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!

Finding support services weeknote 11/06/20

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

Wow… it’s been a busy week for us so I’m going to keep this weeknote short and snappy to cram it all in.

Here’s a 30 sec snippet of what I’ll cover…

  • Funding has been released from the IT Enabler Board which will enable us to set up a sustainable product
  • We went out to tender, have shortlisted 8 digital suppliers and aim to select the lucky one soon
  • We’re building VCSO engagement from the ground up – using Twitter and testing different models to encourage organisations to keep their info up to date
  • We have tried many different methods of communicating the map and felt it was time to bring it all together into a ‘strategy’. You can view our draft (!)
  • And a 3 min longer reader (if you’re a kenny keeno and like detail)

All systems go

We have funding! Delighted to have received £100k from the IT Enabler Board to fund further developments of the product and enable us to set up a sustainable product. This will include a database, API and a website (that will be C&H Integrated Care System branded – we are receiving guidance on this from the C&H Comms and Engagement Enabler Group leads).

We’re popular! 43 IT suppliers bid for the work on Digital Marketplace. We’ve whittled them down to 8 and will be inviting them to submit proposals. As soon as we have a supplier on board, we can begin to take those steps to achieving our long-term vision.

Building engagement from the ground up

Twitter! Some of you may have seen/ noticed a new Twitter Account following you @FSSMapHackney (without sounding too needy, please like/ follow/ retweet ALL of our stuff!).

This is a pilot for us to see if we can build an online community on Twitter with voluntary and community organisations (VCSOs). We hope it will a) encourage those who don’t use Twitter to use it and see its benefits and b) maintain relationships and build trust in a quick, real-time way. We’re testing out different content but primarily using it to share success stories – how VCSOs have gone digital in response to COVID-19 – and ask questions about their experience with the map so far (hello, quick and instant user research).

Example tweet #1: you can click on the link to like and retweet 😉 – thanks Jake and HCVS!

Example tweet #2: 50+ digital told us ‘Hackney’s grassroot organisations are really interesting, I’d love to hear stories about what they’ve been doing digitally’

VCSOs need to own their data on the map – how do we get them to do this? Our user research guru, Winston, is doing an awesome job of testing different communication channels to identify what our sustainable model could look like – we’re starting with: calls, emails and Twitter. Here are the scores on the doors:

Calls: 72% response in 24 hours (FYI c. 1 in 5 VCSOs explicitly said they have received new enquiries from people that have been signposted from the map)
Emails: 40% response in 24 hours
Twitter: that’s next week’s job!
Our recommendation? TBD as we learn more. Watch this space.

Word of mouth is the best form of marketing

Raising awareness of the map with our target audience is key. Staying true to our values of test, gather feedback, accept changes, learn and adapt, we’d tried many different methods of communicating the map and felt it was time to bring it all together into a ‘strategy’.

You can view the draft Marketing and Communications strategy here.

We’ve prioritised two key areas to work on first:

1. how can we make best use of Twitter (as above)?
2. how can we better align with the NHS/ Public Health campaign calendars? We want to share stories of the great work happening in the VCS and think this could be a great starting point. For example, this week we highlighted help for carers as it’s #carersweek

In other news

Our project team mailbox ( has now been changed to be which means if you have any feedback or suggestions on the project, use the new email address and we’ll be sure to discuss it as a team and get back to you. It redirects in case the old one is floating about.

We welcome feedback – so don’t hold back!

Until next time – stay safe and well.

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.”

Finding support services weeknote 07/05/20

This week’s note is brought to you by team member Lucy Clifton.

The Too Long; Didn’t Read version

  • We continue to add organisations to the Find support services map (116 and counting)
  • We have drafted requirements for a new admin interface, API and database based on user stories and recent learnings
  • We engaged with Councillor Selman, who has gathered user feedback e.g. from organisations around making the verification criteria clearer
  • We continue to gather user feedback to identify gaps and opportunities for improving the map
  • We featured in an article published by UK Authority

The detailed version

Back-end requirements 

In preparing for the next phase of development, we are drafting requirements for a new admin interface, API and database to feed the front-end website. This has been drafted from our original user stories as well as the learnings gathered since our rapid rollout for COVID-19. We intend to post on Digital Marketplace to gather bids from external agencies and also work up the cost of developing in-house. 

We’re also finalising requirements on a new front-end that will include more complex functionality, in response to user feedback. The map has been around for a couple of months now and it’s a rare luxury to have such research at your fingertips.

Verification criteria

Councillor Selman (Member for the voluntary sector) has gathered some useful insights for us. For example, voluntary and charity sector organisations asked for clarification around the verification criteria applied to requests for inclusion on the map. In response, we’ll review the wording of the criteria to make it clearer.

User research 

To ensure the map is user-centred and fit for purpose, we continue to carry out user research. In addition to the focussed user research with external participants (surveys, sorting exercises, heat map exercises, etc), we carry out user-testing ourselves in the team each week. This helps to identify any gaps or faults that can be quickly addressed as well as opportunities for future iterations and improvements. 

In the press

Word is spreading about the map and this week we featured in UK Authority, which covers all things Govtech, digital and data. Meg did a great job of putting the map into context within the wider programme of our COVID-19 response, particularly in creating a ‘single source of truth’ on local voluntary and community services in an integrated care system. 

See you next week!

Read the history of the project on the HackIT blog.