This is a guest post by Christine Townsend, Director and Founder of MusterPoint. We are delighted to welcome MusterPoint as one of the Main Sponsors of BlueLightCamp 2013.
Digital engagement ‘happened’ to first responders in a way that no one could have predicted, and my interest in how this developed combined with my passion for policing meant I wanted to explore what social media could do for not only the public, but also the agencies that regularly worked together.
Multi-agency collaboration is easier said than done and I felt there should be a smarter way to collaborate digitally, ensuring a cohesive approach to public communication in the event of not only a major incident, but also when it was business as usual.
Prohibitively expensive software platforms otherwise used for the private sector gave a glimpse into what could be achieved.
However, with massive cuts facing all of the public sector, it would make it difficult to enable everyone who was keen to use social media as a communication tool to do so.
The public desire for information is difficult to quell when there are so many restrictions in place, not only financially, but legislatively. Those who work in the public sector know all too well that there are many more hurdles to jump and barriers to break down. Frustration, they say, is the mother of invention. So I headed to Blue Light Camp to meet others in the same position of me, and to see if I could make some new connections with like-minded people.
It was at Blue Light Camp 2012 that the seed of innovation was planted in my mind.
It took a while to think through what I wanted to achieve, but it was only after working with Surrey and City of London Police that I realised that I wanted to create a social media management platform for the public sector that encouraged collaboration without restrictions.
MusterPoint crystalised in my mind in June 2012, and so I set about finding someone who could understand policing and coding and was willing to support me. I also had to realistically look at how much my inspiration would cost me in terms of finance and time. Creating a new software platform is fine when you have a team of developers, a handy server sitting idly and no day job to restrict your movements, but when it’s just you and one other, it seems quite a mountain to climb.
I needed other people to encourage me to climb that mountain, so keeping the collaborative theme throughout, we asked people what they wanted. There was no obligation to get involved or part with any cash – I simply wanted to ask people what they wanted first. Rather than create something I thought they wanted, it seemed to make sense to base the product on need.
They gave us feedback and tested for us and were patient when things didn’t quite work. It has been a long process (in my mind, yet only eight months in real time) but without the support of key people in other organisations, we wouldn’t have the product that we see today.
MusterPoint has no limit on users. It can’t have a limit if the main aim is to ensure that collaborative working across all first responders happens effectively. It has simple yet effective features that make it easier for the specialists to do their jobs and to give confidence to those who are unsure about engaging with the public online. It also has those important checks and balances in place to give organisational confidence.
As a result of MusterPoint, I now have two other projects underway that will hopefully provide a solution to a couple of problems within policing that have long caused a great deal of expense and hit resources hard.
Unfortunately, as they are currently in development, I can’t talk about them, but I’m hoping that Blue Light Camp will give me further inspiration from the people that attend – it was, after all, where I got the initial idea for MusterPoint.
Blue Light Camp gave me the impetus to think beyond the rigid framework of public sector working. Entrepreneurialism and the public sector should not be mutually exclusive – hard times forces creativity, and there are people keen to solve problems and use skills that are unknown to the wider organisation that they work in.
I wanted to support Blue Light Camp this year to ensure that those people who are creative and have entrepreneurial spirit have a platform to do so. Being passionate and having the desire to solve problems can bring about change where it is needed and Blue Light Camp enables this.