Portsmouth City Council’s information and advice strategy update – part deux
Last time I blogged we were six months into the development of our Information and Advice Strategy and feeling cautiously optimistic. Using the TLAP toolkit had given us a road map. We felt like we knew where we were going, and were excited to get there even if it did look like a long journey.
What were the steps we took?
1. We split the strategy into two documents so that we could maximise stakeholder involvement in writing it.
2. Our online survey gathered 250 responses to the Vision Statement and by publishing it more people understood the strategy and how to get involved.
3. Since Autumn 2015, we've built a network of approximately 700 stakeholders who are helping us with writing and implementing our action plan.
4. In Spring 2016 we held a series of focus groups to explore opportunities to improve access to information and advice for people who work or volunteer in the community.
We learnt that it’s not always easy to find information, whether it’s for yourself, a friend, relative, or a customer. In life, we use our social networks to point us in the right direction and if you're unable to ask friends, it becomes more important that the professionals you ask are able to provide the right information and advice.
Our focus groups included professionals who worked in signposting and advice. Participants enthusiastically shared snippets of information that could help each other's customers. This got us thinking about 'professional isolation'.
5. As part of our action plan, one of our first activities was to facilitate professional networking and I would absolutely recommend it as a starting point for any council’s information and advice strategy. It's mentioned in the toolkit as a way to drive a more co-ordinated approach - but I think it has the potential to be provision in itself, since through networking you can learn from each other and avoid any duplication of work
I've used the term 'professional' networking here, but it's by no means limited to professionals. It can include members of the local community as well. Maybe they are particularly knowledgeable, or helpful, or they've just been through a similar difficulty and don't want anyone else to run into the same problems.
The action plan will be driven by dynamic working groups where anyone is welcome to contribute - whether that's personal or professional experience, knowledge, skills or resources. It might be as simple as joining a mailing list, or as involved as leading a piece of work. It's going to be a little more complex than a traditional steering group set-up, but if we can involve more people by being flexible, it's worth it.
We were feeling 'cautiously optimistic' at the start of this process because we'd set our sights quite high and weren't sure if people would get on board. But moving forward as a community, we're feeling a lot more confident.
I'd love to hear from anyone else working on information and advice and hear what's happening in other areas - please get in touch with us at 023 9268 8317 or firstname.lastname@example.org