Archive for July, 2010

A Big Society for all segments of society?

July 29, 2010

Last week David Cameron spoke about the Big Society and talked about the pressing need for it in terms of the challenges government currently faces:

“We’ve got the biggest budget deficit in the G20. And over the past decade, many of our most pressing social problems got worse, not better.It’s time for something different, something bold – something that doesn’t just pour money down the throat of wasteful, top-down government schemes.”

The danger with this narrative is that it is possible that the Big Society will be seen simply as a tool to deliver the financial reductions within Central and Local Government and the wider public sector in much the same way as 80’s style privatisation was seen by many as a tool to purely achieve certain financial reductions. The Big Society might possibly come across as a more humane approach than that, but nevertheless it faced the danger of being seen as that new tool.

Why was that a danger?

Some of course would hold values where change along these lines would be seen as a positive thing. However we should also remember (see previous blog postings here) that for many this change would be seen as a threat to their values. Thus the danger exists that a potentially consensual policy could be seen as extremely divisive.

To be fair on David Cameron, his speech was mainly focused on decentralisation, which along with transparency and effectively targeted social finance, was one of three tools he saw as helping to deliver the Big Society.

However this week Decentralisation Minister Greg Clark added a new dimension to the Big Society and it was very important how he interpreted it. He said:

“Last week, in Liverpool, David Cameron unpacked this basic idea. The Big Society, he said, consists of three strands: Firstly, public sector reform. Secondly, community empowerment.And thirdly, philanthropic action.

“Though these strands are intertwined, they are also distinct: The first is about what the state can do for us.The second is about what we can do for ourselves. And the third is about what we can do for others.

“All three are essential to the Big Society.”

This is welcome news. From work we have done with local authorities we have identified three broad values sets which will respond in different ways to both efficiencies and to the challenges of the Big Society. Compare Greg Clark’s comment above with what we said in our blog posting on the subject on 26 May.

Greg Clark in his speech then put some meat on the bones of the three strands:

“For instance, public services can either be delivered in a way that increases dependency and undermines pro-social behaviour, or the state can intervene in order to strengthen the ability of people to look after themselves and others.

“Alongside the traditional public services, we also need a much clearer concept of communities of shared interest, which act together in their own way to achieve those interests. Local councils are an obvious example, but there are many more beyond the state, including voluntary organisations, faith communities, friendly societies, co-operatives and social enterprises. The more we get away from the idea of a single source of help, delivered by a unitary state, ruling over a monolithic public sector, the closer we will get to a Big Society.

Finally there is the third strand, which is the grace of undiluted altruism – as delivered by charities, social enterprises, volunteers and givers of all descriptions. This is the purest expression of the Big Society, and so in our enthusiasm to reform our public services and empower strong communities, it is vital that we don’t overlook the blessing of selfless philanthropy.”

In the 1980’s a Minister might have told people to simply “get on their bike” to look for work, but in doing so would have only really spoken to the needs, values and emotions of about one in three of the electorate and in many cases that speech would have been anathema to the values of others.

Now today we see a Minister speak about the Big Society in terms that a wider range of  values segments in society might just buy into.

Greg Clark also talked about the need for self-organisation and, even if one were to disagree with some of the politically ideological points he makes early in his speech, his critique of what might have happened with a centrally planned Grameen Bank was sadly very accurate. Last week David Cameron announced four Vanguard authorities: Eden Valley in Cumbria, Windsor and Maidenhead, Sutton and Liverpool. Let us hope that decentralisation truly allows them to experiment with new ideas. As someone who is a resident of one of those authorities and a former local Councillor of it too, I look forward to writing further as to how those flexibilities develop.

What was impressive was his recognition, not just of the different values of people, but also of the different values of organisations, when it came to the diffusion of innovations; and that people and organisations would therefore adapt in various different ways:

“But ultimately, and by definition, the success of decentralisation depends on local action. Indeed, upon the initiative of some of you in this room today.Some of you will be pioneers. Others, just as importantly, will be inspired imitators, shopping around for the best new ideas and customising them for local use.”

There is a lot of work to do to build a variety of approaches to delivering a Big Society that all could be comfortable with, but with this speech we see a recognition there is a need to win wide buy-in to the concept, not just in specific communities, but across a wide range of different values.

