Comoodle -a collaborative platform
This innovation has won an award, as described in the case study text. High Replicability
Comoodle was developed to create a genuine sharing economy in Kirklees, fundamentally shifting the relationship between the Council and the community in the process.
Comoodle is a web based platform, an elegant solution to enable collaboration, that is now helping local communities to access and share under-used resources.
There is no other platform that exists across in the world that has public sector bodies actively sharing “stuff skill and spaces” in such a proactive and accessible way
The problem we were trying to solve:
“Sharing has always gone on in Kirklees- but the problem was people not knowing what others had. Comoodle makes sharing easier- it is the oil that makes sharing work”
Cllr David Sheard, Leader of Kirklees Council 2015- July 2018
In 2014 we were winners in the Bloomberg Philanthropies Mayor’s Challenge, a competition to identify innovative solutions to issues facing local and city governments. Our idea was Comoodle – an online digital platform which allows communities and individuals to discover and share useful resources in their area. By making Council assets available through Comoodle we aimed to kick-start a true sharing economy. Four years down the line we’re redefining the relationship between the Council and the Third Sector
The February 2017 launch of the live Comoodle online platform was the culmination of two years’ continuous development and research. Our iterative approach to the project has allowed us to pivot to meet the objectives, measurement and function of the Comoodle concept, staying true to our original aim of creating a true sharing economy in Kirklees.
Innovation is at the heart of our design approach:
Throughout the programme we have used the learning from the best in terms of innovation and iterative project development. Key examples of this approach include:
• Early workshops to understand attitudes to learning
• Analysis of other sharing platforms
• Pilots and prototypes to test the practicalities of sharing Council assets
• Researching and testing a series of social and monetary value models
• Refinement of original metrics to provide more purposeful measurement
• Research into issues of trust to develop platform feedback mechanisms and improve design
• Multi-stage platform development informed by the breadth of our learning; from an early ‘sandbox’ tool, through to an interactive blog site and then a live platform created in a series of design sprints
• Further refinement and optimization sprints, informed by our practical experience and feedback from potential replicators
Results that impact on our communities:
As of now the platform is already delivering we have a clear commitment to metrics and measure all activity on the platform, as s at the end of August 2018 Comoodle:
Has 850 active users registered on the platform;
Has processed over 1000 requests and has made available over 2000 assets;
Has facilitated over 1200 exchanges of resources;
Has benefited over 60,000 residents and
Has saved community groups an estimated £45,000 by enabling them to borrow rather than buy or hire resources
The platform enables users to rate their experience based on their interaction with each other and the suitability of the resources. We have also conducted targeted surveys which ask users questions based on their level of involvement with the project. As at the end of June 2018:
89% of users were satisfied with their Comoodle experience;
89% of users would recommend Comoodle to friend;
86% of users felt Comoodle was helping communities to do more for themselves
84% of users felt Comoodle was helping communities to collaborate more
Replication and the future:
The Council has just completed a priority review, this was undertaken by Isos the independent consultancy that Bloomberg Philanthropies have commissioned to oversee our programme performance from the start. The continued support and challenge from this team has be key to our success. Having considered the review findings, and recommendations, the Council has agreed that we are going to mainstream the programme within the Council and give it resources and support to point it at the areas where it can make the biggest social impact. We are now also replicating the platform outside of our city boundaries with new emerging networks in Camden, London and in the City of York in Yorkshire. We are working with partners in Amsterdam to use the platform to address issues of poverty in Europe.
“Kirklees Council is changing – our aim is to support individuals and communities to do more for themselves and each other. As a platform that enables the public, private and third sector to collaborate, connect and share resources, Comoodle is key to this strategy. We believe a strong sharing economy will help build and sustain thriving communities.”
Jacqui Gedman, Chief Executive, Kirklees Council
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
When we worked on the initial submission to Bloomberg in the summer of 2014 we were aware of the rapid innovation taking place in terms of the growing sharing economy and collaborative consumption. But we could not see any city that was looking to put its own resources at the heart of that offer. Mike Bloomberg gave us the award as part of the Mayor’s City Challenge as he was looking for new “brave ideas” We knew many cities like Barcelona, Amsterdam and Seoul were committed creating Sharing Cities but we were the first City area to commit to sharing resources directly that we know of.
Bloomberg Philanthropies and Isos have extended our thinking and networks. We attended Bloomberg sponsored City Lab events and other international events on innovation and have yet to see another similar project. Our project has attracted a lot of interest due to its uniqueness, and we are involved with academic research programmes in Spain and Norway as well as here in the UK to share that learning.
What is the current status of your innovation?
The work on the programme is now in its fourth year with the release of the initial beta version of the platform in March 2017. The process of optimization of the design is on-going and a further design sprint in planned after we have seen how the platform responds to work in other areas where we are just developing new networks. We feel we have now done enough work to be sure the concept is tested and proven, and the platform functions as we wish.
But projects like this must never stop in terms of iterative development and we evaluate the progress every month and report into a programme board. We are now looking to replicate further afield and collaborate with other collaborative platforms in Europe.
