Opening eyes and broadening minds across our Public Sector

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Sectors

In our last feature, we saw how the spirit of innovation is transforming our Public Sector, with the pioneering INFUSE programme playing a key role as a major catalyst of change – providing a platform and framing the opportunities for public service employees to develop the knowledge and acquire the tools that will shape Wales and the UK for decades to come.

Applications opened on 31st March for Cohort Two of this groundbreaking innovation and research programme – inviting public sector workers from all 10 unitary authority areas of the CCR to join Infuse, also other public and third sector organisations.  Infuse is offering the chance to grow the skills and adopt the methods that change the game in terms of the capacity and capability to innovate.

The challenges being addressed couldn’t be more important for those who apply for Cohort Two. How do we become carbon neutral? How do we embed and measure the impact of our green transformation? How do we best deliver our services in a post-pandemic world? How do we help our communities become more sustainable and supportive?

The answers to all of these critical questions will be explored, nurtured, tested and delivered through the unique Infuse programme structure of:

  • The Adaption Lab – empowering public sector employees to design and deliver experiments that test potentially scalable solutions to regionwide problems.
  • The Procurement Lab – supporting Infuse associates to learn, develop and test new processes and methods for procuring innovative products and services.
  • The Data Lab – enabling people on the programme to better collect, manage, analyse, understand and leverage more effective use of data in decision-making.

Given this highly-practical focus, Infuse presents an outstanding opportunity to learn from some of the most inventive minds in Europe – and acquire fresh skills in a safe environment that gives every encouragement to try them out, while building new networks that enable people to work collaboratively with colleagues from across the region.

 

Following the groundbreaking footsteps of previous cohorts…. …

Those who join Cohort Two will be in esteemed company, following the inspirational footsteps of trailblazing ‘Cohort Alpha’ – the inaugural 20-strong group of Infuse associates who came together from across the region, nurturing groundbreaking ideas that right now are developing into inspired innovations across a wide variety of subject areas. And Cohort One, 29 pioneering public servants who are still on the Infuse journey re-energising their organisations in a renewed approach to the challenges it faces.

As an insight into the far-reaching innovations being developed by Infuse associates, we look at six of those projects already being progressed, showcasing the powerful solutions currently taking shape to address a diversity of critical challenges faced by our region …

 

1. Mapping the CCR Residential Area for Prioritised Decarbonisation

Imagine if we knew which homes needed to be prioritised for a decarbonised retrofit, based on factors such as household health, income and energy efficiency. Think of the incredible possibilities open to us, if we had a tool that could help us see who is most in need.

Infuse is making that happen through a cross-authority team that joined forces on the programme to develop a data-centred GIS map capable of identifying those most in need – enabling Cardiff Capital Region to make the right data-evidenced interventions in the best possible way, through a region-wide approach.

The project’s progress is pure collaboration-in-action. Infuse associates from Bridgend and Torfaen Councils had already mapped household energy usage for their respective postcodes, before pitching their idea to the rest of Cohort Alpha at the beginning of the experiment phase. Associates from both Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan Councils were inspired to become involved, with the team collectively working across boundaries, harnessing previously unutilised energy usage data, to shape the direction of a CCR map that will provide the rigorous and robust data that empowers our individual local authorities to plan their energy efficiency interventions – helping us to hit our race-to-zero climate change targets as a region.

 

2. Carbon Literacy Training

Every single one of us can mitigate our carbon impact. So would greater awareness of that fact – and a deeper understanding of the Climate Emergency – help reduce our carbon consumption, making a sustainable difference to climate change? That’s the question being addressed by Infuse associates working with communities across the Vale of Usk.

This ‘carbon literacy’ is already being nurtured through training sessions delivered to Council employees across the Gwent region. The Infuse project sought to test whether this training could be embedded more widely and sustainably using a ‘train the trainer’ model: identifying and overcoming any barriers to implementing an ongoing community delivery model.

