Delivering engagement across Scotland


Set amongst the backdrop of the Glasgow Science Centre whose mission is to create a bridge between citizens, science and technology, a group of Local Authority Chief Executive Officers and business leaders from across Scotland met at the annual SOLACE conference this past week.  Under the chair of Annemarie O’Donnell, these leaders discussed some of the most important topics facing our public services providers today.  The conference was titled “Reimagining Leadership for the 21st Century: People, Place and Power” and centred around the themes of empowering our places, workforce and communities.  A group of industry luminaries discussed these topics with energy whilst challenging public sector leaders to change approach in the face of new technology.

During the opening session, focused on Empowering our Places, the audience was enlightened on the need to ensure that the citizen is engaged in the decision-making process in relation to land use and their community spaces.  One of the key take-aways from the Empowering our Places sessions was the way in which survey tools can be used to garner feedback, creating charts to compare and contrast different opinions whilst drawing attention on where to focus efforts for change.  The Place Standard tool demonstrated an effective means of assessing the citizens’ views of their places and provides a simple framework to structure conversations and provide prompts for further discussions, allowing communities to consider all the elements of a place in a methodical way.

Before breaking for lunch, the attendees where challenged to think radically about how to engage with the workforce.  The theme of staff engagement is one very close to us here at smartcrowds®.  Our own research supports the fact that the workforce has many great ideas but these often remain hidden due to these employees feeling disengaged to provide suggestions for improvements; this is often due to lack of transparency in the idea submission process, the organisations perceived lack of commitment to implementing change or plain old institutionalised apathy.

A representative from Cisco discussed how they had completely re-aligned one aspect of staff engagement by replacing the traditional appraisal system, based on competencies, to one that focuses on the individuals’ strengths.  Employees no longer need to worry about improving their lower score competencies (perceived weaknesses) to mid score competences, instead they concentrate on maintaining and improving their core strength skills.  This has transformed engagement and passion within the workforce.  How did they achieve it? By listening to their employees’ suggestions and providing a mechanism to act.

The closing session on Empowering of Customers highlighted the growing need to ensure the citizen is core to everything the public sector delivers.  With initiatives such as the Community Asset Transfer Schemes and Participatory Budgeting gaining more and more attention, local authorities are being challenged to listen to the voice of the customer.

A theme that resonated throughout the sessions was the need to move away from a primarily consultation-based service design to one that places a much greater emphasis on engagement and co-design.  With this growing need to engage and empower at all levels of society one conclusion from the conference was; Technology can be an incredible enabler to improving empowerment within the public sector.

This is a vision shared by Bridgeall and our smartcrowds® software as a service engagement toolset.  Helping organisations gather the Pulse of the citizen and, in turn, creating community challenge groups to track and monitor citizen and workforce ideas is central to what we do.  We were proud to be part of the SOLACE event sharing what we are doing across the public sector in Scotland; helping local authorities not only Empower but also Innovate.  Watch out for further articles in the coming weeks on the specifics of how we address the needs of the workforce and citizen engagement leading to better places for all.

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