Tuesday 17 April will see the launch of Dudley’s MASH Lab. This has evolved from the OUr Society: Our Solutions research and discussions which have taken place and which led to thinking which we call MASH: Managing Assets and Services Holistically. The ideas have been committed to by senior decision makers in Dudley Council
The purpose of the MASH Lab Launch is to share the thinking behind MASH and to collaboratively select a realistic number of areas of work to test in the MASH Lab over the next 8 months. Areas of work being considered will include:
- Dudley Council organisational transformation and workforce development to be developed in collaboration with VCFS to ensure change in future relationships.
- Dudley Council employee Volunteering Strategy to be refreshed in collaboration with VCFS to provide two-way benefits.
- Dudley Council Compact champions to be revitalised to promote cross sector networking, connecting, problem-solving, and feedback.
- Dudley Council staff to be given responsibility for online and social media communications to improve overall communications.
- Dudley Council website to be refreshed to be more outward facing and user-friendly
- Dudley Council to enable citizens and VCFS to let Dudley Council and others know about positive activities happening in local areas to be uploaded on line
- Refreshed and or new collaborative forums / stakeholder groups where Dudley Council can involve VCFS and citizens in understanding pressures on services and budgets and explore solutions
- A refreshed complaints process for Dudley Council where feedback on service improvement is encouraged – a dialogue.
- Design of a new online (and possible offline) process for inviting suggestions from citizens and VCFS for service changes and co-production.
- Dudley Council Engagement Strategy to be a catalyst for changing the way the council and VCFS work together – less consultation and more collaboration
- Revision of Dudley Council commissioning approaches to include commissioning to local VCFS organisations
- Dudley Council to develop a collaborative approach with VCFS to ‘Community Right to Challenge’
- Collaborate learning to be gained from Climate Change group, including Transition Stourbridge, experience of influencing design and delivery of a re-use facility / shop within the new contract to run the LA Civic Amenity site, Stourbridge
- Dudley Council and VCFS to collaboratively create a comprehensive ‘joint asset management policy’ to include:
- Develop a process to identify opportunities for co-location of Dudley Council with VCFS and other organisations in shared buildings
- Dudley Council and the VCFS to collaboratively develop an approach to the register for ‘assets of community value’, to gain relevant nominations, understanding and procedures.
- Dudley Council and the VCFS to collaboratively develop an approach to Neighbourhood Planning, as connected closely to community asset management.
- Dudley Council to collaboratively develop a corporate policy and approach for disposing of unwanted fittings, furniture and other smaller items from council buildings due to closures etc to VCFS groups
Invitations to the event are being circulated widely to community, voluntary and faith groups, and to selected officers in Dudley MBC so that there are links to the areas being considered.
In February the Our Society Our Solutions Group invited members of the Local Authority’s Corporate Board, and the Leader of the Council, to a joint meeting to explore the potential for collaborating on projects which would leave to assets and services in Dudley Borough being managed in a holistic way. The meeting took place on Friday 24th February and was attended by Our Society Our Solutions Group members, Our Society Steering Group members and John Polychronakis (DMBC Chief Executive), Jane Porter (DMBC Acting Director of Children’s Service), Valerie Little (Director of Public Health) and John Millar (DMBC Director of the Urban Environment).
The objectives of meeting were:
- To share the work that the Our Society Our Solutions Group have been undertaking and to explore how it relates to the work of the Local Authority (specifically regarding Localism and transformation)
- To propose and discuss a process for taking MASH (Managing Assets and Services Holistically) projects forward collaboratively
- To agree who could initially be involved in MASH projects and when activities will take place.
A summary of main points and agreements from the meeting are provided below.
- Our Society Our Solutions groups do not primarily want funding from Dudley Council, it is about collaboration, having good communication and dialogue and better sharing and using of resources together;
- The Council is open to ideas from people and groups now and in future years regarding the efficient use of budgets and the provision of services, including collaboratively;
- Regarding the Community Right to Challenge and consequent procurement process, the Council prefers to contract with smaller and more local organisation (e.g. VCSF organisations, local business, social enterprises) rather than giving contracts to large national organisations;
- Contracting with VCFS organisations presents a different relationship dynamic that needs to be considered by voluntary organisations;
- Our Society Our Solutions organisations want to show the value of their services to Dudley Council through methods that capture qualitative information, stories of success and the positive changes made to peoples lives (rather than just statistics and ticking boxes);
- The Council is supportive of voluntary organisations and council services being co-located within buildings to promote multi-use, collaboration and financial savings;
- The Council’s Volunteering Strategy could be refreshed to move it in the direction of a networking / matching service to enable mutual exchange of skills / knowledge / time between voluntary and community groups and council staff (recognising the sensitivities around job displacement);
- The Council supports the development of mechanisms to develop collaborative solutions to issues such as budget savings and service improvements;
- All agreed that the Council cannot provide all the solutions to the issues we face and there must be an element of self-help. It was recognised however, that citizens and community groups sometimes need support and removal of barriers to help themselves and that the council will still have a major role to play in providing unlocking this capacity.
- Due to time constraints and the level of information exchange and discussion taken place, it was agreed that it would not be possible to make much progress with the second and third objective for the meeting, though this had some airing in the main body of the meeting.
- John Polychronakis, Jane Porter, Valerie Little and John Millar suggested that they to come together again with the Our Society Our Solutions group to develop a joint plan to take forward a few important areas of work highlighted in the discussions. (A further meeting is planned for the second half of April and will be open to a wider group of participants.)
Photos and twitter discussion from the evening have been Storified here.
I am lucky to work with lots of passionate volunteers and community groups, helping them to raise the profile of what they do. Lorna has invited me to join this space to share how their activity makes a massive and positive difference to our local communities.
Before Christmas, we invited another inspirational community spirit, Tessy Britton to meet some of our local groups, to help them to share ideas and think even more creatively than they already do!
Tessy is a social entrepreneur and the driving force behind the online phenomenon Hand Made which tells stories of national and international innovative community projects. The overwhelming success of this book which has attracted more than 60,000 internet downloads, has inspired Tessy to roll out local editions to towns and cities all over the world.
It inspired us too! So much that Lorna and I have volunteered to guest edit the Community lover’s guide to Dudley borough 🙂
Our guide will help local people find out more about innovative community projects and enterprises that are happening right on their doorsteps and will bring a worldwide audience to the projects involved. Local people will be invited to tell their personal stories in their own words about what they do, why they do it and how it is making a difference.
Part of our journey involved us meeting up with Steph Jennings who is currently working with Nick Booth to create a Community Lover’s Guide to Birmingham. Her enthusiasm for the project was infectious and now we can’t wait to get going!
We are in the process of calling for contributions and have already started working with our first two authors, Wendy Fryatt from Halesowen charity Black Country Foodbank and Sarah Freeman from Dudley based meals on wheels enterprise ‘The Gourmet’.
This project knits seamlessly into our wider work around the government’s Localism agenda which we have branded in Dudley as ‘Our Society’. Throughout this site you will find practical examples of how we are bringing people together to think about the changing relationship between the public sector, local communities and local people.
In the coming weeks and months I will enjoy sharing snippets from our Community lover’s guide to Dudley here so please do check back and see who’s involved. …And if you’re reading this and have got your own inspirational story to share, please do get in touch!