The home page of the New Style JSA digital service, as shown on a mobile phone

New Style JSA is now taking 100% of new claims

Launching a new service will always bring challenges as part of the process, but it’s fair to say that introducing a new service for processing Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) shortly before the coronavirus impacted has given us more than most!

NS JSA is a fortnightly contribution-based benefit which can be claimed on its own or at the same time as Universal Credit. We never expected that the service would receive over 230,000 claims in just 8 weeks. Thankfully, the New Style JSA has stood up to the significant increase in applicants during this period, meaning people who have been made unemployed during the crisis won’t have to wait an unreasonable amount of time for their payments or benefits.

Here’s 5 key learnings that the launch of the New Style JSA has confirmed for us:

1. Find the right ways of working

I joined the NS JSA team in October last year, when it was decided that more resource was needed. The team had been working on the project for 18 months prior to that, and one of the first things we had to do was to bring together two teams that had been working separately before, then as a new team formulate a way forward. This required us to look at different ways of working at pace, managing the team’s ability to change while staying focused on the project.

Although we were challenging some ways of working, there were no major difficulties in the process. Previously most of the team were based in one location, but we brought in more of a remote team so we had to make sure everyone was included and felt valued, which added a layer of complexity to the whole project. However, that’s certainly stood us in good stead for everyone having to working remotely now!

2. Ensure you have the right expertise

When I came onto the team, one of the key priorities was to make sure we had the right people in place. To address the development work that was required and to meet the deadlines that were in place we bolstered the team, bringing in software developers and development ops, plus content designers and service designers to make sure we were compliant with the standards we have to follow.

We also strengthened the product service design team, which helped with ensuring our priorities were evidence based. That helped us to manage the development team to make sure they were working on the right priorities. Disparate teams can be particularly enthusiastic about their own particular areas, so it was important that we had evidence to show us where to focus.

3. Be ready to adapt

The New Style JSA was in the private beta stage in February, where it was dealing with around 10% of new claims. However, the decision was made to fast-track the project, with the NS JSA taking 100% of claims via from 13 March.

During the first two weeks the new service was successfully dealing with an average of around 300 JSA claims a day. However, the economic impact of the coronavirus crisis in March meant the service soon saw as many as 15,000 new claims per day.

We had to show that the system was resilient, flexible and could stand up to change. We had to immediately increase the capacity of the service, while also cutting out parts of the process such as the face-to-face interviews that obviously couldn’t take place during lockdown.

The impact of coronavirus has only given us more evidence of how quickly we have to adapt.

The New Style Jobseeker's Allowance website on GOV.UK, which allows people to claim New Style JSA

Information on the New Style JSA on the GOV.UK website

4. It’s an ongoing process

The NS JSA has now been processing 100% of new claims for over two months, but it’s certainly not the end of the project. Now we’re at the stage of consolidating and making sure everything is stable, then we can continue to look for enhancements. There’s a roadmap that we’re currently updating, which looks at how our service might make the process faster and less intensive for operational colleagues.

Any changes that we want to make to the service have to be built into the live service. That means we can measure the results in a live environment and respond to the user’s requirements immediately. Our ethos is to get it live as soon as possible, our ability to respond and get code live is key to what we do.

5. Collaboration is key

The project has involved colleagues from across our Digital, Operations, Policy and Service Planning & Delivery (SP&D) teams. As product manager, it is my role to set the vision of what we ultimately want to deliver and to prioritise what the team will work on over the forthcoming sprints. I’m very proud of how the team have performed, it’s an absolute team effort – I set the priorities, but I’m reliant on the service team and our stakeholders to inform me of emerging needs, based on feedback, research and analysis and to develop a solution that will meet the need and improve the customer experience.

It’s really pleasing to see from the user research we’ve conducted and from feedback received through our online customer survey that users tell us that it’s an easy to use service, and the satisfaction rating is consistently between 80 – 85%. It’s great to know that our service is working to make things easier for our users.  This is an achievement that we are all extremely proud to have been a part of and we will continue to put the user at the centre of everything we do as we iterate the service over the coming months.

