Archive for February, 2010

Is the choice of “John Lewis Council” or “EasyCouncil” enough?

February 21, 2010

The announcement that Lambeth is seeking to become a “John Lewis Council” in contrast to the concept of EasyCouncil that has been associated with Barnet, means that there is a clear choice emerging in local government. David Cameron’s proposal for public sector staff to be allowed to apply to set up a co-operative is clearly also relevant.

What this debate may mean is that some of the positive recommendations of the Quirk Review are implemented as this Blog has recommended in the past.

But the big issue is whether the two choices outlined here will actually resonate with all local people or will many people in local communities actually feel left out from this debate?

The Demos report State of Trust identified three ways in which people tend to relate primarily with their Council:

  • Decision oriented
  • Service oriented
  • Person oriented

We broadly agree with this as it accords with the Values based segmentation research that we have done.

We can see how the John Lewis Council model will appeal to those who have intrinsic motivations and are decision oriented?

We can also see how the Easy Council model will appeal to those who have extrinsic motivations and service oriented?

The big questions is whether any of those models will actually reach out to up to one in three of the population who from our research are likely to think in terms of safety and security and put far more value on personal interactions with their Council? Themes relevant to them are less about “John Lewis” or “EasyCouncil” and more about services that are “rooted”, “local”, “safe” and “secure”.

In other words, before a local authority adopts any delivery model it needs to understand the nature of all its service users and whether that model will appeal to their values.

Perhaps the most effective approach for Council’s in developing new delivery models and forms of co-production is to recognise that they need to understand all their customer/client segments and provide a real choice of personal interaction. Not everybody will want to upload information and interact with a local authority either online or through a call centre.The crucial thing is understand in more detail who these people are likely to be in future and develop value for money ways of engaging with them. A failure to do so could lead to lower levels of trust in public services from some disaffected sections of the community which could damage local community cohesion.

The debate on the future of local government and other public sector service delivery is likely to continue and we will return to this in more detail in the coming months.

Charlie Mansell is Research and Development Officer for the Campaign Company


Understanding status dog owners

February 17, 2010

Hardly a day goes by without a story appearing in the media about how dangerous these dogs are and how reckless their owners can be.  Most recently, The Guardian quoted chilling statistics from the RSPCA and the Met Police Status Dogs Unit of the growing problems caused by irresponsible ownership of these breeds of dog.

Our investigation into what motivates young people to own ‘status dogs’ confirms that an increasing number of young people are easily obtaining hard to control dogs and they are often ill-equipped to care for and properly train their dogs and are unaware of the responsibilities that accompany dog ownership. But we have also discovered that the reasons that most young people obtain these dogs are not always malevolent despite the often negative representation we see in the press.

One thing we know for sure is that vulnerable people have relied on ‘dangerous dogs’ for generations to protect themselves and their families. We have spoken to young people in some of the most deprived areas in the UK who genuinely would not walk around their neighbourhood unless they had their dog to protect them. We also know that they get dogs to be part of the crowd – viewed as a status symbol these dogs are certainly displayed as fashion accessories for some groups.

A smaller minority of owners however are undoubtedly using their dogs to terrorise and threaten neighbourhoods and participate in illegal dog-fighting. Local authorities, residents groups, police forces and animal welfare organisations are struggling to find solutions to the myriad of problems that this growing trend has unleashed on local communities.

TCC believes that a meaningful and lasting solution can only be sought by gaining insight into what motivates young people to own status dogs and to do this we need to engage with and hear the voices of young dog owners. Only then can we devise appropriate interventions to encourage responsible ownership and deter bad practice.

We are working with the RSPCA to help better understand the attitudes and behaviours of young adults to potentially inform the development of behaviour change campaigns.

This is a subject that everyone seems to have an opinion on – what’s yours?

New Habits – the most important aspect of behaviour change?

February 12, 2010

We know that reinforcing good habits is a good strategy, but the much bigger challenge is changing existing bad habits. The book Habit and Robert Cialdini’s Influence at Work team have flagged up a number of ways to do that.

What are the core lessons we have learned from them and also our own work in social marketing and behaviour change?

There seem to be six elements that seem to contribute in helping to replace an old habit and in doing so create a new habit:

1. Commitment. Getting someone to voluntarily set out goals and intentions will promote their own self control, and ownership of, their goals.

2. Training.  Behaviour needs to be reinforced and training is often a good way to do this. Training does not have to be formal. It is all the ways we remind people of an action. Training also enables those changing the behaviour to get the feedback to identify the aspects that might lead to the new habit failing.

3. A single vital behaviour. People are very likely to rely on past habitual behavior when they are distracted under time pressure and cognitively overloaded. Therefore behaviour change practitioners should seek to identify how those possible distractions can be minimised. This might require other activities and initiatives to be put on hold so that ample time can be devoted to the change in question.

4. Change context or cues. Change or remove any context or cue which may activate an unwanted behavior. This could include using incentives to change the activity. Making contextual changes or creating a new cue might be as simple as changing seating arrangements which eliminate an older habit and replace it with a more useful new one. Simple changes at little cost are much more likely to be maintained than large scale and expensive ones.

