MyPolice impersonation

HM Inspectorate of the Constabulary has stolen the name of a social enterprise, MyPolice, for its new online site. They should find a new name.

Our guest writer is Guy Lodge, Associate Director at the ippr.

What happens when a giant state bureaucracy decides to trample all over one of the  innovative social enterprises in Britain? So far, nothing much.To explain: two conferences happened in London today. At the first David Cameron (and pretty much half the shadow cabinet) stood up to talk up their vague concept of a “Big Society“. There remain real problems with Tory thinking in this area, not least the assertion that an active state and a big society are locked in some kind of zero-sum relationship. But since his much derided conference speech last year when he claimed that rising inequality was primarily a consequence of big government, Cameron has at least tried to think more creatively about the role of the state.

Back in November he gave the Hugo Young Memorial lecture when he said that government should concentrate on:

“Galvanising, catalysing, prompting, encouraging and agitating for community engagement and social renewal. It must help families, individuals, charities and communities come together to solve problems.”

The idea that it would be good for the state to help husband and grow small, innovative social enterprises (or at least do them no harm) is something which should unite progressives and conservatives alike.

Sadly, then, there was perhaps a more significant event also happening today, about a 15 minute walk across London, run by the National Police Improvement Agency. There two young social entrepreneurs—Lauren Currie and Sarah Drummond, from the innovative police accountability organisation MyPolice.org—told the reality of how such organisations get treated.

MyPolice is an online feedback tool that enables the public and the police to have a conversation, and help people in local communities identify weaknesses in their policy service, and work with local forces to fix them. Most interestingly, all this data is then fed back to the police to help them improve. In short — a really good idea, and one supported by a range of groups, from Geoff Mulgan’s Young Foundation to Tom Steinberg’s MySociety.org.

The two founders were dismayed to find out recently that HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) — the police OFSTED — had decided to launch a vaguely similar site, with exactly the same name. The news wasn’t just irksome, but threatened their very survival: their organisation needs a good google ranking to allow the public to find them, and they had spent a year building relationships under their brand. Both of these won’t happen if a giant bureaucracy gobbles up the name, and creates confusion over who the real MyPolice might be.

That HMIC is investing in public online accountability mechanisms is a great thing — and to be encouraged, even applauded. But it would obviously be better to do this without friendly casualties in the process. And HMIC’s regrettable decision has already got some coverage, with more expected soon.

Rumours suggest that the Conservatives in particular are annoyed about this, given MyPolice are exactly the sort of organisation Cameron wants to flourish. But Labour supporters should be equally put out. We saw something like this happen when the government health website NHS Choices stomped over innovative startups, like PatientOpinion. And now its just happening all over again.

Thankfully, the solution is simple. HMIC should just admit they made a mistake, and change the name of their site. If they don’t, the first, smaller, better MyPolice will get swamped, and it is even possible that one of the most innovative small organisations in Britain could be snuffed out. If HMIC do change their name, everyone wins. And luckily, there are plenty of other good choices out there: OurPolice, YourPolice, BetterPolice, or indeed any one of literally dozens of other choices. Lets hope HMIC see sense, before their reputation suffers.

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47 Responses to “MyPolice impersonation”

  1. jamescrabtree

    RT @leftfootfwd: MyPolice impersonation – the long arm of the law tramples a social enterprise http://bit.ly/aj1U48

  2. Stephen Whitehead

    RT @Redjotter: RT @leftfootfwd MyPolice impersonation – the long arm of the law tramples a social enterprise http://bit.ly/aj1U48 PLEASE Retweet

  3. Dan Lockton

    RT @Redjotter: RT @leftfootfwd MyPolice impersonation – the long arm of the law tramples a social enterprise http://bit.ly/aj1U48 PLEASE …

  4. patientopinion

    RT @mypolice: RT @leftfootfwd MyPolice impersonation – the long arm of the law tramples a social enterprise http://bit.ly/aj1U48

  5. Rohan Gunatillake

    RT @leftfootfwd: MyPolice impersonation – the long arm of the law tramples a social enterprise http://bit.ly/aj1U48

