Bridging the digital skills divide weeknote 23/06/20

This week’s note comes from team member Meg Dibb-Fuller.

TL;DR (too long; didn’t read) snapshot

  • 11 voluntary and community sector organisations joined our workshop last week (facilitated in partnership with Connect Hackney)
  • Actionable outcomes from the workshop has added two new pilots being explored (see Digital buddy programme and Digital helpline below) – making it three in total under this strand
  • The Digital skills webpage now holds even more ‘how-to’ content than it did last week

3 min read

Feedback and conversations with our partners remains our number one priority to understanding how we scale or pivot this digital skills strand.

Our key highlight over the past week… 11 voluntary and community sector organisations joined our workshop last week (facilitated in partnership with Connect Hackney). They shared how they’ve attempted to bridge the digital divide already (in particular in response to COVID-19).

What did we learn?

Digital skills are needed at all levels: at the basic level, to help people connect and benefit from Internet services and applications; at the intermediate level, to help students and job seekers get the necessary skills required by the digital economy.

How can we use these learnings to actually do something about it?

Access to the Internet (connectivity and devices) remains a key barrier. Hypothetically, if we gave everyone in need devices for free (we won’t), with unlimited data (we also won’t), will they actually use it for what we want them to? We don’t think so. Not from our learnings so far. Which is why we also need to provide accessible, free digital skills training in varying formats.

How are we doing this?

  1. The Digital skills webpage (pilot numero uno) now houses helpful how-to videos for residents (including: search the Internet, create an email account, download an app, do an online food shop) and signposting to other helpful resources.

We’re hoping to test this out with a small group of older residents (thank you Lucy M, Richard S and Eeva H) to see if they are a) useful, b) understandable and c) scalable.

Feedback captured from the Hotjar survey on the page itself as well as through our connections with local organisations will feed into future editions of the how-to content and help us understand what other content/ support is needed. We’re in the process of talking to mutual aid groups, VCSOs and others across the Borough to help create the material.

The page doesn’t sit in isolation. It is linked via other Coronavirus pages on the Hackney website and we’re looking at creating a ‘Getting online’ subsection on the site that will pull together related, existing content in one place (e.g. the digital presence guide created as part of the Find support service project for organisations to expand or improve their online presence). We’re also being promoted on the Intranet and staff headlines to maximise awareness to staff, and their friends and family. We’ll be tapping into system partner organisations (hello, NHS and HCVS) comms teams to help promote it in coming weeks.

  1. Digital buddy programmes (pilot numero dos) have been set up by workshop attendees, Citizens Online and the Salford Foundation, connecting those that aren’t digitally literate with volunteers (school kids to adults) who want to help.

We are getting guidance from Annie Gammon as to how we could explore this option with secondary school kids locally.

  1. Digital helpline (pilot numero tres) feedback from the workshop was that some people need that 1:1 peer support to get started. I mean, learning something new is pretty overwhelming!

We acknowledge this has the potential to be extremely admin heavy, but how can we make this part of the Digital skills user journey?

We’ve started working out the logistics of a helpline to support those that have tried to use the online guides, and this work continues. This is potentially with infrastructure provided by LBH and staffed by volunteers from outside LBH or redeployed staff. It’s not the sort of thing you can set up overnight but we’re working on it.

What next?

While we’ve got the Digital skills page off the ground, the other strands we’re exploring will need wider buy-in before we dive in. We’ll be presenting these in proposal format for review by the team overseeing the Digital Divide programme.

And finally… don’t be a stranger!

Feedback/ suggestions/ comments welcome, please do get in touch!

Read our previous weeknotes on the HackIT blog.

Platform APIs weeknotes, 24 June 2020

Well we tried for a quieter week… Did we get it? I’m not sure, though the team seemed to be positive about how things have gone – and that’s a good metric. Again, in terms of pure tasks completed, we smashed things out of the park. We completed 17 tasks and carried over only a small number of tickets in progress. 

Seventeen tasks is good, but what does that mean? Well we’ve finished our work (for now) on Mosaic, Academy (apart from syncing), and vulnerabilities, and we’ve made a good start on Housing. But even that hides some significant achievements of the team. 