5. Reinforcement. This is anything that makes a new behaviour more likely to occur. In the short-run extrinsic incentives can make a big difference, but to sustain the behaviour as a habit it needs to be reinforced so the action is unconscious and not calculated. Thus simplifying things and the use of training so the knowledge is ingrained all help to reinforce the change and then sustain it.

6. Self monitoring. Encourage the recording of successes each time the new behavior is performed. Public recognition, if used carefully can also encourage consistency towards the new behaviour and reinforce it as a habit.

The above elements, if taken together as part of a serious behaviour change strategy, should make a significant difference, when they are all consistently applied, over a period of time.

Charlie Mansell is the Research and Development Officer of the Campaign Company.

The Marmot Review – love it or hate it, but you cannot ignore it!

February 11, 2010

The Marmot Review of Health Inequalities post 2010 was published today and many will hope it will influence public policy in the years following the General Election.

The key messages are here and the detailed objectives are set out here. These are all very worthwhile, however the more interesting question one could have asked of the public is how likely are these objectives going to happen in the foreseeable future?

I suspect there are likely to be relatively high levels of public pessimism and that means the political will to achieve the objectives is likely to remain quite low. We also know from observing many public health campaigns that when there is investment in improvements, take-up varies, with some areas responding  to the advertised messages over positive health much quicker. A simplistic view might be to see these as the affluent areas, but from our own value based research we have identified segments of the population that may be more easily motivated by some campaigns than others. This means we now know which groups are more vulnerable and much harder to reach with much greater accuracy than in the past. We also, from the training and development work that we conduct, understand far more the ways in which public services staff can be helped to more effectively use their time to engage with and support the motivations of those groups.

As Marmot shows, clearly additional resources need to be targeted, but are they likely to be radical enough? Often for upstream public policy changes the level of extrinsic personal incentive required over a significant period to make change is likely to fall foul of fairness perceptions from those who have different motivations and as a result public anger reinforced by the news media may make politicians naturally cautious in taking forward these objectives.

Does this mean that one de-prioritises inequalities and places it under the heading of “too-difficult” in the policy agenda? Are there instead a wider range of approaches that can be developed that enable us to move forward even within the constraints I have outlined?

The work we are now doing is increasingly focusing in the field of how emotions, intrinsic motivations, resilience, character and other forms of targeted behavioural support can also add to the “bricks and mortar” of formal service provision through forms of engagement and co-production in vulnerable and hard to reach communities. This is important at a time when there is no guarantee that further resources will be available and indeed current resources will need to be used more efficiently.

We also now have the tools to more effectively assess outcomes. The development of values based segmentation to identify and target demotivated groups as well as quantitative mapping software to more effectively measure and test the actual real time impact of programmes, means that we believe that organisations will be more able to target limited resources using better trained key staff to help those hard to reach and vulnerable communities that most need it.

In other words, Marmot has set out the challenges, but we need more than exhortation. To make a real difference we also need modern strategies and modern tools that assist with the practical delivery of these laudable objectives.

Charlie Mansell is the Research and Development Officer of the Campaign Company

The Election Means Change – Whoever Wins!

February 11, 2010

Obvious as it may sound, the General Election (which we can now assume will be in May) is likely to lead to change. Not just predictable changes from the reigning in of public expenditure in the coming years, but also because the flurry of party policy announcements is quite likely to set the political agenda, regardless of which party takes the sceptre for this coming term.

Compared to the last few elections, which have seemed like foregone conclusions, this year’s is a less predictable affair, and understandably the media is rife with speculation.  Some are hedging their bets that Cameron has done enough to secure the Conservatives a comfortable majority.  Others ponder a situation akin to the ‘92 election where we saw the ruling party remaining in power but with a greatly diminished lead.  Many think that in our post-expenses climate of politicians being vilified by the press and public, we may end up seeing a “hung” or “balanced” parliament – different terms that mean different things depending on one’s view – where the Liberal Democrats or perhaps even smaller parties could determine Britain’s agenda.  Unexpected successes of independents in various elections since ‘97 could also lead to surprise victories by ‘anti-sleaze’ campaigners, and we may well see a gain in specific seats from the Green Party or UKIP.

This turbulent situation is shaping up makes to be the most uncertain and exciting election since the mid 70s.  Anything could happen in the next three months.

What sort of agenda might emerge? What are the common themes forming in the political ether?  Where might the dividing lines be and who will be drawing them? Here are a few initial thoughts on the potential changes that may face some of the areas that The Campaign Company work within:

Community Cohesion
Elections provide the opportunity to take the temperature of public opinion, and to really find out about some of the more contentious issues. This is likely to be the case for community cohesion. Election results themselves may give a good indication of the cohesiveness of a specific community when looked at in the context of the relevant Place Survey indicators. So far the evidence is that community cohesion will remain a significant issue in the coming years. The reputations of politicians and institutions are suffering a downturn in light of recent events across the whole political spectrum. This is especially true in communities with lower levels of trust, and ones that are more likely to judge things based on strong emotions driven by perceptions of unfairness, whether those emotions are justified or not. New forms of engagement are required here that help dispel these emotions; methods that don’t simply last a few months but which actively demonstrate that public institutions are working for those people who are currently sceptical of this.

