Creating digital communities with the Improvement Service in Scotland.

The Improvement Service (IS) works with Scottish councils and their partners to improve the efficiency, quality and accountability of local public services by providing advice.

The Challenge

Its partners in the public sector are facing a complex landscape of tightening budgets and increasing demand, making the role of IS more important than ever. So when it came to helping partners collaborate and share best practice, IS knew that it needed to go digital. As Mike McLean, programme manager, knowledge and collaboration at IS, explains: “The Improvement Service wanted to create an online environment where we could encourage innovative groups, local authorities, other public services, new communities and teams of employees to work together in new ways to share knowledge, control costs and offer increased flexibility — but above all to improve productivity. ”

Key Challenge

How to encourage new users to participate and share best practice on a new collaboration platform.

The Solution

IS achieved this by partnering with Knowledge Hub, the public sector knowledge service powered by Placecube’s online collaboration platform – Digital Place for Communities. ‘Communities’ is designed for cross-platform knowledge collaboration and delivered as a Software as a Service (SaaS) subscription, to create a digital meeting place for local authorities and public sector organisations everywhere. Placecube developed a Scottish Network within the Knowledge Hub, which allows users across Scotland to filter content particular to IS members and quickly identify which groups are relevant to them and their work. This has also provided functionality so that IS can directly engage users through key content and profile groups. While IS faced initial challenges in encouraging new users and groups to join and participate, working closely with key public service partners and professional organisations attracted content-rich groups and, in turn, provided new users with a rewarding experience. IS also aimed to break down the traditional siloed approach to working by encouraging users to make connections with other groups and related content. To do this, the platform was designed to actively suggest appropriate content and similar users. These efforts have been so successful that, in just five years, Scottish local authorities and their public service partners have become a major presence on the platform, making up 28 percent of Knowledge Hub’s 150,000-strong user base. McLean says: “Scotland has grown into such a significant user of the platform that Placecube regularly liaises with our staff to gain insight and feedback from our users. They are actively involving us with the future plans for the site’s development. The team has also introduced us to other knowledge management teams so that we can exchange best practice and share the development of support materials.”

Key Focus

Partner with key participants across Scotland to drive the best content to the platform. Make existing content easy to find and user experience a core focus.

The Result

While the platform is already a success, there is still much more to come. Next, McLean says, IS will aim to encourage the use of the platform by community groups to reflect the ever-increasing trend towards decentralisation and community empowerment. McLean continues: “The Placecube team have actively listened to our feedback and have created a development plan that will allow us to respond to and fulfil our users’ needs. For example, we’ll shortly be rolling out the ability to run webinars from groups which can then be stored in the library for re-use.” For Jason Fahy, Chief Executive of Placecube, this platform is a perfect example of how public-private partnerships have the power to create strong digital communities and drive digital transformation. He says: “I think there’s an understanding that digital transformation, far from being change for change’s sake, is about building something better.”

What is Knowledge Hub?

Knowledge Hub is a secure place to exchange knowledge, ideas, insight and experience online. The platform is based on Digital Place for Communities from Placecube. From private group discussions to professional networking, Knowledge Hub is helping the public sector and its partners work, collaborate and spread best practice across the UK..

For Communities Knowledge Hub

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