Finding Support Services weeknote 01/05/20

This week’s note is brought to you by team member Winston Mullings.


Here’s the Too Long; Didn’t Read version of the weeknote:

  • We have now got over 100 organisations listed on the map
  • Caught up with our neighbouring boroughs (Tower Hamlets and Haringey) on what they’re doing and keeping in touch as we share many similarities in our approaches
  • The GIS team has been key to the ongoing development of the map 
  • Our user research findings indicate that users understand the majority of the categories listed and have helped shaped future iterations
  • We learnt about the approach that Buckinghamshire County Council (in partnership with FutureGov) is taking on a similar product, which is useful insight as our product evolves.  

And the detailed version…

In addition to calling organisations to check they’re still delivering the services they say they are, we sent emails to remind them to keep their information up to date online. To ensure this product can be sustainable, it’s important to test whether a more light touch, digital communication approach can be as successful as individual (admin heavy) calls. 

Comparative analysis

We attended a virtual Show & Tell hosted by FutureGov. They’re working with Buckinghamshire County Council on a Family Information Service (FIS) that has many similarities with our project. 

The data they collect is more detailed than what we collect and display (eg their organisations have services, and a service can have more than one location). We think this will be much harder to keep up to date, but it is an interesting approach. We will continue to follow up with how they’re getting on as we’re always keen to get inspiration from other’s successes and uncover opportunities in our learnings!

Category finalisation

We carried out a card sort exercise last week to understand how people group categories into an overarching theme; this week we analysed the results. Participants were mostly in agreement with each other (e.g. 94% of participants placed the category ‘sexual health’ under the theme ‘stay safe and healthy’). However a few of the results were not as conclusive (e.g. 39% of participants placed ‘bereavement and grief’ under the theme ‘feeling anxious’ and 36% placed it under the theme ‘families’). 

After a team review of the insights found in the exercise, we decided in the next round of user research we would remove the category ‘older people’, add the category ‘faith groups’ and display ‘bereavement and grief’ under both ‘health’ and ‘families’.

Cross collaboration

Working collaboratively with the GIS and the front-end development teams has been essential for the continual improvement of the map. They are currently working on a list (rather than map) view of organisations as per user feedback. It is due to GIS’ hard work and efficiency that we are able to implement changes rapidly (over 10 iterations have happened so far). We wouldn’t be able to achieve so much, so quickly, without their continued support. 

We also completed a mini show & tell with our neighbouring boroughs (Tower Hamlets and Haringey) and will keep in touch with them as we share many similarities in our approaches.

Map statistics

Drumroll please…There are now over 100 organisations featured on the Find support services map; and we are averaging around 150 views a day during the week and have had nearly 7000 views since launch!

Finding support services near you: weeknote 03/04/20

Still here! Still ringing organisations every few days to check they are too! And encouraging them to update their websites and Twitter channels. Emma and Winston’s Mastermind specialist subject: Voluntary Organisations of Hackney 2020

As the current state of affairs becomes the new normal, we want to give map users helpful info upfront. We’ve reacted to feedback by adding details of specific activities provided under COVID. Organisations have generally already settled into a new rhythm – much like the rest of us – so we’re not creating an updating headache. 

In anticipation that, presumably, at some point this will all end, we spent a productive couple of hours yesterday hammering the service categories into some sort of order. The original data came from the Well St pilot and now we’re calling on YOU to indulge in a spot of audience participation. Please take 5mins to give your view on how you would group and name these activities. It’s the sort of mindless task that goes well with a bottle of ginger beer and a bourbon. Ahem. 

We now have 75 organisations on the map. We know from other Council projects that food is an area that concerns many residents and have made a push to make sure that deliveries and food banks are well-represented across the borough.

We’ve added an organisation search and also designed a style for those HQ’d outside Hackney but have a strong presence in the borough. Plus users can now download the data to a spreadsheet, while reminding would-be print-ers that the information changes regularly and they only have a snapshot in time. 

