This week was Public Sector Insight Week 2023 – an annual event dedicated to bringing together government and businesses to help each other use digital more effectively.
As part of the event, our managing director Angela Dixon delivered a best practice session on closing the feedback loop between local authorities and residents.
Closed feedback loops are essential to building trust, managing expectations and increasing efficiency.
In our twenty years of experience working within the public sector, we have seen how difficult it can be for councils to keep feedback loops closed, with over-stretched budgets, the transient nature of local authority staffing and a multitude of different systems used for dealing with different issues.
Angela spoke about the common problems local authorities in particular face when feedback loops are broken, how to fix them effectively and shared some of our lessons learned from our experience of helping to bridge the gap between citizens and the public sector with innovative open-source digital solutions.
If you couldn’t make it to Angela’s talk, but you are interested to hear what she had to say, you can watch the full session on YouTube.
On 25 April we’ll be hosting a webinar for local authorities focused on our digital residential waste management service WasteWorks, and we’d love for you to join us.
During the webinar we’ll demonstrate how the service works for local authorities, show how it integrates with different in-cab and payment systems and discuss the impact it has had so far for councils, their residents and their contractors.
Now available on the recently launched G-Cloud 13 framework, WasteWorks was designed in collaboration with Bromley Council and Veolia to simplify access to waste services online and reduce unnecessary contact to the council. It was also shortlisted for a LGC Award 2022 in the Public/Private Partnership category.
Come along to the webinar to:
User groups are among our favourite events in the calendar year. We love to bring together the organisations that use our products – from councils to highways agencies to housing associations – for a few hours to share experiences, ask questions and learn from one other.
Last week we hosted another of our FixMyStreet Pro user groups, centred on our street, highway and environment reporting service.
There’s a recording of the user group available to watch for anyone who wanted to come but couldn’t make it, or you can find a brief summary of what you missed below.
Recently added features
From scheduled emergency messages to easier displaying of asset IDs on a report page, Senior Developer Chris Mytton gave us a tour of the latest features to be added to or updated for FixMyStreet Pro. Watch Chris’ session here.
Process changes and intended outcomes
Head of Product & Service Design Bekki Leaver ran a session explaining some recent changes we’ve made to our development and delivery processes, and exploring our intended outcomes for the future of the product. Take a look.
Parish councils and FixMyStreet Pro in Buckinghamshire
Matthew Somerville, our Head of Development, gave us a demo of some new functionality we’ve been working on with Buckinghamshire Council, which allows principal authorities to use FixMyStreet Pro to easily and intelligently triage reports to parish councils. Check it out.
Report status mapping
‘Don’t mark reports as fixed unless the problem has actually been fixed’ was the main take-home from developer Moray Jones’ session on making sure your report statuses are mapped correctly on FixMyStreet Pro. More on this here.
We handed back over to Bekki who guided small breakout groups through an empathy mapping exercise to answer the question: why should I add a photo to my report? Each group had a different persona and situation to explore. If you’re interested in the work Bekki does, get in touch.
Case study: Peabody housing association and FixMyStreet Pro
Tom Broad, Head of Environmental Services Thamesmead at Peabody, joined us to talk about how the housing association is using FixMyStreet Pro, which involves some complex routing of reports between Peabody and the London boroughs of Bexley and Greenwich. Watch the case study.
Communication top tips
Best practice advice for communicating FixMyStreet Pro to residents from our Marketing & PR Manager Sally Bracegirdle. See what Sally had to say.
Roundtable: problem-solving with FixMyStreet Pro
A group discussion on any shared pain points when it comes to digital street and highway reporting, and how we can look to resolve them with future development of FixMyStreet Pro. This is something we’re interested in all year round – please speak to your account manager whenever you have a suggestion to discuss.
If you’re interested in what we do and how FixMyStreet Pro works, why not come along to our next user group to meet our community and see what the product is all about for yourself. Let us know if you’d like an invite.
Image: Benjamin Elliott
If you’re heading to the event, stop by stand J7 for a fresh, barista-made coffee and learn all about FixMyStreet Pro, our map-based reporting service for street and highway issues, built on the national FixMyStreet website, launched by our parent charity mySociety in 2007.
Since 2012, FixMyStreet Pro, the fully integrated version of FixMyStreet, has been enabling councils, local government bodies and highways agencies to improve the way they take and manage reports from citizens about problems such as potholes, blocked drains and broken street lights.
Ask us about how FixMyStreet Pro can help you to, among other things:
There’ll be a few members of the SocietyWorks team at Highways UK – why not connect with them on the event app and schedule a meeting?
Here’s where to find us on the day:
See you there!
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.
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!
Last week we hosted our first user group of 2022, bringing together our community of councils and public sector organisations using FixMyStreet Pro to show them our latest features, talk about new developments and give everyone the chance to influence what we work on next.
Here’s what happened on the day:
Kicking the event off, senior developer Dave Arter gave us a tour of some FixMyStreet Pro’s latest features.
These include improvements to the service’s case management functionality, which now enables council staff to filter reports and assign or reassign cases to inspectors. There’s also a new councillor access portal to FixMyStreet Pro’s heatmap, on which councillors can see at a glance where problems are being reported.
Bekki Leaver introduced herself to the group and shared some of the exciting things she’ll be working on over the coming months, such as evaluating and researching the user need for some new features, facilitating our Discovery workshops and progressing our ApplyWorks service, designed to streamline the way citizens submit applications and license requests.
Bekki also put a call out to councils who want to help test some of our new features with residents. This call is also open to non-clients, so if you’re reading this and you’d like to be involved, please get in touch.
Tracy Eaton, Product Owner for FixMyStreet at Buckinghamshire Council, delivered a brilliant case study about the improvements to citizen reporting that we’ve been able to bring about together so far (such as implementing accuracy-boosting asset layers and creating category specific acknowledgement messages), and the council’s plans for further transformation using FixMyStreet Pro (watch this space!).
We also heard from Mark Peet, Program Lead at Shropshire Council, who provided an insight into how we worked together recently to understand the views of local residents, councillors, and council staff at all levels and apply what we learned to the successful and speedy rollout of the county’s new FixMyStreet Pro service.
Our Marketing & PR Manager Sally Bracegirdle gave us a preview of some soon-to-be-published research into citizen reporting in the UK: what makes citizens want to report problems; what puts them off and what do they expect from a reporting service?
The research was carried out in collaboration with YouGov and mySociety’s Research team. We’ll publish a blog post when it’s been released to the public – keep an eye out.
There’s a lot of complexity in the way FixMyStreet directs reports to the correct place on behalf of citizens, automatically working out which tier of council is appropriate for a report. As senior developer Matthew Somerville demonstrated, there’s still one level of council that FixMyStreet is not yet able to serve: town and parish councils. Matthew talked us through why this is and our plans for making it happen in the future.
Finishing off the event, Clare Armiger, our account manager, led a review of our client development roadmap, giving attendees the chance to vote for which of their suggestions for future development we should look to take through to user research next. The winning idea was to identify more opportunities to signpost to relevant public authorities wherever the council is not responsible for a report.
And that was our January user group for FixMyStreet Pro!
Would you like to come along to the next user group?
You don’t have to be a Pro user to attend our user groups; we’re happy for guests to come along, meet our community and see what the service is all about for yourself. Let us know if you’d like an invite.
Image: Skye Studios
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:
Until then, you can ask us any questions about FixMyStreet Pro here.
Image: Omer Rana
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’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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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