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Original source – DWP Digital

Coming into the month I felt my leg was better following injury but not best. I’d notched up 94km of running in April, to take my annual total to 500km. Most of that running came in the last three weeks of the month. My leg felt solid enough to keep going out and keep pushing on through May. So I did. My plan for May didn’t have a distance target in mind, more try to average 6km a day. See how May goes, pick up from there.

Day after day I went out. 31 days in May, 28 days I ran, just 3 days off. Get out, get on. Most days I aimed for between 6 and 7km. It was going OK. Some days were slower than others, some days because my legs felt a little tighter than before, others because I was trying to make sure I kept it steady overall. But there were days where I was just moving along, like a needle in the groove of a record, just steadily moving forward.

In April I found the fields at the local school had a number of pitches in them, handy to do circuits round. And that’s pretty much what I did all of May, lap after lap after lap of a pitch. (Or sometimes two pitches, to spice things up, y’know.)

Halfway through the month the legs felt alright. No tweaks, no twinges. I was making solid progress, at about 120km by the halfway point of the month. I was mixing up my running shoes too. Just keep going like this is all I needed.

I then read about the Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee… Run 1000km over May, June, July and August. 250km a month. Interesting. But if I start now I’d be two weeks down, I’d have to spread 125km over the remaining three-and-a-half months. I’d need to run about 9.5km a day, and for three months hit something like 300km of running in each of them. Hmmmm… Sure, why not. Let’s give it a go.

I tried to ease myself in, try 9 to 10km days, have the lighter days and the odd rest days. Build up steadily. I got in about 110km in those 17 days, but a few longer runs. It left me a little behind on the road to the 1000km challenge, but ahead on doing 200km this year. I feel I can notch up those “lost” kilometres over the coming months — or have a good attempt to. I am pretty sure I won’t hit 1000km, but it’s a good ambitious target to try for. And I am enjoying seeing my virtual progress. The GVRAT tracker allows me to see how far along the route I am, which is a nice touch.

I stopped cycling for most of the last two weeks of May to help my body get into 9 to 10km days. But I’ll be back on the bike early in June. Cycling has helped. I don’t want to lose that assistance.

I used the last day of the month to go for my first venture back along the trails and paths near and long the canal — and in my Hoka One One Cliftons too, much neglected in my many day of many laps of pitches. At some point going round and round the pitches will be lessened so this was a nice warm up. It was nice to get back out into the woods, over the fields, along the water road, and with not too many people out too.

Running total for May 2020: 218.5km

Running total so far for 2020: 718.8km

For June I am aiming for 300km of running. 10km a day on average. 70km a week. Crack 1000km for the year by the end of the month. Sheeeeesh! Steady away, eh!

I watched

  • A Mile an Hour, a short fun film about doing a marathon in a day, by doing a mile every hour and other stuff in between.

I read

Feel free to follow me on Strava.

Original source – Simon Wilson

You would have to be living under a stone not to realise that the Black Lives Matter protests were taking place.

Sparked by the death of George Floyd in police custody in the USA protests have swept the world.

I began to see them debated in community Facebook groups. Being a bit of a geek with this it got me really interested.

Looking at it, there’s been a four act play of narrative and counter-narrative in UK Facebook groups.

Act One: Death of a man in police custody

Pretty straight forward.

Act Two: Protest sweeps the world and protests take place in the UK

Heck, they even reach Leamington Spa.

Act Three: Counter protest: But what about Lee Rigby?

The far-right seek to undermine the protest against the death through whataboutism. This is the strategy of pointing to another thing instead. Memes supporting this pointing to the murder of Lee Rigby do this.

One was a bloody image of Rigby’s killer knife in hand minutes after the murder.

