As the trading arm of mySociety, we are always featured in the charity’s annual review, but with so many things to talk about this year we’ve branched off into our own review.
In another year of unprecedented upheaval for local authorities, it’s become clearer than ever just how important it is to have robust and user needs-focused digital infrastructure in place, and it’s been a genuine pleasure to have worked with so many councils and other public sector organisations this year to continue bringing about citizen-friendly improvements to digital services.
Here’s what we got up to in 2021.
Mark Cridge, CEO
We really do think that society works. When people come together to improve their communities, making them welcoming, vibrant and resilient places to live, then everybody benefits.
I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve started to build here at SocietyWorks – the amazing team we’ve brought together, to support the work of local councils, improving the ability of staff and contractors to deliver critically important services to hundreds of thousands of citizens each day.
As you’ll see from this review of the year, 2021 has been all about expanding the scope of our service suite, rolling out dozens of new features and services to new communities around the UK – and doing so with beautiful, simple and effective design.
What I’ve enjoyed most this year is when we’ve been able to bring our council partners together, albeit online of course, to help us shape and plan where we should focus our efforts for the years ahead. We hope many more councils will be able to join these discussions through 2022, and I’m excited about the difference we can make together.
Enjoy our review of SocietyWorks’ year!
Cam Ross, Chair
In 2021, I’ve seen more clearly than ever the impact that SocietyWorks has on communities, building digital tools and services that increase efficiency, give better insight and focus for the key issues tackled by councils and help citizens have a clearer and louder voice.
In that spirit, it was my privilege to be asked to temporarily step into the role of Chair of SocietyWorks for a portion of 2021. I am sorry that we are saying goodbye to Jonathan Flowers, our chair for the past six years. I would like to recognise Jonathan’s deep expertise of local government and corporate life, which was instrumental in helping to drive the company’s growth over the past six years. Anybody who has met Jonathan recognises that his passion and good humour are infectious, his intellect sharp, and his ethics unwavering. We will all miss the marvellous combination of his talents.
I’d like to extend a second fond farewell to Anno Mitchell, who also left the Board this year. Thank you, Anno, for your five years’ service – you are already very missed.
Finally, please let me say how proud I am of the entire SocietyWorks team – the Board, the staff, the contractors. Your hard work, your ideas and your engagement with our clients across the country enables us to do amazing things for society. 2021 has been a great year to be involved – thank you, all.
2021 has been a year of substantial growth for SocietyWorks as we welcomed several new faces to the team…
Lizetta, taking on the responsibility of ensuring the rollout of our services is a smooth experience for everyone.
Ludo, an experienced Perl developer and long-time user of mySociety’s digital services, now helping to write the code behind them for our council customers.
Angela, bringing heaps of experience managing all things commercial and financial to both SocietyWorks and the wider mySociety organisation.
Moray, another Perl-proficient addition to our development team, also helping to build our digital tools.
Bekki, making sure our services continue to be designed with a sharp focus on user needs, from citizens to council staff.
Designed in consultation with Bromley Council, WasteWorks is our intelligent, citizen-centred frontend service for local authorities that integrates with in-cab systems to simplify access to and management of domestic, bulky and green waste service requests online.
“WasteWorks builds on the previous online reporting we had within our Waste Services area, offering our residents a level of self-service for our Green Garden Waste subscriptions which has been a long-held ambition. The ability to adjust and tweak customer messaging and templates through the administration area allows us to respond quickly and keep the customers informed as we take them through the process, which helps us drive down those avoidable contacts and queries.”
Jim Cowan, Waste Services Contract Manager at Bromley Council
This year we’ve been working with Hackney Council on a secure, purpose-built digital solution for taking and managing noise reports from citizens, all developed in consultation with noise officers and influenced by user research into what Hackney residents want from this sort of service.
With the majority of residents surveyed indicating they would rather not have to download an app to report a noise issue, NoiseWorks is a responsive web-based service that will make it easier not just for citizens to make a report, but also for the council to keep report-makers informed on the progress of their cases, helping to close the feedback loop and improve satisfaction.
This has been a hugely enjoyable project, taking part in a service assessment and moving at pace from Alpha to Beta.
Here are some of the new, council-suggested features we’ve added to our services this year…
One visual heatmap for tracking all of your highways and waste service areas via FixMyStreet Pro and WasteWorks.
Easily redact areas of images uploaded by citizens using FixMyStreet Pro’s new moderation tool instead of needing to hide or remove them completely.
Display scheduled maintenance works via special map pins on FixMyStreet to remove the need for citizens to report problems that are already on your radar.
A more touch-friendly, app-like design to the FixMyStreet website, with a more responsive category picker and better map controls.
“It’s always a pleasure working with SocietyWorks. They have a robust understanding of both the citizen and the local authority’s needs and take a very collaborative approach to product development.”
Jason Dalby, ICT Project Manager, Peterborough City Council
In addition to designing new services for local authorities and the public sector, our agile approach to service development, coupled with our unstinting focus on user-centred design means that we’re increasingly asked by our clients to help redesign existing service areas – this is where both WasteWorks (with Bromley) and NoiseWorks (with Hackney) originated.
Here are some of the projects we’ve worked on over the past 12 months…
Tasked with exploring how West Sussex could improve its online reporting tool for highways defects such as potholes and blocked drains, we carried out an in-depth Discovery project, encompassing interviews with residents, officers and councillors, as well as reviewing the council’s existing processes and software to identify where efficiencies could be made. At the end of the project we delivered a comprehensive report of findings and professional recommendations to the council for them to take away and act upon.
