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The sun shining through clouds over the sea. Image by Joshua Earle

Find SocietyWorks on G-Cloud 12

The quickest and easiest way to procure SocietyWorks services is on the G-Cloud digital marketplace.

You can find our street fault reporting system FixMyStreet Pro, and our Freedom of Information service FOI Works on the G-Cloud 12 framework right now.

Also available through this route is our Service Discovery programme, which you’ll find as an option on the FixMyStreet Pro PDF.

Procuring services through this government framework is faster and cheaper than entering into a direct contract: services come pre-approved, so there’s no requirement to go through a long process of tendering. You can see the full specs laid out, download PDFs to share your colleagues, and compare with other services on price and features.

Any questions? Just get in touch and we’ll be happy to help.

Image: Joshua Earle

 

LocalGovCamp logo

Join us at LocalGovCamp

We’re longstanding supporters of LocalGovCamp, the conference where innovators in Local Government come together to share knowledge on how to improve services.

This year we’re both sponsoring it and running a couple of hands-on, interactive sessions. All online, of course, given the way things are these days.

On Tuesday 6 October, join a mySociety-led discussion with Mark and Zarino, on how consistent data standards across councils could open the doors to much better innovation.

We’ll be looking at our own Keep It In The Community project, nodding to our Council Climate Action Plans database, and inviting attendees to join a wider discussion on how we can encourage better joined-up data across councils.

And on Weds 7 October, our designer Martin will be running a mock ‘consequence scanning’ exercise. He’ll take participants through a new and useful way of assessing and mitigating risks in new government services, as conceived by Dot Everyone, recently taken up by Future Cities Catapult, and now used successfully in service design workshops by SocietyWorks.

We hope you’ll come along and enjoy some good discussion and deep dives into local government service improvement: find out more and book your place here.

 

Image by Brad Stallcup. Drums and a mixer in a residential room.

Better noise reports

In our last post we explained how we’ve been developing a new Waste service with the London Borough of Bromley. At the same time, we’ve also been working with the team at Hackney Council to develop a simple, efficient path for citizens’ noise reports.

As with our explorations into Waste, the work on noise first required us to learn a lot in a very short period of time. What exact form do noise reports take; and how can a citizen make a useful, actionable report if they’re not sure precisely where the noise is coming from?

We also had to examine the characteristics that would class a report as an anti-social behaviour (ASB) complaint, and whether the report path should differ for these.

We’re now at the stage where we’ve created early prototypes for two workflows — noise-related ASB reports, and standard noise complaints. Next we’ll be thinking about whether the two journeys can be combined into a single tool.

Treading carefully

The handling of ASB reports carries its own potential hazards: we need to consider the possibility of unintended harm, such as the stigmatisation of at-risk individuals and families. 

The team at Hackney are well aware of the risks: and introducing process efficiencies through a new online service could make these issues much more acute if not considered properly. As such we are conducting an extended discovery process to go deeper into these issues upfront.  

During our workshops with Hackney so far, we have been able to look at the positives and negatives from the different viewpoints of council staff, citizens and the wider community, incorporating ‘Consequence Scanning’ into the discovery. 

Noise discovery workshop at Hckney

This exercise was originally developed by Dot Everyone and has more recently been adopted by Future Cities Catapult. It ensures everyone can take a 360 degree view of the possible consequences — both positive and negative — that might arise from a new service design, and consider what additional mitigations might need to be put in place.

Armed with these insights, we’ve created an alpha version of the Noise reporting tool that we’ll be sharing with Hackney shortly so that they can test it and give us feedback for the next phase. 

Our Designer Martin, who ran the workshops, says, “There’s a limit to what you can find out verbally, so we aim to get to the alpha version of a service as quickly as we can. 

“The knowledge and understanding we get from seeing people using a new service for the first time is invaluable and can be immediately fed back into the design process to become improvements or new features.”

Noise discovery workshop at Hckney

Need better noise services?

If you’d like to chat or find out more about how we’re progressing with the development of  our noise services, or any other aspect of the SocietyWorks local government suite, then please contact David through our online form or the details at the foot of this page.

 

Image: Brad Stallcup

Image by Alex Liivet - a cobbled Macclesfield hill

FixMyStreet for Cheshire East

Residents of Nantwich, Crewe, Wilmslow, Macclesfield, and every other part of Cheshire East will benefit from the council’s decision to implement FixMyStreet Pro as their official report-making system for highways issues.

FixMyStreet’s interface should come as a step improvement for both citizens and council staff, making the reporting process much simpler for all. 

FixMyStreet Pro will be integrating with the council’s existing Confirm CRM. Confirm is a popular choice for UK councils and we’ve dealt with it a lot, so the hook-up was very straightforward.