This one was more presentable:

Act Four: It gets interesting with the sharable content from Lee Rigby’s family

Lee Rigby’s Mum steps in and posts an image with text to the Lee Rigby Foundation Facebook page. She criticises the use of her son’s name and related images to attack the protests.

The Rigby family statement on Facebook can be seen here:

For me, this is the most interesting part.

By and large, the Rigby family have kept a distance from too many public statements about the murder of their son by IS-sympathising Muslim extreemists. Who can blame them? To lose a son in such a barbaric way must be crushing. So, the intervention was measured and definitive.

What it did do was provide ammunition to people angry at the attack on the Black Lives Matter protest. The far right meme’s thrust was clear: you can’t be a decent person if you protest this thing in America because you didn’t protest Lee Rigby’s death. This regained that ground.

But how did it play out on Facebook groups?

I got out my calculator and I trawled through 25 West Midlands Facebook groups I’m a member of.

I was starting to see the to and fro of debate in groups and it was meme and counter meme that kept recurring.

Almost half the Facebook groups mapped were debating the issue of Black Lives Matter protests.

A third had a version of the right-wing Lee Rigby meme.

Less than a fifth had the Lee Rigby family counter-meme.

But, it was memes that captured the debate.

Table: Facebook groups in the West Midlands debating Black Lives Matter

So, what does this mean for public sector communicators?

My own take on this is simple. There’s a need to create shareable content with a message to fight fire with fire.

What was striking in the debates online was that it was all taking place in the group itself. None of the debates were pointing people towards other resources or websites. This is entirely typical of Facebook. Users have been encouraged by the platform to stay on the site and not to navigate away.

There are going to be times when you need to create content to take back the narrative.

But hang on, accessibility

And now the spanner in the works.

Debating this in the Public Sector Headspace Facebook group several people quite rightly pointed out the broad need to create accessible content. In other words, text on an image isn’t cool if it doesn’t have text in the body that can be read by a screen reader.

But hang on, the future of democracy

Fake news is misinformation and disinformation that is designed to influence political decisions. It has been identified as a threat to the fabric of democracy by a Government enquiry

So, doesn’t that matter?

And this is where the $64,000 question comes in.

At what point does it become more important to tackle fake news than to serve accessible information?

And this, I think is a question that communicators must answer.

Sometimes you can do both. An image with text and an accompanying passage of text may be a compromise.

But broadly, I don’t think its a sliding scale of blanket ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

When for me its perfectly fine to share inaccessible information

In the aftermath of the Manchester Arena attack, Greater Manchester Police were swift in owning the story online. They posted to Twitter updates and presented them as images with text and a logo.

Like this one re-purposed by a local news account:

Given the circumstances, I’m fine with this. Yes, this could be more accessible but against a backdrop of a terror attack I’d argue the importance of putting out timely information was the most pressing thing.

New legislation gives you a window

The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications Act) 2018 is coming into force on September 23 2020. This snappy law asks public sector to make accessible content on their website and any app they’ve commissioned and built themselves. But it makes a series of exemptions and one mentioned are third party sites. There’s an argument that social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter are third party sites. I’d like to hear the views of people who work in this area.

But, the $64,000 dollar question

It all comes back to this.

You need to be able to create sharable content and you need to work out when winning the argument is the most important thing.

Original source – The Dan Slee Blog » LOCAL SOCIAL: Is it time for a Local localgovcamp?

scottish water water cycle education pack.png

Creating engaging content will forever be our goal. But if it’s educational too then that’s something to be really proud of.

by Lauren Allan

Maybe it’s just me, but sometimes there is a lot of noise. I don’t mean the road outside or the muffled sound of other conversations through walls.

It’s the noise from social media; from friends, family and work.  Before March 2020 there was… a lot of noise.

Then Covid-19 came along. Suddenly the noise from before became really rather less, what replaced it was a removal of clutter to reveal what was important.

