A new approach taken to council services

When we talk about digital, the first thing that probably springs to mind are websites, social media, mobile apps and other technology.

The reality is that the challenges we face (Birmingham City Council web team) as we transform for a digital age is that it stretches far beyond the redesign of a website, designing mobile apps or using social media. The council provides services that impact the lives of people on many different levels and on a daily basis so we need to take great care in understanding the emotional needs as much as we do the practical.

So in order to get this right, we worked closely with local strategic design company, Spaghetti. Take the fostering and adoption department for example, how can we better support people to come forward and help to look after the thousands of children in Birmingham who are in need of foster care or adoption? How might digital technology support this?

In response, the Birmingham City Council web team worked with strategic designers at Spaghetti to create a safe space where we could experience new ways of thinking about how these services could work.

Spaghetti designed and hosted the Innovation Learning Lab at Impact Hub Birmingham in response to the following brief:

‘How might we enable Birmingham’s “pragmatic doers” to see the potential in fostering Birmingham’s looked after children?’

The Birmingham City Council web team spent five days on an explorative process with support from the fostering and adoption department and here’s what happened…

  • In-depth conversations were held directly with young people who have been through the foster care, current foster carers, potential foster carers, care workers and children who are currently in care
  • They empathised with their experiences and learned that the decision making process to become a foster carer is an emotional one and the administration of this can often take a long time and for these reasons, people lose interest
  • A clear opportunity was identified to involve passionate people from Birmingham’s existing foster care community through the use of digital technology
  • The lab produced a strategy for the development of this service
  • The outcome was a concept for a web service that connects potential foster carers with existing carers and gives access to a real time, personal service that is trustworthy and credible while building a sense of belonging to make them feel part of the Birmingham Foster care family

Overall, the lab highlighted the benefits of taking everyone involved in current service delivery on the journey of discovery when it comes to the conception of new digital services. These collaborative ways of working help everyone understand the reasons why the changes need to happen.

What’s next?

In our next blog, we’ll be sharing the latest stages of the website process and there will even be a chance for you to have a browse of some sections in a demonstration environment.

If you’re interested in learning more about these ways of working, Spaghetti is hosting the Birmingham Global Gov Jam, an opportunity for local citizens, government and public sector professionals to collaborate and participate in a design process to shape new ideas for the city.

This event will take place 31st May — 2nd June 2016 at Impact Hub Birmingham

Details of this are available here http://www.spaghettijams.co.uk/global-gov-jam/