Finding support services weeknote 14/09/20

30s read

  • Demo of front-end and admin interface went well
  • We need to keep a tight rein on budget
  • Service assessment on Tuesday
  • City has the formal go-ahead to join us
  • Funding sought for administrator
  • Lots of chatting to social prescribers, neighbourhoods, GPs, residents

3 min read

The assessors are coming

This week we’ve been busy prepping our ‘evidence’ for each of the 14 standards in Tuesday’s GDS Service Assessment. This process isn’t a gateway at Hackney but it is a vital part of our governance as we invite assessors to review and advise on our work. Thanks to Gill, Felix and our in-bound developer Hugh for ‘volunteering’. If we were in the office, I’d bribe you with crisps. You’re such a decent bunch I didn’t have to do anything but ask. 

While prepping for the assessment, we revisited our stakeholder map. We’ve always gone for core/consult/inform as, really, why obsess whether someone is in the ‘keep satisfied’ or ‘keep informed’ quadrant? We have 170 people on our weeknote distribution list plus whoever reads Google Currents and the HackIt Blog. If someone’s not ‘informed’ it’s not for want of trying. 

In other news, City has the official go ahead to add its services to Hackney’s; and we’ve finalised the verification resources for both City and Hackney so the administrator will know where to check whether the organisation is bone fide

One careful owner

Funding for the administration of this service is crucial. Though we’ve designed a model that requires minimal overhead, without what’s essentially a Product Owner, Find support services will suffer the same fate as every other directory and not be up to date. Indeed, any product or service without an owner will find its way to obsolescence pretty quickly. The role’s been graded, at PO1 and around £35k and we’re speaking to Comms and Public Health next week about where this role should sit. We’ve put a request out for a redeployed member of staff to cover the initial phase as it seems unlikely we’ll find someone by mid-October’s launch. 

Our digital partner Nudge demo’ed the admin interface and public-facing site on Thursday – the latter is looking very close to the mockups, which is always a relief. Writing the API and hooking it up to the database and front-ends is progressing also. 

Budget is getting extremely tight and we’re working closely with Nudge to make sure we don’t stretch those purse strings. We don’t have any more cash so that’s a good motivator for us all. We’ve moved to fortnightly sprints to limit the fixed costs of sprint-planning and demos, switched to a QA- rather than development-testing model to max out velocity; and deprioritised a couple of stories that could be a fast-follow if necessary. Hackney is a learning organisation and Nudge has suggestions for how HackIT could work more efficiently with agencies and we should take this advice on board. 

Talking heads

Meg’s been off this week so Kate and I presented to the North East London Social Prescribing Digital Technology Group instead. While NELSPDTG is not the easiest acronym, however, our work was very well received and we’re hopeful they’ll use our data, and bolt on any other functionality they require. Similarly, our own Front Door team (great Show and Tell, by the way) is finishing up the conversational prompts tool for customer services and we’ll be looking to incorporate Find support services resources into that as soon as our API is ready. 

I joined the London Fields Neighbourhoods team on Tuesday, and had a productive half hour with reps from voluntary organisations, Mutual Aid groups and social prescribers. It’s amazing what snippets of information you pick up in these calls and we’ll be running a similar workshop with the Shoreditch equivalent this week. Shame we couldn’t have actually had it in London Fields. 

As ever, we’ve been non-stop on the marketing. Emma’s been rocking the comms plan and has us in the GP Bulletin and our own staff newsletter. Meanwhile, I’ve taken 200 flyers over to Paul in Robert House so they can go out with Chromebooks headed to vulnerable young people and, right now, it’s off to Morrison’s to get flyers and posters in front of shoppers in Stamford Hill. And cat litter. 

Next week, once the service assessment is signed, sealed and delivered, we’ll be looking at metrics and how to visualise data best. Infographic, anyone? 

Finding support services weeknote 27/07/20

After a week of immersion in the project, Nudge (our IT Supplier) has really jumped on board with both feet. UX Designer Luke has drafted the first round of wireframes for the public-facing website and its associated admin interface*, based on the user needs we gathered both before and during our accelerated Covid-19 launch. Essentially our current service is a high-fidelity prototype that has been tested and iterated for four months and so we are in an excellent position to spec the longer-term product that Nudge is building for us. The drawing board is available for viewing but we don’t need to go back to it. 

*By the way, admin interface is a fancy term for the password-protected website where an organisation signs up or updates its listing, and where we manage those listings.

Meg and Winston are working with Luke to formulate the research plan and user-test the wires with Normal People (aka residents, VCSOs and frontline workers) next week. 

Bukky from our dev team is having daily tech standups with the Nudge team; and today we welcomed James (Nudge Delivery Manager) to our other daily standup. This is the one where we ponder things like ‘how can we get more organisations on the map?’ and ‘what’s a synonym for anxiety?’ Plus, Jordann and Annie from the City part of City and Hackney CCG are popping in weekly too as they’ll also be adding to the database.

