In Essex ThePublicOffice team is bringing deliberate system disruption, and providing challenge and support as Essex County Council (ECC) seeks to innovate and transform outcomes across health and wellbeing, working with its partners and particularly with the County’s five Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs).

We’re deeply embedded, working with ECC as they seek to innovate in order to transform outcomes for the public. Together we have set out to create whole-system change, within the context of a move to a Commissioning Council, and the integration of health and social care. In particular, ThePublicOffice is helping to build new understandings of what it really takes to create powerful and long-lasting change for practitioners and citizens within a complex local system. Our aim is to support leaders to develop an underpinning environment and culture for system change – where individuals at every level are equipped with the skills and behaviours needed to support a transformation in service commissioning and delivery.

At the heart of this important work is the need for a clear and unwavering focus on the citizen –  their needs, capabilities and aspirations – alongside a commitment to long-term citizen involvement in the design and delivery of services that improve outcomes for the public. Ethnographic research approaches are being utilised in a range of areas as a way of generating new and powerful insights about what it is really like to be on the receiving end of services.

We are facilitating a great deal of learning about how critically important it is to design structured processes for listening to citizens in the context of commissioning processes. 

Dave Hill, Executive Director for People Commissioning asked us first to design an innovation journey that the County’s commissioners could embark upon. We worked with Integrated Commissioning Directors and their teams, and used film and other methods to grow a shared understanding of the requirement for change.Intensive work began on the theme of Early Years.

ThePublicOffice Workshops brought together 100+ professionals from across Essex (from health, from social care, from the voluntary sector, etc) to listen to stories from real service users, grow a shared vision and sense of empathy, and explore the potential for radical transformation in the Early Years system. Work progressed to develop propositions informed explicitly by a range of new insights, including specially commissioned ethnographic research amongst Essex parents, systemic Multiple Cause Analysis, and Horizon Scanning. A Deliberation Day involved colleagues from across the County considering how to shape up Early Years Commissioning in the light of what had been learnt.

In May 2014 we began a similar journey focused on how better to serve the needs of Working Age Adults with Disabilities, building on the direction of travel signalled in ECC’s Increasing Independence Strategy. Workshops in ThePublicOffice installation were held on 19, 20, 21 May, involving 100+ senior leaders, managers, frontline practitioners, service users and representatives of carers in an immersive experience focused deeply on the experience and capabilities of citizens and their families/networks. Exploration of what co-production means, and deeply immersive listening events with Carers and family members have provided huge challenge to existing ways of thinking and doing.

Essex is certainly not shy of embracing disruption and challenge, and as 2015 commences we are starting to work with colleagues on re-thinking Dementia, Children’s Commissioning, and mental health. Behind all this is our on-going commitment to reflection and learning: we continue to develop written and filmed products that capture the story of transformation – its ups as well as its downs – in order to build further the coalition of the willing, and support the brave mavericks who are leading the way.

If you get ThePublicOffice team working for you, you’ll be lucky. They don’t sweat the small stuff… It’s a rare kind of alchemy in the public sector, to deliver innovation and results with creativity, deep insight and a transfer of learning. They do it every time.

Essex County Council