Things had changed. We had to be physically apart but digitally connected. What we communicate now needed to be even more relevant and meaningful.

So when it came to creating a new way of educating pupils about the water cycle a new and different approach was needed.


Being yourself sounds like the easiest thing in the world, right? However, the reality is being yourself – your real authentic self – can be hard and, honestly, these days it’s pretty brave to be “you”.  

Getting to know your interests, style, morals, what makes you ‘tick’ all influence the information you disseminate to others both in your personal & professional life. At the risk of sounding like a quote straight from; never underestimate the power in knowing who you are.  Too often we get caught up trying to do things we see other people doing. Don’t get me wrong – be inspired by those around you but don’t try to become them. 

As part of our new Water Cycle Education pack I voiced-over the film. This isn’t something I like doing (I mean seriously don’t like doing) but I did it to prove I could. As any creative person will tell you, when you produce something you give a little piece of yourself. So it was risky, but in the end it was worth it. Think about what you are good at and figure out how you can harness it to benefit your work. 


You need to understand your audience and don’t assume they know what you know, don’t confuse them and keep it simple. For example, our audience for the education pack doesn’t need to know the whole corporate structure of Scottish Water, just how Scotland’s water can support everyday life. 

Younger audiences are used to sophisticated, high quality media content across all platforms. We didn’t want the closure of schools as result of Covid-19 to hinder our work increasing the knowledge of pupils’ on the “beginning to end” story of Scotland’s water. we started from a global standpoint and drilled down to the individual child and what it meant to their life.  We looked at our planets water, fresh and frozen, the science behind it and we looked at it from an environmental standpoint in terms of climate change and resilience. We even delved into the history of water and how we drink the same water as the Dinosaurs!

Ultimately, we took rather complex information, simplified it and condensed it into a bright engaging learning resource. We created two films, two presentations over two levels suitable for primary 1’s – 7’s with interactive audio and a quiz.


We launched on May 18, the height of lockdown, using social media, media & external education platforms to help promote the resource to families and schools across Scotland. Employees also saw the launch on internal channels. The goal? To provide a learning resource which parents, carers and teachers could access and use in a home schooling environment to learn about the water cycle. 

Surround yourself with like-minded, bold, creative and supportive people because without them the ideas, even excellent ones will be hampered by negativity.

Harness your skills and use the tools which are already out there to help you. There are thousands of stock free images, audio clips and footage available online. Not to mention free easy-to-use film editing suites, as well as graphic design suites. YouTube is an amazing platform for sharing ideas and learning ‘how to’.

Ultimately, and with support from those around you, getting to know yourself and harnessing your skills is what will help you cut through the noise. Don’t over complicate what you are trying to say, establish your base-line message and the key points you want to make. From there you can be as creative as bold and brave as you like.

In the end, everything you need is out there, you just need to believe in yourself, grasp the opportunity and harness your skills and experience to deliver the message clearly and concisely – to help others cut through the noise.

Lauren Allan is corporate affairs officer at Scottish Water.


Image via Anthoine Cougny

Original source – comms2point0 free online resource for creative comms people – comms2point0

Like a lot of organisations, we’ve had to change how we do things due to the lockdown. One of those things is how we welcome new staff. We’ve had to do everything remotely so we’ve written about the experience for a couple of our new starters and from our HR Delivery Manager.

Lola Dansu, Delivery Lead

Joining dxw was my first office job after 5 years of being self-employed and taking some time off to have children. I felt that everybody was going through the same thing so starting this job during the lockdown wasn’t as difficult as I thought it might be. I’d managed to meet a few people from the team as my interview happened before lockdown so I had at least met some of my team in person.

I’m the delivery lead for the GovPress team and the team has expanded recently so it was a good time to join when there were other new people too. I was able to set up my laptop and access everything that I needed on my first day, along with a box of chocolates which got sent to us all.

