Preaching to the converted: information sharing in a local authority

Thesaurus definition of the word disseminationDissemination of the IISaM project is now well underway, as you will have seen from reports of the event in Manchester, and of the learning lunch in Bradford (if you’re interested to come to an event, we have two in London, one in Birmingham and one in West Yorkshire still to come).  Dissemination is all about promoting what we’ve learnt, and the tools that have been developed to help others on a similar path.  However, our focus isn’t just about raising awareness with new areas, we’re also trying to create a lasting impact for the project in the local areas who have contributed to the project.  We’re supporting a programme of workshops being run by the easi (Effective and Appropriate Sharing of Information) project, led by Dr Sue Richardson, and during February and March, I ran workshops within Leicestershire County Council too.

The workshops ran for the members of Solution Design and Strategy and Policy teams in the council’s Strategic Information and Technology function.  The aim was to introduce the project’s outputs, and to demonstrate how the tools could be used by working through a scenario.  The benefit of partnership working became evident as we used a real-life situation in Greater Manchester to make sure that the scenario had a ring of truth!

The first part of the day focused on introducing the concept of an information sharing journey, together with examples from the case studies on the project website to bring things to life.  Many of the workshop attendees commented that they found this gives their own work a useful context; often, the Strategic Information & Technology function gets involved once a vision has been agreed, and works primarily in the designing and planning and pre-implementation stages, before handing back to another part of the council once implementation is underway.

In addition, many of the real-life examples came from my observations of the Leicestershire Multi Agency Information Sharing Hub.  Amongst the attendees were those who are closely involved in the project, who found it interesting to hear how the model is described and understood by those standing outside.  They were also able to spend some time during the session reflecting on the progress of the MASH, which is a luxury often denied them in the pressures of everyday work.  The examples were also useful for other team members, who are aware of the development of the MASH, but who may have had very limited involvement with it.

Both Jill and Anne were able to attend and provided a vital perspective during the day. They could both bring their experiences and reflections to the session, and could be objective about the questions and issues being raised, rather than simply seeing everything through the lens of the county council’s work.  It gave a more in-depth understanding of the project’s work to everyone who participated, and also gave me a chance to flap about and make sure everything was running to time (it wasn’t.  Does it ever?)

In the next couple of weeks, I will be going back to both teams, and asking them to reflect on two things:

  • How did they find the training session itself?  It was designed to be intense, fast-paced and rooted in reality with the chance to think about lots of different aspects of information sharing.  How did that work in practice?
  • Having had a few weeks to consider things, what are their views on the toolkit? What particularly struck them on the day, and what has stayed with them?

You can find all the instructions on how to run a similar training session in the resources area. There’s an agenda, scenario, examples of each stage of the journey, plus ‘bingo cards’, detailing the key facts about each stage.