  6. peterbradwell

    RT @Redjotter: RT @leftfootfwd MyPolice impersonation – the long arm of the law tramples a social enterprise http://bit.ly/aj1U48 PLEASE …

  7. Simon Collister

    RT @dominiccampbell pls end this HMIC RT @leftfootfwd: @MyPolice impersonation-long arm of the law tramples a #socent http://bit.ly/aj1U48

  8. Mypolice

    RT @leftfootfwd: MyPolice impersonation – the long arm of the law tramples a social enterprise http://bit.ly/aj1U48

  9. Duncan Parkes

    RT @leftfootfwd: MyPolice impersonation – the long arm of the law tramples a social enterprise http://bit.ly/aj1U48

  10. The Ideas Monster

    RT @Redjotter: RT @leftfootfwd MyPolice impersonation – the long arm of the law tramples a social enterprise http://bit.ly/aj1U48 PLEASE Retweet

  11. uberVU - social comments

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by leftfootfwd: MyPolice impersonation – the long arm of the law tramples a social enterprise http://bit.ly/aj1U48

  12. GuyAitchison

    RT @leftfootfwd: MyPolice impersonation http://bit.ly/aj1U48

  13. Dougie Kinnear

    RT @Redjotter: RT @leftfootfwd MyPolice impersonation – the long arm of the law tramples a social enterprise http://bit.ly/aj1U48 PLEASE Retweet

  14. Dominic Campbell

    for sake of my sanity pls end this HMIC RT @leftfootfwd: @MyPolice impersonation-long arm of the law tramples a #socent http://bit.ly/aj1U48

  15. topsy_top20k

    MyPolice impersonation – the long arm of the law tramples a social enterprise http://bit.ly/aj1U48

  16. Paul Miller

    RT @leftfootfwd: MyPolice impersonation – the long arm of the law tramples a social enterprise http://bit.ly/aj1U48

  17. nobby-Lobby

    RT @leftfootfwd: MyPolice impersonation – the long arm of the law tramples a social enterprise http://bit.ly/aj1U48

  18. Jon Harvey

    I think this is a critical moment for the police service and its developing use of Web 2.0. Today (31/3/10) there has been a lively event (see #polcasm on twitter) opening up more of the dialogue about how best the police can use social media and all the interactivity that the net can now bring. Many public services, including parts of the police, are now actively searching for ways to engage with their publics with fresh media. As anyone who knows about the new media – it is all about what goes around comes around, two way partnerships and a lot of listening. I hope that the HMIC listen to the growing clamour about this (there is a similar article on the ResPublica site to day as well: http://www.respublica.org.uk/blog/2010/03/rank-idiocy) and bend a little. Making space for such third sector organisations as http://www.mypolice.org is critical! The country needs such active and effective citizenship (http://jonharveyassociates.blogspot.com/2009/05/empowered-citizenship.html) – I hope the HMIC sees this too.

  19. jonathon carr-brown

    Sorry, but NHS Choices never “stomped” all over Patient Opinion. Infact I hope Paul Hodgkin, at Patient Opinion would agree that we work closely and NHS Choices presence is helping its business model. I was responsible for the “stomping” and I went ahead with a clear conscience because the collection of data is not the important bit of the equation. The important bit is what Patient Opinion does well, and NHS Choice’s can’t do, which is translate the data and train organisations to promote commenting. Patient Opinion takes a feed of all NHS Choice’s comments and uses those as part of its business model. Which for an enterprise which has struggled to get national exposure is kinda important. The idea that the public have to be restricted to one place or medium to comment on public services is a stupid as saying the public shouldn’t be allowed to comment on NHS website. And I’ve had plenty of people express the hypothetical view that people are scared to comment on “official” websites – I’ve got 30,000 people who would disagree. This is a one dimensional view of digital communications which is stopping us working out what to do with all the information we are now gathering. So do me a favour and move on. Patient Opinion has a substantial contract with NHS Choices and benefits from our service. Social enterprises having nothing to fear from government involvement and everything to gain. This debate is about the use of data not the technology that gathers it. The only caveat is that any data collected by government should be openly available and apart from a few areas that argument is won. Yours disgruntled
    Jonathon Carr-Brown
    Director of Innovation and Strategy
    NHS Choices

