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.
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.
Here’s what the SocietyWorks team got up to during the latest sprint.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
It’s been a cold and wet May, but we haven’t let that dampen our spirits here at SocietyWorks. Here are some of the highlights from the last sprint – it was a busy one!
This sprint we hosted another successful user group for our FixMyStreet Pro customers. These events give our council partners the chance to catch up on all of the new features we’ve been working on for the service, and also provide the opportunity to influence our development roadmap.
Thank you to everyone who made it on the day, and a special thank you to Jack Bowers from Central Bedfordshire Council and to Tom Scholes at Oxfordshire County Council who each presented a fantastic case study for us.
We also heard from Senior Developer Dave Arter who provided an expert demonstration of the recently added FixMyStreet Pro features, which now include OS Maps with MasterMap detail, mobile navigation improvements and image redaction.
If you’re a keen follower of our sprint notes, you’ve probably noticed that we’re very excited to be co-designing with councils on the new WasteWorks product.
This is a citizen-centred system for councils to manage all elements of domestic, bulky and green waste online, integrated fully into any and all in-cab systems. We’ve moved into post-go live phase with Bromley Council after launching their phase 1 of work the other week.
Sshhh! NoiseWorks is coming….
We have been partnering with Hackney Council to develop a nuisance noise reporting system for their local residents. We have completed phase 1 and are working towards completing phase 2 of the project. Please get in touch if you would like to know more.
We have also been working across a variety of smaller projects. This includes working on Red Claims for Buckinghamshire Council, bug fixing and supporting our clients via Freshdesk.
This sprint we also had our SocietyWorks team meeting. This was a great opportunity for us all to get together to examine our internal processes, discuss the SocietyWorks suite of products and prioritise future projects.
If that’s not enough we have also been looking to recruit new developers so we can continue innovating, collaborating and partnering on projects that will make a difference for citizens in our communities.
Image: Gary Ellis
FOI Works, our citizen-friendly FOI service for public authorities, can now integrate with the iCasework FOI case management service.
Back in 2018, we started working with Hackney Council on a new Freedom of Information service that would improve citizen access to FOI and which could be integrated into their existing case management system via an API.
That service is FOI Works, and we’re very pleased to say that we have recently added a new standard integration for it: iCasework.
FOI Works is an unobtrusive, open-source FOI service for public bodies that provides a user-centred FOI request process, while intelligently leveraging already published information to reduce request volume.
Acting as the easy-to-navigate front door to FOI for citizens, FOI Works integrates seamlessly with case management systems to help divert citizens to potentially relevant responses already published within the case management system’s disclosure log.
Through this integration, FOI Works also removes the need for authorities to do any manual data entry; sending requests straight through to the case management system and immediately allocating a case number to the citizen.
After initially using the Infreemation case management service to manage their FOI requests, Hackney Council recently told us they were switching to iCasework. So, sticking to our promise of connecting our services up to whichever systems our customers choose, we jumped straight into expanding FOI Works’ integration workflow, allowing for a new API connection with iCasework.
While we made some tweaks to the software behind the scenes, the in-built flexibility of FOI Works meant that there has been little to no change or disruption to how the service works for the Council and its residents. This is important because it allows our public authority partners to grow with the software, rather than needing to change everything whenever new or alternative systems are introduced.
Our top priority when it comes to providing public authority services is the citizen, so we’re always thinking about how we can ensure that no matter what integration is required on the backend, the citizen gets the best possible experience on the frontend.
Looking ahead for FOI Works, we’d like to partner up with another public body to build a disclosure log into the service to further ensure that no matter what’s going on behind the scenes, FOI Works can provide citizens with easy access to all of the information they seek, while at the same time helping authorities to reduce the quantity of duplicate or unactionable FOI requests submitted.
FOI Works can be procured as a bolt-on to any case management system for public authorities – find FOI Works on G-Cloud.
