I arranged and co-hosted a meeting for the Regional Improvement Partnerships on 8th November. The RIP’s have received funding from the DCLG for developing best practice and service improvements amongst local authorities within their region. There are nine regions covering North East, Yorkshire and Humber, North West, E Mids, W Mids, South West, South East. East of England and London.
Most of the RIP’s appear to work autonomously and independent from each other, and have used a significant proportion of the funding they’ve received to build their own knowledge repositories (aka web sites). One of the objectives of the meeting was to introduce some cross-collaboration by encouraging the creation of one or more communities of Practice’. This is part of the IDeA’s KM Strategy it is currently rolling out across the local government sector, and includes training for community facilitators, and a virtual workspace for encouraging community collaboration.
Towards the end of the meeting, we held a plenary session where delegates were asked to imagine there were no business, financial, technical, managerial, cultural or political barriers to achieving their objectives. We called this session "Wouldn’t it be nice if…", or WIBNI for short.
This was quite revealing, since despite the fact that the RIP’s had chosen to work independent from each other, creating – as they have done – islands of knowledge in the form of non-integrated web sites, the top four statements coming out of the WIBNI sessions were:
1. there was one web site with all relevant information
2. people knew where to go to find information
3. we shared strengths and areas for development in an open and trusted way
4. councils looked to each other for expertise
It seems to me, that – maybe apart from 1 – all of these objectives could be met by breaking down the silo mentality that has permeated local government for too long now, and encouraging thematic communities of practice that ignore regional/geographical boundaries. Item 1 is only likely to be met through having better methods of searching what’s already out there and presenting the results to the user in a consistent way. We’re not far from this with some of the enterprise search engines (e.g. FAST Search & Transfer), but still some way to go with the likes of Google.
Suffice to say, the delegates went away encouraged that the IDeA actively trying to build the bridges between the various regional agendas and appeared to be committed to creating one or more communities of practice around their priority themes. Will be interesting to see how this develops over the coming months.