Monday, June 12, 2017
Smart Cities Need Smart Consultations
Future Glasgow. Smart City Bristol. Digital Birmingham. Pilot smart city projects are growing exponentially across the UK – and we’re barely keeping pace with the rest of the world (In 2014 India announced a plan to build 100 smart cities). However, while big data and small technology is enabling us to design our infrastructure to be more efficient, responsive, and environmentally friendly, it’s unclear as to whether we’re able to envision the social impact of these changes.
In many cases, Smart City planning is informed by the latest methodology in service design. Traditional methods of “let’s plan it and then ask what people think” have been replaced by human-centred design methodology and co-creation approaches. End-users are involved throughout the process. Nesta’s “Rethinking Smart Cities from the Ground Up” emphasises the need for collaborative technology and a focus on human behaviour. owever, these
In this sense, Smart Cities should be more people-centred than any other kind of urban planning previously undertaken.
However, while citizens may be involved in the design of a project, that doesn’t mean that there is a common understanding – or even any understanding – of what some of the overall impacts of Smart Cities and SMACT (Social, Mobile, Analytics, Cloud, Internet of Things) technologies might be in terms of quality of life and citizen well-being.
Those implementing and affected by traditional infrastructure and public policy projects are well-versed in communicating the balance of impacts of a project and asking for public feedback. Changes to health services, noise impacts from new roads, or threats to ancient woodland – while they can be complex – are familiar topics for people to digest and offer opinions on. In many ways, the whole idea of Smart Cities is to make all of these things better. If technology is enabling everything to be quieter, cleaner, and safer then what could the negative impacts be?
Nobody really knows the answer to that question, but we can take some guesses at what important considerations could be:
- Increased automation results in a reduction in day-to-day personal contact and increased isolation and loneliness;
- An unrelenting need for personal data in the name of responsiveness and efficiency leaves individuals and communities vulnerable to an erosion of personal privacy and self-determination and raises problems for democracy as a whole;
- Increased reliance on OS systems makes cities more vulnerable to sharp shocks – whether through systems failure, crime, or terrorism; and
- A departure from the creative chaos and diversity of organic cities that gives a city personality and identity. In the words of Adam Greenfield, author of Against the Smart City ‘it erodes the development of savoir faire; it eliminates the risk, but also everything wonderful, that arises in the confrontation with difference.’
These potential impacts are relatively intangible, and difficult to imagine, but we need to make more of a concerted effort to start doing that. While there are some sophisticated solutions (such as creating an interactive AI simulations for people to experience), it’s unlikely that these are going to be within the budget of a local authority any time soon.
There is a challenge for organisations passionate about embedding local voice within policy decisions and infrastructure development to shape the future of Smart City consultations. How might we best help city-dwellers understand how their lives could change in the next 10 or 15 years and articulate their opinions on that? How might we design creative, open engagement and consultation solutions which enable frank discussions around possible impacts? And how can we ensure that these comments and opinions are fed into the Smart City movement to ensure that our future cities are fully human, and not just “smart”?
These are some of the questions we enjoy wrestling with at the OPM Group. Through our work with the FLOURISH project on autonomous vehicles, with the Arts Council England on Envisioning Libraries of the Future and in the health sector with simulation of future events we’ve become ever more interested in considering how to engage members of the public in possible futures. We believe that evolving Smart Cities is the next crucial area for effective engagement and consultation.
If you’re interested in joining these discussions – get in touch! Drop an email to Lucy Farrow firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday, April 6, 2017
Working together for a stronger society – Our response to the Lords Select Committee of Charities Report
Charities play a vital role in the ongoing social and economic success of the UK. At the same time, funding for charities has changed significantly. Funding received as grants has decreased over time, while contract funding has been increasing dramatically.
Our response to the Charities Report shows that charities need better support to build their capacity, so they can deliver public services and access suitable finance. Commissioners also need support to develop social value for service users. OPM Group’s social finance experts Dr Chih Hoong Sin and Sheila Pardoe have summarised their experience and comment on the Charities Report.
Monday, September 19, 2016
City-Wide Partnerships – Belfast
The city of Belfast has an important place-shaping role in Northern Ireland and was recently given additional powers by the Northern Ireland government. We were asked to work with the city to create an innovative partnership architecture for the whole city, working more closely with the private sector, with neighbourhoods and with partner agencies.
