Sunday, 23 October 2011

Big Society research at Bramshill. LPP course Syndicate 4

At the Leading Powerful partnerships Course last week the Syndicate I directed created the following response that they have agreed to share. It follows their individual and collective research on helping and encouraging active citizens
The group consisted of senior leaders from Policng, Fire, Health, Local Authority  and the Home office. So a good mixture. The results were well presented to the rest of the course and to a panel chaired by a senior Home office leader

So, its longer than normal but here goes

There is a policy drive to encourage local people to become more active in their local communities. How can public services and communities work together to encourage this, and what are the risks and opportunities?


Big Society, A credible plan for increasing engagement and participation to reduce public sector overheads or just a big idea?  Despite substantial investment, involvement and participation has remained static with the same people volunteering and personal commitment declining.   Volunteering peaked in 2007/08 and the significant policy drive of the last five years, now grasped as an underpinning ethos by the coalition government, has failed to reverse the subsequent subtle decline.  Those areas central to the vision of Big Society & reducing civic overheads, such as building neighbourhood structures, supporting cohesion & working with key public services attract the smallest proportion of volunteers. However there is now an opportunity to identify the enablers and drivers of meaningful participation for a more involved and engaged future.


 Throughout the 2010 General Election campaign David Cameron actively promoted his ‘Big Society’ ethos:

“You can call it liberalism. You can call it empowerment. You can call it freedom. You can call it responsibility. I call it the Big Society……

The rule of government should be this:

If it unleashes community engagement – we should do it.

If it crushes it – we shouldn’t.”                                 David Cameron Liverpool July 2010

Government has completed its comprehensive spending review and local authorities are aware of the efficiencies they are expected to make over the coming years. Big Society Is actively promoted as integral to deficit reduction.

It has become increasingly clear to communities that things will be achieved differently in the future. This does present exciting opportunities to community groups and social entrepreneurs.

So, how do public services and communities work together to encourage local people to become active citizens?

2.         METHODOLOGY

 In addressing this question a review of available material was undertaken in four areas;

Academic Research & Literature Review

A review of literature, readily available on the intranet was undertaken, utilising key word searches including ‘community engagement’, ‘community participation’, ‘community volunteering’, ‘active citizenship’ and ‘citizen involvement’.  It is acknowledged that this was limited and that academic research and specialist literature, unless of a high profile, is unlikely to be readily accessible in this manner.  This review cannot therefore be considered as comprehensive but merely an insight in to higher profile, readily available material.

Statistics & Data

Articles and documents identified within the literature review were examined to ascertain the availability of relevant statistics and data.   The availability of statistics was therefore also limited within the constraint of the literature review. Validated and statistically significant data was selected from that identified in the review.

Opinion pieces and media commentary

A review was undertaken of relevant media articles and opinion pieces readily accessible through a targeted internet search, utilising the specified keywords.  

Online Survey

Primary research was undertaken, utilising the Survey Monkey online survey tool to canvass 50 individuals known to syndicate members.    Questions explored views regarding the barriers to participation and involvement, planned personal participation, planned partnership engagement with communities and perceptions of engagement opportunities.

Survey Questions can be found at Appendix A.

3.         FINDINGS

Academic Research & Literature Review

The limited review undertaken identified a wealth of policy statements and strategy documents but limited academic research.  Arnstein et al in 1969, describing the Ladder of Citizen Participation’ is referenced in most subsequent research and opinion pieces.  She described the bottom rungs as non participation; manipulation and therapy. This type of engagement and involvement is no more than lip service to the principle of working together and may even be the deterrent preventing community involvement. Arnstein identifies rungs three to five of the ladder as “tokenism”, allowing the public to have a voice through informing, consultation and placation but with no follow through and no assurance of change. Bruni et al, (2008) reiterated this referring to public participation in helping to set priorities in healthcare, suggesting that there are three factors that increase public enthusiasm for becoming active in their communities; one of the key issues being that it is dangerous to engage or consult then ignore, as this is bound to invoke anger and disengagement. At the top of the ‘ladder’ Arnstein (1969) described “citizen power” as the ultimate aim, which she described as involving participation, delegated power and finally citizen control. 

