Tapping into Brum’s talent and innovation

Last Friday I had a pig in muck moment.

Hosted by that hotbed of forward thinking grooviness, the ImpactHub, a small number of fellow travellers sat down for a couple of hours to make my brain hurt on the subject of an ‘open innovation system’.

Pretentious? Hopefully not.

Under discussion was actually something very straight-forward; how we might further encourage and accelerate a progressive, welcoming and applied approach to convening interested parties from civil and civic society to tackle the city’s wicked – and not-so-wicked – issues.

Those of you who have been following my ramblings for the last couple of years will know that I am (very) interested in working out, among a number of things, how the council can itself become more innovative, whilst also being more enabling of others across the city to do the same.

Within the city and the city council there is such incredible talent to tap into and part of my role is to understand how this might be better released and nurtured to the benefit of Birmingham and beyond. Between us, it seems to me, we can invent and reinvent pretty much anything.

So, whether it’s government policies, local issues, technology or – best of all – pure, joyful curiosity that stimulates us and concentrates the mind, there is no better time than now to be thinking about how to forge an even stronger and more powerful coalition of those who would seek to innovate and experiment to make the lives of the people of the city better – and, in doing so, be fulfilled themselves (albeit without losing that essential sense of restlessness that drives creativity).

So, we discussed “multi-actor models” (ie where everyone has a role), a “system balance sheet” (ie where you look at all the benefits and resources, not just one institution’s), ‘brownfield innovation’ (nope, no idea on that one!), ‘innovation thinkers and innovation doers’ (self-explanatory) and loads more besides.

And by the end of the session I had come away with three (more) questions:

  1. How does an organisation create its own appetite and momentum for innovation (as opposed to the chief executive simply mandating “go forth and innovate”)?
  2. How does innovating become part of the day job and not something you need time out of your already busy schedule to go and do?
  3. How do we innovate by default with others?

These, and no doubt other questions, will be returned to in the coming weeks and months and we will find the answers and act on them.

For now, let’s just do some thinking together in public. And to get you started, follow the links below.

Right here, right now – http://www.curiouscatherine.info/2016/05/02/collaboration-do-you-need-to-slow-it-down-and-do-it-right/

31 May to 2 June – https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/birmingham-global-gov-jam-2016-tickets-24903162028

11 June – http://www.tedxbrum.com

Best wishes,


Introducing Birmingham Children in Care Council

How do you give a voice to young people in Birmingham who may feel they have no voice? We asked the members of Birmingham Children in Care Council…

We are a group of young people that meet regularly to discuss being in care and we think about how we can help Birmingham City Council make improvements.  We want to enable children and young people in care (and care leavers) to have a voice and be able to engage meaningfully at different times and in different ways and we want to ensure that corporate parents are listening to those views and showing genuine interest!

We have a new aims for 2016 and we think it sums us up well!

  • Bham CiCC is welcoming group of young people in care.
  • We are friendly, energetic and enthusiastic.
  • We are powerful, positive and amazing!
  • We want to give children in care a voice and we want to tell you if you are in care your voice matters!

We think there are lots of benefits to having a CiCC but these are the ones we tell people about all the time.

Potential to contribute to transforming the lives of those involved

Tammy: “I have had the opportunity to meet all sorts of people, other children and professionals. I have helped lead events and I am a vocal member of the group and I enjoy all the events we speak at. I think these opportunities have helped me develop more confidence in myself. I am part of CiCC because I want to improve things for other children in care…and I think we do!”

Zoe: “I have sat on interview panels and met people like Lord Warner. When I first sat on a panel I was very nervous but I felt more confident as it went on and some of the candidates were more nervous than me! I felt very proud at the end when I fed back my views and Birmingham employed the person I thought was best. I am more confident about being involved in my care plan as well. Being a member of CiCC has helped me know my rights and given me the confidence to share my views with people.”

Ability to show and evidence children and young people’s views and how their engagement can bring about changes to services

We identified campaigns in 2015 that we wanted to focus on. Pocket money has been much more complicated than we thought it would be. But because we raised and shared our concerns and views Birmingham is currently doing a review and we hope that clear guidance will be available soon and shared with children and young people. We are proud to have initiated this review and look forward to children and young people being much more aware of their entitlements and rights.

We also focused on young people’s requests to have sleepovers. Young people told us that sometimes they were confused about what they could ask for and what they couldn’t and sometimes permission takes so long that they just don’t bother. We are in care but we should have the same opportunities as other children so we asked for guidance to be reviewed and reissued to remind carers and social workers that things shouldn’t be so complicated that young people miss out on opportunities!

