Camden Council were keen to reflect on their response to the pandemic and apply this learning to create more participative approaches in communities.
This was a chance to pause, look back and rethink ways of doing things in the future.
Our project aim was to support the Communities Directorate, to use the lessons of the crisis in the post-crisis reconstruction phase and understand how cross-council action - on redeployment and support for example - can drive change and support broader engagement.
We also wanted to understand how far the organisation has embedded participatory innovation principles into its organisational culture. Our research explored the extremes, both good and bad, in Camden’s desired culture change. This spike of insight, important as it is, will need to be understood in the wider context of innovative behaviours in more 'normal' working contexts as we move through the impact of COVID.
Our research findings go on to highlight opportunities for new operating approaches and application of innovation principles, post-crisis.
We designed a methodology around key lines of enquiry and assessment criteria with the council project team, based on themes including collaboration, mobilisation, support services, IT and data strategy.
Our research was based around a programme of interviews with individuals throughout the council, from Chief Executive to frontline staff. We also interviewed partners and representatives from civic society.
Interviews were conducted between June and October 2020, to ensure that both instant experiences and post lockdown reflections were shared. This gave an opportunity for people to take stock of extraordinary events and reflect on their experiences before offering suggestions for the future.
Analysis of what we heard was played back to the council through regular updates, bringing the whole team together for rapid learning sprints and sense making sessions.
Alongside this insight we gained understanding of the council’s current innovation work and where it has had impact.
During our research, we heard peoples’ experiences of what happened during Camden’s emergency response; what they thought worked well, where they thought improvements were needed and things that should stop or continue, going forward.
A number of key themes cropped up - for instance, decision making, agile working and communication.
These have been analysed, synthesised and presented as recommendations using this format:
- What we heard common themes and summary data gathered throughout the interview process
- What we learned what the data tells us about Camden’s response to the COVID-19
- What this means potential paths forward from here, with ideas for future innovation
Impact and Learning
We know the journey through pandemic times is tough, exacerbated by intervals of abatement and continued disruption.
This project was an opportunity for collective reset; thinking about how we operate in shared endeavour to make quick and timely decisions together.
Feedback from sense making sessions was that the findings resonated with Camden, highlighted some things they are were aware of and some that they didn’t. By taking the learning, Camden can now deliberately design as they reframe the ‘new normal.’
What we heard highlights routes for change, with insights and recommendations for future innovation in less linear ways.
Insight in our results report builds on the council’s participatory innovation work with its local communities. It links with Camden 2025 and opportunities for new and evolving operating approaches.
Camden 2025 https://www3.camden.gov.uk/2025/
For more info, please email Pandora@demsoc.eu