We’re using the project management tool ClickUp to track the project and we’ll let you know how we get on with that; it’s always fun to test-drive other software. Clearly the definition of ‘fun’ has somewhat morphed in lockdown.  

Discussions are afoot with Children’s Services to ascertain how we verify organisations in their realm. This is not as easy as it sounds as community and voluntary organisations are not ‘inspected’ in a way that, say, schools are by Ofsted. In the absence of a national process, we need to understand how, for example, Hackney Council decides if an organisation that works with children is bone fide. 

On that note, Winston is busy talking to providers about getting children’s holiday activities on the map. Thanks to Young Hackney for helping us out with this. 

As ever, we can’t stop talking about the service and have shared it in the last couple of weeks via:

  • LBH Jobs newsletter
  • HCVS newsletters
  • Hackney Circle over 60s group
  • LBH food parcel recipients
  • Hackney Jobcentre advisors (Well Street initially)
  • CCG’s Mental Health Coordinating Committee

We’ve also created a roadmap of where we see this service going, longer term. 

An ‘administrator’ role will be pivotal to this project’s success and we’re working up that job description right now – hopefully with a better job title: nobody ever said ‘When I grow up I want to be an administrator’. We see this as an engagement role primarily because we need to showcase organisations and their services to health professionals, the public and each other; as well as carry out the nuts and bolts of verification of organisations. Ambitious targets will see us increasing the number of listed organisations from the current 140 to 500 by the end of the year. There are rumblings of well over 1,500 in the borough and we believe this to be an achievable number. 

There are a few directories that Find support services will replace, the principal one being iCare. The sunsetting (love that concept) of this service has begun and we have about 8 months to do a decent job of making sure that those organisations that should be carried into this new dawn, are [\end-metaphor].

As ever, get in touch via email, follow us on Twitter or read our back story on the HackIT blog

Finding support services weeknote 09/07/20

We’re delighted to announce Nudge Digital as our supplier to build the next phase of Find support services. As regular readers will know, this project had only been running a couple of months before Covid-19 saw us all confined to quarters. 

We accelerated its launch to a live product in response to the pandemic. And the current Find support services is the result of that pedal to metal approach. BUT it was never intended to be the end product. There’s so much more to do to take this from Minimum Viable Product to Optimum Viable Product, for example:

  • analytics on what people are looking for (we can’t get them at the moment as the map is an iFrame – it looks like it’s part of the Hackney website but it’s not)
  • integration between the list view and map view and the addition of filters (eg show me everything across all categories that’s for families)
  • a proper admin interface not a Google Sheet so voluntary organisations can manage their own content
  • auto-prompts to voluntary organisations to update their content so we don’t have to ring them (much as we love to chat)
  • a front-end with editorial real estate so we can generate talking points around the content and service
  • an API so this data can be shunted anywhere

This is a really exciting time for us. Products often never make it past MVP and we’re aiming high with our OVP. From early intros, Nudge will be excellent collaborators in getting us to A Great Place. 

In other news, we’ve been unashamedly promoting the map anywhere and everywhere. We’ve had nearly 13,500 unique visitors to the webpage since launch, roughly half being members of the public and the rest health professionals and other voluntary organisations. 88% of users even rated 3/5 stars (not bad for a prototype!).

One of the top three categories is ‘Food’ and we have 41 organisations of varying sizes providing food options across the borough. We’ve been working with the food team (Lisa-Raine Hunt, Zoe Tyndall and Kate Wignall) to make sure we invite all food organisations we can to join the map so we can continue to provide options as the delivery service winds down.

Other data sets we’d like to include are where to book a computer and free wi-fi hotspots. The latter isn’t restricted to Council spaces such as libraries but also coffee shops, pubs, theatres and other businesses. Which, after all, need all the drop-ins they can get right now.

Remember to follow us on Twitter to be part of our story. And let us know if your organisation wants to be in  the Spotlight!

Signposting to chat and check-in (and wider) pilot findings 10/06/20

This pilot ran for around three weeks in May and we’re now ready to share the results. Its initial scope was to explore how we could effectively connect those ringing the Covid-19 helpline with ‘chat and check-in’ (befriending) services in the borough, utilising organisations offering those services on Find support services. This rested on training customer service agents in empathy and questioning techniques so they could really try and understand the caller’s emotional as well as practical needs.

It quickly became apparent that this style of engagement encourages residents to disclose some very difficult situations. And, by limiting our offer to chat and check-in, we would not be able to address their deeper concerns. So we expanded the pilot to make sure agents had knowledge of the wider support available and could direct residents to services – both internal and external to Hackney Council – that could help.