We also decided that we wanted to share more positive stories about being care.  You only hear about children in care when things go sadly wrong and these stories are upsetting for everyone but particularly if you are in care. We know that being in care can be a positive and we want to make sure all of the positives get shared as often as we can. We try to share our views and we try to do this whenever we can. We have also produced these resources (when I grow up – delete/insert) to help promote our work and all of the quotes are from children we talked to. We are very pleased that when Shannon grows up she wants to be a mermaid because we think every four year old should want to be a mermaid!

A CiCC can support and add meaningful value to a corporate parenting approach

We help shape the priorities for our corporate parenting board. We are getting to know the board and we often attend or host events including an annual Christmas party with Father Christmas! (Thankyou to him) We recently hosted a game show for corporate parents and collected lots of data from a 100 children in care and then played family fortunes to see if corporate parents could identify children’s top answers. We enjoy getting to know professionals better and we remind people all the time that they have a role to play to make things better for children in care.

We produced this resource recently (my ideal social worker) children told us what qualities they would like to see in their ‘ideal’ social worker and we would like to challenge everyone reading this to be the ideal worker that children in care want to be part of their life’s!

Our campaigns for 2016

  • We want to see meaningful and creative work experience opportunities for children in care/care leavers. This could be days, weeks or longer. In can be hard to get ‘good’ work experience if we come and ask our corporate parents to help us then you should!
  • We want to let young people and children know that they can attend their reviews. We want to work with the IRO team to ensure that children and young people can creatively and positively contribute to their care plans.
  • We will continue to share positive stories around being in care and we will work hard to tell everyone about the Children in Care Council.

If you want to give us any feedback or say hello or join the children in care council you can email advocacy@birmingham.gov.uk or ring 0121 303 7217 and speak to a member of Rights and Participation Service.

A new challenge for Dawn Hewins

New Director of HR reflects on her first month at Birmingham City Council

“My first interest in BCC came from completing a ‘Wicked Issue’ project for the Transcend Leadership Programme in 2013-14. I worked with four colleagues from other local authorities and we had a fantastic opportunity to interview Councillors and Officers on the topic of ‘Devolution v Localisation’ and also to present our findings to the Localisation Board.

Since then I have attended regional meetings (mainly with WME or IEWM) in BCC buildings and mixed with HR & OD colleagues and the place got a hold of me and drew me in, so I couldn’t believe my luck when a vacancy came up.

The story of BCC has been well publicised and in some respects feels very raw, especially for Human Resources and Children’s Services. However, so much is happening to address the issues that were identified some 12-18 months ago, that things have really moved on. There is a new leadership team in place both on the Councillor and Officer side and there are detailed plans and programmes being implemented across the council.

And as I like to turn negatives into positives, I feel that it is a great time to join the council and a great opportunity to build on these foundations.

The Improvement Board published their latest report on 21 March, which points out there is still much to achieve, under challenging circumstances, but the panel is encouraged by progress and has decided to end its current level of intervention and step back until the autumn.

This decision is welcomed by BCC as it will enable the council to focus even more sharply on continuing the fast pace of sustained change and improvement across the whole organisation. There is still more work to be done and everyone will need to play their part in helping to deliver the best quality services and outcomes for residents.

As much of the findings from previous reviews featured on culture, my priorities and challenges focus around leading transformation and culture change, and include:

  • Leadership
    setting an example, living by BCC’s Values and Behaviours
  • Building confidence and reputation of HR
    fixing the basics and gaining respect from the business and partners. As my role involves networking and benchmarking, I will continue to work closely with colleagues at WME as they always offer great support and guidance • Integrated Support Services agile working, making the best use of technology, new ways of working,
    promoting digital and self-serve, undertaking lean reviews, understanding demand management
  • The Employer Offer
    looking at customer journeys and checking if they are as good as they can be, reviewing our policies and procedures
  • Workforce Strategy
    developing capability and capacity, career development, talent management and succession planning Progress is already under way to improve internal communications and staff engagement. We have a new internal communications strategy in place and are setting up new internal communications channels to ensure better engagement with staff.

Our Values and Behaviour underpinning all that we do

  • We put citizens first
    We are empathetic and respectful in everything we do
  • We are true to our word
    When we make promises we keep them
  • We act courageously
    We lead, we manage and we tackle the difficult issues every day, every one of us
  • We achieve excellence
    We get things right. First time every time

Making a positive difference every day to people’s lives

So all in all my first month as HR Director at Birmingham City Council has flown by, I started 1 March and it all feels new and exciting – I love it! It is hard work, challenging and varied – one thing for sure is that my 22 years at Stoke-on-Trent City Council has been really good training for this role.”


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