An Alpha phase project intended to scope out and prototype a new reporting service for faults in hospitals that would make it easier for NHS staff to track and follow up on reports. Bringing our expertise in developing user-centred and transparent services, our service design team got to work researching, prototyping and refining this new service, before preparing for an Alpha assessment.
Determined to incorporate resident requirements into their plans for transforming the way potholes and other highways issues are reported and dealt with, Shropshire Council’s Highways team commissioned us with the responsibility for completing a Discovery of their working processes and software – analysing their existing digital set-up and speaking to citizens, councillors and staff members to collect the most relevant information that would inform the features and functionality of the new service.
With the recent addition of Service Designer Bekki Leaver to the SocietyWorks team, we’re excited to get stuck into some more design and discovery projects over the next 12 months. First on the cards, Bekki will be applying her breadth of user-centred design experience to our fledgling ApplyWorks service: a hassle-free way to handle applications for everything from white bar markings to dropped kerbs.
We co-hosted a workshop with TfL for our London-based FixMyStreet Pro customers, all about how to get the most out of the service’s intelligent routing functionality.
From Lincolnshire to the Isle of Wight, we brought our council community together to share best practice and plan for the future.
Bromley Council took part in our webinar all about the best way to get started when designing or refining a service for citizens.
It’s been a thrill to participate in a number of brilliant online and in-person events and conferences this year, including the LGA Annual Conference, the District Councils’ Network Annual Conference, Highways UK, Service Design in Gov and RWM.
We’re proud to be trusted by 27 councils and public sector organisations to provide accessible, citizen-friendly and cost-effective digital services and solutions. Some of the projects we’ve worked on this year include…
A FixMyStreet Pro/Symology integration that delivered a 46% increase in online reports within just 4 months of going live.
We’ve loved working closely with Hackney’s noise officers and residents on NoiseWorks, a brand new noise reporting and management system.
Taking the rubbish out of online waste management for citizens and staff with a new, fully-integrated digital frontend service.
Also working on waste, it’s been a joy to collaborate with the team at Peterborough on their version of WasteWorks, hooked into Bartec’s in-cab system.
We accommodated the unitary split in Northamptonshire, ensuring there was no service interruption for residents wanting to make street and highway reports via FixMyStreet Pro.
What a pleasure to welcome another London borough into the FixMyStreet fold and provide a truly joined-up service for residents.
A glowing example of how to get digital transformation right: starting with a discovery project which influenced the build of the council’s FixMyStreet Pro service.
We’ve been assisting the Labour Party in implementing a straightforward and integrated way to manage geographic and administrative boundary data with our MapIt API solution.
Savings made per year by FixMyStreet Pro for Buckinghamshire Council
Report-makers now switched to digital for reporting local problems to Bromley Council
All it took us to increase online reporting by 46% for Central Bedfordshire Council
Reports made via FixMyStreet in 2021
Flytipping reported in Norbiton at 5.45pm last night via @fixmystreet, & by 8.15pm I’d received an email confirming it had already been cleared. Bravo team @RBKingston – very impressive! 💪😎👏 pic.twitter.com/CdgUQoDIfR
— Suzanne Seyghal (@CurlyAdventurer) September 28, 2021
— LizM 💙 (@lizmac39) July 29, 2021
— Ron Mackintosh 🇪🇺🏴🇬🇧 (@ronmackintosh) February 23, 2021
A big thank you to the brilliant @LBofBromley anti-graffiti Team, who work tirelessly to rid my Park/Neighbourhood of graffiti.
The graffiti shown in this picture was removed within days of me reporting it via @fixmystreet pic.twitter.com/8gQz42ULre
— Geoff(Disenfrachised Socialist) (@gplondon) April 20, 2021
We asked the team…
Getting to know our clients and the opportunities for improvement that exist for them in the rapidly changing digital landscape.
Seeing how our services help to fix real life problems for citizens and council staff.
Watching the team grow handling much more complex projects.
We’ve been collaborating with our colleagues over on mySociety’s Research team to understand the latest needs and wants from citizens when it comes to reporting problems to councils and other public authorities. Starting early next year, we’ll be publishing this research annually to help you stay alert to ever-changing citizen requirements. Sign up to our newsletter to be the first to know when the research is available.
If you’ve been keeping an eye on our blog recently, you’ll have seen that we’re currently making some upgrades to our infrastructure platform which will enable us to provide more flexible capacity and geographical redundancy for services. This work will continue into 2022 and will underpin the growth and availability of our services over the next three years.
Councils have always influenced our development roadmap, and 2022 will be no different as we continue to accept suggestions from our clients and carry the most popular ones through to build. Take a look at the open roadmap to see what’s on the horizon.
We’ve had the pleasure of working with so many brilliant teams over the years as we implement new service integrations, and with more and more of our clients telling us how well our services work with other systems and software, we’re keen to start looking at how we can work together to further improve the experience for our shared customers. Let us know if this is something you’d like to discuss.
If you like the look of what we get up to at SocietyWorks, perhaps you’d like to join us? In the new year we’ll be looking to bring on a Business Development Manager. Keep an eye on our careers page if you’re interested.
We asked the team…
More development of FixMyStreet and additions to our product suite.
Linking up with partners to provide even smarter services.
Collaborating with our clients and continuing to strengthen client relationships.
Sign up to our newsletter to stay in-the-know about our latest developments and industry insights.
Contact us for advice on how our suite of tools and services could work for your public sector organisation.
Read the mySociety annual review for a round-up of 2021 from our parent charity, mySociety.