Latest news and innovations for councils and the public sector from the SocietyWorks team.
Litter is one of many local issues that can be reported using FixMyStreet, mySociety’s nationwide, map-based street reporting service.
Each report received by FixMyStreet is sent to the council or authority responsible for dealing with the problem, which is established by the selected category and geo-location information within the report.
Should a report be made about an issue on one of England’s highways, FixMyStreet knows to send it to National Highways instead of the local council, thanks to integration with the highways agency.
Because all Pro sites are connected to the main FixMyStreet platform, wherever a report is made, they all end up in the same place, and the map will be able to display all existing reports to report-makers to help reduce duplication and improve transparency.
National Highways manages a vast stretch of motorways and some A roads, but not all problems found on those roads are its responsibility. Depending on the type of road, some issues, like litter, actually fall to the local council to take care of.
It would be unreasonable to expect citizens to know who is and isn’t responsible for different issues on different roads, which is where FixMyStreet’s ability to create an asset layer-based connected network for reporting problems really shines.
As mentioned above, the national FixMyStreet site automatically sends reports to the correct place based on the category and location of the problem. So if a citizen uses FixMyStreet to report litter on a road managed by National Highways but on which the council would be responsible for litter, the service will work this out behind the scenes and ensure the report goes to the correct place.
If a citizen goes to National Highways’ own FixMyStreet Pro site to make a report about litter on a road where the council is responsible, when the pin is dropped on the map and the ‘litter’ category is selected, a message will appear explaining that National Highways is not responsible.
From here, the report-maker is encouraged to continue onto the nationwide FixMyStreet site, where the details of the report will be carried over, the remaining information can be filled in and the report can be submitted to the correct council.
FixMyStreet was built to make it easier for citizens to report any local problem, without needing to know who is responsible. FixMyStreet Pro gives councils and other public authorities the opportunity to adopt the service as their own – hosted and managed by us.
To find out more about FixMyStreet or FixMyStreet Pro, request a demo.
Image: Wilhelm Gunkel
SocietyWorks is going to SDinGov again this year, an international community event for anyone involved in designing and commissioning public services.
Taking place in Edinburgh next month, our Head of Product & Service Design Bekki Leaver will be sharing a case study on day 2 of the event, talking about our experience of how we used speculative design to reconsider whether we wanted to branch out into the area of anti-social behaviour reporting.
Over the last decade, we’ve been working with councils to design citizen-centred reporting services for issues in areas such as highways, waste and freedom of information. Anti-social behaviour (ASB) seemed like a natural progression from this, meeting demand from councils to address problems with reporting in this area.
However, by nature, ASB is a complex issue, with disparate definitions depending on who you’re speaking to. Even with years of experience in user-needs focused design and consequence scanning, the complexity of this particular reporting area meant that we risked getting caught up in designing for one group of people, without truly considering the impact on other affected groups.
For those of us designing for the public sector, it’s vital that we’re able to maintain the awareness to know when to pause for reflection, and that you have the design tools required to re-evaluate and decide whether to proceed or not.
Join Bekki to hear about the process we went through to reassess our perspective and how we used co-design future-casting to carve out the way forward.
Speculative design for product decisions in anti-social behaviour reporting takes place on 29 September at 12.15 – 12:45.
FixMyStreet, our map-based reporting tool for street and highway problems, and FixMyStreet Pro, the fully branded, hosted and integrated version of the service, enable you to assign a status to each report you receive that is visible to the public and reflects the issue’s journey to resolution.
With all reports displayed on the map, this report status adds an extra layer of transparency for councils and other public sector organisations using the service, allowing citizens to see not only what problems have already been reported, but also what’s being done about them.
When used properly, report statuses help to build trust and increase transparency, while also deterring duplicate reports and failure demand, which pushes report-makers back onto the phone to your customer contact centre in search of clarification or more information.
Councils and other public sector FixMyStreet Pro customers can choose from a number of statuses, designed to help you accurately share where a report is up to within your internal processes in a way that is easy for citizens to understand.
