Finding support services: retrospective 08/04/20

We made a bold switch from a traditional ‘directory of services’ with its labour-intensive, top-down model to a delegated approach where organisations are responsible for their own listings. We want to know if our Find Support Services model has got legs, and COVID-19 has provided an unexpected opportunity to validate the proposition.

Yesterday afternoon, we ran a ‘retro’ to explore the good, the bad and the ugly of our model. We used a collaborative tool called IdeaFlip to run the workshop, which meant we could all participate online – and move Postits around without them hurling themselves off the wall, for a change.


Here are the results!

Principle 1

We will signpost health professionals and residents to relevant organisations and the onus is on them to keep their digital channels up to date with details of the services that they provide.

Has this been proved a good principle?

Yes. They pretty much all have a website or Twitter and keep it up to date, especially the latter. 

Principle 2

It’s not the concept of a directory that’s outmoded it’s the fact they are not kept up to date that renders them redundant.

Has this been proved true?

Yes, we know from both residents and professionals that they are finding this information useful because it is up to date. And we don’t really need to remind organisations to keep it up to date, they do it anyway. 

Principle 3

Organisations will sign up of their own volition.

Has this been proved true?

Yes, if we build it, they will come. But we have also learnt that the verification process we co-designed with our key stakeholders (including health and care professionals) is robust.

What else have we learnt?

The same front-end can function for both residents and professionals, however, there is a difference in the language they use. We should definitely progress our synonyms piece whereby we cross-reference search terms against a thesaurus.

As we suspected, some users need a search facility; and others also want a list of results and not solely a map.

What do we need to explore further?

  • There is often a disconnect between the person who submits the listing and the person who updates the social media. Is this a problem?
  • We’d like to know if or how organisations have adapted to make sure their digital presence is particularly up to date during Covid. Is this a reactive response or would they be doing this anyway?
  • A character limit on the About Us profile and some explanatory text for organisations on categories wouldn’t go amiss. 

We’re feeding our findings back into each iteration of the map and our Agile backlog but, all in all, our model is proving well able to stand on its own feet.

Implementing webchat in one week

The exact wording of Matthew Cain’s brief was likely more eloquent but I remember it as ‘Webchat. Website. ASAP’. Mission, accepted. Message, self-destruct.

Here follows the diary of how we did it. 

20/03/20: Asking for advice on LocalGovDigital Slack re webchat. Incoming: lead from Neil Lawrence of Oxford City Council re

21/03/20: Adding script to test version of Hackney website for trialing. Having conversations with myself as agent and caller. The first sign of madness…

22/03/20: Writing quick guide for agents and their managers so they can hit the ground running, Tom Cruise-style, on Monday. 

23/02/20: Matthew intro-ing Contact Centre managers to the prospect of webchat. Encouraging response: “It looks brilliant”.

24/02/20: Walking Joseph Asiamah of the main Hackney contact centre through He shares with colleagues Tim Jones and Jacqueline Baker. Joseph is rapidly building up knowledge of the tool and becoming something of a subject matter expert.

25/03/20: Kelly Page joins Customer Services as Ops Manager. Joseph configuring in collaboration with Tim and Jackie.

26/03/20: Joseph, Tim and Jackie training two field agents, Jan and Colin. 

27/03/20: Webchat launches at 10:00 for two hours of nail-biting chat, followed by a debrief from field agents.

Mission, accomplished. 

Within the following week, we take more than 1,000 webchats, with 10 agents and managers now trained on the tool. We continue to learn about and iterate how we use it. For example, we are being more selective in our automated links; and we now ask customers to describe their query so it can be picked up by specialist agents, as appropriate. 

This mission could not have been accomplished without the enthusiasm of a small team. Not only have Joseph, Jackie, Tim and their team embraced webchat virtually overnight, they have adopted Agile principles of standups, user stories, backlogs, sprints, MOSCOW prioritisation, weeknotes AND got to grips with Slack and Trello in just two weeks. 

Kelly puts it best herself: “I am super excited and just a little impressed by the speed and willingness of this team.”

Next stop: Repairs Contact Centre.

Note: No, I don’t know why webchat is called ‘chat’ either. It’s not chatting, it’s typing. I guess ‘webtype’ doesn’t sound so good.

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: weeknote 27/03/20

This week’s weeknote is brought to you by team member Meg Dibb-Fuller .

Hope you’re keeping healthy and safe during these uncertain times.

