Latest news and innovations for councils and the public sector from the SocietyWorks team.
We are delighted to announce that we have been shortlisted for the Public/Private Partnership award at the LGC Awards 2022 for the work we completed with the London Borough of Bromley to develop a new, self-service digital domestic and green waste service.
The service, WasteWorks, is a secure, user-centred and fully integrated front-end system, designed to meet rising resident expectations for on-demand, self-service access to waste, while also helping councils to reduce costs and improve customer communications.
Within just a few months of launching WasteWorks, Bromley Council was seeing a 40% drop in avoidable customer contacts thanks to the system’s functionality to provide clear, citizen-friendly response templates that can be adjusted in real-time.
The council was also able to realise a long held ambition to provide an integrated Direct Debit option for payments for Green Waste services. Despite only being available for a short time, Direct Debits already account for a quarter of all transactions and are greatly reducing time and resources in issuing and processing renewal correspondence.
Angela Dixon, Managing Director at SocietyWorks, said: “We are incredibly proud of the partnership we have built with Bromley Council over the last ten years. Bromley’s dedicated team shares our desire to improve the accessibility and transparency of digital council services, and this is reflected in the scalable, user-centred solutions we produce together and their positive impact on residents and staff.
“We are thrilled to be shortlisted for this award and to celebrate the cohesion and trust between our teams, as well as the hard work that went into the creation of WasteWorks over the last twelve months, especially during a time when waste services have never been more important or under pressure.”
For councils that don’t have an existing case management system, FixMyStreet Pro’s inspector tool allows staff to receive, manage and respond to reports directly from the front-end of the service.
The inspector tool works by enabling council staff to build up a shortlist of reports that they’re responsible for dealing with. It’s a neat little feature – and it just got even more useful.
Up until recently, reports had to be found and self-assigned by the individual staff members who would be taking ownership of them.
Now, after working with our clients Cheshire East Council, we have developed the functionality to allow managers to directly assign inspectors to particular reports on their behalf.
This means that, when logged in to the front-end of FixMyStreet Pro, managers can view who’s been assigned to each report, and can assign or reassign reports to individual team members.
Managers can also filter by report status to see how reports are progressing, and can bulk assign or reassign reports as needed.
For inspectors, the tool’s new feature means less time assigning themselves to reports and more time carrying out their inspections. Plus, because FixMyStreet Pro provides offline support, reports can be updated on-the-go, even without connection to the internet.
For councils like Cheshire East, the inspector tool replaces legacy pen and paper systems, improving the way reports are assigned and managed without the need to integrate with an external case management system.
The inspector tool has been made available to all FixMyStreet Pro customers.
Got any questions? Let us know.
Peterborough City Council has broadened its partnership with SocietyWorks to handle domestic waste online through its new WasteWorks service.
Peterborough City Council has adopted WasteWorks, a new waste service from citizen-focused local authority services provider SocietyWorks, to improve the way residents access waste online. The new service will empower residents to easily self-serve reports and requests from any device, while helping the council to streamline processes, deliver faster resolutions and reduce demand on customer contact centres thanks to an automatic two-way flow of data from front to backend system.
Integrated directly into Peterborough’s in-cab system Bartec and branded to complement the council’s website, WasteWorks will allow residents to manage all of their waste requirements from one place, whether it’s to report a missed bin collection or to pay for a bulky waste collection – which is currently being worked on and set to be delivered later this year. Behind the scenes, the service will seamlessly feed information between citizen, administrator and inspector, helping the council to better manage expectations and close the feedback loop through automated notifications and intelligent tools for on-the-ground inspectors.
This is the second SocietyWorks service to have been adopted by Peterborough City Council, which has been successfully using FixMyStreet Pro to take reports from residents about street and highways problems since 2019. The council will be able to access both WasteWorks and FixMyStreet Pro reports from a central dashboard, which includes a live heatmap to track category, seasonal and area-based trends.
Councillor Nigel Simons, cabinet member for Waste, Street Scene and the Environment, said: “We are fully committed to improving waste services across Peterborough and as part of this commitment, we want to enhance the way residents access services online. The new WasteWorks service will make a positive difference and I would encourage residents to log on and see for themselves.”
Councillor Marco Cereste, cabinet member for Digital Services and Transformation, added: “We want to engage better with residents online and enhance the overall user experience. This is a big step forwards and just the start of improvements to our online services.”
Mark Cridge, Chief Executive at SocietyWorks said: “We’re thrilled to be working with Peterborough City Council again. By integrating both FixMyStreet Pro and WasteWorks into its line of business systems, the council and its residents will benefit from a truly joined-up reporting service that puts user-friendliness at its heart.
