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News

Latest news and innovations for councils and the public sector from the SocietyWorks team.

All in a year’s work: the SocietyWorks annual review is here

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 switches to FixMyStreet Pro for managing environment reports

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.

FixMyStreet version 4.0 is 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.

Multi-page reporting form

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.

 

Photo redaction

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.

Development Docker environment

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.

Other improvements

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.

See the full list of version 4.0 features and all the information you need for upgrading on the FixMyStreet Platform blog.

Image: Sri Jalasutram

WasteWorks for Bromley Council: fully-integrated, self-service access to waste reports and requests

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:

  • Check their bin days;
  • Report a missed bin collection;
  • Request a new container;
  • Make an enquiry;
  • Pay or set up a direct debit for a green waste collection.

Screenshot of Bromley'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

FixMyStreet Pro is going to Highways UK

We’re excited to be taking our much-loved digital reporting service for streets and highways, FixMyStreet Pro, back to Highways UK this year.

Taking place at the NEC in Birmingham on 3 – 4 November, Highways UK is the big expo for those working on the UK’s road infrastructure — from local authorities to contractors and regional transport bodies.

If you’ll be attending, stop by stand F72 to say hello to us and learn about how councils and highways agencies are using FixMyStreet Pro to streamline the defect reporting process, create huge savings through channel shift and provide a truly joined-up and transparent service for citizens.

Three members of the SocietyWorks team will be on the stand: David, Clare and Sally. They’re all on the exhibition app, too, so if FixMyStreet Pro is something that interests you, why not connect with them before the event and schedule a meeting?

Here’s where to find us at the event:

Floor plan for Highways UK

Until then, you can ask us any questions about FixMyStreet Pro here.

Image: Omer Rana

See you at the District Councils’ Network Annual Conference

SocietyWorks is proud to be sponsoring this year’s District Councils’ Network Annual Conference, which takes place on 21 – 22 October.

District Councils’ Network (DCN) is a cross-party member led network of 183 district councils and a Special Interest Group of the Local Government Association (LGA).

This will be the first time we’re attending the conference, so we’re excited to meet everyone and introduce ourselves to the network.

We’ll also be introducing our new digital domestic waste service WasteWorks, co-designed with Bromley and Peterborough Councils. 

With citizens spending a lot more time at home during the last eighteen months, awareness of local authority waste services has never been sharper, so we’re keen to talk to attendees about how we can help councils to manage those rising expectations for on-demand access and fast resolutions. 

If you’re heading to the conference, do come over to our stand and say hello to David and Sally, who will be representing us on both days of the event. Grab a brochure for WasteWorks, or stick around for a chat about all things digital government, service transformation and giving residents the best possible customer experience.

In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about what we do, you can find out more here.

FixMyStreet Pro in London

FixMyStreet Pro’s ability to handle the complex routing of inbound street and highways reports really comes into its own in London.

With thirty-two different boroughs and multiple public authorities taking responsibility for keeping the Capital’s cogs turning, the process of reporting problems in London can be somewhat of a tangled web for residents that aren’t sure who’s responsible for what, and for councils whose teams and internal systems are working in silo, leading to more phone calls, more emails, more duplication of effort and slower response times. 

FixMyStreet Pro has the intelligent functionality to connect everything together for councils using the service, and automatically reroute reports from one authority to another – and it works at its best when everyone is using it to its full potential. 

That’s why earlier this week we hosted a focused workshop for our growing contingent of London-based FixMyStreet Pro customers to share best practice ideas for how to get the most out of the service and maximise user uptake.

London talking

Transport for London (TfL)’s Customer Services Delivery Manager Fola Olafare kicked things off by talking through how FixMyStreet Pro (known by TfL as Street Care) has been working for them since its launch in 2019, and their ambitious aims for expanding the service’s reach and impact over the next eighteen months. 

Fola’s presentation ended with a lively group discussion in which attendees from Hounslow Highways and the London Boroughs of Bromley, Hackney, Merton and Westminster bounced their best ideas around for accelerating channel shift.