Some other things that helped me settle in included a Miro board with ‘post-it’ messages from staff welcoming me to the company. I also spoke to each of the directors to find out more about their teams and the work they do. There are quite a few Slack channels to help staff cope with remote working and I found the channel for parents really helpful for navigating work and childcare. There’s also the random coffee channel which pairs up staff every week to have a tea or coffee break together. I have a helper too, Niall, who’s really helped me understand the expectations of me as a delivery lead at dxw.

All the new starters were given an induction checklist and the main difference was that meetings and introductions happened virtually rather than in person. Our team had a lot of meetings initially to discuss things like how we wanted to work together, how often we should get together, and what success looks like to us. There’s a few people at dxw who are fully remote so it felt to me like the company has everything in place to support this way of working. It also helped that everyone’s in the same situation and we’re all figuring things out together.

Serena Piccioni, Developer

I joined dxw from Helpful so I was doing a similar job when the lockdown started but for a different company. I was working with some of the team before we joined dxw but it helped that I managed to get to the dxw offices before the lockdown started and meet some people face to face.

Before I joined dxw, I chose which laptop I needed and got it sent to me in time for my first day. We had to set everything up remotely but everyone was in the same boat.

As we’re a new team, we had to establish how we wanted to work together and communicate. We make sure we have regular catch ups, we have stand-ups every day, and use Slack regularly to stay in touch.

I’ve managed to join a few other activities for staff like dxw days and wellbeing webinars. I regularly worked from home in the past so I’m quite used to working remotely. As a developer, I find it much easier to review someone else’s code in person but we’re all adjusting to this new way of working. I’m lucky that people in my team have a good sense of humour, that helps a lot.

Becs Hodges, HR Delivery Manager

Working in HR, the biggest change to my job has been how we recruit new people. Before the lockdown, we would have a face to face interview with potential candidates then a work simulation where they’d come to the office and spend time with the team. Once someone has accepted our offer, we then ask them to come into the office to sign their contract and do a welcome to the team photo.

We’ve now had to change the process to do everything remotely. We make sure that new starters get their laptop on or before their first day and that they’re able to set everything up properly. We also ask staff to leave a welcome message on a post-it on a Miro board that we share with new starters.

The induction is generally the same except that introductory chats now happen online instead of face to face. We’re aware of people being on a lot of video calls so we leave it up to the new starters to decide when they want to book in meetings.

I think most people would agree that it’s harder to connect with people remotely, especially when you’re a new starter. I’m very aware of it and encourage people to take time for social chats as well as meetings about work.

It can be hard to identify the right level of support for people especially when you’re not seeing them in person. People may find it easier to put on a brave face on a video call but it can make it harder to know when someone needs some support or help. Supporting people in the right way is the biggest challenge for me right now.

The post Supporting new starters during lockdown appeared first on dxw.

Original source – dxw

This is the second part of this blog, which describes a systems mapping process undertaken by the User Centred Policy Design (UCPD) team in MoJ Digital in partnership with several policy teams working in the prison and probation space. 

While Part 1 describes system mapping as an approach and methodology, this post reflects on our co-creation process and the collaboration between digital and policy teams. We brought together various policy makers from specific, relevant fields to ensure we had the right people in the room to build a map that represents a true reflection of the current state for prison leavers re-entering the community. We did not get enough input from frontline practitioners, and as a result our map is heavily focused on bureaucratic issues and not enough focused on users’ needs and obstacles. Our plan is to address this in the next phase when we socialise the map. 

Consistency is key when building your team. We wanted the same people in the room and contributing to the map, for a couple reasons. First off, the map is not static, it is a live artefact which follows a specific process to make, and that process is complex and intellectually challenging. Having the same people in the room each time meant we wouldn’t have to spend hours bringing new people up to speed with the process and the content of the map as it evolved. Additionally, this process creates rich, valid and truthful content and by bringing our participants in at the beginning, we hoped that participants would feel a sense of ownership over the map that would eventually emerge. 