Collaborations & Partnerships
• The Council –services sharing their resources and ideas was key
• Yoomee –led on platform design, without them and the agile approach to work the quality of the platform would be limited
• Local Voluntary and Community projects –they have joined up to access the benefits and now increasingly share resources too
• Bloomberg and the other people we have meet– these organisations have funded and inspired us to stretch our thinking further
• Academics - helped us with research & evaluation
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
• Local Voluntary and Community projects –they have been able to deliver projects quicker and cheaper and test new ideas at little risk
• The Council – has started to change its relationship with the community sector and now works better in partnership
• Businesses - local businesses have supported the programe and made new connections as a result
• Wider stakeholders – we have supported, coached and inspired others in terms of programme management and approaches to designing solutions
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
We run a number of metric tools within the platform to monitor usage and collate data. We use surveys and interviews to get qualitative results too.
Comoodle has enabled community groups to access resources at low or no cost - across the life cycle of the project we estimate that they have saved over £50,000 by accessing Comoodle, to borrow everything from litter pickers to vans instead of buying or hiring them.
To date, groups have participated in over 1200 trades of stuff, space and skills.
1031 Requests Received
850 Registered Users
722 Asset Profiles
1234 Exchanges Facilitated
We expect this level of growth to be doubled locally in the next 12 months, and as new networks develop similar results in terms of rapid growth to be replicated.
Our satisfaction levels remain positive:
89% of users were satisfied with their Comoodle experience;
86% of users felt Comoodle was helping communities to do more for themselves
Challenges and Failures
Commissioning work within a local government setting is a challenge but we accelerated this by running sessions with potential partners early on. We have also, we believe, saved time and expense on building the wrong thing by using an iterative approach, but this did mean we took longer to get our Beta version built.
The platform has worked best in terms of physical resources (stuff) as people seem to better understand the concept of sharing physical things. We found that to get people to make spaces available in most cases the need to charge was critical even if that is a reduced rate. We made a key pivot to allow people to ask for donations or charge community rates to unstick this. The hardest of our three resource categories has been skills sharing and further work is in train to make this happen with key Council departments. We still believe this is the most important one and will lead to greater collaboration.
Conditions for Success
The Mayor’s Challenge required the programme to be headed up by the City Mayor, in the case of Kirklees this is the political leader of the Council. This support has been critical. There was a leap of faith required to allow us to experiment and fail fast. We needed to be creative in all our approaches and we as a programme have been given high levels of support; we are trusted to get on with things and we have not been micromanaged by either our funder or our management structures. This has allowed us to create a culture of innovation and collaboration that is seldom seen in a government departments.
We have been well served by key services in the Council from Human Resources to Communications and have ready access to the Legal team to work on “house rules” for the platform and data sharing agreements.
The key thing is we have been trusted to make the best decisions we can in terms of project management and we have a number of supportive critical friends to discuss ideas with.
Our project was funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies as it was seen not only as a viable project for Kirklees but one that could be replicated elsewhere. We have from the outset managed a design process that did not make the platform or even the brand area specific. We knew the longer term sustainability would be improved if other areas could use the platform as a product very easily, and they in turn could contribute to the fixed costs in terms of support and data / hosting costs.
We now have had two new networks come on line over the summer and we hope, if we can secure European Interreg funds, then we will be working with other cities, and platforms, in the Netherlands and Belgium in 2019
There is clearly the possibility to use many of the design features to support other tasks such as prompting volunteering, finding out what’s on or collaboration in terms of sharing resources private industry. The platform code has all been done in open source so it can be used by others.
Engagement is the real key thing to take an innovative idea to scale. We have found it is harder to get people to be proactive in regards to helping as opposed to reactive. We have redesigned user journeys and put requests for help more upfront in the platform design to move this issue forward
Another lesson we have learnt is about pace, others will always prioritise their work over ours and we need to make our offer attractive by seeing how it works for others. We have got better at engagement work and seen more support recently, after we flipped the narrative to say “how Comoodle can help you do what you want to do”.
Having connections is key and that is especially hard in new areas where we are not based- it takes time to build the networks needed for engagement which drive the platform. But the real challenge is how quickly you can build trust. This platform is built on trust and that can be a slow process.
Lesson in regard to partnerships and ways of working are worth highlighting we would say the trust within the partnership is key. We have commissioned work in terms of platform design from a small company we trust and they have remained committed and responsive. We have commissioned work in terms of engagement, brand design and communications from local businesses too, they bring with them not only their skills but their connections. We share all our work programmes within that wider team so everything is visible and transparent. Together the team has had faith that we were really onto something. In the early days we talked of the programme in terms of a “movement” not a product. Comoodle is now used locally not only as a noun to describe the programme, but a verb to describe the very act of sharing. We believe this is the biggest indictor we could have that our innovation is relevant, and now adopted by our users.
Importance of trust and connectivity:
We set off to build a platform solution and have now realised that people only share when they trust people, and trust is only built or earned via connections that are made and collaborations that happen. Just building a platform for the collaborative economy will not deliver the trust. Many cash based platforms use money as there is no real trust. So trust remains our biggest focus.
Rachel Botsman said in her work on Trust Stacks that this works at three levels:
1. people need to trust the solution that is proposed
2. the platform that delivers the service
3. the other people in that sharing community
Above all we would say trust is the common thread, our innovation has worked because people trust it and they trust it because they like our ideas, our platform and us as people.
We believe in Sharing... Do you?