Promoting ‘Joined Up’ Working in the Public Sector: The Development and Evaluation of a Knowledge Portal for Collaborative Working by Local Government Health and Safety Inspectors
Great emphasis has been placed on reinventing the UK public sector in an ongoing quest to improve performance. The use of IT to enable ‘joined up’ working between different parts of government is regarded as a central feature of these change programmes but research suggests there are significant impediments to IT engendering the desired outcomes. This paper describes research to develop and evaluate the effectiveness of a knowledge portal designed to enhance communications and the sharing of good practice and ‘know how’ amongst discrete groups of geographically dispersed officers responsible for the enforcement of health and safety legislation. The officers are based in 408 independent Local Authorities and are charged with enforcing the law consistently so that companies can expect a similar interpretation of its requirements regardless of the locality from which they operate. Professional networks have evolved to support and enable the exchange of information and knowledge but they are resource intensive and localised. The evaluation identified that the portal had achieved its aims but also highlighted a number of constraints that militated against full realisation of its potential.
Keywords: Collaborative Working, ‘Joined up’ Working, Public Sector, Knowledge Management, Portal, Internet Technologies, Health and Safety Enforcement, Inter-organisational Working
Senior Lecturer, School of Environment and Life Sciences, University of Salford
Her most recent research project, which was funded by the HSE, aimed to explore means of facilitating and supporting communications and the professional development of local authority based health and safety enforcement officers. The outcome of the project was the design and evaluation of a web portal which demonstrated a range of advantages including further developmental potential.