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News

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

New joined-up admin functionality across FixMyStreet Pro and WasteWorks

View and monitor reports for each of your service areas through one visual heatmap, built into the dashboard of FixMyStreet Pro and WasteWorks.

Back in 2019 we worked with Bromley Council to introduce a new heatmap feature to FixMyStreet Pro’s arsenal of tools for council staff. 

The heatmap converts report data into a visual format that is easy to understand, allowing council staff to see at a glance which issues are most prevalent, and where they are being reported.

Since being rolled out to all Pro customers, the heatmap has become one of the service’s most popular and useful features, which is why we built the same functionality for our new waste service WasteWorks.

Bromley also co-designed WasteWorks with us, and so is one of the first councils to go live with the service and benefit from being able to track and manage more than one service area from a single, central dashboard.

Now, when Bromley staff log in to their FixMyStreet Pro dashboard and select the heatmap overlay, as well as being able to view street and highways reports, they can also see where reports and requests are being submitted through WasteWorks for waste services.

The heatmap looks and works in the same way as before for Bromley. Hotter colours represent higher report volume, cooler colours represent fewer reports, and dropdown filters allow staff to view report data by category, status, timeframe and ward.

By default, the heatmap shows every report made to the council in the last month, so initially the map will look something like this:

Bromley Council's heatmap on FixMyStreet Pro

But now, without needing to leave the page, Bromley staff can view reports about, say, fly-tips, made in the last 12 months, which have been closed

Bromley Council's heatmap on FixMyStreet Pro

…or, green garden waste subscriptions, which have been completed in the last 5 days.

Green garden waste subscriptions shown on Bromley Council's heatmap

Heatmaps for both FixMyStreet Pro and WasteWorks are available to all UK councils. If you’d like to see how they work, you can request a demo.

Webinar: Scoping out a successful citizen service: how to get started

Thank you to everyone who joined us on what was an extremely hot afternoon last Thursday for the first in our new series of webinars for local authorities. Scoping out a successful citizen service: how to get started was an exploration of the best way to get started when designing or redesigning an online service for citizens.

Leading the session, our designer and user researcher Martin Wright plotted the route from discovery to successful service uptake, highlighting the importance of carrying out consequence scanning and advising on how best to balance resident requirements with council capacity.

We were also joined by Bromley Council’s Technical Support Team Manager Jonathan Richards, who spoke about Bromley’s recent experience of designing and implementing a brand new online waste service for residents.

If you weren’t able to join us but you’re interested to know what was spoken about, you can watch a recording of the session below, and if you have any questions about anything that was discussed, let us know and we’ll get back to you with an answer!

Full video:

 

Stay updated on our upcoming webinars by signing up to our monthly newsletter.

Hackney Council noise case management sprint notes: 8 June – 6 July 2021

These sprint notes are part of a series following our work with Hackney Council on the production of a noise case management system. View the previous notes here.

It’s a bumper edition of our Hackney noise case management sprint notes, this time covering two very busy sprints.

Service assessment

During the last two sprints, we prepared for and submitted the noise service we’ve been working on with Hackney for a service assessment. This was a chance for us to share the work we’ve been doing so far with a panel, and to check that we’re meeting the Service Standard by testing our work against fourteen Government Design Service (GDS) criteria.

On the day of the assessment, we were joined by Emma Gowan and Selwyn Preston from Hackney, as well as Phillipa Newis from Greenwich. 

We’re still waiting for the full assessment results, but we can certainly say that it was a really useful exercise for us to gain an external view of the service and take some guidance from experienced specialists from the government digital community.

Citizen user experience research

We also spent some time carrying out further research into the citizen experience of creating noise reports. Specifically, we wanted to find out more about what citizens want in terms of creating a diary of noise reports, how they want to see case history and the preferred way to receive notifications.

For this, we spoke to a sample of Hackney residents, 73% of whom had previously made noise reports. Our investigations found that most of them would rather be notified about their noise cases via email than via a text message, phone call or letter.

Interestingly, while 54% of the residents we spoke to say they would likely make their report on a mobile phone, the majority of them don’t want another app. This is fortunate, because we’re looking to build a responsive website that doesn’t leave older devices behind.

Take a look at some of our other findings:

Was it fairly easy to report the noise recurrence?

Was the language clear and easy to understand?

Is it useful to see a log like this, of all the actions following your complaint?

Alpha and Beta

The last two sprints saw us enter the final round of Alpha testing for the noise service. Wanting to be prepared for what happens next, the SocietyWorks team met internally to discuss the Beta part of the project.