Before I go into an update, here’s a sneak peek into the fabulous human engine (and home offices) behind the project this week… 

Proving our hypothesis

Since we redefined our problem statement, our plan was to design the product to put the onus on organisations keeping their information up to date – on their own websites and social media – and for us to signpost our visitors to these channels. This was the only way we could see our ‘directory’ being a success. Otherwise we would be adding to the problem (another ‘directory’) rather than taking away (a single ‘directory’).

We’ve had the opportunity to test this with the arrival of COVID-19. And the good news is (yes, there is some): this model is working.

We continue to check in with listed organisations to make sure they are still open but we barely need to enquire if they’re keeping their websites and social media up to date. They know that, if they don’t, nobody knows what they are up to. This is putting us in good stead for the next phase of our journey.


Living in the now with one foot in the future

We are delighted that the map is meeting the needs of those who need it right now, but we need to be thinking about how it can flex, adapt and scale to meet the demands of the end-users once we get back to ‘normality’. More info on the longer term project in previous weeknotes.

We have started tapping into the heads behind tech companies and local authorities to see how we can partner up on our approach over the coming weeks. Watch this space as these convos progress.

How can you help?

  1. Keep sharing the map across your own marketing channels (newsletters, intranet, websites, social media etc)
  2. Tweet! Here is some content that may help you get going
  3. If you know of an organisation that should be featured on the map but isn’t, please ask them to fill in this form
  4. Give us some feedback. Are we missing anything on the map – orgs or categories? Have any suggestions? Get in touch today

That’s all folks. Look after yourselves (but please don’t stockpile loo roll!)

Finding support services near you: weeknotes 19/03/20

This week’s weeknote is brought to you by team member Meg Dibb-Fuller

What a week!

For the Finding Support Services project team it’s been a week full of new trials, new websites and new team members!

A reminder for those who aren’t sure of where this project came from, this digital project is sponsored by the City and Hackney Integrated Care Partnership (ICP) to help Joe Bloggs (a fictional person) from London Fields (his mates and his health and care team, also fictional) to find the right support that he needs as close to home as possible, quickly and easily.

We were tickling along quite nicely with the project and then… boom. Covid-19 hit us with a bang. 

Responding to Covid-19

Over the weekend, the number of positive Covid-19 tests increased rapidly across the UK. As such, we were asked this question on Monday morning:

“How can you grow a minimum viable digital product from a small trial into a business-as-usual service, with the potential to be used by thousands of residents and health and care professionals across City and Hackney?”

Ermmmm…. :/

Well, this is what we did.

The project team rallied around and, using data gathered from our minimum viable product (MVP) in Well St, pulled together a map of local voluntary and support services – live in 36 hours from inception to delivery. 

There are many reasons why were could accomplish this:

  1. Strong Relationships – Hackney CVS’s relationship with the Integrated Care Partnership and the voluntary and community sector. The information and data gathered was a core reason as to why we could get this up and running as quickly as we did
  2. Comradery and risk taking HackIT turning an existing prototype into a usable template. Read more about it here (the map template is open source on GitHub for reuse if you need it!)
  3. Flexibility – the resources (laptops, online tools, etc) and trust in our team that enabled flexible working from home
  4. Following Agile Principles – we were able to adapt to feedback and within the first 24 hours had fixed two bugs (inc. the map not being visible on Internet Explorer – sorry, NHS staff) and added two features (inc. making the map easier to navigate) 

Phew, take a breath. 

Before you get in touch and ask us the million dollar question: how is this map staying up to date?

Well, the original plan was to put the onus on organisations to keep their information up to date on their own websites and social media, and for us to signpost our visitors to these channels. This remains the case. However, the current situation being as it is, there was not enough time to build an automated account creation, verification and reverification workflow and we have had to adapt. 

We continue to urge listed organisations to keep their websites and social media up to date but we are checking in with them regularly to make sure they are doing this, and are remaining open. All the while building relationships, and driving home the importance of up to date online information that is so central to our delivery. 

How can you help?

  1. Share the web link across your own marketing channels (newsletters, intranet, websites, social media etc) – we are happy to help pull content together 
  2. Send us links to any comms you’ve done and we will reshare!
  3. If you know of a local organisation that would want to be featured on the map, please ask them to fill in this form

What’s next?

So much. We’ll be in touch next week once we have managed to take a breath and prioritise what we ‘must do’ vs what we ‘should’ or ‘could do’. 

Until then. Keep healthy and safe.  

PS Yesterday we were the 3rd most visited page on – after the Homepage and Coronavirus pages! Proves how much this project is valued – and needed.