Report is open and confirmed (automatically applied to all new reports once report-maker has verified their email [if not signed in at the time of reporting])
Report has been reviewed and action has been scheduled
Report is awaiting internal review or re-categorisation
Report’s resolution is in progress/action is being carried out
Report is under investigation
Report’s resolution has been planned/scheduled as part of a wider maintenance project
Report has been closed for one of a number of reasons (this is a generic status only to be used if another cannot be assigned, such as ‘fixed’, ‘not responsible’ or ‘no further action’ – reasons for closure can and should be included within the response template, which can be done manually or automatically via integration)
Report is about an issue that’s already been reported
Report has been referred to another team within the council/public body
Report is about an issue that is the responsibility of another council/public body/private organisation
Report’s issue cannot be fixed/issue does not meet intervention criteria
Report’s issue has been fixed
We leave it up to you to decide which statuses best suit your internal processes – report status names can be modified across the FixMyStreet platform (this includes the national, free-to-use FixMyStreet.com site) to better reflect those used by your customer service and inspection teams, and terms used within your integrated back-end systems.
You can also make use of hardcoded statuses, which are named differently on the front and back end to make them easier to understand for citizens on one side and staff on the other.
Equally, additional statuses can be added if required, or you can restrict those which you do not want to be visible to the public.
However, we do recommend that, when changing the status of a report, you make use of FixMyStreet’s ability to provide a tailored, explanatory response update that will be attached to the report and emailed to all subscribers, giving more context about what the status means to help manage expectations.
For example, when marking a report as ‘no further action’, it’s important to say why this is to help the report-maker and anyone else who’s interested understand your reasoning.
Similarly, when marking a report as ‘action scheduled’ it is worth explaining your service level agreements to set expectations for when the action should be carried out.
You can also use automatic templates that can be added to the FixMyStreet Pro front-end workflow based on back-end codes. For example, multiple codes used in your asset management or CRM system can be attached to different ‘action scheduled’ responses.
Or if you’re using FixMyStreet Pro as your case management system, you can create your own templates and simply select the most relevant as you go.
Whichever way you organise your report statuses, our golden rule is to ensure that reports are not marked as ‘fixed’ until the problem has actually been resolved, or assigning one of the closed statuses (eg. ‘closed’, ‘no further action’, ‘not responsible’) without providing an explanation as to why and what this means to you.
For example, ‘closed’ to you could mean ‘action scheduled’, but to the report-maker ‘closed’ could be interpreted to mean that the issue has been fixed, so when they see that the problem is still there, it may provoke them to call you or try to reopen or duplicate the report.
Sometimes this occurs because your customer contact centre hasn’t been provided with enough guidance on what each status means in relation to your processes or how to use the response templates. Other times it’s because your front-end status mapping isn’t quite matched up to your back-end (asset management and/or CRM) status mapping.
We can help with training sessions or report status mapping, so please speak to your account manager if this is something you’d like to explore.
We’re thrilled to be introducing a new product for councils into our suite of citizen-centred digital services: ApplyWorks will provide a user-friendly front-end workflow for taking online applications and payments for a variety of residential and business purposes.
From dropped kerbs and H-bar markings to trading licences, taxi licensing and skip hire ApplyWorks will adapt to whatever combination of service areas a council requires, while providing the same easy and intuitive user experience for applicants, and for customer services making applications on their behalf.
Like all of SocietyWorks’ cloud-based products, ApplyWorks will enable integration with councils’ existing systems to streamline the application experience and close feedback loops. In this case, it will be payment providers and CRM systems, such as Confirm, Civica Pay and Worldpay.
Using our smart geo-location technology and in-application prompts, ApplyWorks will help people to make more accurate and comprehensive applications.
Specialised licensing features will be available for more complex service areas such as market trader pitches and taxi licensing. These features include asset layers, calendars and attendance registers.
ApplyWorks will be launching later on this year. If you would like more information or to get involved with the development process, please drop us a message.
The Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames has chosen SocietyWorks’ self-service waste portal WasteWorks, for managing resident access to waste online more efficiently and transparently, starting with garden waste and looking ahead to incorporate wider domestic waste services.
Residents of the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames will now be able to access the council’s garden waste services via a dedicated version of SocietyWorks’ new online waste portal WasteWorks, which was launched in 2021 in collaboration with Bromley Council and Veolia. Using the portal, residents will be able to view their garden waste subscriptions, order new containers and use one-off card payments for non recurring subscriptions, all within the same workflow. There will soon be a Direct Debit function for residents to use for recurring subscriptions, too. While initially focused on improving the resident experience for garden waste, plans are in place to roll WasteWorks out to manage the council’s wider domestic waste service transactions.
Optimised to work on whatever device residents want to use, WasteWorks will enable the Council to provide a more convenient and seamless online experience for residents thanks to integration with the council’s in-cab system provided by Veolia Echo and payment provider Capita. WasteWorks will also help to deliver a more transparent waste service by enabling a two-way flow of information to keep residents informed on the status of their waste subscriptions, payments, reports and requests. Customer services will be able to use the same user-centred workflow to manage waste subscriptions on behalf of residents over the phone.
The introduction of WasteWorks, which was recently shortlisted for a LGC Award 2022 in conjunction with Bromley Council, is a joint venture between the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames and the London Borough of Sutton, whose own dedicated version of the portal is currently in development. This comes as part of the ongoing improvements being established by the South London Waste Partnership, of which both Kingston and Sutton are members. The two councils approached SocietyWorks to help further digitise their existing online domestic waste system and move towards a consistent approach to online waste services across the boroughs, which will also benefit their shared waste provider Veolia by improving communication between its in-cab system, the councils and residents.
Angela Dixon, Managing Director at SocietyWorks said: “We’re delighted to be helping the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames bring its online waste system in line with resident expectations. It’s always a pleasure to work with councils that not only put resident needs first, but also work very collaboratively with neighbouring councils and their other external partners to deliver more wide-reaching improvements. We look forward to helping more councils across the UK do the same.”
Councillor John Sweeney, Portfolio Holder for Business, Recycling and Customer Contact added: “We are excited to be one of the first boroughs to use this innovative system. This new online portal will allow residents to more easily keep track of their subscription payments. It is great to know that this system has been developed with another London council and we look forward to rolling it out across the borough.”
Scott Edgell, General Manager, Veolia SLWP said: “Our teams work hard to serve over 70,000 Kingston households with recycling and waste collections, including 14,000 signed up to the garden waste collection service. We’re so pleased to be supporting Kingston Council with the implementation of their new waste portal with the help of SocietyWorks, so that the high quality service we strive to deliver to residents is reflected in a better experience online, and look forward to the platform’s development in Sutton.”
When it comes to reporting problems with domestic waste bins, citizens tend to wait until there’s a problem with more than one of their bins to take action.
Usually, this requires the creation of a separate report for each problem or bin. So if you have a problem with the lid of your domestic black bin and an issue with the wheels on your green garden waste bin, you would have to make two different reports.
As well as being time consuming for citizens, this also creates more work for council waste teams, who need to process multiple reports and organise separate resolutions all for the same address.
This cumbersome process is one of many user experience pain points that we wanted to address when we designed our domestic, green and bulky waste portal WasteWorks.
WasteWorks has the functionality to enable councils to let residents report problems with multiple bins at their address within the same workflow.
Here’s an example of how it works for Peterborough City Council.
All problems for all affected bins are neatly packaged into one report, which automatically enters Peterborough’s in-cab system Bartec via direct integration, meaning no manual intervention from staff and no duplication of effort for frontline waste teams. From the single report, different reference numbers will be provided from Bartec back to the resident to help with tracking the progress from report to resolution for each issue.
It’s a simple but significant feature that counts toward the many ways in which WasteWorks helps to make it easier for citizens to access domestic waste services online, while also creating a more efficient, streamlined process for council staff.
