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
Built in collaboration with Hackney, this has been a really interesting project to work on; delving into what form noise reports should take, how to help citizens make a noise report that’s useful to councils even if the reporter is not exactly sure where the source of the noise is and how such reports can be made as securely and sensitively as possible.
The finished product is a secure, user-friendly and highly efficient private reporting form that Hackney’s teams and its residents will be able to make use of.
Recognising the timely need for a better frontend noise reporting system, Hackney saw the early value in making the process of submitting such a report a smoother one for residents and for council staff. That’s where we came in.
By identifying whether the noise is commercial or residential before sending it directly to the team that can deal with it, our new noise service will help to make handling noise reports much easier. Meanwhile, providing a form which enables citizens to submit a better standard of location information using UPRNs first and foremost or broader map locations if the exact source of the noise cannot be confirmed will help to deliver reports that are more accurate, actionable and faster to address.
Aside from being able to use a form that’s designed to help them provide the correct information to councils, another bonus for Hackney residents is that they will now be able to see all of their own reports, whether noise or otherwise, all in one place when they’re logged into Hackney’s version of FixMyStreet.
With the potential for noise reports to be of a more sensitive nature, it was important to us and to Hackney that we get this noise service right. That’s why as part of the service development we ran a series of consequence scanning workshops to identify and mitigate potential negative outcomes.
As a result, each noise report that’s made to Hackney will be private and will always be dealt with by a council staff member – no automated decision making involved. This helps to ensure that, whatever the report is about, it can be dealt with appropriately without anyone other than the reporter and the council needing to know about it.
Being a new service, we’re looking forward to seeing how Hackney gets on with using it now that it’s soft-launched and listening to residents’ noise reports.
If noise reporting is something you are also interested in, the service can either be plugged into an existing FixMyStreet Pro package, like we’ve done for Hackney, or it can be fully integrated into whichever backend management systems you are using.
Image: Brett Jordan on Unsplash
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.
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.
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.”
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