Isabel Vincent, Dissemination Coordinator
Centre of Excellence for Information Sharing
My anticipation that these school’s-out-for-the-summer months would give us a chance to catch up on our workload is proving to be a bit too hopeful. With a raft of learning emerging from our local places there is a lot to gear up for in the coming months. A recruitment drive is also under way and as one of the openings is for a Dissemination Coordinator, this ‘week in the life’ run-down might give any interested hopefuls an idea of what they might be doing.
There is usually one Monday each month that most of the Centre descends on the office and today seems to be it as members of the team make their way to Leicester from all four corners of the country.
Before they all arrive, we get a chance to have our own dissemination meeting, where we update one another on the status of the local places the Centre is engaged with and any upcoming events, reports and case studies that we’re working on. We also use these meetings to make links with any media opportunities that are approaching, as well as relevant national developments or policy updates. The dissemination calendar (which has become our team almanac) gets populated in this meeting too and we use it to plan where we’ll all be working over the week ahead. Although our team is based at the Centre’s host location of Leicestershire County Council, there is always somewhere else we each need to be from week to week, from Blackpool to London to Dorset (and many places in-between)!
One of our key priorities as an organisation is to share the learning of local places that are embarking on or have undertaken an information sharing journey as part of a transformation programme, or through forming a partnership where multiple agencies work together. The engagement managers support a selection of local places across the country, embedding themselves on the ground so that they can help uncover information sharing issues that might be preventing a partnership (eg. a multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH)) or transformation programme from operating as effectively as possible. Through publishing what they learn and how issues are being, or have been resolved, we aim to support multiple other places that may be facing the same issues – and dissemination is crucial in making this happen.
Because our model is so unique in that we are funded by Government departments, but operate independently of them, we can also hope to influence legislation that might be causing obstacles on the ground. That’s where our dissemination prowess comes in! Today we’re getting together to see how we can further develop our approach to capturing and sharing this learning when we are all based so far apart and don’t often get the chance to meet in person. Internal communications is a crucial element of the process and although we aren’t shy of picking up the phone to one another, and we make extensive use of the private social network, Yammer, we also recognise the importance of getting together in person.
This meeting verges off on no end of valuable tangents, covering; how to best pool our collective knowledge in identifying relevant audiences for each piece of work, and then use this to determine the most effective channels by which to reach them; with the understanding that people are at the heart of what we are trying to achieve – whether it be service users, service deliverers, policy makers or interested bystanders – we agree that the materials we produce should always aim to capture the experience of the individuals concerned and illustrate their learning in relation to information sharing; with awareness that pages of text and words are not always the best way to share information and insights, we explore creative ways of presenting learning; it’s important that we always keep in mind both local and national perspectives, so it’s agreed that by including our national liaison team, as well engagement managers and dissemination coordinators into these meetings, we will cover every vantage when deciding what angles of a policy overview or a local place’s learning to capture – and ensure that all potential caveats are accounted for; we also agree that by including representatives from each team, our combined expertise will help unravel the potential layers of a case study or initial proposition with a place, drawing out a wider narrative that we can capture, as well as angles to investigate further with a local place; and finally, everything needs a name and we end with a host of possible options that will suit the purpose of the meetings (with ‘content kitchen’ sitting ahead in a poll we later put on Yammer for the rest of the Centre to vote on).
It feels like it’s been a really productive day, but there isn’t much left of it by the time we’re done and I finish by catching up on emails and Yammer, and monitoring our social media channels (Twitter, LinkedIn and team Twitter accounts).
Our team manages the content and structure of the Centre’s website so I start the day by logging into WordPress and checking for any system updates or messages. We also use WordPress and Google Analytics to monitor the usage of the site to determine what our visitors have been finding most useful each month.
We used the period leading up to the General Election to give the site an overhaul, updating the branding, rearranging the structure and improving links between relevant content. Since then it’s been great to see that our learning and good practice and resources areas (the pages where most of our work gets posted!) have been receiving the most hits – and that this month is no different.
The rest of the day is taken up by our report on the role of information sharing when developing a Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub. As the model of the Centre is so unique, in that we have a national as well as local focus, we have been able to make links around information sharing issues from the ground which cut across multiple policy areas that we work around.
To share these findings, we’ve been developing a series of policy-focussed reports that explore the issues further. We’re very close to publishing two at the moment but both require the input of our experts in the national and engagement teams, as well as feedback from the local places we may refer to, and oversight from the relevant Government departments.
As you can imagine, this takes a lot of time – as well as some serious analytical and editing skills – before the reports are ready to go to our host design team. We then need to finalise the dissemination plan that will ensure they reach those who will benefit from their content – so watch this space as they will be published soon!
As part of our bag of dissemination tricks, we have been exhibiting and speaking at a host of industry events throughout the year. Our team sources the events that suit our organisational role, working out which ones will help us reach the most relevant audiences, and which ones will help us raise the profile of the Centre and its objectives as a whole. Our budgets are small but our expertise more than makes up for this, so we will often negotiate a speaking slot or we will pool resources and join up with our DCLG colleagues at the Public Service Transformation Network to share a stand and exhibit together.
We have exhibited at some really valuable conferences just recently, including the Public Sector Show and the annual LGA conference, and we’re currently organising our speaking slots at a whole host of others over the next couple of months. One more big show we’ll be exhibiting at is the Emergency Services Show 2015 where we’ll also be running a day of workshops.
Behind the scenes, this involves a lot of coordination, including developing a detailed communications plan, liaising with our host design team, coordinating staff attendance, travel and accommodation, and then, after planning what we will do as a Centre, we then need to meet up with the Network, who we’re co-exhibiting with, to make sure we’re all coordinated. This process gets in full flow today!
In-between event planning, we’re also supporting the Centre’s recruitment drive so later in the afternoon, we prepare the website and coordinate a communications plan around this.
I manage to catch up with a couple of engagement managers this morning, to find out the progress of a few of the local places we are working with. As the team is based around the country, we do this by phone and work out areas of progress that could be captured as blogs, or more detailed areas of work that we can develop into case studies or media articles.
We’re also preparing our newsletter to go out tomorrow too so there is a lot of linking and testing to do, to make sure it reaches over 860 people on our mailing list without a glitch!
It’s the end of a long week, and after dialling into the engagement managers’ weekly meeting, I use today to catch up on more amendments that have come through from our partners and our engagement managers, on the two policy reports we’re compiling. I also receive a couple of blogs from the team which we’ll add to our schedule to be published on the website soon.
The newsletter goes out successfully and we publish the recruitment information live to the website. A whole host of messages have been scheduled to support this too so look out on our social media channels and feel free to share them if you know of anyone who may be interested. To support the process, and to add another blog to our schedule, I finish writing this one too!
I catch up with the team later in the afternoon to continue planning for the schedule of events that will lead us up to the end of the year and after putting a few ideas together to be worked up next week, the weekend finally arrives – and I feel like we’ve earned it!