With a good understanding of what we're trying to acheive outlined in our Discovery Plan we've focussed this week on getting started.

Using our Stakeholder Map we've been considering how best to engage and communicate with everyone we'd like to speak to. That includes our bid partners obviously, but also council's who have engaged in income management related work with us in the past. For example, those who supported the previous round 1 funded project - GOV.UK Pay as a viable alternative e-payment provider in local government and those who joined our first ever public show & tell about our income management system.

They're spread the length and breadth of the country and so we have to be a little strategic about how we reach them - or as many of them as possible in the time we have available. We had hoped to interview them all individually at their own premises but the logistics of that and the cost of travel these days just don't make that entirely practical. So instead we've grouped them geographically into "North", "South" and "Central" areas.

We've then agreed to use the following methods to conduct our research with them including (in order of our preference):

  • Face to face joint workshops - we'll run one of these in each geographical area and invite as many council's as possible from that area to attend
  • Face to face on-site interviews - where it's still practical to do this, we will
  • Remote interviews - for those who can't meet with us in person, but still want to take part
  • Online surveys - for those who can't spare as much time, but are still keen to input to our research

And so, our "Northern" face to face workshop we plan to run on December 11th. Sharon and Marriane have issued invites to those in this area and have opened up a space at the DXW Digital Leeds office for the day. Lunch will be provided and the workshop will, aligned with our key themes from last week, ask open questions designed to answer our research queries. The format of the day and accompanying slides are being pulled together as I write this.

To help with that (and indeed our future face to face workshops), we started this week mapping out the capabilities of our Income Management System and it's limitations. From a document that Zoe and Debbie produced, Marriane extrapolated out a Miro board that generated a number of queries. Some were technical, others were simply to clarify understanding. All of them helped to create the initial set of open questions that will be asked through the course of our research, though this will be a living document, adjusted according to our research findings as we go.

All of that is not to say that this is a closed project. We're keen to speak with any council who wants to support our research and to that end we've published an Expression of Interest Form to allow council's to join in. We'd like to get this in front of council's who may not have heard of the project yet or who are typically less engaged in these sorts of Discovery activities. We'd be very grateful for people sharing this as far and as wide as possible and we'll contact anyone and everyone who completes it. As council's contact us through it, we'll add them to our Stakeholder Map and loop them in.

The sheer amount of activity we've gone through this week has lead to us introducing two new tools to our team working arsenal - Trello and Zoom. We've used Trello to map out our activities, identifying their current status and who is working on them. Dragging activity cards between various columns including "To do", "In progress" and "Done" whilst attaching our faces to the ones we're delivering has really helped us to make sure that everything that needs to be done is getting done, without us falling over each other.

Zoom is a video conferencing tool that we're using to keep in touch and for our daily 10am standups. It creates a kind of Blankety Blank board (showing my age there!) of attendees and if one person has connectivity issues, it doesn't affect the others or the call itself. On our first day with it, Zoe and I were huddled around her laptop on a call when her battery ran out. Within 30 seconds I'd connected us back in using my personal phone and the call continued. Really easy to use and very flexible - the second day I was held up on the school run and so dialled in on my phone sat in the car outside school and it still worked just perfectly fine.