Charlie Mansell is Research and Development Officer for the Campaign Company

Phillip Blond on how Influence is needed to build the Big Society

July 8, 2010

Phillip Blond, the Director of the Think-Tank ResPublica was a keynote speaker last week at the at the Conference “Beyond the Usual Suspects – Real Influence Matters”. This was an event commissioned by the London Empowerment Partnership, where TCC reported back on research on factors affecting residents’ perceptions of influence on local decision-making in London boroughs. It also enabled representatives from London Boroughs and other organisations to discuss how to improve residents’ experience of influencing local decision-making.

Phillip had the following to say on the subject, linking the work of the conference to his own research:

‘The very reason why I think this report is so interesting and so important… is it shows you the potential that councils have to turn reactive approaches into proactive approaches. And what I want to talk about is what these proactive approaches should be: group formation.’

He then very much endorsed the core findings of the Report:

‘What I found so interesting about this piece of work is that it started to fill in the middle.  It started to fill in the middle between ideas and reality. It started to show how we might get to where we need to get to from where we are. And I think what struck me most importantly was that for citizens, any engagement they have with their local council is utterly determinative of what they think of that local council, and how they engage with it. And I like the way the report said on the one hand, you often get very, very poor frontline service from councils, and then that’s separated from all the engagement procedures, from local council magazines to the high-flown rhetoric. But for most people their engagement is when they come to you, as the report says, reactively: about a problem, about a situation.’

‘Paradoxically the most important people in the Council are the ones who are often paid the least and respected the least – which is front line staff, often women. And they’re the people who are actually the agents or the potential agents of change in those communities. They’re the most important members of those communities – far more important than the Chief Executive’

‘Why? Because they’re the site at which most people make up their mind about the council. And what I liked about the report was the idea that all these people come with lots of different perspectives, lots of different ideas, and they have this… meeting point with the council that nobody did anything about. There’s never a strategy to move from someone who comes to you reactively and then say ‘well, how do I turn this person into a proactive member of a group, of a community?’ And you’ll often get calls from people who are incredibly angry, who are incredibly frustrated, and in no way keyed in. And so, many of our engagements with the public sector is an experience of endless phone calls, endless visits and not being satisfied.’

Looking forward, he supported some of the key recommendations:

‘The image I got from the report is this whole diversity of needs coming out of the council and the council only responding in one way, and a massive, massive opportunity missed…. I would integrate customer services and all the  rhetoric of engagement, and I would say from every engagement you have, what the front line should do is try to become a facilitator, try to provoke and engage and get people into groups such that they can feel less alienated, more empowered and able to make a difference themselves. If you can give people quick wins, if you can start creating the conditions for them to make a difference, then everything – absolutely everything – can change.’

He also reminded the people present that too often the wide range of potential communications channels, that were available to spread positive messages and to engage, were not used. These value for money approaches may become more important in the current financial climate:

‘And again as the report points out, everybody underestimates word of mouth and personal experience. If most people’s experience of councils is negative, and I suggest it probably is, then that’s exactly where energy, focus and customer service should be integrated. The most important people then become your front line staff. And that’s been I think a fundamental structural message.’

Finally, he linked the report back to the wider themes of the Big Society:

‘[Making a success of the Big Society] requires organisations that are represented here to start to make the difference between the vision and the reality.’

His comments illustrate an important point. Before one can energise the engaged communities needed to build the Big Society he champions, one needs to ensure that local residents are engaged effectively at all times by local public bodies. And it is frontline staff that are crucial to deliver that engagement.

Presentations and audio broadcasts from the conference will soon be available on the TCC website.

Charlie Mansell is Research and Development Officer for the Campaign Company

Behaviour Change – the new Public Health agenda

July 8, 2010

In his first speech on Public Health, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley yesterday set out his vision for a new Public Health Service.

Some of the key points he announced included:

  • A new ring-fenced public health budget
  • A new ‘Health Premium’ to target public health resources towards the areas with the poorest health
  • Clear outcomes and measures to judge progress alongside NHS and social care outcomes
  • An enhanced role for Public Health Directors so they have the resources and authority to improve the health of their communities
  • Clearly setting out what was needed to be done, but not telling local professionals how to do it, in order to encourage local innovation

Lansley was critical of past public health awareness campaigns saying:

‘It seems to me that awareness campaigns have too often sent the wrong messages – when they’re screaming at you to drink less, many people are just having their behaviour reinforced – the message doesn’t come out as ‘drink less’ but as ‘everyone drinks, so don’t worry about it’. It tells people that the norm in society is misuse of alcohol.’