Image: Samuel Regan-Asante
We’re very pleased to announce the launch of WasteWorks: a reliable, citizen-centred system for councils to manage all elements of domestic, bulky and green garden waste online, from missed bin reports to online payments for collections.
Designed with the same focus on usability that has made FixMyStreet and FixMyStreet Pro so popular with councils and citizens alike, WasteWorks makes the end-to-end process of managing waste online easier and more efficient through intelligent integration with in-cab software systems. So whether a resident needs to request a new container or set up a direct debit for a green garden waste subscription, it can all be done in one place.
With an intuitive, user-friendly interface that aids channel shift, the service helps councils reduce operating costs by lowering demand on customer service centres, while also dramatically improving the citizen user experience thanks to increased transparency and a self-service system that is easy to use on any device and which meets government accessibility standards.
“WasteWorks provides councils with the opportunity to bring about real improvements to the way citizens access waste services online.”
– David Eaton, SocietyWorks
WasteWorks can be integrated into any and all existing in-cab software systems (eg Alloy, Veolia/Echo and Bartec). Once connected and branded to complement the council’s website, the service acts as a one-stop shop for citizens to access all aspects of waste – whether that’s to report a missed bin within time frames specified by the council, to self-serve a payment for a bulky waste collection, or to set up an ongoing green garden waste subscription. Automated updates and templated responses make it easier for councils to manage expectations and deliver a more transparent service, while internal dashboards and visual heat maps enable staff to track service levels and identify trends.
David Eaton, Sales Director at SocietyWorks said: “WasteWorks provides councils with the opportunity to achieve much-sought after channel shift, create savings and bring about real improvements to the way citizens access waste services online. Understanding the importance of making it as easy as possible for residents to access the services they need, while also making sure public funds go as far as possible, we applied the easy-to-use user interface behind our popular FixMyStreet Pro service to waste, creating one front door through which citizens can make all reports and requests – be it for an assisted collection or for a green garden waste subscription – and removing the need to access and understand different fault reporting processes for different issues.”
“That same focus on usability has also been applied to the WasteWorks management interface for council staff, providing a simple experience that works in tandem with existing systems,” he added. “The result is a service that demonstrably puts citizens first, while lessening the burden on council staff.”
Like all of SocietyWorks’ public authority services, WasteWorks has been developed in consultation with councils and with citizens at its heart. Councils taking up the service will benefit from SocietyWorks’ unstinting focus on usability and continual development roadmap.
WasteWorks is available to all UK councils from today. Click here to request a demo.
That’s a question our design team has been asking recently as part of our work on phase two of Bromley Council’s new citizen-centred waste product, which involves incorporating green garden waste subscriptions into the service.
“Subscriptions like green garden waste collections can involve multiple council systems and departments, so our task is to make sure that process feels natural and intuitive to residents,” explains SocietyWorks designer Zarino.
“In this project, we used prototypes to help us identify and confirm user needs—for both residents and council staff—pinning down exactly what the green garden waste service needs to do, and how the interface should work, to allow residents to create and manage their subscriptions in a way that suits them.”
The prototypes for the green garden waste front-end have now been completed and accepted by the Council, so we thought we’d lift the lid and let you take a look at how the front-end is shaping up.
It needs to display green garden waste collections. The citizen needs to be able to identify their property and view all collection information related to it: whether a subscription is active, what are the previous and upcoming collections, the number of containers being collected and when the subscription renews.
It needs to provide self-service subscriptions to green garden waste collections. If no collections are set up for the property, the citizen needs to be able to complete a form providing relevant information for the council to create a subscription – collection address (from UPRN), contact information, whether new containers are required and payment details for the collection. The citizen should be encouraged to check their details are correct before submitting, and needs to agree to the terms and conditions. Once the payment has been processed and the citizen has been sent a confirmation email, a confirmation page reiterating that their subscription has now been set up should be displayed.
