Reflecting on the journey so far

Gurpreet Sarai Gurpreet Sarai, Engagement Manager
Centre of Excellence for Information Sharing

We’ve all been there; experiencing the anticipation and excitement in the build up to a long-awaited holiday; dreaming about white sand, sunshine and the itinerary you’ve been mapping out for so long.  Well, that was me last month. Two weeks spent soaking up the sun and the colourful delights of East Asia – but before I knew it, I was back again! Feeling slightly overwhelmed I might add, as I try my best to catch up. So what has been happening whilst I’ve been away?

Since the official launch of the Centre of Excellence for Information Sharing last month, the momentum to get people and organisations talking about that big elephant in the room – information sharing – has been picking up pace.

My colleagues have been busy getting out and about meeting with local areas up and down the country, getting involved in events and discussions, influencing and supporting conversations about the role of information sharing in public service transformation.

I attended the Pioneers Assembly (@careto_share) in London yesterday where similar discussions were also taking place. A year into the pioneer journey, and with news of another ten potential pioneer sites being sought, a continuation of new ideas and approaches was very much the flavour of the agenda. To be more creative, encourage ideas, embrace experimentation and new ways of doing things but without, as Don Redding of National Voices very rightly captured, losing that public service ethos that drives us – mutuality, trust, and most crucially improving quality.

There’s no question that the appetite for change is there but it takes strong leadership to see it through. Debbie Sorkin, National Director for Systems Leadership, began the session by saying, “leadership belongs to everybody” and that pioneers should be seen as the “enablers of system leadership and transformation”.

While this may be true, it was also importantly noted that things do get messy and may not always be perfect the first time around, but to keep working at it. Claire Henderson, Programme Director for Islington, shared their experience of the journey by discussing the importance of a ‘critical friend’ – someone who can independently reflect back what is really happening on the ground. In many ways, our role at the Centre of Excellence for Information Sharing is to do just that.

We support local places intensively by focussing on a range of polices areas, including health and social care, troubled families, public service transformation, welfare reform, social justice and much more. We reflect back the issues and capture learning by building a rich, in-depth case study which looks at information sharing in a variety of mediums – though leadership, capacity and culture, in order to achieve better outcomes for public service users.

The next leg of my own journey will take me to meet the teams in Surrey, Devon and Torbay, and Dorset, Bournemouth and Poole, to look at their information sharing barriers and help articulate them, to problem solve locally and influence change nationally.

We’ll be sharing our journey as we go but it’s also important for us and for other teams across the country to hear your story too. Through our #InfoStory campaign which we’re running throughout Better Local Services Month, we want to collect as many real-life experiences as possible where information sharing has, or could have, made a difference to the public service delivery or outcome for a service user.