We’re engaging with individuals — they’re not just councils

One outcome from our first Sprint was the Wider Engagement Strategy — one of the key topics.

We agreed we needed to recognize that each individual council will be at different points of a journey — discovering and seeing the problem, understanding the options as well as understanding what resources, systems and risks need to be considered in thinking around adopting the solution.

For the tool to be viable, it needs to scale up and have a greater up-take than the six core partner councils. So how do we go about brokering that interest beyond our group?

We can’t just wade in, bull in a china shop telling everyone ‘we’ve got the answer and it’s this’. They may not have had time to consider the problem in any depth. They may be so busy keeping on top of the day-to-day influx of a planning service’s business — that they need time, to find the time to stop and consider — Is this something we are experiencing too?

We know from the survey we ran in Alpha that there are councils whose feedback confirmed they too experienced the same problem. So we can reach out to those to those councils to begin with.

For other councils — the approach needs to clearly set the context.

We also need to think more of a participative approach than just a talking at them presentation. The key to widening interest will be in how we communicate the possibilities of RIPA to other councils.

The idea is to stage a series of mini-workshop scenarios to find out what their unique (and similar) issues are.

The desire of the team is to get other councils thinking — what are the idiosyncrasies of their organization?

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

One aim will be to encourage the thinking that this is not just a digital project. It’s changing people’s jobs and user experience for the better.

Change is hard

Whilst we know the problem is nationwide, we can’t assume that other councils will necessarily have the enthusiasm for the RIPA solution as we have. Just because they acknowledge the problem — it doesn’t mean we will have persuaded that RIPA could be a solution.

One glaring barrier we’re having to adjust to — everything right now is virtual. It’s widely accepted that groups with a greater physical separation can have a greater difficulty in communicating with each other. There will be less non-verbal cues and signalling. We need to find imaginative and engaging ways of bridging that gap created by virtual interaction.

Setting up for RIPA

It takes a good deal of work and cooperation for a council to adopt any new digital system. For one such as RIPA, there are implications for legal, finance, IT, communications as well as planning. Each of these parties will need to understand, accept and support the change. So in addition to working with planning staff across hundreds of councils, we must also be ready to explain the problems, options and proposed solution to others.

For RIPA –two key bundles of information will be required to make the tool work — GIS information and a council’s particular rules of validations.

If there is some type of document format or notation method for obtaining the relevant information such as GIS out of councils — that would be valuable to establish. Developing a way that would help councils go through the early work and looking at what fits that already has been identified for the six partners will hopefully ease the path for newcomers. This will establish where we know what is different and what is the same. And that becomes the raw material required which a council would need to provide in order to get RIPA working for them. Linking to this will be ideas such as standard approaches to naming of documents a topic the BoPs project are also touching on.

When it comes to rolling the tool out — we need to lay groundwork now. We need to be reaching out and engaging now. This needs to be our key driver.

The core team has grown to six in Beta. There is the possibility one way of increasing engagement is to grow the core team — but is that a manageable proposition?

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Photo by Gilly Stewart on Unsplash

There is a possibility of the project branching out with sub teams and sub partners — like a tree with lots of branches. Each one with a core RIPA contact that would feed any comments/suggestions into the core team. Like a buddy system But there’s a risk this could be unmanageable — all of the partners are doing this project as an extra to their day-job. One thing is for sure, we want and need to ensure we engage and communicate the possibilities of RIPA to other councils.

Last, but not least, the project team also want to reach out to suppliers and consult with them and understand what their needs may be about how their systems may integrate with RIPA. A future sprint task will be to think about developing supplier engagement and workshops.

Ultimately — RIPA differs to what is currently being used by councils because its top two layers — the service pattern and components — will be totally open — and these are (as Alastair often reminds us) the Lego bricks of the whole thing.

Written by

We’ve made it to Beta. An MHCLG funded project, led by Lambeth with five partners — Buckinghamshire, Camden, Lewisham, Northumberland and Southwark

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