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Co-assessing public services with service users and communities

What is service co-assessment?

Traditionally, monitoring and evaluation in the public sector has been undertaken by professional inspectorate and auditing bodies. This offers objective and quantifiable assessments of public sector performance. However, these assessments do not necessarily cover the burning issues of most interest to citizens and communities.

Co-assessment involves citizens working alongside professional staff and managers to help organisations to better understanding how they feel about services. It offers an ‘insider view’ often lacking in formal assessment. A great illustration of this is when statistics point to reduced crime rates in an area, but local people still have increasing fear of crime. Only through co-assessment can we find out why this is happening, and act to bridge the gap between hard facts and the perceptions and feelings of local people and service users.

Governance International shows you how to make effective use of social media, community websites, local forums and more traditional face-to-face encounters, all offering the opportunity for undertaking assessments together WITH citizens.

How to do it

Governance International has a track record of providing training and consultancy on a range of specific feedback mechanisms, including:

  • Service Satisfaction Surveys of service users which provide service managers and councillors with robust information on levels of satisfaction of service users with public services but also how important service users consider specific public services.

  • Social Media Scrutinies training and enabling citizens to use social media to evaluate existing policies and public services individually and collectively.

  • Open Government Audits, in which a range of stakeholders develop an open government scorecard for your agency, setting out achievements in relation to key open government principles such as transparency, participation and accountability, and providing new ideas for improvements.

How it all fits together

Our 5 Steps Model to Public Service Transformation contains a range of tools to ensure that your agency makes the most of co-assessment. The 5 Steps Model helps you to identify where co-assessment is already happening (‘Map it’), where it is most likely to be cost-effective (‘Focus it’), which citizens are most keen engage in co-assessment (‘People it’), how to raise awareness of the potential of co-assessment in your agency and services (‘Market it’) and how to scale it up (‘Grow it’). Governance International can show you how the tools fit into the 5 Steps Model to make co-assessment work for you by improving the outcomes you achieve and cutting your costs.  

What are the benefits of co-assessment?

Citizens don’t just care about the outcomes of services – it is also important HOW services are delivered, both in terms of the acceptability of the service process (access, suitability, responsiveness, reassurance, empathy, etc.) and the open governance principles which underpin the service (transparency, participation, collaboration, etc.). People may not talk about it using academic language but they really care that local authorities act in an open and fair manner when making decisions that affect their lives.

Consequently, co-assessment of public services brings a radically different perspective to deciding what works – and what doesn’t.

So when users help to assess services, it brings:
  • Clearer lessons on how to improve quality of life, by focusing on outcomes that citizens care most about;

  • Direct feedback on what users and other citizens do NOT value and might therefore be cut;

  • Greater understanding of HOW services should be provided to better meet users’ needs;

  • Insights into how more community resources might be tapped, through feedback on where service users and other citizens would be willing to offer to co-produce services.

  • A more collaborative relationship between public authorities and local communities resulting in increased trust.

  • Better understanding from people in the community about how much public authorities are doing and what is reasonable to expect from them helping to shrink the gap between reality and perception.

What are the risks?

This new form of service assessment that brings in service users and the general public means that you are involving many people who are not ‘conventional’ experts on the service. Naturally this involves risks. In particular, when you use social media the feedback from users will be very direct and sometimes unpleasant. This makes it important to brief staff and provide training in how to deal with user feedback. Despite this there are probably even bigger risks from NOT involving the people who actually need the services, experience how they work in practice and have ideas for what might be better or more relevant to their needs.

Get in-touch

As budget cuts compel public agencies to think more radically about services, Governance International can show you how best to engage your local community in the assessment of your services. With our support and your enthusiasm we can work together to champion citizen engagement in service assessment, leading to better outcomes for communities and greater efficiencies for you. 

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