This project has brought together a collaborative team consisting of four local authorities in the Humber region and the University of Hull. Also involved in the delivery of this project were representatives from the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), and freelance marketing and design specialists. It is a highly-engaged multi-disciplinary team offering a range of perspectives. This week, we asked each organisation for their insights on collaborative working through their experiences on this project. Starting with the project lead at East Riding of Yorkshire Council, we take you through what they each had to say, finishing with an overall perspective from the MHCLG.
East Riding of Yorkshire Council
“Covid-19 has turned our worlds upside down. We had to react fast to enable over 4,000 staff to continue to work from home. New IT systems had to be made available over-night to allow office-based staff to continue to work as if they were at their own desks.
We realised very quickly These very same challenges were mirrored across our region and the country. These are extremely challenging times, but the technology is only one element that enabled us all to continue to work. Without the resilience, resourcefulness and passion of staff, services would have failed through these difficult times.
The challenge now facing every organisation and individual is to understand how sustainable the current situation and to share that learning so we all benefit. Across the region our Local Authorities have a good working relationship and attend the same regional meetings and work together on challenges. This is no different and we have been able to use these good relationships to invite partners to join with us which would make the outputs of the project more inclusive and understanding of all our challenges. This in turn is likely to make the outputs more relevant to local authorities across the country.
Being the project lead has been made a lot less challenging because of the passion and professionalism of our partners. The University of Hull team has made the academic approach seem simple because of the expertise and ability to engage with the local authority staff with empathy and understanding. The other local authorities have all shown 100% commitment and stepped forward to meet the challenge with enthusiasm even with work demand so high they have always responded and delivered when required. It goes without saying and Jo, Sue, Sarah and the rest of #teameastriding have been awesome and integral in the progress the project has made. The support from MHCLG, the funder, has always been there guiding and advising and being part of the team which has given the project the best chance of success and will maximise its impact as we start to move into delivery and communication of the project outputs.”
North Lincolnshire Council
“Working with our regional partners on such an important project has been a fantastic experience. As new colleagues we have come together to progress the work as quickly as possible. The positivity, enthusiasm and focus from everyone has seen us drive things forward rapidly and will mean that we are able to share our findings more widely for the benefits to be felt in a truly meaningful and timely way.”
North East Lincolnshire Council
“The project came at a time when we were emerging out of the initial crisis response but very much still in the midst of the pandemic. We mobilised a team within our People and Culture Service to support us in finding people who would be interested in taking part in the research. We used existing relationships to do this based on the limited time we had to find volunteers.
People were keen and interested to be involved in this project, the biggest challenge was availability to fit with the slots that we had identified for the range of focus groups relating to roles. In fact, some who couldn’t make it at the time were disappointed. We were however still able to offer the opportunity to be involved by sending any thoughts through to the team. We are sharing updates on the project and there is a real interest in learning from the research and what that means for us as an organisation and individuals in the way that we work in the longer term but also how it will help and benefit others across the country with remote working.
On a personal note this has been a great project team to work with on a project that’s so important to us all.”
Hull City Council
“This project came at the perfect time for Hull City Council. The benefits of this work will enable us to understand how practices have improved as a response to COVID-19 and identify the areas that require further support. In order to retain the benefits of smarter working the recommendations will help us to inform the design of future working practices and what we need to consider in terms of health and well-being, policies and procedures, technology, office design, and training and support.
It is evident that it is important to all four local authorities that we use this evidence-led report, it is valuable insight to help shape our future ways of working and that we also continue to collaborate and support each other by sharing best practice.”
Centre for Human Factors Team at The University of Hull
“This project has been a fantastic experience for our team – we’ve had the opportunity to learn so much about the work of local authorities whilst applying our approach within this sector. We’ve had the pleasure of meeting hundreds of talented, dedicated, hardworking employees across the local authorities – their willingness to engage and openly talk about their experiences has been crucial to the smooth running of this project and the development of the outputs. Regarding the project team, we echo what the LAs have said – it’s a fantastic team and we’ve thoroughly enjoyed this collaborative experience.
It’s been a whirlwind – from writing the project proposal collaboratively through to the finalisation of the outputs, we’ve worked together as a project team to deliver in three months what would usually take at least six, if not longer. However, the urgency of the questions to be answered for the organisations necessitated speed, commitment and efficiency to deliver this project in a short period of time. The LAs are waiting on the outputs of this work to make important decisions, so we had to ensure they could get the information they needed in a timely way. This project is evidence that when we come together around a shared goal, which in this case has been to understand the impact of the changes brought about by COVID, we can create, inspire, motivate and innovate.”
“In MHCLG’s Local Digital Collaboration Unit you won’t be surprised to hear that we work with a lot of local councils on a lot of collaborative projects. And yet it’s not easy to say exactly what ‘good collaboration’ looks like. It varies from project to project and team to team, and can depend on specific dynamics. But there are often a few common threads: a shared purpose and direction, an open approach to work, regular communications and sharing of ideas, and continuous engagement from all team members. These are quite tangible things, so I’ll add one more that is much more difficult to measure or observe, but one that has been central to the Future Work Design project: momentum.
I started working with the team around 3 weeks after the grant had been awarded, to find that around three-quarters of the 32 planned focus groups had already been completed. If I had been involved from the start I would have that 32 was way too ambitious! But the project team has a special blend of purpose, capability, a super engaged set of partners and representatives from each organisation, and momentum carried through from COVID response. This has been channelled into solving the practical problem of how we design our work in the next version of normality, and I’m sure will be reflected in the rigour of the outputs – the ultimate result of this collaborative endeavour being some tools that work for all of the partners involved.”