You can read the full findings of the pilot here, headlines are:

  • Community navigators, voluntary organisations and different departments across the Council work well together
  • Helpline agents derive enormous satisfaction from being able to connect with residents at a deeper level and with greater empathy
  • Residents only want to seek other support once they know the main issue they are ringing about is being addressed
  • External organisations helping residents need a little more information about the residents than agents currently provide
  • This different way of working needs an active and continued effort to embed it into business as usual; and training should be rolled out more gradually than we had time for!
  • Gov.Notify texts would be a big help instead of reading out phone numbers and urls

There are a few ways this pilot could contribute to a discussion around the direction of customer services, which are mentioned in greater detail in the findings. In brief, the pilot suggests we could:

  • Expand signposting to more categories (Find support services covers 12 including chat and check-in)
  • Expand signposting and training to other telephone lines and agents in the contact centre
  • Expand the depth of training for agents further

We’ll give the last word to the agents; who truly embraced this new approach and rose to the challenge at incredibly short notice:

“A disabled tenant rang the Covid helpline to say thank you for the food parcel. [I] advised about different organisations that we are working with to help residents. They thought the map was a very good idea and asked for a link to be emailed over.” 

SC, Helpline agent

“It’s been a game-changer for me to being more helpful…It’s given me permission to be, ummm, a more empathic person, to take more pride in the job that I am doing, to see people a bit more, you know, as a person not just box them off and put them into categories.”

Bridging the digital divide weeknote: 08/06/20

30s read

We’re putting some ‘how-to’ content on the Hackney website to get the ball rolling and start engaging with residents on the other side of the digital divide. The effectiveness of this approach will be tracked. We’re also continuing to explore the longer term (weeks not months) options on the roadmap, including the possibility of a volunteer-run helpline. 

3min read

This week we wanted to concentrate on getting something out of the door. Less chat, more action. That ‘something’ is going to be some short, snappy content and videos of vital tasks that residents want to do online but can’t manage or haven’t tried. 

The key message that underpins all of this work is:

If you can’t do it then it’s the design that’s broken, not you.

If you had a leaky teapot, you wouldn’t think ‘I must be pouring it badly’. You’d think ‘useless teapot’. It’s the same with anything online. If you can’t work out how to use it, the designers need to improve the design. Luckily, we’re no longer in the 1990s and software generally does function pretty well. If it didn’t, nobody would use it or buy it and tech giants would be more like tech dwarves. 

Getting something out the door

We need to start somewhere so we’re starting with ‘getting an email account’ and ‘how to shop online’. We’ll be creating a page on the Hackney website and adding links to content elsewhere, as well as creating a couple of videos ourselves. This taps into our Reuse-Borrow-Build (in that order) mantra. 

We know this approach isn’t a magic bullet. To ascertain if it works at all, we want to test with the food delivery cohort. After speaking to Liz Harrison and Bruce Devile, who are helping to coordinate the food programme, we know we can target a subset of households that want to do their own grocery shopping (and can afford to) but don’t know how. We can reach them by text (they’ve implemented Gov.Notify); and also, after speaking to Helen Clarke in External Communications, we can publicise the Web content by adding a flyer to the food boxes. 

Knocking on the door

Going forward, we have a proto-plan to encourage volunteers or voluntary partners to produce digital skills content for residents. Hopefully we can persuade some of the borough’s talent in the creative industries to take up this mantle, through our partnership with Volunteer Centre Hackney. If, when they return to work, we can continue the relationship with them either directly or through their companies, it’s all to the good of Hackney’s residents. 

The Web content allows us to deliver something early, test, analyse and iterate. However, we’re continuing to explore our longer term options. We know that 1:1 coaching is effective and are sussing out the practicalities of the helpline idea discussed previously with Connect Hackney. Hackney Council already uses the telephony software Puzzl in its contact centres. Our customer services agents are all now working from home and Puzzl is routing calls to their own phones. Speaking with the applications support team, it’s looking like re-using Puzzl for a digital skills helpline would not be beyond the bounds of possibility. Again, we’d like to pursue the volunteer angle to staff the helpline; at least to get us over the hump of lockdown for isolated residents. 

Walking through the door

As we all start leaving the house, we might want to offer face-to-face coaching. We know that those most at risk continue to be reluctant to venture outside and any face-to-face needs to be as geographically close to their homes as possible. We’ve identified some Council spaces that could be utilised and will keep those in mind as this strand progresses.

We want to make sure we partner with talented VCOs operating across this area. We’ve already spoken with some relevant organisations and, over the next week or so, hope to expand our reach further. 

We’ve shared our roadmap with the other strands of the Digital Divide programme in the fortnightly stand-up and got some helpful feedback. We will continue to provide an update through that, these weeknotes and member briefings. As ever, any questions, just ask!