Although initial workshops were based in our offices in Central London, we had coincidentally decided to use Miro, an online whiteboarding tool, to collect content directly onto the digital map. It was very satisfying to deliver a whole workshop using zero post-it notes! This also meant we had a much smoother transition from physical workshop to remote workshop. When COVID-19 forced us all to work remotely, all of our participants were already familiar with Miro, allowing us more time to focus on the workshop activities. 

We made some adaptations to our workshop design, delivery and facilitation as we transitioned into a fully remote state of being. We started our remote workshop with a digital icebreaker where we learned what each participant was wearing on their feet — or not! This allowed us to take a moment to relax into the unusual circumstance of us all working from home. It was great to learn more about how everyone was feeling and dealing with being at home, just through the subtlety of their chosen footwear. This would also help us build a bit of personal rapport among the participants, which would become very important later as we were working in small groups on challenging questions.

With our initial workshops, we tended to work in a big group, or were able to group participants together without facilitators. However, when facilitating online, we found it necessary to split into smaller groups, with one facilitator per group. We noticed this enabled more dialogue and participation between individuals. 

We learned that system mapping takes time, especially when working remotely. We introduced our policy colleagues to both new tools and a new methodology and discovered more time is needed for discussion, with pauses for people to think and ask questions. It takes people a while to get their flow and confidence in order to effectively contribute.  

From both the facilitator and participant perspective, being online for a full-day remote workshop is tiring. Delivering this workshop in mid-March when working 100% remotely — it was an unusual experience for everyone. There were anxieties about the real impact we were facing with COVID-19. Breaking it down into a number of smaller workshops may have been physically and mentally easier for both facilitators and participants. 

As described in Part 1 of this post, the systems mapping process can start to identify small projects that trigger change. The next steps for us will be to sense-check and ‘socialise’ the map. We want to make sure the map is an accurate representation, and we’ve included all relevant stakeholders in the process.

We’ll be back at some unspecified time in the future, once we have a better idea of the outcomes of this work, to talk about what long-term changes this mapping process enables us to identify and effect. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to get in touch if you’d like to hear more about our experiences!

Original source – MOJ Digital & Technology

You know you’re getting old when two moments from your life flash before you in a documentary film.

I stumbled on artist Jeremy Dellar’s ‘Everybody in the Place’ on YouTube this week. 

In it, he talks to VI form students about Acid House and the impact it had on Britain.

It marked a moment when people seized the means of production. In other words, people bought cheap samplers, made the music and organised the parties where it would the music would be danced to. Karl Marx would have understood this. 

It was the moment when the 21st century started. 

In 1990, Britain was a different country

People made-up their own networks using the technology that was in their hands.

Dellar reckons it marked the moment Britain changed from an industrial economy to a service economy. Quite literally, people were dancing in the warehouses where their ancestors operated lathes.    

I was involved in all this from 1990 to 1992 when dance had moved from warehouses and into nightclubs. The two moments? Dancing at Shelley’s in Stoke-on-Trent and one bizarre night when the Hit Man and Her was filmed at The Eclipse in Coventry.

Thinking about it, lessons I learned then endure.

You don’t need permission.

You just need the means of production.

Anyone can build a network.

It always goes a bit rubbish when money is involved.

Let there be house

“In the beginning there was Jack and Jack had a groove and from this groove came the groove of all grooves and Jack declared: ‘Let there be house.’ And house music was born. I am the creator and this is my house and in my house there is only house music but I am not so selfish because once you enter my house then it becomes OUR house.”

– Jack Roberts, ‘My House (In the beginning there was Jack)‘ , 1988. 

To be a decent communications person you need to understand all this and how networks work.

This documentary is a good place to start: 

Picture credit: Flickr / Documerica

Original source – The Dan Slee Blog » LOCAL SOCIAL: Is it time for a Local localgovcamp?