Next up we heard two case studies on successfully establishing FixMyStreet Pro as your channel of choice for taking reports from citizens. 

Tracy Eaton, newly-appointed Product Owner for FixMyStreet Pro at Buckinghamshire Council, where 61% of reports are now being made via FixMyStreet Pro, spoke about the importance of making use of the service’s ability to feed detailed and transparent information back to citizens, and how, by using FixMyStreet Pro’s map asset layers, duplicate reports for related categories have dropped down to just 0.05%.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Richards, Business Support & Market Manager at Bromley Council, shared some insight into Bromley’s channel shift journey with FixMyStreet Pro, which now accounts for a whopping 94% of all inbound reports.

Intelligent routing of reports

For our final session of the workshop, SocietyWorks’ Senior Developer Matthew Somerville gave a detailed demonstration of what is, arguably, the most intelligent and useful feature of FixMyStreet Pro for London boroughs: its ability to display assets and categories that are the responsibility of another authority on the map, and to reroute any reports pertaining to those categories.  

This particular feature of FixMyStreet Pro reflects the key functionality of the national FixMyStreet.com service, which allows citizens to make reports to councils and ensures those reports go to the correct place. After all, most citizens don’t care about whether an issue is the responsibility of one council or another, and nor should they have to; they just want to make a report and receive updates about its progress.

The difference with the Pro version is that everything is integrated with councils’ backend systems, so not only do reports go to the correct place, but they also require no manual intervention from staff, and facilitate a seamless two-way transfer of data.

Take the London Borough of Bexley’s version of FixMyStreet Pro as an example. As well as allowing residents to select from a list of categories that are the responsibility of the borough, Bexley also displays categories for reports that need to go to TfL (eg. Abandoned Santander Cycles), if and when a resident clicks on the ‘red route’ area of the map. 

Red routes on Bexley Council's FixMyStreet Pro showing red routes on the map

Any reports made on a ‘red route’ will automatically be sent to TfL, creating a really smooth experience for the report-maker and saving Bexley the trouble of having to deal with an irrelevant report.

In cases where a report could still be the responsibility of TfL, but it’s not on a ‘red route’, FixMyStreet Pro will work that out and send the report to TfL instead of to Bexley. Take the example below, which shows TfL’s traffic lights asset layer displayed on Bexley’s reporting service, ensuring that the report will not only go to the right place, but gives the most accurate information when it arrives.

TfL's asset layers displayed on Bexley Council's reporting service

Vice versa, on TfL’s version of FixMyStreet Pro, Street Care, should a citizen go to make a report about an issue on a ‘red route’, they will be able to choose from a variety of categories, most of which are the responsibility of TfL, some of which aren’t.

For example, if a citizen heads to Street Care and tries to report some litter on the road, they will be advised that this report needs to be dealt with by the borough, and will be able to click through to the national FixMyStreet.com site where the report information will be carried over, causing no interruption to the report-making process. 

TfL's Street Care is powered by FixMyStreet Pro

Equally, if a citizen tries to report a problem via Street Care and drops the map pin on a road that’s not maintained by TfL, this will be explained clearly and, again, the report-maker will be able to click through to a pre-filled report on FixMyStreet.com.

Reports can be rerouted from TfL to the correct borough

It’s not obligatory for our London borough councils to display ‘red routes’ and redirect reports to other authorities, but Matthew’s demonstration provided ample inspiration for how transformational doing so can be to the user experience.

For London boroughs, FixMyStreet Pro is a powerful tool for channel shift and presents a crucial opportunity to join a community of councils and other authorities delivering a truly efficient and joined-up service. 

Image: Ashleigh Joy Photography on Unsplash

We’re taking WasteWorks to RWM

RWM is the UK’s largest Recycling, Resource and Waste Management event, bringing together individuals, businesses, and local authorities dealing with recycling, resources, waste, and the circular economy.

We’ll be exhibiting at the event for the first time this year to introduce local authorities to WasteWorks, our new digital waste management service that integrates with in-cab systems to transform the user experience and drive incredible channel shift.