The map is on many radars including Coventry, Lambeth, Leicester and Trafford Councils, UK Authority, KPMG and Liverpool John Moores University. Remember, it’s all on GitHub for reuse by development teams. 

COVID has given us an unexpected opportunity to test our concept in the field. We’ll be running a retrospective next week on ‘lessons learnt during COVID’ and are determined to come out of this faster, stronger and leaner.

Stay safe. Wash your hands. Share the map.

Finding support services near you: weeknotes 08/03/20

As we’ve previously mentioned, we’re running Finding support services near you under Agile principles. We recognise this may be a departure for some of you reading these weeknotes – though, if you’re reading weeknotes, I hate to say it but you’ve already departed! Agile, at its heart, is about collaboration and our aim is to make our comms sufficiently engaging and transparent that you feel connected to the project and know that your opinions, questions and input are valued. Indeed, we actively want you to help us to make decisions together. 

You don’t have to wait for the weekly missive to find out what we’re up to. You can check in on progress whenever you want via our public Trello board. Extensive user research has given us a good handle on what this product of ours is going to look like and you’ll see in Trello that we are breaking its delivery into fortnightly sprints. Again, this is an Agile concept; its aim is to deliver value early and consistently so that we can adjust and iterate as we go. We love a big ribbon-cutting moment as much as the next Project Manager but we also know that the continual check-ins and corrections of Agile pay off. 

The tasks we’ve set ourselves are in the current ‘sprint’ column and the ‘backlog’ is a list of things we haven’t yet scheduled. You may notice that we write our tasks to include the what, who for and why. For example, ‘Display categories on the front-end so that users can browse to a relevant service’ is written as a user story that helps us stay focussed on what we are trying to achieve. We don’t want to blithely crack on with a task without thinking because therein lies the ‘busy but not productive’ mantra.

Enough of the Agile re-run, what have you been up to?

The Readers

We hear you. See, we are listening! 

We’re halfway through sprint 1. We’ve created our advice for organisations on how to write good About Us sections and this will be reviewed this week with a content expert. We’ve also devised our first attempt at a categorisation to help organisations describe what they do, who for and why. It’s their own user story, in a way. Both the About Us and categorisation will help website visitors find services and organisations that are relevant to them.  

Following extensive user research, we’ve finalised our step-by-step guide to the admin interface of MiDoS – our database software – so that organisations can add their listing to our website. We’ll add the verification process once it’s built. 

We’ve also had a peek at the out-the-box MiDoS front-end so that we can better understand how it’s put together. Although we’re building our own custom front-end for the website, we may use this out-the-box version for early testing. We’ve also started mocking up wireframes (think architect’s drawings) of the custom front-end and we’ll start user-testing with those in future sprints. It’s our intention to use the existing Hackney WordPress theme for the look and feel of the website.

The team has carried out desk research to clarify how easy WordPress, Wix, Meetup and Eventbrite are to use. This information will feed into our upskilling piece for organisations who need to develop an online presence from scratch. We’ll be pulling this together in the rest of the sprint. 

That’s all for now. Please fire off your questions or feedback to us and, remember, Trello is round-the-clock if it’s 3am and you just really want to know what we’re up to. Though I can tell you: sleeping. Now go and count some sheep.

Finding support services near you: weeknote 14/02/20

This week’s weeknotes are brought to you by team member Winston Mullings. 

This has been a very exciting week in the wonderful world of ‘Finding support services near you’. We carried out user testing, upskilling research and also gained some valuable insights surrounding scraping information from websites into a database.

User Testing

We gained access to the ‘out the box’ MiDoS front end and started to configure the basic functionality. Unfortunately incorrect admin rights restricted our user testing with residents but, despite this, the session was fruitful. The residents said many things which are in line with the work we are carrying out:

“Listen to what people want, that’s the most important thing.”


The resident testing revealed a disconnect between what they call things and what professionals call things, so will we need to address this in the taxonomy and front-end.