First up on the list for this stage is to work out how the product will be built and to start creating tickets to document what we need to build. To start with, we’re focusing on allowing officers to reassign cases to each other. This will involve looking at how real-life staff profiles are set up within the system, instead of just the example profiles we have so far. 

Image: Nick Fewings

Join us for a new series of webinars for local authorities

We’re thrilled to announce the launch of a brand new series of webinars for local authorities all about getting online citizen-facing services for the public realm right for you and for your residents.

After over a decade designing citizen-centric services with councils, this webinar series has been brewing for a while, and we’re pleased to have arrived at the right time to make it happen and more widely share the many lessons we’ve learned along the way, at every stage of process – from discovery to implementation and beyond. 

The series will take the form of regular, hour-long virtual events that will bring together experts from within SocietyWorks and the mySociety team, along with special guest speakers from across local government and the wider sector. Each webinar, we’ll hone in on a different aspect of public realm service design and delivery, discussing real-life experiences and sharing best practices.

And where better to start than at the beginning? 

For the first webinar, our Designer and User Researcher Martin Wright will be sharing his advice on where to start when it comes to building or redesigning a service for citizens. With help from some special guests, he’ll be discussing how to balance council and resident requirements, why consequence scanning is a must and ways you can encourage positive resident uptake.

Scoping out a successful citizen service: how to get started will take place in July. Find out more and register your free place

 

Get involved

Do you have a story to tell or some advice to share about how local authorities can perfect public realm online services? We’d love to have you as a guest speaker – tell us more here.

Image redaction on FixMyStreet Pro

Councils using FixMyStreet Pro can now redact particular areas of images uploaded by a citizen instead of having to remove them. 

FixMyStreet Pro has always provided councils with the ability to moderate the content that citizens upload within their reports. 

Say, for example, a citizen accidentally includes any personal information within the title or description of a report, staff can easily edit the content or remove it from the site using the moderation tool. 

Similarly, if a citizen uploads a photo with their report that contains any personal or inappropriate content (think: licence plate numbers on parked cars or addresses on letters that have been fly-tipped), those photos can be quickly hidden as the need arises.

Redact > remove

Now, hiding or removing the photos from reports is one solution, but we believe that capturing and being able to publicly share photos from citizens is important; it gives the community an even clearer view of exactly what issue has been reported and where. Meanwhile, for council staff and inspectors, photos can help to provide valuable additional context to reports that can’t be as easily gleaned from a description alone, further helping to accurately locate the defect and prioritise its repair.

So, what if instead of removing an entire image you could simply redact the usually quite small part of it that needs to be hidden? 

Well, now you can. 

A new feature for FixMyStreet Pro’s moderation tool allows council staff to redact particular areas of an image uploaded by a citizen when logged into the dashboard. 

FixMyStreet Pro's image redaction tool allows councils to redact particular areas of a photo instead of completely removing it from a report

So if a report contains an image in which a car’s licence plate is visible, you can select the image in question and draw a rectangle over the license plate to block it from view. If multiple licence plates are visible in one image, multiple rectangles can be drawn.

Once saved, the changes to the image will be reflected everywhere it is displayed, giving you complete peace of mind. Of course, if you need to revert a redaction or you want to remove the entire image, you still can with no hassle.

Importantly, and in-keeping with FixMyStreet Pro’s focus on improving the citizen experience, the staff member making the redaction can write a short note to the report-maker to explain why it has happened. This note will be sent straight to the citizen automatically, which should help them when they next make a report.

The image redaction feature is now available to all of our FixMyStreet Pro customers. If you’d like to see the image redaction feature in action, or you have any questions, you can contact us here.

Image: Franco Ruarte

Hackney Council noise case management sprint notes: 25 May – 8 June 2021

These sprint notes are part of a series following our work with Hackney Council on the production of a noise case management system. View the previous notes here.

During the last sprint we focused on prototyping the system’s mobile-optimised interface to get a second round of feedback on some of the suggestions the team has already made in previous sprints, and also identify ways that the product can help officers attending noise complaints ‘on the ground’

The prototypes received some good feedback including:

  • Case list page works well – combination of filtering and searching by address or name addresses the needs of officers prioritising their work.
  • Great suggestion that the case page should display the number of previous cases at the given address, and/or number of notices previously served to the address – again, to help surface context that might affect the priority of a case.
  • Confirmation that officers expect to be notified by email when a case is assigned to them.
  • The concept of logging “actions” on a case generally makes sense to officers. Important to include failed actions as well – eg: “unable to contact reporter” or “phone unanswered”.
  • Extra information about perpetrators was valuable – we now need to investigate what we can show / where it would come from.
  • 100% of respondents said what they’ve seen so far would save them time compared to current or previous tools.

