Have you ever wondered why your signposting isn’t quite doing what you thought it might? In this blog, Gary Lovatt, Managing Director here at Social Sense shares insight into effective signposting.
I regularly speak to commissioners all across the UK, often councils who talk about their signposting services. In simple terms, signposting often relates to a directory of local services that the public can find themselves or be referred to by a professional.
At a more advanced level, signposting can lead to a specific service based on some level of knowledge.
This could be a local walking group for example, referred to by a social prescribing link worker during a 1-1 meeting at a GP Practice.
In almost every case – even in social prescribing – I find problems or limitations within certain approaches. In this blog I thought I’d share a few and some ways that signposting can be delivered smarter – at a time when we’re all being challenged to deliver more for less.
- Limited ways of accessing information
Having information on one website is good for being a single point, however it may exclude people who are mostly reliant on receiving information offline.
Websites can also offer some limitations if they are not optimised to mobile devices (where most access now is) or if they do not have the necessary accessibility measures in place to reach those with a disability or where English is not the first language.
If you are using traditional comms, make sure you are monitoring their effectiveness and updating your networks regularly with information and materials they can share (I see a lot of empty leaflet holders!)
- Information managed by one source
This has pros and cons, however in most cases it offers limitations. Information can become quickly outdated if the individual(s) are not across the latest activities happening throughout a community, which are often ever changing or moving online post Covid. A smarter way would be to provide multiple admin points so that communities and volunteers can manage their own content with training. Moderation should also be achieved ‘by the many’ and not the few.
3. Listing alone is not good enough Councils are often quite proud of the numbers of activities and services they have listed, however from a user perspective this still puts a lot of responsibility on them to navigate the system.
At a basic level there should be demographic filtering available, however more preferable to this would be some use of AI / machine learning to determine the exact location, interests and previous activities of the user. Such intel allows for nudges that can be made about the types of activities/services that could be of benefit – resulting in a much higher uptake of future activity (think Amazon and recommended products based on your last purchase that you’ve also then bought!)
- Directory based signposting promotes silo working!
When an individual does find and join a suitable activity, often they have to register for each new one every time directly with the provider. Wouldn’t it be far easier to have 1 simple registration point which data can be shared from? This approach also gives the council a level of access to data and the sorts of activities being accessed and the potential for a more consistent evaluation framework (see next).
- There’s no feedback loop
On most of the signposting websites I see, there is no feedback facility or area where participants can easily share their experiences. Our consultations with carers told us how difficult they found it to access other carer experiences (good and bad) which could help them make choices about their own activity.
It could be that the event provider is collecting evaluation data, however the council and its residents could both be missing out by this not being held centrally in one place.
In summary I’d say the gold standard for signposting is that opportunities to connect are person centred, based on intelligence (human or AI) and outcomes are measured to a) reflect back to individuals and peers and b) to help support system improvement.