There is a consistent theme of static engagement: same citizens – same activities.  The Unshackling Good Neighbours report concluded that the reasons people do not volunteer more regularly are the result of a mix of economic and societal influences, with regulatory structures playing a part.  It identified the inhibitors of participation as: perceived risks of personal litigation, insurance issues, intrusive regulation and bureaucracy.  The task force identified a wealth of opportunities for involvement from informal neighbourhood activity to more formal organised volunteering.  The Government’s strategy document, Building a Stronger Civil Society identified a ‘real opportunity for the voluntary and community sector across the three core components of the Big Society Policy Agenda; empowering communities, opening up public services and promoting social action.’  The strategy outlines a vision of public service reform enabling charities, social enterprises, private companies and employee owned cooperatives to compete to offer high quality services.   Examples cited include reform of the planning system, communities bidding to run community assets and community rights to challenge service provision & suggest alternative providers.


The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) Citizenship Survey, provides a comprehensive analysis of active citizenship, community engagement and participation.   

In 2010, 41% of the population in England formally volunteered at least once but only 26% of the population volunteered once per month.  This is estimated as contributing £22.7billion to the economy.  Formal volunteering is defined as ‘Giving unpaid help through groups, clubs or organisations to benefit other people or the environment’.  Informal volunteering is defined as ‘Giving unpaid help as an individual to people who are not relatives’.  Formal volunteers are most likely to be aged between 35 to 49 years.  Younger volunteers are more likely to volunteer informally.

The most popular sectors for formal volunteering and participation include sport (53%), sponsored events (52%), hobbies/recreation/art (42%), religion (36%), leading groups/committee members (37%), and education (34%).  

Barriers to volunteering are cited as insufficient spare time, in particular work commitments or care of dependents (82%), bureaucracy (49%), risk & legal liability (47%), not knowing how to get involved (39%) and having the wrong skills (39%).  Individuals are more likely to get involved if they are directly asked, if friends and family are also involved, if it benefits their career prospects or they can do it from home.

The number of individuals volunteering and participating has remained static for over 10 years but there is an actual decline in the hours given.  There is, however, growth in employer supported schemes (from 18% to 24%). 

In 2008/9 42% of women formally volunteered compared to 38% of men.  In 2008/9 42% of white adults formally volunteered compared to 34% of minority ethnic group adults.  Deeper exploration reveals that this difference is due to factors other than ethnicity such as socio-economic classification.  There is significant variance across socio-economic classification with the long term unemployed least likely to volunteer (30%).

The return on volunteers nationally is estimated at between £3 & £8 for every £1 spent.  The Office of the Third Sector estimates that there are over 55,000 social enterprises in the UK, generating more than £27bn in turnover.


The national media is divided by the whole issue of the big society.  One article opened with ‘Big Society, or just BS’.  Some papers, such as the Sun, have started to conduct polls try and gauge what direction they should take either in support or in opposition to the ethos.  This poll produced the first indication of the national sway with 46% of those surveyed thinking it was a good idea but 63% explaining that they didn’t understand it.  (Sun survey 19/10/2011)

The broad sheets editorial comment gives some flavour of their views, by way of example (Guardian on-line 15th Feb 2011)In principle, there is not just nothing wrong with the big society; there is lots right with it. Citizens should have a sense of solidarity with each other. They should give something of themselves to their neighborhood and their community’. This is a fairly positive endorsement of the concept but they conclude that the timing might not be right.

In contrast to this, the Financial Times has a very cynical view of the issue stating that David Cameron has failed to ignite a spark amongst the very society it is desperate to mobilize. They also opine that the Big Society seems to run in parallel with cuts in local services and that the entire affair, albeit noble, is getting local people to take on local service delivery as the local authority backs away. (Financial Times 14/2/2011)

What is clear is that no one section of the media has a distinct view.


An in depth analysis of responses revealed key themes.  There was consistent identification of the opportunity to involve citizen more to alleviate financial pressures in the public sector.  Opportunities in clubs, societies and sporting associations, particularly youth organisations, were favoured in the short term.  Opportunities to contribute to goals such as greater cohesion, protecting the environment and improved health were favoured in the short term. 75% of respondents expressed a keen interest in undertaking partnership work with their communities.

The respondents collectively identified 24 risks to greater participation, yet only 11 opportunities.  Risks included ‘a threat to standards and compliance’, ‘costs associated with red tape and management’, ‘the need for greater supervision’ and the ‘potential irreversible loss of assets’.  Opportunities were identified as ‘breaking down barriers’, ‘promoting transparency and understanding’, ‘enabling greater access for hard to reach groups’, ‘alleviating performance pressures’.



Despite a high profile policy drive, and a wealth of successful local schemes, there has been no substantial increase in national levels of engagement and participation.  The barriers to participation are consistent and unchanged sited as insufficient spare time, in particular work commitments or care of dependents (82%), the risk exists that these factors will not easily be removed.