As we’re getting nearer to actually coding up some of these prototypes we’ve also had discussions about the infrastructure and languages used to develop the new NoiseWorks product as well as scheduling time in future sprints to start building the prototypes.

This sprint we’re testing the final set of prototypes around the citizen experience of the service. While most of the case management features are staff-only, we’re keen to get citizen feedback on how they access their past complaints, keep digital ‘diary sheets’ of noise re-occurrences and how they’d expect to be notified about updates to their case.

Image: Frederik Lipfert

Full green garden waste bin awaiting collection

Sprint notes: 26 May – 7 June 2021

Here’s what the SocietyWorks team got up to during the latest sprint.

FixMyStreet Pro

This sprint the team hosted an informative Show & Tell session for Buckinghamshire Council, impressively titled ‘The Art of the Possible’. The aim of this session was to outline some of the new improvements available for FixMyStreet Pro, as well as to provide an overview of how WasteWorks, our waste management service, and ApplyForIt, our licensing application service, could bring further improvements for the Council. These improvements include: an enhanced customer journey; extra streamlined data flow from back office systems; adding additional service areas to reflect unitary status; additional asset layers; augmented mapping.

NoiseWorks

Not satisfied with just one Show & Tell session this sprint, we also met up with our friends at Hackney Council to show them the latest progress on our in-development noise case management service. The focus this sprint was on examining the mobile app experience for officers in the field. We gained valuable feedback and insights, with 100% of officers stating the NoiseWorks experience would save them time. Can’t get better than that!

WasteWorks

Also this sprint, we’ve been working hard with Bromley Council on their online green garden waste payments system – part of the WasteWorks service. This system will allow Bromley to generate income from new subscriptions, renewals and direct debits for their green garden waste collection service. This will be going live next sprint. 

Other projects

Another Bromley project, we’ve been doing some work on a CRM project for them, as well as integrating parks into their installation of FixMyStreet Pro, so that residents can now search by park names. Alongside this, we ticked several smaller Freshdesk enquiries from clients off the list, and added a new logo to Zurich’s version of FixMyStreet Pro.

SocietyWorks Team 

And finally, an exciting update on the SocietyWorks team: we are very happy to announce that we have recruited two new developers who will be joining the team very soon!

Got questions about anything we worked on this sprint? Get in touch.

Image: manfredrichter

SocietyWorks is sponsoring LGA Conference 2021

Catch us at the LGA Virtual Annual Conference 2021

We’re very happy to be sponsoring this year’s virtual Local Government Association Annual Conference: three days of online talks from leading central and local government politicians as well as expert speakers from within and outside the sector.

Three lovely members of the SocietyWorks team will be there (virtually, of course) on 6 – 8 July, so do say hello whenever you see:

David EatonDavid Eaton, Sales Director – David has helped councils across the UK improve their customer experience, create incredible savings and drive channel shift via smart digital services for everything from highways and waste to FOI and noise. Ask him anything about setting up a new reporting service for your residents; he will have the answer.

 

Mark Cridge

Mark Cridge, Chief Executive – In addition to leading activities at our sister civic tech organisation mySociety, Mark has been instrumental in the launch of SocietyWorks and our suite of citizen services. Passionate about putting citizens at the heart of local authority services, Mark’s the one to talk to about all things digital transformation in local gov.

 

Sally Bracegirdle, Marketing & PR Manager – One of SocietyWorks’ newest team members, Sally joined in December 2020 and has spent her first few months on the job setting up lots of ways to share our expertise in the sector – one of those ways being attending this conference! Ask Sally about how to use internal and external communications to deliver a successful online service for citizens.

 

We’re looking forward to hearing from some fantastic speakers at the conference and chatting to people who share our interest in providing accessible, efficient and exceptional digital services for citizens. Hope to see you there!

In the meantime, ask us anything about citizen-friendly local authority services.

SocietyWorks is working with Hackney Council to produce a noise case management service

Hackney Council noise case management sprint notes: 11 May – 25 May 2021

These sprint notes are part of a series following our work with Hackney Council on the production of a noise case management system. View the previous notes here.