It needs to take requests for more or fewer green garden waste containers. On occasions when the citizen requires more or fewer containers, a multi-page form will help them to complete their request. This should ask how many containers are required, and should redirect the citizen to a cancellation form if they want to reduce containers to zero. Here again, the citizen needs to be able to self-serve all of the relevant information, and a confirmation needs to be available once the request has been submitted.
It needs to handle return or replacement requests of green garden waste containers. In this instance, the citizen needs to be able to define within a multi-page form why they need to return or replace a container and what actions they require next, if any. A summary of the information should be provided, and a confirmation that the request was submitted should be shown afterwards.
And it needs to enable subscription renewals or cancellations. The citizen needs to be able renew or cancel their subscription to green garden waste collections. For renewals, the citizen should be able to refine their subscription if needed (for example, request more or fewer containers), while for cancellations, the citizen needs to be shown what cancelling the subscription means and needs to be able to provide information on how many containers are to be returned to the council.
Of course, there are lots of other, more client-specific things the front-end for Bromley Council’s green garden waste service will do in addition to the above, but these are the essentials.
The green garden waste service we’re designing for Bromley Council is part of a broader waste service SocietyWorks will very soon be launching for all UK councils, built with years and years of experience putting citizens at the front and centre of local authority services. Book a demo to see how it works.
Image: Alexas_Fotos on Pixabay
Fly-tipping is one of the most expensive problems councils face. And incidents are on the rise.
In 2020, as the pandemic limited places and times to dispose of rubbish, fly-tipping reports increased by 44% on the FixMyStreet website, where citizens across the UK can report a variety of local issues to the correct authority. FixMyStreet Pro can help councils bring the increased costs of dealing with fly-tipping under control.
According to new data from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), local authorities in England dealt with just under 1 million fly-tipping incidents for the 2019-20 financial year.
With councils largely relying on residents to spot and report fly-tipping incidents, how can you encourage continued vigilance while also saving money as more reports come in? More importantly, how can you better demonstrate to your residents that you’re acknowledging the growing issue and responding to it accordingly?
Designed by a team with over a decade’s worth of experience putting citizens at the heart of local authority services, FixMyStreet Pro makes the reporting and handling of street and environmental issues like fly-tipping much easier and, as a result, cheaper.
Councils adopting FixMyStreet Pro for their citizen reporting can:
To discover how FixMyStreet Pro could help you better manage and respond to issues like fly-tipping, potholes, street lighting and much more, book a one-to-one demo with one of the SocietyWorks team.
Image: Karl Bewick on Unsplash
Days are getting longer, nights are getting shorter and the SocietyWorks sprints are getting busier! Here’s a summary of what we’ve been up to recently.
If you’ve been following our sprint notes closely, you’ll know that we’ve commenced phase 2 of developing Bromley Council’s new waste service. This sprint we delved a bit deeper into the different APIs we’ll be using, and drafted a technical specification that we shared with Bromley and the third parties involved to get their feedback. We do this because, as part of our processes, we like to make sure we prepare fully, rather than jumping straight into code. This makes for a smoother roll-out, and is also an opportunity for the our customers and any relevant parties to raise any potential issues that may need to be addressed.
We also continued our work on Peterborough City Council’s new waste service, which involves an intelligent integration with Bartec. It’s coming along nicely and we’ll have more to update you on in the near future.
On the FixMyStreet Pro side of things, we worked on several smaller work orders this sprint, including projects for London Borough of Bexley and Bath & North East Somerset Council.
We also looked at how we can roll-out the functionality to send an email when a user is subscribed to a report by council staff on a wider scale – this is something we’ve already built with Oxfordshire County Council, but we see real value in it, so we would like to offer it to all of our council partners. Let us know if this interests you.
Plus, we caught up with our friends at Buckinghamshire Council about how they’ve been getting on with FixMyStreet Pro, which they first switched to back in 2018. We were thrilled to learn that, as the service has improved the user experience for citizens when making a report online, calls to the Council have decreased by 49%, saving Buckinghamshire more than £32,000 per year. Not bad, eh? If you’d like to learn more, we wrote a blog post here.
