“Voice” starting to rule the roost over “choice”

An excellent paragraph or two in a paper from the NHS Confederation, “Alive and clicking: information that benefits all“:

“In the lexicon of public policy there are two ways to improve public services: exit and voice. Exit enables people to choose a provider so they can leave services they do not like. In NHS terms, it is about choice, markets and the Any Qualified Provider policy. By contrast, voice is about getting involved and trying to change and improve services for yourself and your family. For NHS users, voice is about taking action such as complaining or becoming a member of a foundation trust or patient group, writing to the chief executive or even suing the organisation.

“Over the last 30 years, exit, markets and choice have largely ruled the roost while voice has been a whisper at the policy table. However, the costs of structuring markets are static or rising. Meanwhile, the costs of having a voice are falling like a stone.

“Successful providers will get much better at motivating and engaging their local populations, albeit through more people commenting about them, getting angry with them, making suggestions, and thanking their staff. Some of this will be on generic platforms like Facebook and blogs, and some will be on platforms dedicated to making feedback easy to use for busy staff like Patient Opinion and NHS Choices. These conversations will very likely play back into choice and the market because what consumers learn from their friends and other users of similar services is a powerful predictor of behaviour.”


Sharing #dpulo data

Earlier on this week during the excellent #dpulo Twitter chat, there were lots of requests for Disabled People’s User-Led Organisation data.

I’m therefore pleased to say that below is embedded a public Google spreadsheet which contains the names, websites and locations of all DPULOs that the Strengthening DPULOs Programme is currently aware of.

A few points:

  • This is publicly available information. (In fact, this public spreadsheet is a version of a more substantial spreadsheet we have, which does (potentially) contain data that might not be publicly available.)
  • I would never claim this is a full list of DPULOs. As such, if you know of a DPULO that isn’t on the list, please (a) add it to the list (making it obvious you have!), and (b) tell me about the DPULO in the comments below or by emailing richard.watts1@dwp.gsi.gov.uk or tweeting me @rich_w
  • If you do anything interesting with this information, please let me know (using the details above)
  • I’ve created a map of DPULOs, which I can’t quite get to embed below. However, you can view the map here: Map of DPULOs
  • If you are so inclined, any help you can give with the income/expenditure columns of the spreadsheet (using the Charity Commission website or Open Charities) would be much appreciated
  • I am by no means an expert in all this fancy Google stuff. If anyone out there (a) is, (b) is mortally offended by the amateur-ish nature of my attempts above and below, and (c) fancies spending some time with me to help, then all assistance would be warmly received and appropriate praise lavished upon you.

The Google spreadsheet is here: Mapping Disabled People’s User-Led Organisations v2 – public. It is fully shared so you can edit and add to it as you see fit. The same spreadsheet is embedded below.

Have fun!

#opendata in the Voluntary Sector: ecdp’s example

(I’m afraid this is a bit rambling and incoherent, but (a) it’s not quite the end of a long day, and (b) I wanted to get this down. Please allow for both (a) and (b) when reading…)

I’ve been interested in Open Data for the past few months, and have hosted (what I think is) an interesting discussion on the topic and how it applies to the Voluntary & Community Sector (VCS) here and here. There’s also a really interesting discussion on charities, public services and releasing data on the excellent Open Local Data Blog.

Because I happen to be pretty senior in my role in a disability organisation in the VCS, I’m in the fortunate position that I actually got to do something about it. Thus, today my organisation (ecdp) shared its Open Data work. There you can find an overview of what it is, our Performance Dashboard since July 2009, copies of our Management Board papers stretching back to August 2007 and our Annual Reports going back to 2004/05.

I’ve also written an overview paper on Transparency and Open data, which is embedded at the bottom of this post.

Talking over the last few weeks and today with friends and people who actually know what they’re on about (e.g. @karlwilding, @kanedr, @citizensheep, @loulouk, @Paul_Clarke), there are numerous interesting questions and debates around Open Data and the VCS that remained undefined and unanswered. Below, based on my/ecdp’s experience of this work to day, I’ve tried to capture some of them.

  • Is it really Open Data, or is it just open / transparent working? If it’s the latter, are there already good examples of VCS organisations doing this sort of thing (like publishing their Management Board papers and exposing their decision-making process) or not?
  • If it’s not Open Data but it’s still data, what is it? Does it hold value to other people? (This is a version of a question I’ve posed before. I think the answer is yes, but it still seems to be something to be explored.)
  • I’m working on the assumption that VCS organisations, as deliverers of public services under contract to public bodies, will need to publish the relevant data. Is this actually true? If so, will the same hold for non-VCS organisations such as private businesses, social enterprises and employee-owned organisations? If not, on what basis do the exemptions work?
  • In line with the above, can a VCS organisation publish its contract monitoring arrangements and reports with a public body? I’d argue yes, but what if there’s a clash between the culture of a public body and a VCS organisation?
  • Is a VCS organisation that publishes its data openly now essentially committing competitive suicide (assuming the data is that sort of data)?

On a very practical level, who else out there in the VCS has shared any of their data – no matter how little, or how not-quite-open-data it may be – that they’d be happy to tell us about?

Moving from the sublime to the ridiculous, here are a few lessons or thoughts I had along the way of getting to the point where we’ve published what we have at ecdp today.

  • Strategic and operational context is vital in understanding and explaining why a VCS organisation needs to engage with the Open Data and transparency agenda
  • Open Data and transparency has been as much a useful driver internally as it has externally
  • It’s important to ensure all staff have the opportunity to see what’s being published externally before it is done so. This is just a motivation/belonging point rather than anything sinister about not revealing too much. Expecting staff to get the data at the same time as anyone externally risks undervaluing their role in the organisation
  • I think some public bodies can be thought of as intransigent or unwilling when it comes to things like Open Data and Transparency. The same can equally hold for VCS organisations
  • Expect colleagues to raise issues of risk, credibility and accuracy as a reason for not doing this, and have your arguments lined up. This said, as with anything else, engage your key decision makers (including relevant Trustees) to make sure they know the benefits, risks and reasons for doing this
  • Embed the process for creating the data in your day-to-day processes. Having this as an additional piece of work, especially in a VCS organisation, does not and will not go down well
  • There are several unintended benefits of driving Open Data and transparency in a (VCS) organisation, including strengthening governance arrangements, increasing cross-team collaboration, focusing on what matters rather than just measuring, and lifting everyone’s heads up to think about the outside world as well as just the immediacy of day-to-day work.

There are probably loads more, but hope that gives a flavour of the types of thoughts and issues going round my head over the last few days (on Open Data, at least).

Would be really interested in people’s views on this generally, the specifics of what ecdp has done and whether it’s any good (and how it can be improved).

Thanks to everyone – including those mentioned above – who have inspired or shaped this work. Let’s just hope a few other people from the VCS follow in this direction…