If you’re one of the many local authorities heading to the NEC on 22 – 23 September, come and see us in the Local Authority Lounge (we’ll be at stand LA1) to grab a brochure, or stop for a chat to learn more about how WasteWorks revolutionises digital access to domestic, bulky and green waste services for your residents, your staff and your contractors.

On day two of the event, we’ll be co-hosting a seminar with our partners Yotta to discuss how, together, we help councils to streamline waste services, realise significant cost savings and deliver a truly citizen-centric experience. Transforming waste services for true citizen satisfaction takes place on 23 September at 11am in the Local Authority Lounge.

Who’ll be there:

David Eaton, Sales Director – With over a decade of experience helping councils and other public sector organisations across the UK to achieve their digital transformation goals via robust and responsible technologies, David’s the one to speak to about all your digital waste service needs. He’ll be around on both days of the event, and is looking forward to finally being able to meet people in-person once again!

 

Sally Bracegirdle, Marketing & PR Manager – Accompanying David at the event, Sally joined us back in December 2020, so RWM will be the first in-person exhibition she’s been to with SocietyWorks! Sally’s passionate about helping councils to close the feedback loop and deliver a fulfilling citizen reporting experience. Ask her about how WasteWorks facilitates first-rate communication between citizen, council and other line of business system teams.

 

Martin Wright, Designer – Martin will be joining David and Sally on the second day of the event, when he’ll be delivering the seminar with Yotta. Martin plays a crucial role in ensuring that all of our digital services are designed with citizens at the front and centre. As well as being a designer, Martin also undertakes much of our user research, making him the perfect person to talk to about delivering citizen-centric public services.

We can’t wait to get back on the road to in-person events – see you there!

If you’d like to learn more about RWM, visit the event website.

Image: Claudio Schwarz

We’re making some improvements to our infrastructure platform

One of our main priorities for this year has been to make some significant investments in our infrastructure platform to bring about some key improvements. 

After completing a review, a project is currently underway to make some upgrades to the platform and expand our presence into additional locations, which will enable us to provide more flexible capacity and geographical redundancy for services.

This is a significant update to our platform and is intended to underpin the growth and availability of our services over the next three years. 

Currently, we are engaging with suppliers to bring this capability online and will be focussing on applying this to our core services over the rest of 2021. 

In the interim, we have also completed a number of smaller actions to further strengthen our infrastructure.

  • We have redistributed services across our back-end tier to ensure better capacity management and limit the impact of sudden spikes in activity. This is an ongoing activity and we will continue to make adjustments as necessary.
  • We are updating our emergency response procedures to ensure that a clear process is in place for managing spikes in connections that run the risk of overwhelming the back-end.
  • We have already expanded our monitoring to better capture some aspects of the back-end system and make these available to our engineering staff for real-time troubleshooting. This is already helping us find some areas for potential improvement in resource and connection pool management and we are actively working at adding further capabilities.

We are always reviewing our planning and decision making, and have contingency plans in place as we make improvements.

Image: Zeynep Sümer

Join our session at SDinGov

Next month is SDinGov (Service Design in Government, if you were wondering), a two-day conference that brings together a community of professionals involved in designing and commissioning public services.

This year’s event will take place virtually, and we’re thrilled to announce that our submission to host a speaker session has been accepted.

SocietyWorks will be represented by our designer Martin Wright, who will be taking his popular consequence scanning workshop out for a spin once again. 

During the workshop you’ll take part in a consequence scanning exercise with Martin and the rest of the group, in which you’ll design a fictional new public service for a local authority and help to ensure that its launch doesn’t turn into a costly PR disaster. 

By the end of the session, you will know how to predict, assess and mitigate any potential negative consequences of your future public service design projects.

Martin has run variations of this workshop a couple of times now, so if you’ve missed out before, now’s your chance to see what it’s all about.

Consequence scanning – an exercise you can use when designing new services at SDinGov will take place on 16 September at 10.30am – 11.30am

See you there! 

Find out more about SDinGov here.

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