Service rePublic saw and took the opportunity to look at the Community Fund process in Cork County Council and to adopt a service design approach to redesigning this.
There is a budget of €1.6 million per annum provided by Cork County Council to fund Community projects. Approximately 600 community and voluntary groups around the County are funded each year. These groups range from single individuals who might apply just once and want a small amount to make improvements to their local areas, to large, well organised community groups whose committees make applications for funding on an annual basis.
The fund is administered in 8 different municipal districts into which the County is split for the management of local services. Applicants were applying in hardcopy. The paper form was difficult to understand and was accompanied by guidelines that were also extremely complicated.
“If you read the guidelines you’d be more confused, it’s like a legal document” – quote from a member of the public.
The manual application process was often implemented in different ways from district to district. Applications were filed in boxes. Records were kept from year to year so storage of files was an issue. Tracking applications, and monitoring multiple applications for different grants types from the same applicant, was impossible. Reporting on the applications and grant allocations was also completely manual and extremely time consuming.
Using a service design approach, a discovery phase was initiated where staff, members of the public and politicians (who sign off on the allocations) was undertaken.
Because all stakeholders were included in the discovery, define, develop and deliver phases, significant changes to the process were agreed even at policy level. Politicians approved applications for different grant types being accepted on a single form. This made it easier for the occasional and small scale public applicant to apply. An online application process was approved. A set of standard criteria for assessing the applications was approved and published.
Not only were efficiencies achieved in the delivery of the service itself, but the data captured from the online platform was presented in on-demand dashboards and reports that the service owners could use to monitor and analyse the implementation of the new service.