Weeknotes #4 – Strictly season – but not as you know it

Darren Capes DfT at LCRIG Strictly Highways

So, #weeknotes have had a little holiday…sorry about that – it was all a bit frantic for a few weeks. But, we’re back now, with the Highways UK Local Authority Hub programme published here (go on, take a peek!!), and me ready to work some magic with the awesome team delivering the 8 sessions across both days. So let’s get stuck in…

The week of 9-13 September was the start of ‘Strictly’ season in more ways than one; Strictly Come Dancing on the telly, and Strictly Highways in Blackpool delivered by LCRIG, the Local Council Roads Innovation Group. The event was excellently choreographed by Susanne Ingham and her LCRIG team.

Given that Strictly Highways started on Tuesday afternoon (networking) with a full 2-day conference, it’s not surprising this weeks #weeknotes are mostly a reflection of the event.

I learnt that LCRIG is the community / knowledge sharing spin-out of Project 30, and the associated RAMSframework, set up by Will Britain, Head of Highways and Traffic Management in Blackpool, in 2013. Will shared his experience of ups and downs along his innovation journey, and how this focused him to bring together like-minded authorities to work with and talk to, who are exploring new approaches to securing investment for highways maintenance.

DfT’s Steve Berry was present throughout, and gave keynote presentations on both days. He shared details of the new DfT Ministerial team, as well as the latest in a series of projects/initiatives:

Given my triple passion for highways maintenance, story/communication, and data/technology, it was so heartwarming to see the first morning session, in addition to Steve Berry’s keynote, include:

A couple of the stand-out things for me in Dom’s message were:

  • Whilst we feel acutely the difficulties of lack of funding and too many potholes, to overcome this, we need to translate this message into cases for why we are a good investment. Yes the actual network might be in a rough state, but we the people are the investment because people add the value.
  • For too long we have seen local highways as an expense – but our network is not this, it can and should be delivering value; it is an asset on which to test and trial new solutions.
  • It’s ok to say that you haven’t got all the answers and solved it all. It’s good to be able to show you are on a journey – listen to problems, and helping making the case for changes to deliver that.

I was attending LCRIG with my Local Government Technical Advisers Group (LGTAG) hat on, as a co-opted member of council. We held our combined National Transport and Highways Asset board meetings at the end of Strictly Highways, where Ruth Kinsella and Jennifer Ebanks shared their work at the Co-Creation Partnership. This got members thinking about how our unconscious biases of, say, a BMW driver, or ‘White Van Man’, affect our perceptions and response to situations.

Understanding what common perception biases exist, and how they shape what we think, often at the expense of logical evidence and rational thought, is crucial to help us constructively challenge assumptions and change behaviours.

It was great to see LGTAG represented as part of the Day 1 programme, with John Lamb, Immediate Past President of LGTAG, kicking off his Resilience Planning session with a movie theatre style video showing the impact of severe weather incidents on communities. Top marks John for an engaging and compelling alternative to the traditional presentation format 🙂

Following John (it could almost have been planned…!!!) was Richard Hayes, Chief Executive of the Institute of Highway Engineers (IHE), delving deeper into preparedness in the face of disasters such as severe weather and other incidents, with this advice:

  • ‘Assess relevant types of likely events
  • Consider recommendations in the 2014 Transport Resilience Review
  • Engage with Local Resilience Forums
  • Consider the changes in climate and their effect on the highway network
  • Reinforce the asset
  • Revise current operations to ensure a risk-based approach is being considered
  • Undertake training exercises on various scenarios
  • Comply with Well Managed Highway Infrastructure Code of Practice
  • Ensure all staff are competent and can plan for foreseeable events
  • Stress test systems
  • Ensure staff and resources know what they can AND cannot do’

It looks like IHE are developing a competence-based training course for release in 2020. It’s being developed during late 2019 by key senior staff who have hands-on experience of major incidents.

Another presentation that engaged and intrigued me was that from Paul McMahon, University of Bolton, and former chair of the ICE North West branch, who is developing an ICE-accredited Apprenticeship Degree course. Having spent an equal amount of his career in academia and industry, Paul seems well-place to lead this, and he is doing so in a stunning collaborative style with, as it says on this slide, the ICE, LCRIG, ACED, IHE, CIHT, APM, MPA and others (I’ll need to look up some of those acronyms…!):

The above are a few of the highlights that caught my imagination during the packed two-day agenda. It was great to catch up with the brilliant Jonathan Munslow, Jason Russell, Martin Duffy and co-conspirator Dave Merrick and NHT / Measure2Improve colleagues Simon Pinkey and Sharon Andrews.

On the Friday, I had the first team call for Session 8 on the Highways UK Local Authority Hub: ‘What colour is your Umbrella? Climate change readiness’. It’s really exciting to be bringing a team of local authorities, academics and professional institutions together to deliver these key goals:

  • topics that are of significant relevance for local authorities
  • engaging, interactive sessions where attendees feel they have learnt something of value in a short period of time
  • regular content between now and the show on 6-7 November, that applies story / narrative to bring the topics alive and raise awareness and engagement beforehand

Which leads me nicely on to a bit of news; DEFT153 are delighted to be partners for the European Journalism Centre’s News Impact Summit on 7th October in Birmingham: ‘A New Era for Climate Change Reporting.

It looks to be a fascinating day, for journalists, yes, but also hopefully (particularly given the above!) local authorities and supply chain to understand how journalists are exploring this topic.

Tickets are free, and if you are interested in coming along, drop me a line at (teresa[at]deft153.com.

The summit will host speakers from the BBC, The Guardian, Climate Home, Carbon Brief, El Surtidor, Al-Jazeera, Quartz, the Lookout Station and Extinction Rebellion, who will:

  • deep-dive into innovative storytelling methods to better tell the climate change story,
  • look at journalistic projects that use mapping and open source intelligence to link climate and data analysis,
  • discuss how climate change stories are tackled in the newsroom and how news organisations can produce immersive storytelling that helps the audience understand and appreciate the urgency and complexity of climate change.

Until next week…!