Perceptions of red tape, bureaucracy and rules inhibit involvement.  The same individuals are volunteering in ‘interest based’ clubs and organisations.  Socio-economic factors influence the likelihood of participation with the long term unemployed least likely to get involved.  Employer led schemes represent the only growing area of participation yet financial pressures may threaten their future.  There needs to be significant government focus on identifying and then investing in the enablers and drivers of effective participation.  Local schemes are shown to work, yet require support to enable credibility, sustainability and growth. 

The opportunity to drive initiatives in the wake of the current policy drive should be grasped.  There are impressive green shoots of participation contributing to long term issues of health, the environment and sustainability. 

A consensus has yet to be reached amongst the many groups who share a stake in the outcome of this policy drive, and that some groups retain a level of scepticism.

The beneficial opportunities if realized could be significant, but these come with associated risks as set out above. On balance this report concludes that despite this not being a new idea at a conceptual level, it has had a very short lifespan as a policy with mainstream backing or significant investment, therefore it will interesting to track developments going forward as the push continues.

So what can the public agencies do?

The key policies contained in the Cabinet Office Strategy document ‘Building a Stronger Civil Society’ describe three areas where public services can change the way they do things, they are

Empowering communities – giving local councils and neighbourhoods more power to take decisions n their local area

Opening up public services enabling charities, social enterprises private companies and employee owned cooperatives to offer services

Promoting Social Action encouraging and enabling people from all walks of life to play a more active role in society and promoting more volunteering and philanthropy.

There is a fear that embedding involvement would mean devolving large-scale powers to community groups ill-equipped to manage these.  There needs to be reassurance that any approach would involve communities in the design and delivery of public services.  The approach should involve

  • Informing communities of decision making structure ad service provision
  • Consulting communities on the delivery of services, eg through patient forums, surveys, SNT panels
  • Involving citizens ad community organisations to identify local needs ad develop localised or tailored solutions
  • Devolving appropriate power, budgets or decision making to community organisations eg maintenance of playing fields or street lighting

Achieving the goal of public services and community working together is a long standing challenge with many risks. In a society that has become quite insular and where the public have not always been interested or engaged with public services, there may be challenges in identifying people with the enthusiasm or right skills to engage with this initiative.  People may come to the table with their own agenda, wishing only to make a contribution to issues close to their own hearts. There may also be risks around identifying vulnerable people if services are delivered within the community rather than directly by public services. However it presents enormous opportunities to make public services more relevant, sustainable and potentially cheaper.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Transforming Leadership and other issues

I was asked to give my thoughts on Transformational Leadership. here we go. To reiterate; this is a personal view.

Over the last 10 years Policing leadership has worked to address the balance between Transformational and Transactional Leadership

So what does it mean? Is there a difference or is it just management jargon? Do they operate together or are the necessarily separate entities? Can you be one without being the other?

The Transactional element is essentially about doing the things that have to be done. Ensuring that the transactions of the business are carried out and are executed in the spirit and the word of the business processes and policies.

The Transformational approach is all about challenging the business, supporting and growing talent, working outside the managerial confines of the dreaded "box", and making change systematic.

But, I would suggest you need both.
Leaders cant just operate in the world of persistent changing activities and forget the delivery of the business. Yes, as a transformer one should be seeking out better and more effective ways of delivering the business. But, for example, if crime rises or detections fall then the leader should be looking to correct and focus in a transactional way. I don't think you can be completely one or the other, I think you need to be both but that the % of time in each will differ according to the task and the context.
Transformation Leadership is about building, transactional is about maintaining, in short.

So what about today's leaders, what should they be?

Without doubt they need to operate in a very changing environment.
The budget restrictions and loss of staff alone demonstrate the need to deliver the business with far less and in much more effective ways. It is about losing valuable people, Departments disappearing and boundaries being removed.
Agility in thinking, Adaptability to a new environment and the ability to visualise new solutions to old problems will be paramount.

But equally the new leader needs to adapt the business to new crimes, whose impact is still starting to develop, Phishing, ID theft, Trojan horse, Hacking, the impact of Social Engineering will require careful analysis and a response that can operate effectively in a Neighbourhood, as much as it can in Cyberspace. A big ask indeed.
Equally our new leaders need to be able to communicate in different ways, digitally and dynamically.

They need to develop themselves, their team and impact on the organisation to improve the business delivery for all.

I think the new leaders will be transformational, but they will also need to be keeping a weather eye on performance and delivery, particularly of the confidence people have in Policing.
Instant History as revealed through social media and the response by the existing media will breed a new requirement to understand not just what is happening with existing performance but a whole host of other indicators inside and outside the organisation.