“I Use Facebook but not Instagram or Twitter, I don’t know how that actually works.”

Voluntary organisation

The residents highlighted a wide range of digital platforms that they either already use or are familiar with. The team took this forward with desktop research to assess how easy it is to set up an online presence with WordPress, Wix, MeetUp and Eventbrite; and also whether these platforms offer sufficient fields to hold profile information of organisations. We found that by in large these platforms do have sufficient profile pages, and they are simple to set up; but that’s easy for us to say – we will need to carry out some user testing to validate.


OpenActive is an open source data schema developed by IMIN (as in ‘I’m in’) that scrapes information from websites via a search API. IMIN is now collaborating with MiDoS around how to scrape online content and push to its database. IMIN currently only covers physical activity, but this proof of concept could be widened to the sorts of organisations in scope for this project.

Next week

Annual leave means it may be a slow couple of weeks but we will continue with user testing. We will be including back end user testing with organisations; we will investigate and continue further testing of the taxonomy; and we will continue investigating the opportunity of IMIN populating MiDoS.

Thanks for reading and for your ongoing support!

Finding support services near you (formerly Directory of services) weeknotes 17/01/20

This week, we’ve been busy trialling our chosen database, MiDoS, and analysing the results from our interviews and surveys with local organisations. 

Before departing for the slopes, Chris from Intuiti – the company that owns MiDoS – kindly sorted us out with a login to the admin interface. It is through this route that organisations can enter their details into the MiDoS database, ready to be pulled into any front-end website we choose. 

Meg and Winston tested the out-the-box interface and we are pleased to report that, with zero training, it’s very easy to use. We’ll verify this with volunteers from the organisations themselves but we couldn’t help having a poke about ourselves in the meantime. 

There are a few fields we want to tweak before we open it up to organisations and we’ll be working with MiDoS to configure those to suit our needs. And we also want to apply our own taxonomy to organisations, based on the services they provide, so that end users can find the services they need.

Our user research lead, Wing, has finished interviewing voluntary organisations large and small about their digital presence; and our survey on the same subject has closed. We’ve found that 90% of organisations (18/20) use their own website to market themselves and their activities, and many supplement this with Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to promote individual events. One of the two organisations that doesn’t have a website expressed a desire to have one, which we hope to address through the ‘upskilling’ arm of this project.

Only 10% of organisations (2/20) have an up to date entry in the existing iCare directory. One of them, which did not have its own site, said they did get referrals from it. The rest cited “lack of time”, “it’s not used”, “I can’t remember the password” or “I don’t know how to do it” as reasons why it wasn’t updated. 35% (7/20) were not listed in iCare at all.

We can conclude that only one organisation saw the existing directory as a key part of its digital strategy. What does that mean for this project? Is the directory dead?

We don’t think so. With iCare, organisations are asked to update too many extraneous details that they’re already updating on their own websites (eg opening hours, minutiae of activities). Many don’t bother, and end users have stopped trusting the information. Equally, iCare doesn’t provide sufficient information on what the organisations actually do and consequently doesn’t encourage click-throughs to organisations’ own sites. Finally, its front-end design tucks the directory right at the bottom and also fails to encourage users to browse through to other organisations providing similar services.

We intend to address these issues with this project and, with the benefit of Agile and continual testing, we’ll be able to make sure we stay on track. It’s also worth highlighting that one interviewee wanted a user-friendly directory that not only signposts clients to them but that they can signpost clients to.

One clarification following our renaming exercise. Although we are now calling this project ‘Finding support services near you’, this isn’t reflective of any potential name for the directory. It’s simply the working title of the project so that those involved can understand readily what we are trying to achieve.

We rounded off the week with a planning session for our ‘How might we… verify an organisation’ workshop for next week. We’ll let you know the outcome of our collective creativity in next week’s update. If you can’t contain your excitement until then, you can always distract yourselves with Megxit.