Nevertheless he was supportive of the Change4Life campaign but wanted to see it as a much more locally led and much more a local social movement, perhaps contributing to the Big Society:

‘….we need a new approach. We have to make Change4life less a government campaign, more a social movement. Less paid for by government, more backed by business. Less about costly advertising, more about supporting family and individual responses.’

However a significant aspect of the speech that was less reported than the above points was the commitment to a range of behaviour change strategies. This included:

  • Focusing on self-esteem for target groups. Lansley said,  ‘Just as leadership drives organisational success, so self-esteem drives personal fulfilment. That is why, contrary to the media reporting, I applauded Jamie Oliver’s initiative on school dinners and when he went to Rotherham – because Jamie ‘got it’…..The fact is, you can’t legislate for self-esteem from Westminster. We can’t pass the Elimination of Obesity Act 2010. Turning Jamie’s campaign into a list of how often you can offer chips – whilst not rationing roast potatoes cooked in oil – doesn’t do the job.’ Identifying target groups for self-esteem development is something TCC has been working on for a number of years with our unique Values Based Segmentation which can assist with not just the identification, but also help explain why people behave as they do.
  • Identifying and reinforcing positive social norms. Lansley says, ‘Studies has shown that social norms are much more important than policymakers have traditionally assumed.  People are deeply influenced by the behaviour of those around them – and public policy should reflect that.‘ The recognition of this is very important. TCC very much welcomes this having pioneered interventions in this area whether it included peer to peer engagement on sexual health in Barnsley, through to the insight work it provided that assisted Barking and Dagenham Council with its Eyesore Gardens campaign that led to the creation of a new social norm.
  • Commissioning from the best new insights from social psychology and behavioural economics. Lansley made reference to the work of Nicholas Christakis who wrote the book ‘Connected’ about the impact of social networks on behaviour.

These sound like exciting times in public health, despite the financial pressures. Indeed it is in the interests of all public bodies to assist the NHS in reducing some of the future demand pressures on health with evidenced based, value for money, behaviour change campaigns.

Professor Jeff French, a non-executive Director of The Campaign Company, will be posting further guest blog posts here in coming weeks exploring some of the behaviour change issues that public bodies will need to address in order to deliver this new agenda effectively.

Charlie Mansell is Research and Development Officer for the Campaign Company

LGA Poll: The voter is always right?

July 5, 2010

“The customer is always right” is often the mantra for low-margin customer focused companies in very competitive environments. But do public sector bodies say the same about voters?

Perhaps the level of competition is lower, the stakes too high and the culture all about managing conflicts between difficult and controversial priorities when it comes to public policy?

The Local Government Association (LGA) Poll yesterday, showed that the public in effect wanted to protect most large expenditure services, such as Police, Education and Health, whilst cutting NHS managers, Quangos and Overseas Aid. The latter are unlikely to secure the savings required. Interestingly they then said they felt local Councillors (62%) should make local decisions on cuts compared to letting MP’s (18%) or officials (2%) do it. Will this perhaps lead to an increased turnout in local elections as we saw in the 1980’s, when local Council’s were dealing with rate-capping, privatisation and the Poll Tax.

The Government Spending Challenge website is asking public sector staff to suggest ideas as to how they could help with savings. It will be interesting to see what suggestions threatened staff come up with. It is important to understand initial expectations from stakeholders as to the impact of cuts, so we can see how they eventually compare to their overall experience of the cuts process?

We could of course hold a referendum to decide priorities, but, as the LGA poll shows, it is likely it would lead to answers we can already predict as people indicate they want to see resources spent on predictable and safe options.