“Peterborough is a really forward-thinking council, and it’s been a real pleasure to collaborate with the team on this project and build a service that works around the real-life needs of residents and staff.”
Residents in Peterborough can access the new waste service right now.
WasteWorks is available to all UK councils. Request a demo to find out more.
Our new report Citizen reporting in the UK 2022, which explores whether and how citizens make reports about problems in their local area, has been published.
Based on a nationwide YouGov survey commissioned by SocietyWorks, the report aims to help councils and other public sector organisations that need to take reports from citizens about a variety of issues to stay informed of ever-changing expectations.
Among some of our key findings, we discovered that the majority of citizens surveyed said they haven’t reported a problem in the last few years due to experiencing previous disappointment caused by unresolved reports.
We also learned that only 22% of respondents wanted a dedicated mobile app for making reports, while 43% would prefer a website that works well on mobile devices.
Alex Parsons, senior researcher at our parent charity mySociety, with whom we collaborated on this research, said: ‘Citizen reports of problems both help citizens feel guardianship over their area, and alert authorities to problems. Managing the feedback loop and the expectations of citizens is important because problems being reported and not fixed makes citizens less likely to report again.
‘The philosophy of our services is that citizens should not need to understand how overlapping systems of government work to report problems, and this is validated by strong support for a tool that can route the request to the right place.
‘Making it easy to report problems and keep citizens informed about progress improves the relationship between local councils and citizens and means citizens don’t need to follow-up through other methods.’
Councils that are keen to transform their service delivery for citizens can carry some key priorities forward from this research to help them harness the full potential of proactive citizen-made reports, without increasing the burden on customer services teams.
Last week we hosted our first user group of 2022, bringing together our community of councils and public sector organisations using FixMyStreet Pro to show them our latest features, talk about new developments and give everyone the chance to influence what we work on next.
Here’s what happened on the day:
Kicking the event off, senior developer Dave Arter gave us a tour of some FixMyStreet Pro’s latest features.
These include improvements to the service’s case management functionality, which now enables council staff to filter reports and assign or reassign cases to inspectors. There’s also a new councillor access portal to FixMyStreet Pro’s heatmap, on which councillors can see at a glance where problems are being reported.
Bekki Leaver introduced herself to the group and shared some of the exciting things she’ll be working on over the coming months, such as evaluating and researching the user need for some new features, facilitating our Discovery workshops and progressing our ApplyWorks service, designed to streamline the way citizens submit applications and license requests.
Bekki also put a call out to councils who want to help test some of our new features with residents. This call is also open to non-clients, so if you’re reading this and you’d like to be involved, please get in touch.
Tracy Eaton, Product Owner for FixMyStreet at Buckinghamshire Council, delivered a brilliant case study about the improvements to citizen reporting that we’ve been able to bring about together so far (such as implementing accuracy-boosting asset layers and creating category specific acknowledgement messages), and the council’s plans for further transformation using FixMyStreet Pro (watch this space!).
We also heard from Mark Peet, Program Lead at Shropshire Council, who provided an insight into how we worked together recently to understand the views of local residents, councillors, and council staff at all levels and apply what we learned to the successful and speedy rollout of the county’s new FixMyStreet Pro service.
Our Marketing & PR Manager Sally Bracegirdle gave us a preview of some soon-to-be-published research into citizen reporting in the UK: what makes citizens want to report problems; what puts them off and what do they expect from a reporting service?
The research was carried out in collaboration with YouGov and mySociety’s Research team. We’ll publish a blog post when it’s been released to the public – keep an eye out.
There’s a lot of complexity in the way FixMyStreet directs reports to the correct place on behalf of citizens, automatically working out which tier of council is appropriate for a report. As senior developer Matthew Somerville demonstrated, there’s still one level of council that FixMyStreet is not yet able to serve: town and parish councils. Matthew talked us through why this is and our plans for making it happen in the future.
Finishing off the event, Clare Armiger, our account manager, led a review of our client development roadmap, giving attendees the chance to vote for which of their suggestions for future development we should look to take through to user research next. The winning idea was to identify more opportunities to signpost to relevant public authorities wherever the council is not responsible for a report.
And that was our January user group for FixMyStreet Pro!
Would you like to come along to the next user group?
You don’t have to be a Pro user to attend our user groups; we’re happy for guests to come along, meet our community and see what the service is all about for yourself. Let us know if you’d like an invite.