We are now halfway through the Alpha phase of the project, which involves prototyping, testing and iterating the noise case management service. This sprint the testing focussed on how we could allow Hackney staff to filter and manage multiple cases, and this led to some really useful follow-up conversations with Principal Officers, which identified a more action-based approach as an intuitive way to help them quickly pick up and understand cases.

Findings from this sprint’s prototype testing included:

  • The importance of displaying full addresses when listing cases – including street and flat numbers.
  • Being able to find or filter cases by letters or notices that have been served to the perpetrator – this would help officers identify cases that need follow-up.
  • Ideas for better ways of prioritising cases – for example, by repeat offenders, breaches of notice, multiple complaints, or priority categories (like car alarms).
  • The usefulness of displaying actions that have been taken on a case, such as contact with residents, visits, notices, referrals.

Whilst ASB isn’t within the scope of this phase of the project, there is naturally some crossover between the noise and ASB teams at Hackney. This sprint we had a really energising meeting with members of the ASB team, where Beth and Soraya (the leads on this project at Hackney) took the team through the work we’ve done so far, to ensure we’re sharing as much knowledge as possible and learning from each other.

We’re proud to be working alongside Hackney Council to develop the new NoiseWorks product, and have already had some great feedback the staff at Hackney – Gerry, the Service Manager for Enforcement, in particular, thanked us for the work we’re doing, and appreciates that we’re taking the time to really involve and listen to the team.

Next sprint, we’ll be prototyping the system’s mobile-optimised interface to get a second round of feedback on some of the suggestions the team has already made in previous sprints, and also identify ways that the product can help officers attending noise complaints ‘on the ground’.

Image: Justus Menke

FixMyStreet Pro User Group

FixMyStreet Pro user group, May 2021: what happened on the day

Last week we hosted another of our FixMyStreet Pro user groups. These events provide the perfect opportunity for us to get together with all of our council partners to show them what we’ve been working on and, importantly, give them the chance to influence what’s next for FixMyStreet Pro.

Senior Developer Dave Arter gave everyone a tour of all of the recently added features for FixMyStreet Pro, from a new OS Maps API and some fantastic mobile navigation improvements to extra detailed asset information and intelligent image redaction.

We also heard from Sam Pearson, mySociety’s Site Reliability Engineer who took us behind the scenes of FixMyStreet Pro. Sam gave us a fascinating glimpse into the architecture of the service, how it’s maintained and how we keep it secure for our customers. 

Councils drive our development roadmap

A highlight of our user groups is always the interactive roadmap session – this is the part where we involve councils in helping to decide what new features we should be working on next for FixMyStreet Pro. 

Starting with a runthrough of some of the new feature suggestions we’ve been receiving from our council partners recently by Operations Director Louise Howells, we then broke out into five groups to discuss each suggestion and prioritise them from most to least pressing. Under the guidance of our Designer Martin Wright, each group used Miro boards to select the one project they most wanted to see worked on, before regrouping to compare selections and choose an overall winner.

So what did our council partners choose to be worked on next for FixMyStreet Pro? Scheduled emergency messages that only appear at the correctly calculated time. This is something several councils have asked for, so we’re very happy to be getting the ball rolling.

Designer Martin Wright moves the final post-it on the Miro board to crown ‘Scheduled emergency messages’ as the winning upcoming work idea

Bouncing ideas around

As well as having a say on our development roadmap, the user groups are also a great opportunity for councils to share best practices with each other, present case studies on how FixMyStreet Pro is working for them and discuss topics of interest.

Jack Bowers, Principal Highways Liaison Officer at Central Bedfordshire, presented a brilliant case study all about how FixMyStreet Pro has, within just a few months of launching, helped the council to create fast channel shift, improve the citizen user experience and reduce reporting costs by 24%. Just what we like to hear!

We also heard from Tom Scholes, Group Manager – Asset Data & Systems at Oxfordshire County Council, who led a very engaging discussion on demand management and intervention criteria. Tom spoke about how the council often receives reports about potholes that fall below their threshold for repair. He then sought advice from other councils on how best to utilise FixMyStreet Pro to handle this without compromising the citizen experience. Some fantastic ideas were thrown around, and we’ll be on hand to support Oxfordshire to better help citizens understand what counts as an actionable report.

And that’s it! It was a very enjoyable user group, and we’re already looking forward to the next one in November, which with any luck will be an in-person event!

If you have any questions about anything mentioned above, or you’d like to be invited to the next user group, do let us know.

Image: S O C I A L . C U T

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