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Crowdfunding for Public Services Network (PSN)’s local Solutions Advisory Group (SAG)

February 23, 2014

Here’s something new in the land of Digital. And something not so new, with new innovation.

The not so new bit is that the local public services economy is fragmented into thousands of legal entities. That’s its strength (local arrangements for local people) and it weakness (national governance and funding is not straightforward).

The new bit
For one shared business opportunity, across local public services, we are seeking to provide national capacity that with an innovative “crowdsourcing” approach.

For those new to it, the word “crowdsourcing” was coined in 2006 and can apply to a wide range of activities. I like Wikipedia’s definitions; “Crowdsourcing is the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people, and especially from an online community, rather than from traditional employees or suppliers.

“Crowdfunding” is the process of funding your projects by a multitude of people contributing a small amount in order to attain a certain monetary goal. The process is often used to subdivide tedious work”

In other words, you ask lots of people or organisations to contribute a little.

The opportunity.
Right now, we have an opportunity to improve multi agency local service delivery across police, health, local authorities, third sector, passenger transport and beyond.

Very many reports complain of public service silo’s, so it’s a great idea to have a public service infrastructure to help us work together better. We are building a computer network that joins these organisations together securely. This computer network is already well developed and is known as the Public Services Network, or “PSN”.

We have found that getting the “secure” bit right is much more difficult than anyone had anticipated. This has resulted in many organisations voicing their aspirations and concerns, most recently at an excellent workshop co-ordinated by the Local Government Association (LGA). It was an impressive alliance of influential parties, with Local Government chief executives, senior officers from the Cabinet Office, the PSN team, the government computer security group CESG, the DCLG, the LGA, IT leaders from the Local CIO Council and Socitm, and other influential representatives.

We are all working as a team to ensure PSN offers the transformational efficiencies it has the potential for.

Great progress, but as ever there is more to be done. At an individual organisation level there are complex options to consider to ensure the business benefit of PSN is realised, without compromising security against cyber threats. A pragmatic risk balance is agreed to be desired, but this is different in each organisation. So, what we need is some more people who can understand what a local public service organisation’s needs are, what the technical issues are and what the security requirements are. And then help local organisations to deliver the pragmatic and proportionate security measures that make sense locally.

But each organisation doesn’t need a full-time specialist. We need a small pool of people able to help each of the regions in the UK. We need a Solutions Advisory Group (SAG) and need to fund some staff to populate it.

Seeking central funding through measures such as “New Burdens” or ordinary central budgeting are difficult, not guaranteed and time-consuming. And we have an immediate requirement.

The innovation
So I thought, how about if each of 500 local organisations contributed £1,000? That would raise enough to recruit some useful people for each of the regions. I was delighted when the organisations I suggested the idea to said “Yes, let’s try that”. The IT and digital leaders society (Socitm) and then the Local Chief Information Officer Council (LCIOC) both gave it their support and many individual organisations have indicated they would contribute. So, we have just launched a local public service Crowdfunding initiative, hosted by Socitm.

That’s the new bit. Crowdfunding for a shared local public services resource. There’s some more information on the Socitm web site here:

I hope it works, because delivering joined up public services is critical to the future of efficient, effective delivery that citizens like.

  1. Nottingham City Council confirm their intention of signing up to the PSN Solutions Advisory Group funding portal.

  2. Shropshire Council think it’s a great idea, and will be signing up!

    • It’s only three days since we launched this and already six local authorities have signed up.

      • robmiller3831 permalink

        Hi Steve, I like the idea of collaboration to work towards a common goal – and I think that there’s a fairly clear sense across localgov that we need to achieve a more practical approach to security (which balances that with usability, cost and service delivery too).

        But do we have any indication of the commitment from the PSN? Having put quite a bit of expensive resource into the previous workshops I’m keen to make sure we’ll get a return on our investment.


      • Rob,
        I think the commitment from the PSN team to ensure we get a benefits focussed infrastructure is strong. But there is lots to do across Health, Fire, Police, Central and Local Gov, and scarce resource for us all – austerity does that! So having a better voice for Local will help the PSN team to maximise the value of their commitment. The investment of a thousand pounds for SAG, compared to hundreds of thousands for questionable security measures seems like a great return, I think.

      • robmiller3831 permalink

        OK, well count us in too. Hopefully this will help us get to the right place – and I agree that the collaborative approach is definitely the best way for councils to make their case. Thanks for bringing that together!

  3. Dawn permalink

    Steve, I work for a local authority and I believe a lot the problems are down to a lack of communication between authorities. We have a number of neighbouring authorities within a 10 miles radius of us yet we hardly ever converse with them. I couldn’t even tell you who my PSN counterpart is in any of those authorities. I believe this has led to a lot of inconsistencies in what the Cabinet Office has allowed when handing out PSN certificates. This is evident just by looking at the external systems/services that authorities are still using that don’t meet PSN requirements.

  4. pferdy permalink

    Kemuri is a start-up with ambitions to build a social enterprise that is co-designed and co-produced by Councils with Social Services Responsibility (CSSRs). It needs a national infrastructure for safely and securely storing personal data of vulnerable people living alone. The infrastructure would allow families to co-operate with care agencies by checking wellbeing on a daily basis by unobtrusive predictions of hourly activity.

    Rather than relying on the goodwill of the private sector suppliers ( the lowest cost provision would be by using a shared service open to all CSSRs and certified care agencies.

    Kent Connects has helped already by awarding a prize of £2000 to get a successful demonstrator of a product that predicts the risk of hypothermia, dehydration and immobility of vulnerable people living alone. If 100 other CSSRs chipped in the same amount, then there would be no difficulty in securing the funding for piloting and national roll-out. The benefits of daily identification of risk could prevent many emergency admissions to A&E, distress related to falls and even deaths of people lying unattended, unable to call for help.

    Crowdfunding by public sector bodies is ideal for social enterprises whose main purpose is community good, not pursuit of untaxed profits.

  5. Blackburn with Darwen Council is committed to the SAG and is processing its contribution.

  6. Geoff Connell permalink

    I’ve paid twice 🙂 once for Newham and once for Havering. If we get consistent solutions designed it will save every authority lots of money through reduced design costs, reduced CoCo assessemet work, provide opportunities to jointly procure solutions against the designs, etc.

  7. Nick Roberts permalink

    Hi Steve, just to confirm Surrey CC was first to cough up 🙂 and we fully support the initiative. It will pay for itself over and over during the next round of assessments.

  8. The North Eastern ICT Partnership (Northumberland County, Newcastle City, North Tyneside, Gateshead, South Tyneside, Sunderland City and Durham County councils) agreed at its AGM last week to lend its support to the formation of a PSN Solutions Group.

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