Image: Skye Studios
With winter weather come the inevitable problems that need reporting by citizens across the UK’s network of roads and highways. From potholes to floods to fallen trees, every year the councils and public authorities responsible for investigating these reports rise to the challenge of dealing with increased contacts from citizens.
For over ten years now, our FixMyStreet Pro service has been helping to reduce the load on those authorities, while also improving the reporting experience for citizens, by closing the feedback loop and increasing transparency.
With councils helping to drive our product development roadmap, we’ve added a whole host of features and functions that help to keep contacts down, especially during seasons of high demand. Check out some of our favourites below.
One report per defect. That’s our ultimate aim in publicly displaying existing reports on the map for citizens to take a look and see whether the problem they have spotted has already been brought to your attention.
When a citizen clicks on the map to make a report and selects a category, FixMyStreet Pro will find any similar reports within the same area and suggest them to the citizen before they continue with their report. If the problem has already been reported, the citizen can simply subscribe to the existing report instead of creating a new one.
For you, that means no duplication of effort, and a faster way to keep any interested citizens updated on the report’s progress.
What’s even better than stopping duplicate reports? Removing the need to report a problem in the first place – something FixMyStreet Pro does by enabling you to display upcoming remedial works on the map.
If a problem’s location and category corresponds to some works you’ve already scheduled, display a message detailing the works and expected completion date to reassure the citizen that no report is needed, just like Bath & North East Somerset are doing in the image to the left.
Alternatively, you can display works as alternative pins on the map, to display when ‘All reports’ are selected by citizens, just like Oxfordshire County Council.
It’s always great when citizens care enough about their local neighbourhood to report any problems to you. And because they care, they tend to want to know exactly what’s happening about fixing the problem not long after reporting it, especially if the issue is affecting their everyday life.
By integrating with any and all back office systems you use, FixMyStreet Pro makes it easy for your teams to keep report-makers updated on the progress of their reports. Tell them that it’s due to be inspected, let them know when works have been scheduled, even send them a photo when the problem’s been resolved – all at the click of a button.
This way, you can reduce the likelihood of citizens jumping straight onto the phone or emailing you to chase for an update on their report.
Some problems need to be dealt with faster than others. Trees blocking roads, serious flooding or dangerous potholes are all examples of problems you might need to know about a bit faster than via a digital report.
In those cases, you can display emergency messaging on FixMyStreet Pro and signpost to the best way for citizens to tell you about emergencies, whether that’s a phone number or an email.
In areas like London where multiple authorities are responsible for fixing different problems, FixMyStreet Pro’s intelligent functionality to reroute reports to the correct place really comes in handy, helping you to avoid having to process reports that you can’t fix.
Depending on the location and category of the report, FixMyStreet Pro will automatically work out who’s responsible for a problem, and direct the citizen away from your service with no interruption to the reporting process and no intervention required from your staff.
For more information about how FixMyStreet Pro can help you to improve reporting for you and your residents, why not book a quick demo?
Image: Jonathan Bean
For anyone who’s been following what we get up to at SocietyWorks for a while now, you’ll know that at the end of each year we feature in our parent charity mySociety’s annual review, looking back at what we’ve achieved, thanking those who joined us for the journey and giving a flavour of what’s to come in the next twelve months.
This year, while we are still featured in the mySociety review, we had so much to cover for 2021 that we’ve created our own spinoff version especially for SocietyWorks.
From further expanding the scope of our digital services for the public sector and finding yet more ways to make it easier for citizens to digitally engage with their council to welcoming several new organisations into our community and several more new faces into our team, 2021 has certainly been a busy one.
If you’d like to join us in taking a look back at the last year and taking a peek at what’s to come, you can read the SocietyWorks annual review here.
And if you’re also interested in what mySociety has been up to, here’s the charity’s review.
Merton Council has joined a growing number of London boroughs using SocietyWorks’ FixMyStreet Pro service to process reports from residents about local environment issues.
Londoners living in the borough of Merton can now make reports about environment issues such as fly-tipping and graffiti via the council’s newly launched FixMyStreet Pro service. Developed by SocietyWorks, the subsidiary of civic technology charity mySociety, FixMyStreet Pro is focused on helping citizens be active members of their community by making it easy to report problems and closing the feedback loop between council and resident.
FixMyStreet is an extremely user-friendly platform, and it will make it even easier for our residents to play their part.