Customer service staff will also continue taking reports over the phone. They’ll input details into the system for inspectors to pick up — and these reports will also be shown on the council’s website (and fixmystreet.com) so the public can see what’s in progress and doesn’t need re-reporting.

A further benefit is that because FixMyStreet can define the information required from the report-maker (precise location, category, etc), the customer services team won’t need to review it as they had been doing previously.

So there are efficiency wins all round for Cheshire East. We welcome them to the growing number of councils who’ve opted for FixMyStreet Pro.

Image: Alex Liivet (CC by/2.0)

Image by Adeolu Eletu - a man looking at charts on a tablet

Councils are more in need of savings than ever. FixMyStreet Pro can help.

Austerity left many councils struggling, with some even on the verge of bankruptcy. And then came the pandemic, a new and unexpected drain on resources from many different directions.

There are public information campaigns to run, pavements to widen, vulnerable people to look after, foodbanks to support — and a considerable number of citizens without income to feed into the tax system.

Against this background, splashing out for a new piece of software may be the last thing on your mind. But counterintuitive though it may be, this is one purchase that will save on costs.

Here are five reasons why:

  1. FixMyStreet is a proven catalyst to channel shift. Just take a look at Buckinghamshire Council’s experience, where the price of each report dropped from an average of £7.81 to just 9p — a massive 98.69% saving. We’ve said in the past that FixMyStreet Pro brings savings from day one — and we still stand by that.
  2. We reduce duplicate reports. Authorities tell us that responding to and dealing with reports of issues that have already been logged is a substantial expense — and all for nothing. That’s why we’ve introduced a number of features on FixMyStreet that not only dissuade duplicate reports, but allow the citizen to be kept updated as the issue is resolved.
  3. You can ditch legacy software FixMyStreet Pro’s back end offering has gone from strength to strength recently — and it now handles a lot of tasks that you may be paying a variety of other outdated systems to do. Good news: you can sweep them all away and just pay FixMyStreet pro’s very reasonable subscription cost instead.
  4. We don’t do lengthy tie-ins FixMyStreet Pro subscriptions are renewed annually, and there’s no contractual tie-in binding you to years of fees. Just keep us for as long as we’re useful.
  5. Citizens become your eyes and ears With such an easy interface, FixMyStreet Pro is a simple way for citizens to make reports. So even if you don’t have the budget for regular inspections, you’ll still be kept informed when issues arise.

If you’d like to ask more about FixMyStreet Pro and its potential to save authorities money, do join us for a webinar.You can book a slot here or drop us a line if you don’t see a date that suits you.

Image: Adeolu Eletu

Leeds in lockdown - image by Dan Burton

Reflecting the covid-19 needs of authorities and citizens on FixMyStreet Pro

Have you considered using FixMyStreet Pro as part of an application to the Emergency Active Travel Fund? The service can easily be adapted to allow citizens make requests for cycle paths and street widening, for example, or to report areas where social distancing is difficult and intervention is needed.

This way, your covid action plan becomes needs led, instigated by the community without the need for expensive surveys or reports.

The pandemic has brought many changes to the way we move around our towns and cities, and authorities are having to adapt to them quickly. 

FixMyStreet Pro offers one quick and easy way to reflect the new requirements we have of our environments: the addition of new report categories.

Some authorities are already taking advantage of this and have added categories that enable citizens to request wider pavements or cycle paths, or note where social distancing signage might be useful.

You can also head off the type of report that is better made elsewhere: for example, if a citizen wishes to report a business for poor practice — a report that clearly shouldn’t be public on your website — they can be routed towards the correct channel to do so, perhaps a phone number or a private contact form.

As a FixMyStreet Pro client, you can add, remove, or rename categories as needed; you can also nest subcategories, or place a subcategory under more than one main category to help users find it.

If you’d like to know more about categories, or any other feature, do join us for a webinar, so we can take you through FixMyStreet Pro’s main features and answer any questions you may have. You can book a slot here or drop us a line if you don’t see a date that suits you.

Image: Dan Burton

A number 3 hanging from a wire

What you’ll notice on FixMyStreet 3.0

We recently released version 3.0 of the open source software which FixMyStreet runs on.

This brings some substantial improvements to the code. The update is available to anyone running a site on the FixMyStreet platform, which includes our own fixmystreet.com; the installations we provide for councils and authorities; and the FixMyStreet instances run by others, in places from Australia to Uruguay.

If you run a site on the FixMyStreet platform yourself, or are just interested in the technical details, you can read the release notes here.

Meanwhile, here’s a rundown of the new front-end features you might notice if you’re a user of FixMyStreet.