Why should we expect the public to be fully informed? After all many people would say they pay their taxes for others to think about this in detail. As a result we need to recognise:

  • A lack of detailed understanding about financial challenges
  • A lack of detailed understanding of Council structures
  • An unwillingness to give the Council the “benefit of doubt”
  • A reluctance to articulate cost savings
  • A tendency to hold contradictory views at the same time

When intermittently asked, people will often hold contradictory or poorly thought out opinions. They:

  • Want devolution of services, but also want services to be universal
  • Recognise the need for cuts in public services, but will then choose easy options
  • Want high levels of welfare services, but low levels of taxation
  • Want more social housing, but not built near them
  • Support action to tackle climate change, but not significant personal environmental  behavioural change

As a result of many of these potential contradictions, public bodies do need to take people on a journey that avoids:

  • The tyranny of the articulate dominating an issue – its why TCC works with Values based segmentation to ensure a wider range of views out in the community are heard
  • Getting hijacked by the latest issues, which may be driven by a small number of people in a specific area, with a sympathetic local media
  • Having people focus on the immediate and specific rather than the ‘big picture’, which, whilst understandable, will mean that longer-term service transformation and options like mutualisation and co-production might not be able to develop as much some might want.

But first of all we need to start with where people are at present.

That requires insight research utilising segmentation to really understand the community. This has the advantage of enabling you to:

  • Communicate the challenges more effectively through segmented messages
  • Engage target groups about choices in a language  and in a way they will understand
  • Involve them in the solutions that are developed by finding appropriate ways for them to act

In conclusion, values based segmentation can make insight and engagement more of a dynamic two-way process, not just a passive activity:

  • Recognising the challenges to engagement–  which require us to engage with people at a deeper level
  • Understanding  different world views at a local level –  through effective engagement and deeper insight
  • Application to key messages – enabling them to be clearly understood by a wider range of people
  • The conversation continues – having developed the segmented message, the organisation needs to “live it” through its words and behaviour

Charlie Mansell is Research and Development Officer for the Campaign Company

Conference gets to grips with Influence

July 1, 2010

The “Beyond the Usual Suspects – real Influence matters” conference proved a very successful day. Hosted by London Civic Forum and TCC, it was attended by over 100 people representing 20+ London Boroughs as well as a range of government agencies, think tanks, NGOs and third sector organisations

The keynote speaker was Phillip Blond of the think tank ResPublica, well-known as a key thinker involved in concepts such as the Big Society, who gave his vision of the future of local services and local engagement, sparking off an animated debate on how the practicalities of empowering civic associations could work on the ground. Phillip described the TCC report as starting to fill the middle ground between where we are and the vision he outlined, and welcomed the practical emphasis on front line staff interactions and the real potential for councils to turn reactive encounters into proactive engagement

Cultural Dynamics asked attendees to fill in a questionnaire to determine their values set. They were then able to show immediately and visually the extent to which the values of those whose job it is to engage differ markedly from the majority of the communities which they are trying to engage. Indeed over 67% of people present at the conference were in one the sub-segments with the most inner directed values, whilst Cultural Dynamics own research shows that up to 60% of the population do not have such values as their principal values set, being far more driven by extrinsic or security and safety values.

Ipsos MORI provided a detailed picture of the national research around influence, using their ‘frontiers of performance’ modelling to compare statistical expectations of different local authority areas with reality, highlighting some difficulties with measuring influence and suggesting some possible ways forward, and reinforcing the importance of perceptions of influence as a driver of satisfaction and quality of life.

TCC‘s key findings and recommendations drew insights from Values Modes segmentation and fall into three points:

  • The need for councils to understand different people’s motivations for and expectations of involvement and how these are driven by their values,
  • The need to change the culture of institutions to build trust through effective, personal front line interactions,
  • The need to open up engagement to embrace a more discursive model where people can air their views about the issues that concern them, set the agenda and disseminate their positive experiences and messages by word of mouth

Workshop sessions produced a great deal of consensus around challenges and responses, and interesting and innovative ideas around
making better use of front line staff to engage with the public and improving internal understanding of the role of engagement

The final speaker of the day was Sam McLean of the RSA who provided a powerful speech which he was unable to deliver in person but which was previewed by TCC‘s David Evans. Drawing equally from philosophy and his own roots and experience, the speech explored the importance of civic health previewing a forthcoming RSA report .

Finally instant feedback from participants was given from a VideoQube “diary room” held at lunchtime on the themes of the workshop was shown at the end to round off the day.

Further information, including videos,  presentations and documents will shortly be loaded on to the TCC website.

Charlie Mansell is Research and Development Officer for the Campaign Company He would like to thank TCC Project Officer Majeed Neky for his work both delivering the conference and the information that contributed to much of this blog posting