  20. Naomi

    RT @mypolice: RT @leftfootfwd MyPolice impersonation – the long arm of the law tramples a social enterprise http://bit.ly/aj1U48

  21. Heather Brooke

    RT @leftfootfwd: MyPolice impersonation – the long arm of the law tramples a social enterprise http://bit.ly/aj1U48

  22. willperrin

    RT @leftfootfwd: MyPolice impersonation – the long arm of the law tramples a social enterprise http://bit.ly/aj1U48

  23. Jon Harvey

    RT @timsk3: Latest on @mypolice saga:
    http://j.mp/aXpOnm
    http://j.mp/auJ3P6

  24. cyberdoyle

    RT @timsk3: Latest on @mypolice saga:http://j.mp/aXpOnm
    http://j.mp/auJ3P6

  25. Andrew Fielding

    RT @leftfootfwd: MyPolice impersonation – the long arm of the law tramples a social enterprise http://bit.ly/aj1U48

  26. Paul Evans

    HMIC – stupid stupid stupid pls RT – #MyPolice http://bit.ly/bDJgVh

  27. cyberdoyle

    the whole sorry episode reflects very badly on organisations who simply don’t get IT.
    the best thing they could do is employ @mypolice to show them how to do it right. Collaboration is key. Not govt depts thinking they know best. They Don’t. The citizens do, and it would pay to engage with them instead of thinking they can stomp all over them. Those days are gone.
    chris

  28. Norman Perrin

    RT @willperrin: RT @leftfootfwd: MyPolice impersonation – the long arm of the law tramples a social enterprise http://bit.ly/aj1U48

  29. Mr. Sensible

    Interesting article.

    Will someone from the Home Office be invited to respond?

  30. David Kelly

    RT @leftfootfwd MyPolice impersonation – the long arm of the law tramples a social enterprise http://bit.ly/aj1U48 (via @Redjotter)

  31. jamescrabtree

    & ++good stuff on #HMICfail re #mypolice from James Forsyth at the Spectator—http://bit.ly/aGbUNm (background http://bit.ly/auJ3P6) PLS RT

  32. Indy Johar

    RT @jamescrabtree: & ++good stuff on #HMICfail re #mypolice from James Forsyth at the Spectator—http://bit.ly/aGbUNm (background http://bit.ly/auJ3P6) PLS RT

  33. Luke Nicholson

    RT @jamescrabtree: good stuff on #HMICfail re #mypolice from James Forsyth at the Spectator—http://bit.ly/aGbUNm (bg: http://bit.ly/auJ3P6)

  34. Stephan Shakespeare

    Big State tramples on social entrepreneur start-up: LeftFootForward excellent with cross-party rallying-call: http://bit.ly/auJ3P6

  35. Pete Hoskin

    RT @jamescrabtree: & ++good stuff on #HMICfail re #mypolice from James Forsyth at the Spectator—http://bit.ly/aGbUNm (background http://bit.ly/auJ3P6) PLS RT

  36. Stephan Shakespeare

    Big State tramples on social entrepreneur start-up: @wdjstraw excellent with cross-party rallying-call: http://bit.ly/auJ3P6

  37. Rob Waller

    @StephanShaxper seriously, statist are morons. What the hell do they expect from a big state? Milk and honey? http://bit.ly/auJ3P6

  38. Chris Paul

    RT @StephanShaxper: Big State tramples on social entrepreneur start-up: LeftFootForward excellent with cross-party rallying-call: http://bit.ly/auJ3P6

  39. HMIC

    HMIC have put out this statement:

    ‘We have been working with the mypolice.org founders since 08 March 2010 to address their concerns and to provide the best possible solution.

    ‘They asked that we stop marketing ‘mypolice.org.uk’ as a redirect page, since the public might confuse this with their service. We agreed, and now only refer to http://www.hmic.gov.uk/mypolice. We also agreed not to renew our ownership of any of the ‘mypolice’ domains. This will give them the opportunity to buy and use them when they get their service up and running.

    ‘To ensure the public gets the benefits of both services with no chance of confusion, we will change the name of the ‘my police’ pages on our website. We are currently consulting on the best option, and will announce the results in the next week.