As part of being more accountable to myself and keeping focused on the goals I’ve set for the year I’m aiming to check in monthly. This post is mainly for my own benefit…


My professional goals and progress toward them:

  • Letting Go – this is becoming habit now, rather than something I’m battling to achieve. I am feeling clearer about where my focus should be, and better about letting other things pass by. I’m no longer feeling the need to be busy all the time and this has made way for space for deeper thinking and meaningful work. It’s all good with this one. Progress: GREEN
  • financial – personally this is all good and I’m doing better with being proactive and knowing the numbers more consistently. There’s been challenge in other areas but overall grateful for the current position, and positive about setting up for a good future. Putting this back slightly from last month while I work through the challenges which have come up. Progress: AMBER
  • learning – home-schooling is going ok, although both kids are missing having the structure and attention of the classroom at the moment. We’re going to try some different things for the rest of term and see how we go. Progress: GREEN
  • writing – I’ve got some blog posts in drafts here which were started and then fell by the way side as my thoughts were filled with other things. I did write a couple of short stories toward a new collection I’m working on, and have written a list over at Popoptica too . Progress: GREEN
  • health – as we’ve got busier with work and home-schooling the daily exercise is being pushed out, but in better news our eating has improved over the last month. Now to get these two things lined up together! Progress: AMBER
  • reading – I’ve read very little for myself again. I’ve read each day with my children as part of their home-schooling and really enjoyed the book chosen for them last term. Progress: AMBER
  • travel and adventures – I’ve still not left the house other than on foot but have done that less in May due to time pressures from other things. Progress: AMBER (within current possibilities)
  • volunteer and pro-bono work – nothing really done toward this in May. The closest I got was sharing a huge thread of help about releasing music and advice on working with record labels on Twitter. Progress: RED


I’m feeling fairly pragmatic about progress and the things which have slipped back this month. It feels right that these goals are a journey and not a destination, and that work needs to continue or allowances be made even if I ‘achieve’ them one time. It’s not a one-time and done activity but ongoing effort and adjustments.

Original source – Sarah Lay

It’s all about love at the end of the day, isn’t it?

Love we make and the love we leave is the footprint of what we did and how we did it.

So to Susie who spent nine weeks apart from her children working in an operating theatre for the NHS.

The video which saw her surprise her children when she returned home is 45-seconds of pure undistilled love.

It’s on Twitter here and there’s a clip here, too:

Watch it first.

Don’t scroll past.

Then count the ways love is expressed in that video. I counted six. At least.

Some of the best and most enduring content is that created not with communications in mind. It is raw, on-the-fly and human. It is one take.

After 10 years of social media being mainstream I still don’t think that comms teams really get that.

What does this prove?

That Mums love their children and are loved back in return.

And that NHS people have sacrificed such a lot to ensure that fewer people die.

Head versus heart?

This couldn’t be more heart.

Original source – The Dan Slee Blog » LOCAL SOCIAL: Is it time for a Local localgovcamp?

This two-part blog post describes a systems mapping process undertaken by the User Centred Policy Design (UCPD) team in MoJ Digital in partnership with several policy teams working in the prison and probation space. While this first post describes system mapping as an approach and methodology, Part 2, which will be released tomorrow, reflects on our co-creation process and the collaboration between digital and policy teams. 

Over three 3-hour workshops and one full-day workshop, we worked with policy teams to develop a ‘map’ showing the many, inter-related issues that impact on whether prison leavers are able to maintain and re-establish strong, positive relationships with people and organisations in their home communities.

Why develop a systems map?

The ‘Prison Leavers’ project is a cross-government initiative, which seeks to better understand and identify opportunities to improve the social inclusion of people leaving prison. The challenges facing prison leavers are extremely complex. Recognising this, we want to bring together as many organisations as possible who make policy and deliver services for people leaving prison, to create a shared, system-wide understanding of the problems. We hope this will help us, as a sector, to clarify which approaches are most likely to have the greatest impact and identify new approaches to tackling these long-standing problems.

