Dublin City Council Beta Projects grew out of the idea that Dublin City and Dublin City Council needed a better way to allow it to trial new ideas when staff member Shane Waring heard another staff member Fiona Craven mention whilst she was presenting at an internal workshop that it was often difficult to trial new ideas if they didn’t fit neatly under a single section of the Council.
(She wanted to explore using trees to absorb water from streets, thereby reducing the risk of flooding and greening the city, and saving the Council money and time. However this meant that her idea overlapped between 3 different sections of the Council – Drainage, Roads & Traffic, and Parks. That would be no problem if it was part of a ‘real project’, but it wasn’t so straightforward when it was simply ‘a trial idea’.)
So he began to explore how to develop a clear way for City Council staff to trial ideas, and used the progressive “10% Innovation Time” (10% of core hours can be used for non-core work) which the City Architects Division of Dublin City Council had put in place a few years before.
What rapidly became clear was that…
- There was huge enthusiasm and openness to either championing or supporting new ideas by City Council staff.
- That many trials overlapped with a large number of sections of Dublin City Council (much, much, more than might be immediately apparent) across all department ‘silos’.
- That there therefore was a need for a loose network of early-adopter/innovator/intrapreneur members of staff.
Out of these aspects a ‘diagonal slice’ of staff from across the organisation (and representing a huge range of grades and job descriptions) has begun to form.
A further advantage of this approach is that it helps reduce the risk of “innovation” being the role of any one set of staff or section – it spreads the approach throughout the organisation. (“Sustainability” can suffer from the same issue – it’s something that needs to weave through an entire city and council at all stages.)
Significant risk for Labs – orgs abdicate responsibility for service experience or policy innovation because “that’s the Lab’s job” #PSILabs
— Jess McMullin (@jessmcmullin) May 26, 2014
After having looked at various approaches (including citizens directly suggesting and leading on projects), we’re currently trialling this as the best approach to projects…
- Project Suggestor: Citizens or DCC staff
- Project Lead : DCC staff (someone willing/has time to run with an idea)
- Project Support : DCC staff (when needed: helping in lots of little ways)
- Project Participation : Citizens (when needed: taking part in a project)
- Project Feedback and suggestions : Citizens or DCC staff
Later we’ll further develop ways of citizens more directly engaging, and suggesting and developing trials.
How many Dublin City Council staff are involved in the Beta Projects?
- Everyday Admin such as checking emails, social media, etc : 1 part-time (Shane)
- Developing up the Beta Projects concept within Dublin City Council and Dublin City : 1 part-time (Shane)
- Involved with individual Beta Projects : Varies depending on the type of project, but generally something like 1-10 staff, naturally all very much part-time contributions. (As well as the larger roles such as actually getting an idea implemented for trial, other roles might include once-offs such as calling to nearby-neighbours’ doors, or repainting a wall after a trial, or giving feedback on how a trial went, and so on. The number of people that have an involvement tends to depend on how many departments an idea overlaps with.)
Please be patient, please be kind, and above all, please be as generous as you can with your ideas and suggestions! We really, really, want to hear from you! 🙂