No mean feat

But I am also confident that Police Leaders have developed over the years and by sharing with partners and being open to new ways of doing business we will deliver the policing service the public can expect.

Finally, the relationship Leaders have with their Officers or Staff is fundamental to the success of the organisation. That relationship is neither transactional nor transformational. Its more important that both. It's critical.

Bramshill, White Deer and Pumpkins

Bramshill is seen by many in policing here in the UK and abroad as a jewel in the crown of law enforcement. It is a mixture of operational centres, the National Police Library. CEPOL the European Policing Centre, Leadership training and a whole host of other services. Located south of Reading it remains not the most accessible place in the world but has been part of many police officers and staff careers and history.
For me its always been here and despite the fact that its hasn't really changed its looks over the years, its role has been transformed.
Tomorrow I will be supporting the Leading Powerful Partneships programme, a mix of police and other public sector managers and those from the third sector. The formula insists on people really working hard during the week to secure success and forces partners to work together. A little example of how partnerships should work.
Each delegate is supported and recieves constructuive feedback but has the opportunity to test, check and work with different people in a safe environment.
It is no easy journey and in my view is one of the most progressive courses around.
So I am really looking forward to working with my group of senior cops, senior NHS, Local Authority, Fire service and a Colleague from afar. A great mix of skill and talent. The chance to help them develop is very fullfilling.

So more on that next week

I asked people to tell me what I should put on my blog. The next 2 issues come from them.

Living locally to the College is a herd of White Deer

Bramshills' white deer

So whats the connection between Policing and White Deer

Hard to say but perhaps, since a highly respected colleague asked me to add it in, here we are.
They live near Bramshill and seem not to worry about the activities here, equally those attending can coexist with them. If, as a former President of the USA says, People and Fish can live together in perfect harmony then maybe cops and deer can do likewise at Bramshill

To conclude this light-hearted blog Pumkins also need to be addressed,

There is no direct link to policing so here are some recipes once you have used them

But pumpkins are used for Halloween which can be a frightening time for folk, particularly the old or lonely.
Many forces offer advice and guidance. Some have specific posters people can use to ensure they are not to disturbed during the evening

A picture of the No Callers Please - Enjoy your Evening Halloween poster

This is Gwent's which includes a Pumpkin

The next blog will focuses on a host of managerial issues my Tweet followers want me to cover

Friday, 14 October 2011

NPIA leadership training. Thoughts from today

Today I chaired a panel and fed back to a range of presentations from officers and staff on the Senior leadership programme at Bramshill Police College

The task they had as part of their development programme, was to identify how to design a plan to remove 20% from an operational budget within a police force

The groups were made up of Superintendents and Staff equivalents and they worked in syndicates.

This is Training for Reality at it's best.

During the exercise delegates were able to use their own research and inputs from Unions and Federation to design a plan and present it to the panel.

Real life issues, real decisions for real leaders.

I won't go into the pros and cons of each presentation but here are some thoughts that I have gained from listening and feeding back to them

·         We cannot make these savings in isolation. Our staff, the community and their representatives should be engaged.

·         A communication strategy is not the same as a consultation strategy

·         Where we are removing people or departments we need to acknowledge the contribution they have made over time and be sensitive to their efforts in achieving the things they have been asked to do, albeit in different circumstances

·         We need to think wide in approaching the task, and think deep looking in detail at the impact and changes that will ensue from a substantial reduction in budgets

·         Every plan should be Impact Assessed to ensure that the resultant change is fair and proportionate and does not create an organisation we did not intend

·         A well created Equality Impact Assessment is not a box to tick, but part of the decision making process

·         We must never forget that every budget line, department or unit cost invariably has a person behind it

·         We need to be able to describe the organisation we are trying to create. Not just a smaller version of what we have now.

·         Collaboration is not a short term fix. The detail required to make it work can be very challenging, but if the effort is put in, the benefits will come out

·         No part of the organisation should be immune on its own merits, but because it meets critical priorities that have been agreed, and that staff are aware of the consequential increase in reduction elsewhere.

Overall some really valuable contributions and much learning for the delegates to take back to their workplace.

This is an impressive formula for developing leaders and one that the private sector should take notice of and borrow.

I am now charged up ready to help deliver the Leading Powerful Partnerships course next week. More of that later

Well done the leadership team at NPIA

Friday, 7 October 2011

Windermere Swim

So today back in the lake for a swim in Windermere
It was beautifully cold so here is me heading out

And then after about 40 minutes here is me back towards the jetty

A wonderful refreshing experience

Further pictures are on the right

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