    ‘We have nothing to gain by overwhelming mypolice.org: and as an independent organisation ourselves, we would never wish to do so. Indeed, throughout our negotiations we have both been keen to stress that we can usefully work together in the future.’

    The founders of MyPolice.org responded with this statement:

    “We would like to say thank you to Denis O’Connor for enabling us to continue on this journey as MyPolice.org.

    We think HMIC’s product is a very good idea, it is important to enable the public to rate and score their local force but our product is different. We think HMIC’s product compliments MyPolice. There are many ways we could work together. Firstly, in bringing our empathy fueled data together with your accurate statistics we would create something powerful. Secondly, when people ask us questions about the performance of their local force we will happily signpost them to the HMIC site. Now let’s get on with the real work and collaborate to bring the police and public together.”

    Copies of these statements can be found at http://www.hmic.gov.uk and http://www.mypolice.org.

    This comment was posted by the HMIC Press Office.

  40. MyPolice.Org Impersonated by Police Inspectorate - Guy Fawkes' blog

    […] the top of Google’s search page displacing the impersonator. It would of course, as everyone left and right agrees, be a lot easier if the impersonators changed their […]

  41. Jon Harvey

    http://www.hmic.gov.uk/Pages/home.aspx

    HMIC have responded! “HMIC will stop using the ‘my police’ name.”

    A result! I suspect the profiling of this issue on here and elsewhere helped!

  42. blogs of the world

    HM Inspectorate of the Constabulary has stolen the name of a social enterprise, MyPolice, … http://reduce.li/l16qu4 #left

  43. Paul Hodgkin

    Jonathon Carr Brown is right – it is very possible for independent social enterprises like Patient Opinion to have productive and supportive relationships with big state-mandated sites like NHS Choices. And as a subcontractor to NHS Choices (we now provide the feedback service for mental health trusts in England for them) we have found the relationships positive and mutually respectful – Much of which is down to Jonathon’s understanding of what our two organisations have to offer.
    That said the potential for ‘stomping’ is still there just by the nature of the size and reach of the two organisations: NHS Choices has a budget of £20 million (which obviously covers much more than feedback) and even its reported spend on Google Ads (£2.5 million last year) is several times greater than Patient Opinion’s entire turnover. So living with NHS Choices is from our point of view still a bit like living with an elephant – albeit a thoughtful and well-intentioned one.

    But the more interesting question is what the best model for this kind of web-based feedback realy is? Perhaps Patient Opinion and MyPolice are actually pretty irrelevant – and deserve to be – once the state gets going on this stuff. Perhaps we’re always destined to be the gadflies and mosquitoes buzzing around the elephant.

    Of course at Patient Opinion we think that the multiple, myriad points and pricks of democratised voice are much more akin to the buzz of mosquitoes than the tramp of elephants. And so we’re pretty passionate about our small, independent, nimble platform as this seems more attuned to the buzz of comments from the 1 million people clocking though the NHS every day and orchestrating them into thousands of service improvements. But perhaps we’re wrong – after all passion does not necessarily lead to clear thinking.
    It might help to review the possible models for web-based feedback (state, for-profit commercial, charity and social enterprise) and then match them up to the key criteria that we know any web-based feedback platform needs:
    – users want confidentiality for their comments and safeguards against censorship
    – together with lots of good responses and improvements from providers so they know their voice is having a real effect
    – which in turn means that busy staff want to interact with patients on the system.
    – Finally the whole thing needs a sustainable business model that creates enough independence from funders to do all of these things.
    On this analysis a state run service is likely to be seen (rightly or wrongly) as weak on confidentiality and prone to censor. By contrast a commercial site run on advertising (think medical negligence) is likely to encourage negative postings about poor care. Staff will hate such sites (see RateMyTeacher) and in turn are likely to ignore suggestions made on them. Or if they are run by companies with existing interests in health care (think perhaps Virgin Health or Pfizer) will be subject to sharp conflicts of interest. Charities will clearly be on the side of citizens but seem to be poor at creating viable e-businesses and tend to depend on big grants – which can always be withdrawn.
    Unsurprisingly perhaps I’ve ended up arguing for something like Patient Opinion – a social enterprise that is passionate about using web-based feedback to improve health service at scale but sufficiently business like to generate a surplus from its many small sources of income. Of course we could still be wrong – no one, and certainly not Patient Opinion, has all the answers in this new game of cheap voice and transparency.