The Infuse associate managing this project has worked internally with members of the procurement and sustainability team to identify potential short and longer-term blockers – building a strategy around ‘influencers’ who are energised to continually engage from within the community, sustaining a train-the-trainer approach that will live beyond the planned lifespan of the project.

 

3. Innovative Procurement to broaden commercial opportunities in Wales

Our local authorities spend millions of pounds every year procuring goods and services – but much of their spend is made outside of the locality and often outside of Wales. How can we spend more Welsh public money with Welsh businesses? How do we help those businesses tender for opportunities to the best of their ability? How could we get more money recirculating for the benefit of the local and Welsh economy?

This innovative project is looking to find the priceless answers to those high-value questions – examining procurement data and exploring how we can best widen opportunities to grow our local and foundational economies, as a first step to fully understanding and integrating a successful supplier network across our region.

Inspired by the learning from the programme’s Procurement and Data Labs, an Infuse associate from the Vale of Glamorgan has taken on the challenge of encouraging more local procurement in the Vale and across the CCR, investigating if a platform can be developed to address the lack of market intelligence around local suppliers, enabling local authorities and public sector providers to radically improve access for local supply chains in the tendering process.

 

4. Exploring Viable Solutions to Managing Waste Streams

Dog waste presents a significant danger to health and the environment – but is it an overlooked abundance of bioenergy? About 10 million dogs produce over one million tonnes of waste in the UK every year – and an Infuse associate from Monmouthshire County Council is scoping the practicality of generating energy through anaerobic digestion, potentially turning an unpleasant health hazard into a sustainable energy source.

The ‘theory of change’ tool introduced through the Adaption Lab proved to be especially useful for this project. It’s provided an invaluable method in helping to identify the right research question to investigate within the relatively short time available – providing a framework for the associate to identify key inputs and resources required, as well as the tasks and measures necessary to achieve the desired outcome.

The result? An experiment that has produced a very strong research output – and a funding bid to further explore the issue.

 

5. Reigniting a much-needed Library Service

Is it possible to reignite and reinvent an otherwise dormant project – breathing new life through innovation skills and fresh thinking? This project kickstarted a stalled Library scheme using the skills, tools, methods and processes acquired through the Infuse programme – reshaping and piloting a new service that was in danger of being ‘lost’ during the pandemic.

Equipped with ideas gleaned from desk research, the Infuse associate undertook a stakeholder mapping exercise that identified the key players and expanded the community of individuals and organisations to involve. The result pointed towards a novel solution – a ‘Digital Lending Library’ supplemented with a Digital Community Champions offer.

The Infuse approach really came into its own during a very short two-month experimentation period, with the Adaption Lab demonstrating that experiments need not always start from scratch – and that a useful starting point can be found where someone has already been addressing the challenge.

 

6. Embedding an ABCD Approach in Local Authorities

How do you put ‘Communities’ at the heart of community development, making sure their voices are heard first and last? Infuse has shown that the answer lies in Asset Based Community Development – building positive community change by focusing on ‘what’s strong, not what’s wrong’.

Embedding ABCD as a consistent approach to community development across Cardiff, Newport and Vale of Glamorgan was the main challenge for Infuse associates working on this project – building on examples of best practice already present in three highly diverse geographies.

That diversity of perspectives proved to be crucial to shaping the way forward, with one associate exploring how ABCD was being used around data collection, another focused on how it could support cultural venues – and two associates scoping how best to co-produce services with citizens, enabling both improvements to the community and individual empowerment.  

The progress being made on each of these projects is incredibly encouraging – bringing together best practices and novel approaches to the benefit of all communities across Southeast Wales – and we’ll be updating on the development of each project – and the Infuse programme as a whole, including the achievements of all future Cohorts  – in our future features.

If you’re interested in joining Cohort Two, or would simply like to know more about this extraordinary programme of innovation, go to:

https://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/infuse/

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