Daniel Goodwin

Feedback from SOLACE Summit

Last week I was at the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives & Senior Managers (SOLACE) conference in Edinburgh, and very good it was too. I will not attempt to summarise it as others have already done so (see SOLACE’s own website or Jonathan Flowers’ blog for example). However it was a very useful event and I have come away with a few thoughts that I am hoping to crystallise here.

I would first like to pick up on a discussion that happened at the summit and which prompted a thought about how people have a range of different relationships with their councils. This idea flowed from a session led by Jon Ainger from Impower, Mark Armstrong, from Aberdeen and Jenny Rowlands from Lewes, which focused on the kinds of conversation that we might have with the public on the development and delivery of services. These clearly differ depending on the relationship that someone has with the service, yet we don’t often think about the subtleties implied by that.

People can also engage differently with the same organisation, depending on the subject matter and the kind of relationship that is defined by it, for example being simultaneously a tax payer, resident using universal services or recipient of some form of personal care.

I think that this can be described as a relationship on two axes. One relates to the type of service received on a scale ranging from personal to universal services. The other relates to the kind of interaction a person has with the service, on a scale ranging from their personal interaction to their contribution as a member of the wider community. This varying relationship may be described in line with the following diagram:

Universal service



Personal service


‘Caring community’ member


‘Personal gain’ engagement

‘Common good’ engagement

The categories and the language need a little refinement, however where I think this could get quite interesting is if one uses the various ‘Values mode’ categories of ‘Pioneer, prospector, and settler’ as set out on the Cultural Dynamics website and in the New Local Government Network’s ‘Changing behaviours’ papers. This would tend to suggest that there would be three different kinds of conversation for each of my four categories of citizen, consumer, co-producer or ‘caring community’ member depending on the individual’s ‘values mode’ starting point.

The question that the session therefore posed for me was how do we ensure that our discussions with the public are open and straightforward enough to enable an honest discussion about their starting point and the best way to engage with them. Something that I will be discussing with colleagues back at work and hopefully with you through this blog.


7 comments on “Feedback from SOLACE Summit

  1. Claire Tester
    October 17, 2011

    Fascinating. So any conclusions about how you adapt the ‘conversation’?

  2. jonathanflowers
    October 17, 2011

    Moving further out into n dimensions on this I think that where the person is coming from will also be a function of whether the service interaction is seen by the individual as a distress “purchase” (eg homelessness) a “transactional entitlement” (eg bins) or a “positive life changer” (eg getting the school you want, getting respite care).

    • Daniel Goodwin
      October 18, 2011

      Absolutely right, and I think further categories would include whether the relationship is a ‘choice based’ service like libraries or leisure, or an enforcement based one such as parking.
      Of course some of the interactions will not be service ones at all and around the citizenship area there will be more to do with the role of a council as a civic leader and whether you feel part of that society or not. Probably more like sub-categories.

  3. jonainger
    October 17, 2011

    Hi Daniel – thanks a lot for writing this up. I think there is something very interesting about your analysis and I will attempt to follow up today with a note on applying value modes to the different groups. I’d also been keen to hear from others about names -I dislike ‘service user’ because it does not highlight the participative nature of services. I’ve been struggling to come up with a single word but perhaps we should embrace the 4 ‘C’s as above and accept that people will play fundamentally different roles depending on their relationships. And that one individual might hold multiple roles?

    • Daniel Goodwin
      October 18, 2011

      Yes, I think that’s right. The point of my model is that all four roles, imperfectly named as they are, will be held by people at different times and sometimes simultaneously. These are fine examples of cognitive dissonance, for example wanting low taxation (citizen), and wanting a service available at all hours and preferably with a face to face interface (customer). I look forward to your further contribution on this and see also Jonathan Flowers’ comment..

  4. Nick Booth
    October 17, 2011

    That’s an interesting way of describing how we interact with government – or not. It might also explain why government can be very frustrating to deal with. The service set up to have a conversation with a “customer” often seems ill equipped when someone who is citizen mode wants to deal with it.

    • Daniel Goodwin
      October 18, 2011

      Quite. We’re often so focused on one area of the srevice that we miss the others out entirely. Websites are a good example where we are often in promotion or information mode and maybe the person just wants a transaction and has to go through e-reams of information to do it. We’re having a conversation about just this issue on Thursday.

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This entry was posted on October 16, 2011 by in Constitution and community, Local Government Futures, Public Value.
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