community hub – run as a community asset by a local community society.

Also speaking at the event are Peter Holbrook CBE, Chief Executive Social Enterprise UK; Sinéad Butters MBE, Chief Executive ASPIRE, Wayne Gethings and Jean Jarvis MBE of Wrekin Housing Group.

Interested in attending? visitors can get a 20% discount off tickets – please see below.

I hope to see some of you there

Jean Jarvis is managing director at Fuse


Our workshops include:

‘The Importance of Capturing and Measuring Social’, ‘Delivering Efficiencies through Social

Enterprise’, ‘Virtual Reality for Social Good’, ‘Social Telecoms Helping your tenants to fly’,

‘Social Investment: A Tool for Impact’ and ‘Social Impact – engaging communities’.

If you’d like to join us for the event – which will be hosted in Stafford at the innovative

Northfield Village, a unique mixed-use scheme that provides a holistic approach to

accommodation, community and care.

Tickets available at:

Save 20% on ticket prices by using the code: 20FuseCiC

Full event details are available on the Fuse website:

Original source – comms2point0 free online resource for creative comms people – comms2point0

If you find someone questioning why frontline people should have access to social media show them this video.

Two officers return to the home of a 93-year-old crime victim to check on how he is.

They listen to his stories of the war, getting his pilots wings and of losing his wife one Christmas Eve a few years before. One officer spots the sheet music on the piano. This was his grandmother’s favourite too. So he plays it and  a colleague decides to record it.

The identity of the old man is preserved but you can see his hands playing along and the delighted clapping of his hands.

This is beautiful.

It should be shown to officers to remind them of why they do they job they do. This is not CSI Miami this is PC Mansfield and it just works.

It can’t be built into a comms plan can this. But comms can create the environment where frontline staff are trained and given the tools. This was posted to the Mansfield Police: Forset Town, Wood Hill and Surrounding Areas Facebook page rather than the Nottinghamshire Police corporate page.

For a Facebook video this is far longer than the 21 seconds which is optimum. It is also shaky, not polished and you don’t see the people involved. But that’s part of the reason why this works.

Be more human. Be like Mansfield Police.

Original source – The Dan Slee Blog » LOCAL SOCIAL: Is it time for a Local localgovcamp?

4 fundamentals of good staff engagement .jpg

Creating and maintaining genuine engagement with staff in organisations going through large and continuous change is difficult. This new posts highlights the fundamentals needed for good engagement and examples of where it’s worked well.

by Caroline Roodhouse

Here’s something we can all agree on.

In comms, change is nonstop.

Which wouldn’t be a bad thing if those changes involved bigger budgets, more resources and free cake on a Friday.

Sadly, most of those changes involve varying degrees of budget cuts and restructures resulting in all kinds of uncertainty and justified skepticism from employees. 

With such responses routinely spreading through our organisations, how do we maintain genuine staff engagement and achieve effective internal communication?

When faced with such a monumental challenge, it’s sensible to simplify and seek tried and tested answers, rather than reinventing the wheel. And there’s no better place to look for an expert understanding of employee engagement than the Engaging for Success report from David MacLeod and Nita Clarke.

Identified in 2009, The four enablers of engagement, based on extensive research, have stood the test of time. They’re as relevant today as they were nine years ago.

So, what are the four enablers and what can we learn from them about keeping people informed and engaged through constant change?

Strategic narrative

…means visible, empowering leadership providing a strong corporate narrative about the organisation, where it’s come from and where it’s going.

‘When developing a corporate narrative it’s important to involve your own staff…’ writes David Holdstock in his article on telling your story. ‘Creating it doesn’t need to be a complicated task. A series of short focus groups can provide you with everything you need – and the things you don’t. These will give you a fantastic insight into what is in people’s minds already and what needs to be different.’

3 things comms can do:

  • Local site visits to discuss organisational objectives, and change, and to find out about front-line issues
  • A weekly brief/ team conversation to share key organisational messages
  • ‘5 minutes with…’ some key questions answered by a leader about who they are and what they do, posted on the intranet with a photo.

Karl Connor, Senior Internal Communications Manager at Sellafield Ltd was tasked with connecting employees with their new corporate strategy after experiencing ten years of transformation involving changes of ownership, and switching from the public to the private sector (and back) – and there were more challenging changes to come. The team tackled the challenge by building on the pride that existed and connecting the dots between the past and the future. They created a ‘striking and easy to digest’ narrative through key themes and shared them via weekly bulletins, videos, executive blogs and other channels. The campaign generated positive contributions and enhanced engagement significantly, measured through qualitative and quantitative research. We can learn a great deal from their experience.

By celebrating past successes, providing clear information and sharing a well-defined direction, it’s possible to articulate a story that results in meaning and belonging.

Employee voice

for reinforcing and challenging views between functions and externally. Seeing employees not as the problem, but as central to the solution, to be involved, listened to, and invited to contribute their experience, expertise and ideas.