A system is a set of ‘things’ working together as parts of an interconnecting network or a complex whole. Systems thinking can help to tackle large complex strategic problems that need a multi-agency response. Many of the challenges governments face are these sorts of problems to which there is no clear answer — from reducing crime to better educating our children — and so we believe an understanding of how complex systems function is key to improving the way we address these challenges. 

In her series on systems thinking, Leyla Acaroglu emphasises that systems thinking requires a change in mindset, from linear to circular. Everything that happens in society is interconnected and is essentially a set of relationships and feedback loops. Systems thinking is a language to communicate these complexities and associations. It also gives leaders a licence to operate differently, designing and delivering solutions with input from people and organisations working across the whole system, over the longer-term, and from a user’s perspective. This means we end up with answers that last longer, with better outcomes for the user and better returns on the money we invest.

Systems mapping helps us to understand all these ‘things’ — the entities of a system — and how they relate to each other. From here we can communicate understanding and develop interventions, innovations or policy decisions that will ultimately change the system in a positive way. 

How we developed the systems map

To provide a starting point to our systems mapping process, we used the Omidyar Systems Practice Workbook as a rough guide. In parallel, we attended some of the STIG (Systems Thinking in Government) workshops to learn more about how systems thinking could help us on this journey. Our end goal of this phase was to create a systems map that would identify existing barriers, weaknesses, and opportunities, and highlight potential intervention points and insights, in a new way.

Our first workshop started with developing: 

  • a guiding star — a vision of how we would like the system to act
  • a framing question — a clear statement to focus our minds on what we’re trying to understand
  • exploring the forces that enable and inhibit the health and effectiveness of the system. 

From here we developed 12 themes and started to identify causes and effects under each theme. The fun began when we started to create ‘cause and effect’ loops to focus on demonstrating the feedback loops (positive and negative) that drive critical behaviours within the system. 

Each loop tells a story. We tried to limit each loop to one story and preferably one clear sentence, giving each loop a label so that readers can scan the map quickly and travel on a journey through the map. Our goal was to describe what is (current state), not what we thought the system should look like in the future. 

When developing the map, it was important to ensure that each entity we added was expressed in a way that is quantifiable — as something that can go up or down. But this doesn’t mean everything has to be a number, it could be a feeling, for example, like the level of happiness or sadness experienced by a prison leaver or their family member. 

Finally, we found that it was important not to get stuck in one loop arrangement, but rather to continuously try new ways to think about the stories and connections. 

Ilya Prigogine, one of the founding fathers of complexity science and systems dynamics, said that in a large complex system there are small islands of coherence that have the potential to change the whole system. The systems map that we have co-created is a cluster of islands that has the potential to work as a whole system. 

As a result of our systems mapping we can start to identify small projects that will hopefully trigger cascades of change. This is where the power of design and digital teams can help to see and leverage potential and transform systems for good. We are not aiming to change the whole system in one go, our aim is to change the system by intervening around the edge with little projects that tweak the system in some way while not losing sense of that big systemic ‘picture’. We also recognise that every change we inflict on a system will have long-term and far-reaching repercussions, so we’ll need to monitor how the system reacts to each change and keep tweaking. 

The next steps will be to use this map to identify and develop conditions for change and success under these four headings:

  • Culture and attitude changes 
  • Policy changes
  • Process changes
  • Changes to resource allocations

We’ll be categorising opportunities for change in those four buckets because we believe culture and policy changes, while taking longer to create, ultimately have greater long-term impacts on a system than changes to processes or resource allocations. (We adapted Adam Groves’ system leverage map idea, which is itself based on Donella Meadows’ 12 leverage points for a system.)

Look out for Part 2 of this blog tomorrow, which will describe the facilitation process we used, and how we transitioned from a physical workshop situation to virtual facilitation and co-creation when COVID-19 meant we all had to begin working remotely.

Original source – MOJ Digital & Technology