Designing for innovation in West London and beyond

Blog contributed by Peter Mackenney – Change Consultant, London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham

Peter MackenneyLike many others, I have been bitten by the ‘design-thinking’ bug. Now, we in Hammersmith and Fulham (H&F) are using it to think differently and encouraging others to do so.

This summer, H&F held its inaugural ‘Innovation Exchange’ event for staff working in H&F, and within those services shared with the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster City Council.

Bringing together people with a passion for change and improvement, we – members of the Innovation and Change Management division (ICM) – sought to use and showcase design thinking tools, including the Design Council’s double diamond approach.

In the process we discovered and defined what participants at the event wanted from the peer-to-peer network, and developed ideas for how to achieve this. The result was a signed ‘Innovation Declaration’ and a calendar of events designed and delivered by members of our new network. A great afternoon which really showed the value of design thinking!

Innovation declaration

This event is just the latest of a number of activities designed to support staff to think differently and creatively and – in particular – to use human-centred design tools. Over the last few years H&F’s ICM has developed an extensive array of resources, hosted on our own internal Innovation Site, to support those keen to innovate.

Knowing that innovation doesn’t always mean invention, we extended our own thinking by looking to the work of others – most notably Joan Munro’s Local Councils Innovation Framework and Shift Surrey.

In September 2015, after working with H&F and learning from Shift Surrey, H&F opened its Innovation Space pilot to staff as a symbol and signal of its commitment to help them innovate.

ICM Innovation Space

Creating an environment which stimulates creativity is a challenge that many organisations – including Nesta – are considering. With a limited budget, we in H&F have taken the leap and developed our pilot space which includes whiteboard walls, astroturf flooring, Google Chromecast and smart TV to access our innovation tools.

Since opening, it has been used by over 150 staff, as well as partners and residents. The space has allowed us to collaborate more with colleagues – internally through the Innovation Network and externally with Shift Surrey and other councils.

It has also led to viral change with one department developing its own space, which has built on the principals of the Innovation Space pilot and extended the technology on offer.

So far session topics have included brainstorming strategies, customer engagement, programme planning, intranet redesigning, event planning, and supplier consulting. This breadth of session topics is represented in the word cloud below.

ICM word cloud

In the face of the many challenges facing our sector, we believe that these resources and relationships are increasingly relevant.

We in ICM at H&F are supporting staff and residents to innovate through the use of design-thinking and are keen to share with and learn from you.

If you’d like to be part of our growing and valuable network of public sector bodies interested in innovation and design-thinking, please join this emerging network on Khub.

Keeping Surrey’s Children in Care Out of Trouble

Blog contributed by Ben Byrne – Head of Youth Support, Surrey County Council

Ben ByrneWhen we bring a child into the care of the state we have an obligation to make sure we are improving their life chances and being the very best parents we can be.

Unfortunately too often our care system can exacerbate the problems in the lives of children and this is most apparent when we respond in heavy-handed and ill thought through ways to the behaviour exhibited by children who have already been harmed by their previous life experiences.

The outcome is that far too many children in care are drawn into the justice system and ultimately this downward spiral results in about a third of all serving prisoners having had experience of the care system.

The fact that children in care get into trouble has often been seen as one of those intractable problems that will always be with us. The experience in Surrey over recent years, however, demonstrates that through a unifying vision, shared commitment, effective partnership action and dogged perseverance a complex and seemingly ‘wicked’ social challenge is amenable to change.

We have now had our seventh consecutive year of reducing numbers of Surrey children in care who come into contact with the formal criminal justice system (now just 13 of the 450 children aged over 10 years old in our care). This achievement has attracted national recognition and featured prominently in the recently published Laming Review – In Care, Out of Trouble.

How has this been possible and what have been the key ingredients to our success?

Ambition – Nothing changes very much when we concentrate our efforts on explaining and justifying a situation. Having gained a good understanding of the problem of over-representation of children in our care in the criminal justice system and been honest with ourselves about the extent of the challenge, we agreed to take collective responsibility through our partnership Corporate Parenting Board. Critically we not only believed that we SHOULD do something about it, but that we COULD do something about it.

Culture, mindset and partnership – So, critical to building on our ambition was to win hearts and minds, change attitudes, inspire belief and confidence in change, build consensus and create momentum, a climate of shared responsibility and obligation to work together in partnership – with a shared vision, clear and common purpose, and critically, a presumption NOT to criminalise children in care wherever this could be avoided.