Internal communication, as we know, is a two-way street and not a process designed to broadcast information. Particularly during times of change, it’s vital that employees are given the opportunity to have their say and contribute towards productive, meaningful conversations.

3 things comms can do:

  • Arrange regular face-to-face meetings, where senior leaders invite staff to ask questions, express concerns and share their ideas
  • Create ‘graffiti walls’, opened for a period, again inviting views and comments on a particular theme
  • Set up ‘champion networks’ where keen employees gather and feed back views relating to specific topics on behalf of their colleagues.

These videos created by Christchurch and East Dorset Councils have helped to boost staff morale and give them a say directly with the Chief Exec, through their Carpool Chattyaoke campaign. Very creative inspiration!

Engaging managers

who focus their people and give them scope, treat them as individuals and coach and stretch them.

According to Liam Fitz and Klavs Valskov in Internal Communications, A Manual for Practitioners, ‘Line Managers can be one of the most powerful channels of communication in your organisation because people like to hear from and discuss issues with someone they know and, crucially, who knows them.’

Appreciating the potential that managers can bring is just the start of the story though. It’s our job as comms pros to make sure they’re equipped to carry out such responsibilities. They may not always have the necessary skills, knowledge and confidence and they’re likely to need a helping hand. This article suggests some of the things we can do to support them, and here are a few more:

3 things comms can do:

  • Make sure they know what’s expected of them from a comms perspective
  • Provide them with tools and materials that they actually want to use
  • Coach them on the art of listening.

Sam Holdsworth, Internal Communications Specialist at Midland Heart ran a hugely successful campaign with zero budget promoting their Aspiring Managers programme to frontline staff. By sharing positive stories from existing engaged managers, in less than two weeks, the number of places on the programme had to be doubled, driving engagement across the organisation.

There’s an evident desire out there for people to inspire and motivate others – tap into it in your own organisations.


…the values on the wall are reflected in day to day behaviours. There is no ‘say –do’ gap. Promises made are promises kept, or an explanation given as to why not.

Leaders who are honest and who display strong moral principles are vital in an environment of change and uncertainty. People need to know they’re being told the truth, however hard it may be to accept. Comms pros can help by encouraging managers and senior leaders to role model certain behaviours – being open-minded, sharing credit with those who deserve it and helping to ensure that the organisation’s values aren’t just ‘words on a wall’.

3 things comms can do:

  • Arrange ‘Back to the floor’ sessions, where senior leaders spend time with operational staff carrying out everyday duties
  • Publicly feed back on views, ideas and suggestions submitted by employees
  • Share results of employee surveys, reviews and focus groups in a timely honest and transparent way.

Employee engagement can be improved by providing clear direction, through honest and motivational leaders and managers that are willing to hear the views of others and actively listen to the wisdom of their people.

As busy comms pros, there are limits to what we can achieve but we have the skills and abilities to start making a difference. With never ending uncertainty, we need to find new ways to keep our people connected, motivated and engaged.

Caroline Roodhouse is Content Creator at Alive With Ideas

image by Tullio Saba

Original source – comms2point0 free online resource for creative comms people – comms2point0

Notebook with sticker: 'The New National Health Service 5th July 1948'

Service design in the public sector is, as Lou says, 10% innovation and 90% archaeology, and never more so than when working in a great national institution in its 70th year.

Realising I needed to learn more about the history of our National Health Service, I asked the Twitter crowd where to start. Here’s what people said:

The New National Health Service leaflet page 1

The New National Health Service leaflet page 2

The New National Health Service leaflet page 3

The New National Health Service leaflet page 4

What else should I look at?



Original source – Matt Edgar writes here

‘Internet of Public Service jobs’ is a weekly list of vacancies related to product management, user experience, data and design in…you guessed it…the ‘internet of public service’ curated by @jukesie every Sunday.

Sign up for it as an email every Sunday afternoon!

[01] Intranet Manager
University of Bristol
£36,613 — £41,212
Closing date: 04/02/2018

[02] Creative Writer
Government Digital Service
Closing date: 04/02/2018

[03] UX Designer
Mace & Menter
Salary not stated
Closing date: 04/02/2018

[04] Product Manager
£40,000 — £60,000
Closing date: 04/02/2018

[05] Local Engagement Officer(s)
Parliament Digital Service
£30,150 to £42,932
Closing date: 07/02/2018

[06] Project Director
North-east England
Salary not stated
Closing date: 16/02/2018

[07] Delivery Manager
Closing date: not stated

[08] Digital Manager
National Housing Federation
£46,100 — £52,525
Closing date: 12/02/2018

[09] Product Manager
Macmillan Cancer Support
Closing date: 28/01/2018

[10] Digital Product Manager
England and Wales Cricket Board
London [Lords!]
Salary not stated
Closing date: 28/01/2018

Internet of Public Service Jobs: 21/01/2018 was originally published in Product for the People on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Original source – Product for the People