Run the site as an app

FixMyStreet can now be added to phones (and desktops for that matter) as a ‘progressive app’. Here’s what to look for when you visit fixmystreet.com:

On Chrome for Android:

Installing FixMyStreet on Chrome on Android

Access from the bar at the bottom of the screen.

On iOS:

 

Share button on iOs

Click the share icon at the foot of the screen.

Add to homescreen

Then select ‘add to home screen’.

On Firefox for Android:

Installing FixMyStreet on Firefox for Android

Look for the pop up notification or tap the home icon with a plus sign in it in the URL bar.

Any of these methods will install a version of FixMyStreet that will behave like an app, placing an icon on your desktop, browser start page or home screen.

This way there is no need to download or update from the app store, and changes to the main website (which are invariably released sooner than on the app) will be immediately available to you.

Cobrands (for example the councils that use FixMyStreet as part of their own websites, and people running FixMyStreet in their own countries) can provide their own logo and colourscheme as well.

Mobile browser improvements

Whether you install the progressive web app or just visit fixmystreet.com on your mobile browser, you may notice some nice new features.

  • If you use the geolocation function (‘use my location’), your position will be displayed on the map:Marker showing user's location on FixMyStreet when viewed on a mobile browser
  • When viewing an area, you can access the filters to narrow the reports displayed down by their status (fixed/open etc) and category:Filter options on FixMyStreet's mobile browser interface
  • If you’re about to report something that looks like a duplicate, you’ll not only be shown the report/s that have already been made, but you’ll also see a small inline map without having to scroll back to the main map to check where they are.
  • The site recognises that when you’re on a mobile, the message about uploading a photo shouldn’t invite you to ‘drag and drop’, but rather to either take a new one or select a photo from your phone.Prompt to add a photo on FMS app
  • If you’ve placed the pin incorrectly, the ‘try again’ process is clearer.

Sharing reports

If a picture paints a thousand words, then your Twitter character count just went stratospheric. Now, when you share a report on places like Twitter or Facebook, if there’s a photo included in the report, that will also be pulled through.

Previously, the ‘open graph image’ that was shown by default was the same for every report — which could get a bit boring in aggregate, and certainly missed some of the impact that people might want to share when they’re posting about their own, or others’ reports.

Tweet showing a picture pulled through from a FixMyStreet report

Social media isn’t the only place that FixMyStreet reports can be piped to, though — the site also has several RSS capabilities that have been baked in since its early days.

For those not totally up to speed with RSS and what it can do, we’re now no longer displaying them as raw XML but as a nice simple web page that explains its purpose.

To see this in action, click ‘Local Alerts’ in the top menu of any page. Here’s a before and after:

FixMyStreet RSS feeds before and after a design refresh

What benefits one, benefits all

Much of this work is thanks to NDI, the National Democratic Institute.

NDI offer the FixMyStreet codebase as one of their DemTools, installing it in countries around the world as an innovation which empowers citizens to keep their neighbourhoods clean and safe.

Thanks to this partnership, NDI funded the addition of new features which they had identified as desirable — and which, thanks to the open codebase, will benefit users of every FixMyStreet site worldwide.

There are some other significant additions in this release, including integration, back end and security improvements, all of which will be of most interest to developers and site admins — so if you’d like to see them, head over to the full write up on the FixMyStreet platform blog.

Image: Max Fuchs

feet on each side of a yellow line in the road

FixMyStreet Pro: 2019 in review

What a year it’s been for FixMyStreet Pro, now the official street reporting system for 21 authorities across the country.

Growth…

During 2019 we’ve welcomed Bexley, Cheshire East, Hackney, Northamptonshire, Hounslow Highways, Westminster, Island Roads (Isle of Wight), Peterborough, and now Transport for London to the list of Pro clients.

In all, that adds up to 6.5 million residents who can now report problems such as potholes, faulty street lights or vandalism, either on FixMyStreet.com or on their councils’ own websites.

And if you consider that TfL covers all of Greater London, a further 7.5 million residents and countless commuters, tourists and visitors to the city are also covered for reporting on overground and underground stations, red routes, bus stops, etc.

In all cases, reports pass directly into the authorities’ internal systems, making for swift resolution and the ability to keep the report-maker informed of progress at every step.

…and improvement

It hasn’t been all about expansion, though. This year, we’ve also been adding further features for councils to the FixMyStreet Pro offering. It’s worth noting, perhaps, that improvements for councils always translate into improvements for residents too, either in terms of quicker report processing, better status updates, or public money saved — and often all three.

Here’s a rundown of the new features we’ve introduced this year:

Getting out and about

We attended Highways UK in Brum and the LGA conference in Bournemouth — it was good to meet so many of our clients and those considering whether FixMyStreet Pro might be a good fit for their needs.

