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Asset Sharing in Glasgow, with Andrew Mouat, Glasgow City Council

University, Case study, Smart city, Municipal council

Warp It are pleased to welcome Andrew Mouat from Glasgow City Council to dive deeper into GAS, the Glasgow Asset Share Group. This is not our first article on this subject, in fact, you can see more material on this innovative enterprise here. In this article we see some new perspectives, in particular:

  • How communication has been so vital to GAS
  • The expansion of the project and its future aims
  • How Glasgow City Council have taken the lead on city wide reuse

 

 

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Savings made in 20 months since joining Warp It. For up to date Metrics please see here.

 

Hey Andrew, our first question is, what is GAS?

GAS is an acronym for the ‘Glasgow Asset Sharing Network’, which is essentially an informal partnership between the bulk of the public sector in Glasgow. The idea being that we all have resources and we all have procurement needs. It involves a significant amount of crossover, not just within our own organisations, but collectively with the public sector too. GAS is the attempt to try and better align some of our needs.

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What are those needs? What are the problems you are trying to solve on a large scale?

Primarily the requirement to procure new things, and to be clear, we're mainly talking about furniture. We're not exclusively limiting ourselves to furniture, but with the various organisations and the size that they are, we're always procuring things, whilst colleagues are getting rid of things. GAS is an attempt to match that supply and demand. So, as well as that procurement need, we're also looking to reduce how much we're disposing of, and remove the routes we once utilised to dispose of unwanted assets.


For example, rather than hiring a skip or putting things next to the bin, we offer them to other organisations in GAS. Thereafter, if they remain unclaimed, we offer them to other sectors too.

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This sounds like quite a large project, with a number of different public sector bodies collaborating with each other. What sort of challenges have you faced along the way, and how did you overcome them?

I think the single biggest issue is that this project hasn't been the sole responsibility of any single individual. And indeed within each of the respected organisations it hasn't been a full time job of any particular individual either. So we've all been very much dealing with some aspirational perspective just trying to do the right thing, but almost in a kind of part-time role.


Difficulties involve getting people together at the same time, getting people to agree to things at the same time, getting people to agree to things within their organisation and having a firm approach to things.


Have you found a solution?

Enthusiasm and regular communication. It has helped that we, Glasgow City Council, decided to take the lead, and whilst we’re not perfect, we did end up with a point of contact; a single person as a driving force. We’ve taken a lot of risk here, both in terms of employing an individual and also taking out a lease on a premises for storage. You do need someone within the organisation to drive this kind of project.


At what point in your strategic planning did you decide to take the lead on this?

We felt it was a really good project, we have a responsibility as a local authority and the GAS Network believed we were the best positioned to carry this out. It also tied in really well with our own objectives for reducing the city’s waste. We’re also about to open a new waste management facility, so there are synergies with that project, which will have a significant impact on our recycling rates.


However, we were keen to make the point that prior to anything becoming recyclable, there was further opportunity to limit what becomes classified as waste. This project does this and offers a solution at the same time.

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We know that Scotland is really advanced on the circular economy and Glasgow is a leading Smart city, so is there some crossover with those objectives too?

There are, strategically, however they’re yet to be integrated at this point. We see that as a second phase of the project, where we seek additional funding to manage the data and make this activity more accessible both in the public and third sector.


Glasgow’s been on Warp It for a couple of years now, and we remember being told that the merit was seen in the early days. What were the positive flags you saw at the start that made you think ‘this could work on a whole city level’?

I think the benefits kind of speak for themselves, in that you reduce waste, and you give opportunities to others to benefit from mobile assets that you no longer require. So, you make savings on two fronts; avoided waste disposal and avoided procurement. Therefore, the bulk of our activity to date has been during office clearances, where items would either be disposed of or placed into long term storage.


We've now opened those opportunities up to other services within the council. And thereafter, some external organisations, which is in itself a huge benefit. So you've got that kind of physical transfer of assets and the avoidance of landfill, but equally it's opened up a number of networks, in terms of speaking to people, like site managers, that we wouldn't otherwise be engaging with.

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Add to that the fact that the Public Sector is often viewed as being wasteful and inefficient, therefore projects like this demonstrate that isn’t the case and often enthuse people. So the reputational benefits shouldn’t be overlooked.  


Similarly, we've been able to further our low carbon agenda through these newly established networks as well. I think these people have the potential to trust what we do, because they understand our ambition and there's no real agenda behind it. So we start on the front foot when we approach them during the course of other projects.


Can you shine a light on any future plans?

Sure, our future plans are looking really positive and we are working quite closely with Zero Waste Scotland, trying to deliver these. Particularly in relation to making the scheme financially self-sustaining. Very simply, we’re also looking to scale up what we do in terms of the transfer of assets, but would like to add value to the process through the offer of the remanufacture and general maintenance of some of those assets. Included within that will be things like upgrading software to facilitate unique transaction types that might be needed by GAS.


We’re going to focus more on our marketing, because we’re not doing much externally. There’s a lot we can do with that, like helping bring in new members and getting them started up. That’s a question of funding, so these goals are dependant on how much of a budget we receive.


We have also been discussing formalising the GAS Network in an effort to standardise approaches and policies.


Any advice for others who’d like to go down the same, or a similar path?

I think you have to speak to both your procurement and legal teams very, very early on. Make sure that they understand the nature, purpose and scope of any proposed scheme. One of the biggest hurdles we had, in particular, was getting legal services to understand the process and drivers behind a scheme like this. In the public sector, something like GAS is unheard of and mostly because of the perceived liabilities of trading assets.


The entire process took far longer than anticipated, because we’ve been dealing with lawyers and others to get approval and fully establish the GAS network. I would urge others to learn from that experience.


