Making radical efficiency a reality

December 7, 2010 at 11:42 am Leave a comment

by Claire McEneaney

The Transforming Early Years project is working with 6 locality sites to help them radically transform their early years provision. So far in the project, sites have undertaken a significant period of gathering new insights to better understand the lives of the families in their local areas, as well as the system practitioners are working within. From these new insights, sites have been able to identify the true nature of the challenges which they are trying to solve.

We are now moving to looking at the solutions that might help to improve the lives of families in each locality. Sites have brainstormed a number of ideas and taken them out to consultation with their local communities and staff. From this they have chosen their top idea and have created a ‘service blueprint’ for their solution. The blueprint outlines the user experience from becoming aware of the new service, through using it, and ultimately leaving it and becoming an advocate for it. It also describes the necessary work by frontline staff, and the behind the scenes support structures and processes.

In creating their blueprints, the locality teams are now identifying a number of challenges that they will face – things that they might want to explore through the phase of prototyping that they are entering. The major challenges that they have identified so far are:

  • Engaging with families – How can we reconcile what parents think is best with what professionals think is best for children? Can we encourage disengaged parents to volunteer and become the face of the work? What is the right type of initial contact to make with the most disadvantaged families?
  • Volunteering – How do you get enough people to become volunteers? How much work will they do and how much is too much? How do you effectively train and support them? Will they ultimately become ‘professionals’ and will this change the relationship between peers offering and receiving support? How do you manage when volunteers leave?
  • Incentive schemes – Do they work? Will parents participate in governance without them? Or will they see them as an insult? Are we in danger of paying people for work they would’ve volunteered to do for free?
  • Community buy-in and connections to other services – Will other partners contribute financially to make the project a success? How can the project involved people other than families with small children? Can the project change the entire locality? And should it benefit the entire locality if other services don’t buy-in?
  • Changing perceptions – Can we get communities to see the projects as visions of hope for their neighbourhood? Can we change the way professionals interact with families?
  • Use of space – How can we change existing spaces to make them more inviting? How do we offer services in places where families already are? What services could be offered out of hours, and how will this be staffed? Could we rent out spaces to other businesses to generate an alternative revenue stream?

These are not small problems. However, we believe that they are not insurmountable and that, through testing their ideas thoroughly, many of these could be resolved. The sites are starting to embark on a period of protoyping which enables them to rapidly test out a section of their blueprint in a low-cost, low-risk way.

Here at the Innovation Unit we are very excited by the prospect of better understanding how we can tackle these practical challenges. Understanding how we can work with the existing community resources and capacity we already have will be a crucial component in helping us to make radical efficiency a reality in localities. In turn, this will also help inform radical efficiency solutions in other areas and sectors, as well as providing valuable learning about volunteering to public services as a whole.

To stay in touch with the project, please email Claire McEneaney to sign up to our newsletter.

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Entry filed under: Education & Children's Services, Innovation Policy, Local Authorities, Local Innovation, Public Services, Radical Efficiency.

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