Strategy, policy and procedures – Embedded in day-to-day practice and more than words on paper! The development of a Reducing Offending by Children in Care Strategy and a Reducing Offending by Children in Care Multi Agency Protocol with governance and oversight provided by the Corporate Parenting Board, a multi agency steering group and a Practitioner Forum were all important in ensuring that all agencies played their part.

This involved reducing the need for criminal justice responses through positive parenting (see below); active system management (where children did come into contact with the police) to ensure diversion from prosecution wherever possible; and rigorous data capture and analysis to track progress and review/amend the strategy where necessary.

Because some of our children live outside of Surrey we also spread our practice to neighbouring authorities and police services agreeing a South East Protocol for reducing the criminalisation of children in care.

Positive parenting – To be the best parents we can be for the children in our care we needed to equip our carers with the understanding and skills to ‘get ahead of the behaviour’ that in the past had led to police call outs.

By building the confidence and competence of our residential and foster carers through restorative practice, social pedagogy and understanding traumas and attachment we have become better parents and created the best environments for our children to live in.

Perseverance – We have played the long game knowing that the transformation of culture and practice takes time. Partnership is easier to say than it is to do and we have had to keep going despite day-to-day difficulties and disagreements, remembering that the overall vision can only be achieved together.

This means learning from mistakes, making necessary adjustments to the strategy when it’s not working, being open to continuous learning and improvement and relentlessly caring about each and every child. Each year brought us more stories of success for children and changes in culture and practice that we celebrated and used to renew our collective endeavour.

While the figures give us great encouragement that we have done a good thing, nothing speaks more clearly than a visit to one of our residential homes and seeing children who are obviously thriving supported by confident, warm, skilled carers. That’s the best way to reduce offending by children in care and we can be proud in Surrey that that is what we have achieved.

Learning about Lean Continuous Improvement

Laura BrandBlog contributed by Laura Brand – Policy and Research Officer, Surrey County Council

As a newcomer to the change community of practice here at Surrey County Council, the idea of Lean Continuous Improvement was not only a new concept to me, but one that frightened me to be frank.

It was therefore a relief to discover that Lean Continuous Improvement is not corporate jargon, but a mindset. It is therefore entirely up to you how much or how little you choose to embrace the ideology behind it, and there is an endless amount of reading into the subject that you can do.

Surrey is running an Introduction to Lean Continuous Improvement half-day workshop once a month across a range of County Council locations. (If you’re reading this on a SCC device and have access to the self-service portal, search for ‘Lean’ in the course catalogue.)

Our Business Improvement team are also available to run bespoke sessions for individual groups of up to 10 people, so here in Policy and Partnerships we attended a workshop as part of an extended team meeting.

The workshop is entirely practical, using a simple but effective exercise to get you thinking with a Lean mindset – but fear not if you are someone who shrivels at the mention of a ‘practical exercise’, it’s very gentle!

Lean processSo what is Lean? After a single session I am certainly not claiming to be an expert, but it is easy to explain and understand.

Lean is about simplifying everyday systems and processes, whilst also challenging ourselves to improve personal performance.

It’s not about trying to tackle every problem at once within an organisation, but tackling things one problem at a time. It raises some interesting thoughts on transforming services, and how we should be using transformation as a method of improvement rather than one of complete overhaul.

Lean also explores the concept of ‘waste’ within our work. In a work culture where employees are often duplicating work or being expected to do something to the best possible standard we frequently run the risk of over-thinking something or even creating work for the sake of it.


Whilst it may seem like an alien concept to many, I learnt that it’s perfectly acceptable to take a slower pace in our approach to work, and to be honest in recognising problems within a process in order to find effective countermeasures.

The biggest learning point from my first experience of Lean is that it doesn’t matter if a process isn’t perfect first time round, or if the process still isn’t perfect after tackling all the original issues.

The clue is in the title (the training’s called continuous improvement for a reason!). I am already more accepting of when new issues arise in my work – when you’re implementing changes in a process, new problems are naturally likely to arise.

It’s a case of prioritising which are the most important, and accepting that some issues are so minor you might never get round to resolving them.

Finally, I have learnt to always look for opportunities to improve – you can never achieve perfection, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try!