What did we do
Through facilitated sessions we worked with politicians, managers and partners to overcome its legacy of division and build a strong shared vision and agenda. What was striking was the incredible number of different partnerships that already existed, but also the complex history that led to each one, and the sensitivities involved in making changes. Belfast is a city where history is very important, and while there is widespread support for building a vibrant and growing economic, it is a place where the maxim ‘moving at the speed of trust’ is highly relevant.
Working with the city’s diverse group of political leaders, we were able to map the links between deep seated problems and the obstacles to economic growth without blame or finger pointing – and to pinpoint the areas where new thinking was needed. By interviewing a wide range of partner organisations, we were able to understand the strengths and weaknesses of current partnership working; no-one wanted an unwieldy talking shop. Instead, leaders formulated an approach based on a network of partnerships – each focussed on a very practical problem – but with an central space for leaders to make the right linkages and build strong relationships. While progress would be gradual, to make the network effective we developed and ran a bespoke leadership programme, developing a cadre of managers from across the city to become ‘system enablers’ sharing data and evidence and working collaboratively to support the partnership network.
Monday, September 19, 2016
Health and social care integration in Kirklees
We have worked to develop collaborative leadership across health and social care systems in a number of localities. In Kirklees we were asked to support the creation of a integrated mental health commissioning system as an exemplar from which the whole system could learn.
What did we do
A very senior group of leaders worked together over a number of sessions to develop a shared set of principles and goal – and a series of practitioner workshops began to flesh out what this would mean for front line services. Recognising that success would depend on the strength of relationships between staff in different organisations, we designed and delivered a ‘Skills for Systems Leadership Programme’ for the public health, social care and CCG senior teams – agreeing key health outcomes and providing the skills and techniques that enabled cross-organisational teams to develop shared approaches to changing behaviour and tackling long-standing problems.
The programme built a strong network of organisations and individual leaders, a shared understanding of systems pressures and agreement about the way forward. The work included providing individual coaching and support to key leaders, facilitation and team coaching sessions for top managers and partnerships. The final stage of the programme was to create a dramatic ‘future scenario’ event for fifty or so participants including the voluntary and community sector, from which partner organisations developed a set of principles to guide future shared direction.
Monday, September 19, 2016
Repairing a dysfunctional partnership (client confidential)
We were asked to step in when relationships between a County Council and Clinical Commissioning Groups broke down. Trust was low, meetings were fractious and unproductive and progress in health and social care integration had halted.
What did we do
Sue Goss began a painstaking process of meeting each of the leaders individually, listening carefully to their feelings as well as their account of what was going wrong. After hearing from everyone, she brought a leadership group together and shared a ‘problem tree’ – a visual representation of all the emotions, concerns, problems and issues that had been aired – and gained agreement from everyone to try and change things. A carefully structured awayday followed, in which leaders worked in pairs to listen to each other and build an understanding of the different perceptions and assumptions that had grown up. These were then shared in small groups and finally in the whole leadership group.
Participants discovered that although they were often in rooms together, the pace and format of meetings and the size of agendas left little time to think and less time for meaningful conversations. The formal technical language of strategy and plans made it hard to express worries, and no-one felt their concerns were heard or responded to. What was striking was that this was a dysfunctional system with no “villains” – everyone was trying to do their best.
By creating space for the right conversations to take place, and the difficult work that had so far been avoided to be faced – it was possible to slowly build trust. Relationships slowly improved over a number of months – and while tensions didn’t go away, it was easier for them to be named, and dealt with. Leaders began to pick up the phone or go for coffee together, rather than sending prickly emails. This is work in progress.
Monday, September 19, 2016
Care Act Market Impact Simulation – Department of Health
We designed and delivering a national ‘future scenario event’ for the Department of Health, bringing together local authorities, care providers and service user groups to discuss the potential impact of the Care Act and other forces, drivers and trends impacting social care in England. The work involved detailed analysis and research to understand the changing nature of the care market, and a series of interviews with a wide range of stakeholders, including directors of social care, senior clinicians in the NHS, senior civil servants, chief executives of care homes and organisations representing the care sector, academics and policy experts. Two months of research led to the design of a series of realistic possible future scenarios, each one of which represented a different combination of factors in the care market, financial modelling and drivers of health and social care policy. These were then used to match regional variations and to design a major simulation event in London.
At the event groups of very senior executives from all sectors worked together to explore the implications of the Care Act in these different market scenarios – beginning to map the way that the Care Act would impact on different localities and regions, identifying the likely responses of providers, commissioners and others, and helping policy makers, local and central government plan the necessary response.