As a team, we’re all really proud of what we do and why we do it, and yet very rarely do we shout about it. Now that our new Marketing & PR Manager Sally is here, we’re going to change this. To that end, we’ve been busy preparing submissions for entering a few awards in the areas of system integration and digital transformation – two things that we live and breathe here at SocietyWorks. Keep your fingers crossed for us, and watch this space!
Sally’s not going to be the new person for very much longer; this sprint saw us conducting interviews for a new Project Manager role. We’re all very excited about this new addition to the team, and we’ll be sure to introduce you as soon as they get started!
Image: Max Conrad on Unsplash
FixMyStreet Pro customers can now take advantage of a new feature for the service: the ability to connect to Notify and send status updates via text.
Just like a lot of the new service features we develop at SocietyWorks, they often start off as a great idea from a client.
On this occasion, it’s Hackney Council we have to thank; they came to us a few months ago with the desire to connect their GOV.UK Notify account with their FixMyStreet Pro instance in order to give citizens more options for staying informed about their reports.
It made perfect sense to us, so together we’ve been working on this co-funded piece of development, which, now that it’s completed, is available to all of our Pro customers. The work involved adapting the FixMyStreet SMS authentication functionality and adding the Notify functionality as the new SMS backend provider for the verification step.
For Hackney, the integration with Notify means that when a report is made to them, the site asks the report-maker for either their email address or mobile phone number, which, once verified, will create an account and enable the Council to provide text or email notifications about the report.
If you’re a Pro client and you’d like to connect your Notify account to your instance of FixMyStreet Pro, send us a message in helpdesk.
Not a Pro client yet but interested in becoming one? Get in touch with us here.
Image: Ono Kosuki on Pexels
We all know that 2020 was a bit of a bumpy year (OK, it was a lot of a bumpy year), but one thing that those of us at SocietyWorks had been expecting to be a bit less bumpy was the impact of pothole reports on UK councils.
With people traveling less frequently due to lockdown putting roads under less pressure (which, incidentally, would also create the perfect conditions for pre-existing potholes to be fixed by councils), we had thought that pothole reporting rates on our FixMyStreet service, which sends reports directly to the council that can deal with them, would have been lower than usual.
But we were wrong.
While we did see a considerable drop in reports when the first lockdown hit, and again towards the end of the year when renewed restrictions saw winter pothole reports rise less sharply than in previous years, 2020 still had the highest ever number of potholes reported through FixMyStreet and our council versions of FixMyStreet Pro (not including TFL’s installation), with over 111,000 reports about potholes made throughout the year.
As the above graph shows, the year started off with a clear trend towards many more potholes being reported through FixMyStreet than usual. When the first lockdown began in March, reporting rates dramatically reduced, but they quickly started to pick back up again as restrictions were loosened and cold weather re-emerged.
Towards the very end of year, when we would usually expect to see a sharp hike in report numbers like in previous years, Tier 4 restrictions and lockdown saw pothole reporting rates increase much slower.
Taking these reporting trends into consideration, it looks as though, had there been no lockdown, pothole report numbers would have been even higher in 2020.
As we know, the pandemic has put an added strain onto councils recently, meaning that potholes are just one of many, many things needing to be dealt with.
For councils already using FixMyStreet Pro to manage their streets and highways reports, any increase in pothole reports is much easier to handle when the cost per report has been made up to 98.69% cheaper.
Looking ahead, given that budgets are tight and key workers are currently making up the majority of the people using our roads, should 2021 prove to be another pothole-heavy year, it’s never been more important to make the process of reporting such problems as easy for citizens and as cost-effective for councils as possible.
If you’re a council and you’d like to discover how FixMyStreet Pro can help you smooth out the process of dealing with streets and highways reports like potholes, you can find out more here.