There is also, perhaps, increasing recognition that diversity is much more about local identities than simply being about tick-box exercises. This is likely to see cohesion spending focused much more on ways to address people with multiple identities, rather than assuming that everyone fits into one respective pigeon-hole.

Value for Money and Total Place
The need to secure various efficiencies is likely to lead to public institutions seeking to look for innovations that help protect their “front-line services”. The sheer size of the public sector compared to previous decades does mean that we won’t simply be seeing a replay of the 80’s.  In comparison, many more services are provided as part of a mixed provision with greater amounts of money being spent on technology, something which can be reviewed for savings.  There seems to be a wide consensus between all the main parties that the Total Place programme will remain and that substantial changes in processes, transactions and back-office services will occur. While these changes will not be directly visible, the impact on staff morale could easily be transmitted to the public and thus impact on reputation.  In short, some changes may cause a domino effect leading to whole new challenges.

The development of co-production is one area that politicians and public institutions may see as a chance to improve value for money whilst increasing community participation.  It is important to move away from any simplistic ‘easy-council’ or ‘no-frills council’ political debates, and decent media coverage is vital for this issue to be properly discussed.  Conversely, local authorities also need to understand that messages about empowering people, whether it’s about saving money or allowing people more choice, are likely to seriously confuse and worry a significant number of their residents. A more subtly nuanced approach is likely to be required, and one which recognises that people may be attracted to different aspects of the co-production agenda.  A segmented approach to this is likely to make a lot more sense.

Localism and Devolution
The Conservatives are talking about increased local autonomy.  Regardless of whom the next Chancellor may be, whether the treasury will allow this to happen to any substantial degree is the real measure of whether this major shift in power would ever be able to take place. Changes to local government financing do not look likely, unless the Liberal Democrats secured a majority, which might push local income tax onto the agenda. A possibility is that the level of earned autonomy may increase, allowing Employment Services (for example) to be delivered more locally.

All the main parties are committed to protecting health expenditure. However, that doesn’t mean that there will not be a requirement to achieve certain efficiencies in order to fund the growth necessary to meeting the demands of our increasing elderly population.  Reforms of the last few years currently allow for a vast amount of ministerial discretion without the necessity for large amounts of primary legislation. It is likely that minsters, whatever their political colour, will spend time exploring the new architecture that has been created. What is very likely to happen is that there will be an increase in local autonomy on the provider side as the number of Foundation Trusts increase.  Those hospitals which are unable to set themselves up as one might instead choose to become part of an existing Trust.

Nudges and Behaviour Change
George Osborne and Andy Burnham have spoken in recent weeks about using a range of Nudges, whether in general or for specific areas such as the smoking cessation. Improving choice architecture whilst retaining choice is clearly a good thing in a more complex society where people might fall into multiple identities. Behaviour Change, through tried and tested processes such as social marketing, will continue to be an important part of a strengthened preventative agenda, especially within the health sector. However, expenditure reductions may reduce the overall level of general advertising and lead to more localised and segmented initiatives that tap into local area networks.

Democracy and Engagement
The first ever televised Prime Ministerial debates are likely to set much of the scene for the upcoming general election. No doubt the media will cover a lot of the personal aspects of these debates, making the most of the fevered excitement of the briefing rooms. Based on evidence from other countries, it’s likely that politicians will play it very safe during the debates. Perhaps more significantly, it’s likely that they will increase expectations from the public that all major issues should be expressed through such televised debates, and that more institutions should operate like this when a public choice is required. The general election will also see a vast number of “Democratic Tools” deployed using online Web 2.0 applications, following the success of these as part of the Obama campaign in the United States. In the 2005 General Election, Facebook and Youtube were not as prolific as they are now, and blogging was still in its relative infancy.  Viral emails and photos weren’t as effective a propaganda tool as they are today.  This time round, viral videos, spoof party leaflets and disinformation posters will flood the inboxes of many people within hours of being released.  This will truly be the first online election.

Mayors and Young Mayors?
Labour has of course introduced directly elected mayor schemes. The Conservatives have announced that they will allow people in the twelve largest cities the opportunity of voting for a mayor.  The results of these could well lead to mayor schemes being setup in other cities. The Liberal Democrats have become significantly less hostile to the principle of a mayor compared to the previous years.  This also provides the opportunity to develop complementary Young Mayor schemes based on the successes of those operated in boroughs such as Newham and Lewisham.

It is inevitable that the general election will lead to change, whether it’s new policies, ministers or governments. Understanding this will be an important aspect of public policy in the coming months, across these areas discussed and many more.  In future postings we will delve deeper into the intricacies and implications of policy, whichever political path Britain finds itself carving.

by Charlie Mansell, Research and Political Development Officer for The Campaign Company.