Enabling joined-up approaches within local governments through a set of tested tools and guidance that improve information flow and communication between public services, practitioners and local authorities. AcrosSilos is a library that collates service patterns which were co-designed and are being piloted in the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham.
Emilia D'Orazio
Saumya Singhal
Barking and Dagenham
The Challenge
Public bodies and services within local governments often work in silos, resulting in systemic flaws that leave citizens facing the brunt of it. We have been working with the Barking and Dagenham Council with the specific challenge of preventing child neglect, which comprises 46% of child protection issues. During our research we observed and mapped patterns of information deficit and lack of communication that was leading to late interventions and resulting in adverse outcomes for vulnerable children and families. Complex multifaceted issues such as these involve multiple actors that need to work together for shared outcomes. It calls for the sharing of information and effective feedback loops to strengthen the system and make it self-organising, which is what we set out to do.
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A Hypothesis-led Approach
We brought together 25+ key stakeholders, consisting of frontline workers, public services, schools and service managers for conducting research and testing interventions in the borough. We worked closely with a team of data and behavioural scientists, bringing our practice of service design to complement them and produce robust insights. Getting things done in a local government in the middle of a pandemic seemed hard and to turn our vision into reality we developed an action strategy. We used low-tech collaborative methods to cater to a wide range of audiences and followed a hypothesis-led approach that enabled us to be iterative, test things quickly and build evidence of what works and what doesn’t. We started with quick wins to create a precedent and get buy-in for longer term interventions. We created solutions embedded in existing channels and ways of working, to make use of available resources, avoid big learning curves and increase ease of implementation.

The Solution: Service Patterns for Local Governments

AcrosSilos is a service pattern library that provides a set of tested tools and guidance to enable joined-up approaches within the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham through information sharing and better communication. The library has the potential to trigger change in any local government. It can be used by service development teams for reimagining interactions between services, practitioners, and local authorities. The patterns are organised into categories of action: get or give access to citizens’ data; orient practitioners to navigate local offers; provide information about a service; redirect a case to more appropriate services. They can be adapted and combined as per needs, and come with instructions and templates that bring them to life. The library is designed to be an open source tool that can grow with the experience of professionals working with/for local governments across the UK. Explore the library here:

The Solution into Action

The patterns collected into AcrosSilos are the result of a collaborative and iterative process, to develop strategies to prevent child neglect in the Borough of Barking and Dagenham. The patterns are being tested and implemented through 3 interventions that allow public services, primary schools and the Council to identify and support children and families at risk early, quickly and more effectively. The Partner Information Portal, allows the Council to securely share crucial information on children and families at risk to schools, so they can better identify and support them. The Interactive Service Guidance, is a set of tools that enable practitioners to quickly identify needs of families and activate appropriate services to support them. A New Feedback and Handover Process, enables services to give feedback to schools for referrals made, and redirects them to other, more appropriate services. Learn more about the 3 interventions here:
The Impact
The implementation of the interventions is still underway and to evaluate their success we have developed short and long term metrics of impact, both qualitative and quantitative, which will help us inform and strengthen the patterns compiled in the library. The interventions will enable schools and services to get in much earlier to support vulnerable children. They will reduce inappropriate referrals, time taken to activate support, escalations to statutory services, and ultimately adverse outcomes for vulnerable citizens. This project has been able to mobilise a huge network of practitioners for taking action, growing as it progressed and as we were able to show value through tangible outcomes. We were also able to influence some of the ways of working of the organisations, who are keen to use our methodologies in their daily practice. Lastly, it has been rewarding to see how the outcomes are enabling deeper conversations within these organisations.
Next Steps and Reflections
The interventions are in the process of being tested through different levels of fidelity. The library is proving to be an interesting tool for discussions and some of the patterns included will be tested in other contexts in the following weeks. We are currently refining a road map that will allow the council to continue implementing them through an iterative and low-risk process. During the process of creating and testing the 3 interventions, we found other services and agencies becoming interested in developing them as well, mainly because information deficits and lack of communication channels are almost inherent to many other public sector agencies. Therefore, we want the library to be an open source tool that grows with the experience of professionals working with and for local governments across the UK. If this resonate with you, do reach out to us! :)
special thanks
A huge thank you to all the people we met in the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham that generously took part in our design process and infected us with their passion and enthusiasm. To Pye Nyunt, Tim Pearse and Craig Fitt-Cook for the tremendous opportunity to work with them, and their continued support and kindness. To Nicolas Rebolledo, our personal tutor, for his guidance and for always pushing us to do more.
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