Take Academy. I’ve said before about how it’s our most complex data source. It’s an Ingres database, unusual in Hackney, and we had concerns over how we would sync our Postgres cloud mirror. Mirela led an investigation into our options, and – as so often in technology – the most effective solution was the simplest. We’ll just take a new copy via DMS, triggered by a little bit of code we’ve written in AWS. We’re going to write a mini-playbook on the data migration approaches we’re using and look forward to sharing that with you. 

Our future vision is also coming along nicely. We had a couple of workshops in the last week to work out how the high-level Resident Information platform API should look and behave. For example, how do we deal with data conflicts? Should linking be done automatically or by users? Understandably we have more work to do here, but we have views forming – such as, keep it simple. We’ve also sketched out how we think the different APIs could interact with each other and our thinking is still evolving here. 

It’ll start getting very real soon – next week we’ll have designed and started to build the high-level API for testing on a use case. Enthusiasm in the team is high and our retro yesterday was positive. We’re in a good place. 

Watch our latest Show & Tell on YouTube

Manage Arrears Weeknotes – W/C 15.06.2020

Purpose of these weeknotes

The purpose of these weeknotes is to provide an update on the work that we have done since our last show and tell on 10th June. It is also to flag one key area of concern for us in this project, moving away from Universal Housing. 

What have we done in the last week?

We have finalised our design for informal agreements, which are those  we are testing this next week with users in the rents team. We have also started work to implement some elements of these designs.

We have continued work on the Income API endpoints for informal agreements. This is really important work and will allow the improvements that the system will create on the quality of agreements data to be felt by wider teams in the council. 

We have finished work on refactoring our rules engine. This should make it quicker to add new functionality, including service charge and agreements functionality in the future. 

We have started to get a much better picture of the information needed by the Leasehold team for processing Service Charges. We will now be looking at how we can put these into designs for us to get feedback on and iterate.   

We are also looking at how we can better quantify the impact of our system. We have identified a number of key metrics and we are going to have a discussion with the Housing Transformation team next week to so that they can better understand our system and we can better understand what data they are already displaying. 

Rolling out the system to new users

This week we have begun our rollout of the Manage Arrears tool to the people in the Rents team who are not currently using it. At the moment only 2 patches in rents are fully using Manage Arrears. We have ambitiously set ourselves the target of getting all 12 other patches on by the end of July.

This week we ran three familiarisation sessions for those 12 remaining patches. These were very well attended and there was a fair amount of positive feedback on the new system as well as some challenging questions.

A big shout out to Elaine Geeves who led these sessions excellently, all the while trying to ride a fairly sketchy internet connection.

Moving away from Universal Housing

One of the things that the training sessions highlighted for me was how many of the current processes for people that are using Manage Arrears still rely on officers also using Universal Housing. This is concerning for a number of reasons not least because many of the benefits of the system do not get fully realised until people are using it end to end. 

Many areas that we are looking at building on in this phase will help us to move away from UH but we need to make sure that this is something that we are being mindful of as we rollout new functionality.

Previous Show and Tells and weeknotes:

Show and tell 35 video / slides 10.05.2020

Weeknotes 1 W/C 01.06.2020

Show and tell 34 video / slides 27.05.2020

Transforming Print & Post – Weeknote 19th June 2020

Welcome to the first installment of weeknotes for the new project ‘Transforming Print & Post’


The ‘Too Long, Didn’t Read (TL:DR) Version

Our project kicked off on Monday 15th June. We aim to design a service fit for now which is agile enough to adapt to COVID related changes and have a clear plan of how we will implement that design.

Our core team is made up of seven people who will work Monday-Thursday for the next six weeks. They represent corporate business support, the print room, delivery management, service design and user research.

This week, we have mapped the as-is service and (using the expertise of the team and data about previous usage) identified forty-five potential collaborators and fourteen supporters . We agreed research methods and created the necessary materials.

Next week we will conduct our ten scheduled interviews and also, issue a survey to those unable to attend interviews and begin to pull together our research results.


The Long Read

The project aims to begin addressing the issues we face around the need to print and post in the new COVID world. We face some new challenges (with a large percentage of our workforce expected to remain working from home) and some a little older (poor visibility of the print and post service the Council already offers and the most effective ways in which to use it).