    At the moment we have survived long enough to become a bit like Apple to NHS Choices’ Microsoft. And maybe that’s how it will stay. I certainly don’t think that we, (or for that matter MyPolice), deserve a free ride simply because we are ‘not for profit’ or ‘not the state’. The new tools of web-based feedback and democratised voice are too important for that. But, since none of us know yet what the best model is going to be, what IS important is that those state-funded elephants watch out for the mice running round their feet – especially in the very early days when they are really small. After all, when the dinosaurs were wiped out by an asteroid (or was it a recession?) it was the mice that inherited the earth.

    All that said the potential for stomping is still there just by the nature of the size and reach of the two organisations. After all NHS Choices has a budget of £20 million and even though this covers much moor than feedback, its reported spend on Google Ads (£2.5 million last year) is alone several times greater than Patient Opinion’s turnover. So living with NHS Choices is from our point of view still a bit like living with an elephant – albeit a thoughtful and well-intentioned one.

    But this raises a wider and more interesting point touched on in …. Excellent blog: what really is the best model for this kind of web-based feedback? Perhaps Patient Opinion and MyPolice are actually pretty irrelevant – and deserve to be – once the state gets going on this stuff. After all why bother with mosquitoes when you can have the elephant?

    Of course I believe passionately that the multiple, myriad points and pricks of democratised voice are much more like the buzz of mosquitoes than the tramp of elephants. But perhaps I’m wrong – after all passion does not necessarily lead to clear thinking.

    So let’s review the possible models for web-based feedback: state, for-profit commercial, charity and social enterprise. And match them up to the key criteria that we know any web-based feedback platform needs:

    – confidentiality for users; independence from censorship

    – plus lots of good responses and improvements from providers that show that citizen voice is having a real effect

    – which in turn means that busy staff want to interact with patients on the system

    – and finally a sustainable business model that creates enough independence from funders to do all of these things.

    On this analysis a state run service is likely to be seen (rightly or wrongly) as weak on confidentiality and censoring. By contrast a commercial site run on advertising (think medical negligence and liposuction) is likely to encourage negative postings about poor care. Staff will hate such sites (see RateMyTeacher) and in turn are likely to ignore suggestions made on them. Or if they are run by organisations with existing interests in health care (think Virgin Health or Pfizer) commercial companies will be subject to sharp conflicts of interest. Charities will clearly be on the side of citizens but seem to be poor at creating viable e-businesses and tend to depend on big grants – which can always be withdrawn.

    Unsurprisingly perhaps I’ve ended up arguing for something like Patient Opinion – a social enterprise that is passionate about using web-based feedback to improve health service at scale but sufficiently business like to generate a surplus from many source of income. Of course we could still be wrong – no one, and certainly not Patient Opinion, has all the answers in this new game of cheap voice and transparency.

    At the moment we have survived long enough to become a bit like Apple to NHS Choices’ Microsoft. And maybe that’s how it will stay. I certainly don’t think that we, or MyPolice for that matter, deserve a free ride simply because we are ‘not the state’, or ‘not for profit’. The new tools of web-based feedback and democratised voice are too important for that. But, since none of us know yet what the best model is going to be, what IS important is that those elephants watch out for the mice running round their feet – especially in the very early days when they are really small. After all, when the dinosaurs were wiped out by an asteroid (or was it a recession?) it was the mice that inherited the earth.

  44. Tim Worstall

    Snigger.

    Only now you’re recognising the truth of government crowding out?

  45. Oh my, this is glorious

    […] Here. MyPolice is an online feedback tool that enables the public and the police to have a conversation, and help people in local communities identify weaknesses in their policy service, and work with local forces to fix them. Most interestingly, all this data is then fed back to the police to help them improve. In short — a really good idea, and one supported by a range of groups, from Geoff Mulgan’s Young Foundation to Tom Steinberg’s MySociety.org. […]

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