Panel questions from Connect to Collaborate

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Posted on: June 28, 2019 Posted by: Liz Davidson Comments: 0

Panel questions from Connect to Collaborate

We recently attended Connect to Collaborate, hosted by Katharina Burger, University of Bristol as panel members. This event sought to identify collaborative opportunities to accelerate technological, behavioural and institutional transitions towards sustainable connected places.

Katharina asked us to prepare answers to some interesting – and challenging – questions and we thought we’d share them here.

Q. How can the people who enable change be encouraged to work together and how can the people who have services delivered to them be understood better in terms of their desires?

We would argue that there are already efforts and mechanisms to do this – grant funding for consortiums through organisations such as UKRI (previously Innovate UK), is an example. But that’s not to say these processes are perfect. Three important things to consider here are Culture, Capacity, and Communication.

Culture. Do organisations build change and collaboration into job roles? Change is by its nature unsettling and often uncomfortable, so making it part of an organisation’s culture is easier said than done. If there’s one pithy solution suitable for a blog, we’d suggest it’s great people.

Capacity: Do the right people have the right expertise and resource to explore options? To do this effectively, you have to expect that some of these options will amount to nothing. This isn’t a waste of time – this is being thorough. A ‘failure quota’ might be one way of measuring this.

Communication: While it isn’t a waste of time to explore options that might come to nothing, the flipside of this is to be mindful of people’s time. Clear, concise communications are critical to make sure messages are understood quickly and correctly. Again, this is easier said than done.

Q. How have you managed to design intelligent, robust solutions which are personalised, affordable and easy to use?

We’ve been fortunate in having good partnerships with organisations like First West of England and the University of the West of England. These partnerships contributed expertise, insight, sanity checking, and a forum in which to test new ideas.

We’ve had grant support from Innovate UK and the European Union. Similarly, these have given us the financial backing to explore new capabilities and try things.

Q. What are the key barriers for changing practices and cultures alongside technological solution development?

Change is constant but it can also be, by turn, exciting, frightening, exhausting, and frustratingly slow.

Some people will feel threatened by change; they may even be threatened by change. And this may be enough to derail things. To keep things on track, it’s important to be listening and to handle the threat from change (perceived or real) through the communication process.

There is an African proverb “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to far, go together.”Building a ‘change culture’ means encouraging everyone within organisations to take time out to question how things are done and explore how they might be different.

Q. What lessons have you learned from your experience of working in partnership with major partners including First Bus, Transport Systems Catapult, University of the West of England and Bristol City Council? How do you bring about a successful consortium project like this?

We’ve been very fortunate in having forward thinking partners both in the organisations and our direct contacts within them. An observation is that the partnerships play to the respective strengths of the partners.

For anyone wanting to bring about a consortium, we’d suggest they need conviction and persistence alongside their compelling proposal. Keep looking at that proposal from different angles. Why would your potential partner want to be part of your consortium? What’s in it for them? And conversely, what are the risks? Be prepared to adapt your initial concept. Overall this is likely to strengthen your proposal and clarify roles.

These are our thoughts. But what do you think? We’d love to hear your comments and experiences – comment below or get in touch

Finally, to anyone planning a consortium – good luck! 🤞

And finally, finally, thank you to Katharina for organising and inviting us to this great event.

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