The main aim of the project is to design and test a print and post service for the Council and have a clear plan of how to roll that out. 

The project is following Emily Webbers great ‘Team Onion’ structure.

Our core team is made up of colleagues from corporate business support, print room, delivery management, user research and service design. We are a multidisciplinary team who all met for the first time on Monday. We spent the day kicking off our project and getting to know each other. It was a long day but very worthwhile.

As part of our kick off, we spent time thinking about how we would work together in our new homeworking set up. Something that has been working well this week is having an all day Google Meet that we all just sit in muted until we need to talk to each other. It’s been a great way to have a a simulation of co-location in these strange times and we would recommend it to other teams.

We also agreed our sprints will be 2 weeks long and that we will have a sprint and mid sprint goal. We decided to try out the concept of a mid sprint goal as a way to keep us motivated and really focussed. We’re going to review if it worked at our retrospective.

Our sprint and mid sprint goals for sprint 1 are:

Our focus is to agree how we work together in this new team as we believe that understanding each others needs and using shared tools & methods for working will result in a higher quality of collaboration and outputs. We will know if we have been successful when the team is happy with the work completed.

Our focus is to identify who our users are and engage with them to understand their needs. We believe understanding what currently works and what does not will inform on how to shape the service to be designed. We’ll know we’ve been successful when we can clearly articulate those needs

Sprint Goal

We will know which technology tools best fit our need to organise ourselves and have the whole team comfortable using them. We will have visibility of and respect any prior commitments and constraints of our team members.

We will have identified user groups for our work, planned our research and have made contact with users to ensure their time can be freed up to participate in research over the next week.

Mid Sprint Goal

Our project runs Monday – Thursday so we only had 3 working days left of the week once we’d kicked off.

The focus on Tuesday was to map the ‘As is’ process for the Corporate Business Support and Print Room teams. It’s a big process…

as is process map
Don’t worry, you’re not supposed to be able to read this.

We also began to interrogate data and team experience to identify who our collaborators and supporters are. Our initial list of collaborators was 41 people long.

On Wednesday, the focus was refining the data we wanted to work with and making contact with our identified collaborators. 13 of our list said they would be very happy to participate in research which is great news.

Super Friends (TV Series) | DC Database | Fandom
This is how I feel about our responders

We also began thinking about the kinds of questions we wanted to ask our collaborators and decided that interviews were the way to go to get the insights we need but that a survey is a great catch all so will be doing both.

Thursday was our last day on the project for the week so it was mainly about wrapping up and refining the work of the previous 2 days. We pulled together our list of initial supporters and found 4 additional collaborators who all needed to be contacted. We designed the questions we wanted to ask in interviews and booked 10 of them in. By using our data, we have ensured that our interviews covers teams who do use the service and those who don’t so we’ll get a balanced view of the current state of play.

We ended the week feeling ready for the next, equally as busy, one.

Virtual Council Meetings: w/c 15.06.2020

Finish line is in sight

We had our June mid-point review on Monday. We looked at progress against our success measures and did a team retrospective. We are performing really well across our success measures, which is great.

Our biggest fear remains the live stream, specifically, if it goes down. To help mitigate the nerves we’re being more explicit about what to do. In a nutshell this is: let the technical support officer investigate and do what they recommend. Overall, the live stream is performing very well and is stable. People’s perception and reality are very different things but are equally valid experiences.*  Tackling perceptions by strengthening our advice is time well spent.

We’ve been hosting the live stream on the HackIT YouTube channel during this testing phase. In the next couple of weeks, we’ll be shifting it across to the Council’s official YouTube channel. We will be making some iterations at the same time (based on viewer feedback), including tags and more information in the meeting description:

  • Links to the agenda and papers
  • A message about what happens if the live stream is stopped 
  • An explanation about what to expect at the start of the meeting
  • A reminder that statutory meetings are held in public but are not public meetings.

What to expect next week:

  • I’ll be writing my last weeknote 
  • We are making final preparations to “go live” – by this I mean operating a business as usual service from w/c 29th June. It’s not going to look or feel like a project anymore
  • We are starting preparations for the full council meeting in mid July. 

*I leant this when in a former professional life as a mediator.