Posted on December 17th, 2009
Coventry is in sub-regional partnership with Solihull and Warwickshire working on children’s services and social care.
Total Place is an ambitious programme, with challenging timescales. It’s no surprise that as a sub-region we felt this was just the kind of challenge we could rise to. Within the sub-region we are well versed in partnership working and enthusiastic about what can be achieved through collective energy. Leaders in a place should think more creatively about how to innovate and learn together; Total Place is key to driving this.
I see Total Place as a programme, which should find three kinds of solutions:
In engaging our partners to think creatively about services, the discussions about the work streams, otherwise known as deep dives, are absolutely crucial. Partners need to feel that they are able to influence the deep dives so they will have some ownership in driving them forward. Although this can feel like a delay in the process and there is an understandable imperative to move on, it is time well spent. The clarity around scoping work streams has been crucial to us in the sub-region and means that partners can identify the right people to be involved, at the right time.
In mapping our deep dives, we want to take account of the large amounts of research that has already been completed and we are working with the IDeA and others to understand and digest what works. This will ensure that the learning that has already been done in public services is used as a platform to improve even further and crucially those interventions that do not work can be discarded, delivering efficiencies and leaving room to innovate.
Mapping the resources across the sub-region has indicated the large sums involved in public sector spend. This exercise was challenging for our finance colleagues and certainly if Total Place is to be rolled out nationally, some more support may be required for this aspect. The decision that we took to contact public agencies to provide the information, rather than using the model of Counting Cumbria which used publically availably accounts, was helpful to raise awareness of the pilot. But it inevitably takes longer! Where this cannot be provided we have tried to work on a pragmatic basis of apportioning spend and/or using the public accounts. In order to get maximum value from this exercise, a common methodology would be beneficial and allow for comparisons. Learning to accept that ‘roughly right’ is good enough and moving onto the deep dives has been a cultural challenge for us, but we’re getting there; and now we need to press on.
I have been very heartened by the enthusiasm and energy that exists around the pilots. From the very beginning our Pilot has been keen to work closely with Whitehall and has engaged with the Department for Children, School and Families as our lead department and our Whitehall Champion. This level of engagement will lead to much more sustainable solutions, delivered more speedily.
If we are to deliver new kinds of public services then we need to think in new ways about how to deliver them. Total Place is a cultural change. This means being open and honest with one another and mature enough to admit when things aren’t going well. We are learning about ourselves throughout the journey and are keen to share our learning along the way with others; pilots and non-pilots alike. We have begun this by visiting other authorities who are considering adopting a total place methodology and are actively using the community of practice to share our experiences.
Martin Reeves, Chief Executive of Coventry City Council