myPublicServices ’09

I had a fantastic day at myPublicServices on Thursday. It was a real success. For the first time in a long time (perhaps ever!) I was truly conflicted after lunch: all the sessions looked great, and I could only go to one. Annoying!

I spent most of the morning in Ivo Gormley’s ThinkPublic session. We tried out some of the techniques they use when they’re helping clients to improve service delivery. We had talks from the operators of three sites, and then tried to apply the lessons learned from those sites to our own example scenarios — in our case, an old persons’ home. We took on various personas and tried to apply the good practices from the talks to our own problems. It was a great way to think about things with a new perspective.

One of the sites from that session was particularly interesting: is an online coaching and mentoring site which has established a pretty impressive community of mentors and help-seekers. They take great pains to ensure to preserve their members’ anonymity and to make the site a safe environment to ask sensitive questions. Rather like StackOverflow, but for personal problems. Really good to see. They deserve much more attention than they’re getting.

In the afternoon, I went along to Paul Clarke and Mark O’Neill’s session on bringing together official and unofficial services. I have to say: they were a marvellous double-act. Though I did get appropriated as the representative of all developers everywhere (quite an honour!). They had several Socratic debates followed by discussions covering reliability, incentives, sustainability, ecosystems for innovation — the whole gamut, really. I wish there was video of it. This was immediately followed by another session run by James Munro on “The elephants in the room: the questions people are avoiding”, which addressed lots of the same questions.

It was a really good day, with interesting and inspiring talks and a great mix of people. Mostly, though, there was just a wonderful energy about the place. Enthusiastic, passionate people all talking about practical ways to improve public services. A grass-roots conference, organised by people on the front lines of health services, attended by people who care.

Congratulations to Patient Opinion for their spectacular success. I hope there’s another one next year!