Show and tells

The show and tell calendar in Essex County Council is getting pretty busy, with four (that I know of) happening over the past week. It’s a real display of the council’s commitment to adopting new ways of working, in particular, to genuine open collaboration. It’s perhaps less surprising to find the Corporate Development team, with its own in-house Service Design function, applying agile methodology that are more familiar to digital transformation projects such as GDS. More revealing is the growing adoption of agile methodology across the council’s Adult Social Care directorate, which has been the focus of three of those four Show and Tells.

So what is a show and tell - isn’t that something primary school children do?

Some (perhaps understandably) find the language patronising, and not befitting an event in which a large number of people come together to hear about the progress of projects that are looking at understanding the experiences people with Autism, or living in poverty, for example.

Yes it’s playful, but in function and form, the name is deliberate and points at maximising openness and accessibility. It intentionally references something that most people can relate to, and so know what to expect when they turn up. In so doing, it is a small gesture which resists the practices and cultures in which knowledge, power and influence are the preserve of the few not the many - so often manifest in a corporate vernacular which is impenetrable to those outside, and sometimes within, an organisation .

A show and tell should do three things:

  1. Give people a chance to see what you’re working on (aka ‘show the thing’ and do it regularly). The point is not to wait until the project has reached its ‘ta-dah’ conclusion, and nor is it to spend days making sure the slide deck is slick (though that’s not an excuse for poor preparation). It’s a work-in-progress, latest view of the project/product and that means the material might still be quite raw.
  2. Inviting people to interact with the material. Depending on the stage of the project, this might be through discussion, seeking challenge or demos of a prototype. Once a product/idea has reached a certain point of fidelity (and/or when a deck starts looking too ‘polished’ - see point 1), it is much harder for people to give feedback. At that point, we tend to comment on the small details (the colour palette) rather than the fundamentals (is this answering the right question?).
  3. Uses collaborative input to shape the way the project continues to develop. The very reason for arranging a show and tell is not simply to present progress (or achievements), it’s about creating a space to get feedback, draw on multiple insights, and seek challenge from the room (a key aspect in the set-up of agile metholodogy such as this, is the principle that all voices are equal irrespective of vantage point or job title). Critically, it gives participants a central role in the project, even if their involvement is only coming to an hour of show and tell once a fortnight. Those insights, comments and suggestions directly shape the project.

    Show and Tell process diagram on a post-it note
    The show and tell process diagram

Previous show and tells

If you’ve missed them, we’ve had some fantastic sessions over the last week:

  • Service Design show and tell - a regular slot (usually in C309) for the Service Design team to update on their activity and backlog. Last week’s session focused on the Common Service Components work that FutureGov are supporting on, which will map out the building blocks shared by the council’s online transactional services. For more information, email Nic Ward
  • Transforming Adult Social Care (TASC) and the Health and Wellbeing Outcomes for People with Learning Disabilities and Autism (LD&A) - led by FutureGov, these two projects are being delivered as part of the Essex Transformation Partnership. 32 people came across to County Hall (E1) in their lunch break to hear about opportunities for better health and social care integration and insights from recent user research and interviews across Essex. For more information, email Hannah Pinnock

    Woman standing, presenting a screen presentation, with audience
    Lingjing Yin at the TASC and LDA Show and Tell
  • Empowering Citizens (Clacton) - the team shared some early research insights from the Information, Advice & Guidance (IAG) project based on recent engagement with providers, residents’ and community groups. FutureGov’s Organising Care and Support (OCS) team also shared their experience from testing a prototype in Colchester Hospital, some of the challenges, and how they’re adapting testing a bit to try to engage more people into the pilot. For more information, email Rebecca Jarvis
  • Meaningful Lives Matter - launched this week, the programme brought together 25 people in County Hall on National Autism Awareness Day, sharing details about the programme and work being done through partners such as Nesta (100 Day Challenge) and PeopleToo. For more information, email Jess Stewart

    Woman standing, presenting to a room of people
    Meaningful Lives Matter show and tell

Upcoming show and tells

The aim is to continue to widen participation as much as possible, so whilst this isn’t a full programme (we’re working on that!), here are some key dates for your diary:

  • Wednesday 17 April 2019, 14:00, E1 Zone 3 (near Fishbowl): Cross Adult Social Care
  • Wednesday 24 April 2019, 10:00, C309: Service Design Team Monthly
  • Wednesday 1 May 2019, 12:30, E1 Zone 3 (near Fishbowl): Transforming Adult Social Care (TASC) Improving Health and Wellbeing Outcomes for people with Learning Disability & Autism

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