And we were delighted to meet up with residents in Westminster and let them put the FixMyStreet to test while we watched and learned.

Residents testing FixMyStreet prototypes

 

Looking forward to 2020

We’ve already been carrying out some research with client authorities, and we’ll be continuing this work into the new year. We also have some development planned.

  • Conducting user testing to see how people use the input forms, what might be confusing and how this can be addressed…
  • …and further user testing to observe how people use FixMyStreet on mobile devices.
  • We’ll be talking to District Councils to see how their needs differ from other authorities, and how we can meet those needs.
  • Meanwhile we’ll be giving the FixMyStreet app a much-needed update.
  • We’ll make it easier for staff to add the email address of someone who requests updates on an existing report.
  • And lots more!

We’re really looking forward to getting our teeth into these features and then rolling them out to our client councils in 2020.

The FixmyStreet Pro team


Image: Nadine Shaabana

Peterborough

Spreadsheets begone! FixMyStreet Pro for Peterborough

We know that in many cases, when we install FixMyStreet Pro for a new council, we’re bringing not only a smooth reporting interface for residents, but also a better day-to-day experience for staff. In the case of Peterborough City Council, that was very much the case.

A very manual process

Peterborough had been using a stopgap solution for street reports, after the service they had been using ceased to exist. So, for some time, residents had been asked to make their reports through basic online forms. Not too onerous, but clunky enough.

The real pain point was mostly experienced, however, by council personnel. Customer services staff had the job of manually transferring the details from a spreadsheet and into the council’s Confirm CRM, where highways inspectors could pick up the reports and act upon them.

Then, once an issue had been resolved, inspectors manually updated another spreadsheet to let the customer service centre know of the status change, in case the report-maker called for an update.

There was no automated means by which a user could be updated with progress on reports, or told when it had been fixed.

So in short, FixMyStreet Pro will be making life easier all round, for staff and for residents. Plus the easier internal workflow should save a substantial amount of time and money, while keeping citizens engaged and informed every step of the way.

Improved efficiency

Councillor Farooq Mohammed said, “The introduction of FixMyStreet has brought in significant improvements to the services PCC provide to its residents. FixMyStreet not only brings efficiencies to various service departments, it is very user friendly and easy to use for our residents. This improves the response time to our residents.”

And Peterborough’s ICT Project Manager Jason Dalby added, “mySociety fully understood the challenges we face as a local authority and very quickly turned our requirements into an automated fault reporting system with integration into our Highways back office Confirm system, improving our efficiency by eliminating manual data entry.

“We are proud to be partners with mySociety and continue to work closely with them to improve FixMyStreet for our mutual benefit”.

We’ll continue working with the council over the next few months on their other service areas too, so watch this space.

If you’re a council and there’s potential for efficiencies in your reporting system (whether large or small), do get in touch.

Image: Dun.can (CC by/2.0)

Winkle_Street,_Calbourne,_Isle_of_Wight,_UK

Making things right on the Isle of Wight

FixMyStreet Pro has crossed the Solent, with Isle of Wight the latest council to install it as their official report-making interface.

Street issues on England’s largest island are handled by the company Island Roads, who keep things in order for residents and tourist alike, with responsibility for highways maintenance; road, pavement and cycleway improvements; street lights, street cleansing, winter gritting, bridges, drainage, street furniture and car parks.

As with all FixMyStreet Pro integrations, islanders can take their pick between making reports through the Island Roads website or on FixMyStreet.com; either way the issue will display on both sites, and drop directly into the case management system, Confirm.

What was different about this installation?

Island Roads requested a feature that we hadn’t previously developed for any of our other council clients, but which we suspect that some may be interested in now they know it’s available.

When a report is submitted, it drops into a special triage area where operatives can analyse it in more detail, ensure that it is categorised correctly, and check that it contains all the relevant information that the inspectors need in order to locate the fault and fix it.

Island Roads have also made use of another new piece of functionality: emergency categories.

If a user indicates the report might require immediate attention — say, in the case of a fallen tree on the road or a hazardous pothole — the form submission is disabled.

Instead, the user will see a message, telling them to call Island Roads directly:

Form changes if the user selects that the problem is urgent

The aim is that this simple safeguard will have a hand in preventing accidents.

Alex Brown, Systems Technician at Island Roads, said: “The focus of this development has been to enable the public to report their highway related issues to us easily, with the necessary information for us to respond appropriately and deal with the issues effectively. The project team at mySociety were excellent to work with and developed a solution which met our specific requirements.”

Image: Mypix [CC BY-SA 4.0]

FixMyStreet Pro blog

FixMyStreet Pro is the street & environment reporting service that integrates with any council system.

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