WasteWorks customers don’t have to allow the reporting of multiple bins at once; this is an optional feature that is dependant on the type of in-cab system you use and the configuration of your reporting processes.
Want to find out more about WasteWorks and how it could work for you? Request a short demo with the SocietyWorks team.
Image: Pawel Czerwinski
We’re excited to be exhibiting at this year’s Local Government Association Annual Conference, taking place next month in Harrogate.
SocietyWorks will be based at stand Q21, right on the edge of the LGA Hub & Innovation Zone. If you’re interested in providing accessible, integrated and user-centred digital services for citizens, come say hello to us and let’s have a chat.
Amelia Nicholas, Head of Sales – Amelia joined SocietyWorks earlier this year and has really hit the ground running getting to know our public sector customers and helping them realise their digital transformation goals. Ask Amelia about our digital waste portal WasteWorks, which was recently shortlisted for a LGC Award.
Clare Armiger, Account Manager – Clare will be joining Amelia in Harrogate. She has a wealth of experience working with local authorities, understanding their needs and helping to turn them into actionable projects. Be sure to ask Clare about ApplyWorks, our in development digital applications and licensing service for councils.
Sally Bracegirdle, Marketing & PR Manager – Completing the group is Sally, who helps the councils and other public sector organisations with which we work communicate effectively with citizens about their new digital services. She’s the one to ask about case studies for how we’ve helped our clients successfully introduce new and improved services.
The LGA Annual Conference takes place at the Harrogate Convention Centre on 28 – 30 June. You can find more information about the event and book your tickets here.
We’ll see you there!
Peabody Housing Association joins Transport for London and seven borough councils in using FixMyStreet Pro to provide an easy way for people to report local problems and improve satisfaction.
Residents living in Thamesmead, London will now be able to report local environmental issues such as fly-tipping, pest control, public lighting and problems in or around the canals and lakes to Peabody using a new dedicated online system powered by SocietyWorks’ FixMyStreet Pro.
FixMyStreet Pro’s technology allows residents to pinpoint a problem’s location and report it within a matter of minutes via their mobile phones. The reports, which will be sent directly to Peabody’s dedicated environmental services team in Thamesmead, aim to enable the housing association to deliver a more efficient and effective service to local residents, working in tandem with the neighbouring boroughs of Bexley and Greenwich, both of which also use FixMyStreet Pro to manage reports from residents.
Peabody, one of London’s largest and oldest housing associations, owns around 65% of the land in Thamesmead and is leading on the 30-year regeneration of the neighbourhood. This will create around 20,000 new homes; thousands of new jobs; a wealth of leisure, cultural and commercial facilities; improved green spaces and waterways; and better connections with London and the South East. Alongside its long-term plans for Thamesmead, Peabody is delivering ongoing improvements across the neighbourhood to enhance the day-to-day experiences of residents. FixMyStreet Pro is yet another step forward in achieving this.
John Lewis, Executive Director of Peabody, said: “Getting the basics right for residents is a key priority for us all at Peabody. This means providing an effective repairs and maintenance service, investing more in our existing homes, and providing simple and easy access to our services through technology that’s quick and easy to use. It also means delivering services that best meet the needs of local communities.
“FixMyStreet Pro is an excellent example of how we can offer a modern and responsive environmental maintenance service to Thamesmead residents. It’s great to be launching it here, and I look forward to hearing resident feedback about it over the months ahead.”
Angela Dixon, Managing Director at SocietyWorks said: “This is a huge step forward for the residents of Thamesmead, who can now benefit from a truly joined-up reporting system for local problems. With Peabody and its two closest borough councils, Bexley and Greenwich, all using FixMyStreet Pro, the three bodies can work in synchronisation, making it easier than ever for residents to successfully report problems and care for their local community. We hope to help other areas of the UK achieve the same kind of progress.”
If you’d like to explore how FixMyStreet Pro could work for you, find out more here.
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.