Councillor Natasha Irons, Merton’s Cabinet Member for Local Environment and Green Spaces
Merton Council is one of several London authorities to use FixMyStreet Pro and benefit from its intelligent functionality to handle the complex routing of inbound street and environment reports, automatically ensuring everything goes to the correct place, including being able to divert reports to Transport for London where relevant. With integration into Merton’s Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM system, FixMyStreet Pro acts as the user-friendly front door to environment reports, with a simple, fully-optimised interface that works perfectly on any device and facilitates a two-way flow of data so that report-makers can stay up to date with the progress of their reports.
Councillor Natasha Irons, Merton’s Cabinet Member for Local Environment and Green Spaces: “Merton is a great place to live, work and visit but, like all London boroughs, we’re seeing too many people abusing our public spaces with environmental crimes like fly-tipping and littering. We want everyone to take care and pride in their neighbourhoods and behave considerately, so that everyone can enjoy our great borough. FixMyStreet is an extremely user-friendly platform, and it will make it even easier for our residents to play their part.”
Mark Cridge, Chief Executive at SocietyWorks said: “FixMyStreet Pro provides London councils with a key opportunity to join a community of authorities and other agencies delivering a truly efficient and joined-up service. We’re delighted to welcome Merton into the FixMyStreet family, and we’re excited to continue working together to build a stronger, more active community.”
FixMyStreet Pro is now up and running in Merton. Residents can use the service to report local environment issues.
Want to explore how FixMyStreet Pro could work for you? Request a demo with the SocietyWorks team here.
We have released a new version of our open source report-mapping software on FixMyStreet Platform, which enables citizens across the world to set up and run websites like FixMyStreet and match geographical points to email addresses, for free.
FixMyStreet 4.0 incorporates numerous new features, and is available to anyone running a site on the platform, including our own fixmystreet.com, the versions we provide for councils and other public sector organisations and the many international FixMyStreet websites run by others from Croatia to Uruguay.
Here’s an overview of what you can expect from version 4.0.
An even more simple and logical reporting form which takes a ‘one detail at a time’ approach, helping the report-maker to provide the most accurate information without getting overwhelmed. You’ll also notice that we’ve switched from a category drop-down to radio buttons, for the particular benefit of mobile users.
Version 4.0 also includes photo redaction support, enabling you to moderate parts of a photo that should not be public without removing the whole photo. Photos can be modified individually, and once saved, the changes to the image will be reflected everywhere it is displayed. If you need to revert a redaction or you want to remove the entire image, you still can with no hassle.
There’s now a development Docker environment, which should make it easier for anyone wanting to create their own website using the platform to spin up a local copy of the code for development. If you have Docker and Docker Compose installed, a fresh clone and then
docker/compose-dev up should set everything up for you.
Report-makers can now specify a radius when signing up for an email alert, the mobile site has an improved navigation menu and the search box supports Maidenhead Locator references.
Image: Sri Jalasutram
Bromley Council has partnered with SocietyWorks to launch WasteWorks, a new online waste service to take the rubbish out of handling domestic, bulky and green waste online.
Designed by SocietyWorks in consultation with Bromley Council, WasteWorks empowers citizens to manage their own waste online, thanks to a self-service system that is easy to use on any device and which adheres to government accessibility standards.
What residents can do via Bromley Council’s new waste service:
Integrated directly into Bromley’s Waste Contractor’s system and branded to complement the council’s website, WasteWorks acts as a user-friendly front door for residents to submit waste reports, requests and payments, while taking care of the complex data flow between different line of business systems behind the scenes.
The result is a dramatically improved user experience for residents and a significantly reduced burden on customer contact centre staff, who can break away from expensive manual processes and re-keying.
Plus, automated updates and templated responses make it easier for Bromley to manage expectations, handle seasonal demand and deliver a more transparent service, while internal dashboards and visual heat maps enable staff to track service levels and identify trends.
Jim Cowan, Waste Services Contract Manager at Bromley Council said: “WasteWorks builds on the previous online reporting we had within our Waste Services area, offering our residents a level of self-service for our Green Garden Waste subscriptions which has been a long-held ambition. The ability to adjust and tweak customer messaging and templates through the administration area allows us to respond quickly and keep the customers informed as we take them through the process, which helps us drive down those avoidable contacts and queries.”
Mark Cridge, Chief Executive at SocietyWorks said: “For councils that are, like Bromley, serious about improving citizen access to waste services online, WasteWorks is an essential solution that provides a real opportunity to achieve much-sought after channel shift, create savings and drive efficiencies for citizens and staff.”
Residents in Bromley can access the new waste service right now – take a look.
WasteWorks is available to all UK councils – request a demo to see how it could work for you.
Image: Shane Rounce