myPublicServices are us…

Abbey Centre

At the end of last month I was lucky enough to be part of the first ever myPublicServices, an ‘unconference‘ focusing on citizen engagement with public services online, organised by our friends Patient Opinion.

The day for me was kicked off with a taxi ride through the busy streets of London towards the Abbey Centre, a converted wash house and baths in the heart of Westminster. After a much needed cup of tea and a quick catch up with some familiar faces, it was time to make my way to the main hall to speak as part of the day’s opening session.

By this time, the room was already buzzing with expectation and chatter. James Munro from Patient Opinion was the first to speak, describing what the day would involve, as well as sharing his insights into how and why people should be involved in helping to shape public services from the bottom up.

Patient Opinion logoThen it was my turn to talk about how my own experiences and frustrations had led me to feel that my needs were not being met and my decision to do something about it. For more on what I was speaking about, you can check out the slides from my talk below:

Following on from me was Channel 4’s Tom Loosemore, who spoke about his work with the 4iP (4 Innovation for the Public) fund and the importance of the ‘my’ in myPublicServices. Novelty brownie points go to Tom for coming with the notes for his speech scrawled on a napkin, who needs PowerPoint?!? ; )

All this food for thought was making us hungry! Over tea, coffee and some tasty cake (kindly baked by some of the attendees), there was definitely a lot to talk about!

The second part of the day was less structured with people breaking out into various sessions run in parallel, based on the six themes: voice, place, design, vision, experience and support. I ran a session with Carrie Bishop, one of the original Enabled by Design team members at the first ever Social Innovation (SI) Camp. In this group we talked about SI Camp, what it involved, what we learned and those all important next steps. Interested in finding out more? If so, you can check out the slides from the session here:

Always a sign of a good day, before we knew it, it was time for things to come to a close. During the closing session, Dan McQuillan talked about the importance of the day and where we go from here. Paul Hodgkin, Chief Executive of Patient Opinion, then invited us to write one thing on a postcard that is an important challenge for ourselves and what we would do to overcome it. These will be photographed and shared at a later date, so we’ll let you know when these become available to view. And lastly but no means least, James Munro drew the day to a close, phew not bad for a days work eh?!? The BBC certainly thought so too, giving the event the media coverage that it so deserved on their website!

For me, the day was a fantastic showcase of how people are harnessing
the power of the internet to build on the government’s current service
provision. I don’t see this as a case of trying to replace public
services outright, but of enhancing them in a way that can only be
achieved from the outside in. If news headlines are anything to go by,
as a country we’re going to be more and more reliant on social enterprise to fill the
shortfalls in public spending. Of course, this leads to the natural
question; how can we finance this sustainably? The world of
myPublicServices is still in its early stages, so it’s likely to take
some time to refine the business model that will do the job. But don’t
worry, we’re all working on it!

We’d just like to say a very big THANK YOU to the Patient Opinion team for all the enthusiasm and hard work they put into organising such an interesting and thought provoking event. Roll on next year, we say! ; )