One solution was when you (Daniel O’Connor) came to Glasgow and organised a forum so that people could talk and ask questions. It was really helpful having people from different members of GAS get together, it really got everything moving.


I’m happy to discuss our successes and failings with anyone looking to set up similar schemes.


That’s great! Thank you for sharing all of these wonderful insights to GAS.


Takeaway points:

  • Improve communications with partners
  • Dedicate somebody to reuse and reuse systems
  • Talk to legal teams before starting a project

 

Please see the full transcript below

Daniel: So, first question is what is GAS, what's it all about?

Andrew: Oh, GAS is an acronym for the Glasgow Ash Sharing Network, which is essentially an
informal partnership between the bulk of the public sectoring and Glasgow. The
idea being that we all have resources and we all have procurement needs. And it is
probably a significant amount of crossover not just within our own organisations
but collectively as the public sector if you'd like. So, GAS was the idea behind it and actually you know it better than me Daniel cause it was your idea initially. GAS is the attempt to try and amalgamate some of those needs.

Daniel: And what are those needs, what problems are you solving on that sort of scale?


Andrew: Primarily the requirement to procure new things, stuff, and to be clear we're primarily talking about furniture. We're not exclusively limiting ourselves to furniture, but with the various organisations and the size that they are we're always procuring things whilst colleagues are getting rid
of things. So, as well as that procurement need we're also looking to reduce how
much we're disposing of, and indeed the roots we utilised to dispose of those items
that are no longer required. So, rather than in very simple terms hiring a skip or putting things next to the bin and disposing of them we're offering those items to other organisations.

Daniel: Okay, and this sounds like quite a large project with a number of different public
sector bodies collaborating with each other. What sort of challenges have you faced
along the way and how did you overcome them?

Andrew: I think the single biggest issue is this project hasn't been the sole responsibility of
any individual. And indeed within each of the respected organisations there hasn't
been a full time job of any particular individual. And so we've all been very much
dealing with some aspirational perspective just trying to do the right thing but
almost in a kind of part-time role. So, getting people together at the same time, and
getting people to agree to things at the same time, and getting people to agree to
things within their organisation and have a firm approach to things has proven quite difficult.


Daniel: It's proven difficult but how have you achieved it in the end?


Andrew: I think probably the enthusiasm of the individuals but we've tried to communicate
we haven't been particularly good, but we've tried to communicate the activity and
what's been going on fairly regularly. It has helped and we at Glasgow decided to
take the lead on this and so we did end up having ... And we have our flaws but we
did end up having a point of contact, a single driving force behind us. And indeed
we've taken a lot of the risk on this as well.

Daniel: Right.

Andrew: Both in terms of employing an individual and taking out a lease on a premises for storage. So, you do need somebody, an organisation to drive this.

Daniel: And what in your strategic planning, how did you link this up and why did you decide to take lead on it?

Andrew: Well we felt it was a really good project, we felt our role as the local authority we're
probably best placed for this so. And it also tied in with some of our ambitions
within the council to reduce the cities waste. It's tied in quite nicely and we're
about to open a management for waste facility, and so we will be making a
significant dent in our recycling rates and greatly improving those.
But, we were keen to make the point that prior to anything becoming recyclable
that there was further opportunity there so this scheme, this programme is an
example of how we're trying to limit what even becomes classified as waste.

Daniel: Okay. And is the Glasgow's, I mean Scotland itself is great on the super economy,
Glasgow's leading the way on smart city and that sort of thing are there any sort of
links up with those objectives as well?

Andrew: Yes there are and strategically, however on the ground and in practise that's yet to get to ... Be integrated.

Daniel: Yeah.

Andrew: If that makes sense.

Daniel: Got you.

Andrew: And that is part of where we're able to seek additional funding to do, so that's maybe a kind of second phase of this project.

Daniel: Okay.

Andrew: In terms of how we manage the data, make this project accessible to everyone within the public sector and in the third sector.

Daniel: Great, and Glasgow said it's council's been on for a couple of years now, I think it's been going on for two years if I remember correctly.

Andrew: Yeah, must be about that.

Daniel: Yeah, and I think in April I think well we'll have to deal with your procurement guys

again.

Andrew: Just come straight to me.


Daniel: Oh, really, okay will do. I'll tell Alice that, so what I was going to say was how did
you ... You saw some merit in the project in the early days. What were your positive
flags that you saw that you thought wow this might be applicable on a
city level?

Andrew: Well, I think the programme, I think the benefits' kind of speak for themselves in
that you reduce waste, and to give opportunities to others to benefit from stuff
that you no longer require. So, you make savings in sense of a waste disposal cost
and equally it gives you an opportunity to procure things. So, the bulk of our
activity to date has been during office clearances where we would otherwise have
been throwing away furniture and other items or putting them into long term
storage.


We've now opened those opportunities up to other services within the council. And
after some external organisations and that in itself is a huge benefit, so you've got
that kind of physical transfer of assets and the avoidance of landfill, but equally it's
opened up a number of networks. In terms of speaking to people, site managers
and the like that we wouldn't otherwise be engaging with.


So, we've been able to further our low carbon agenda through these newly
established networks as well. Because I think these people have the potential to
trust what we do, they understand our ambition and there's no real agenda behind
it. And so we kind of start on the front foot when we approach them for other
things.

My college Steve who is kind of managing this is now starting to approach some of
the other public sector bodies and one or two private ones as well. In the city I think
this is going to give us quite a good 'in' if you like, to these organisations when it
comes to things like district heating for example, or any other kind of low carbon
project we might have.

Daniel: Awesome. So, this is all sort ... I know it's not official but it's all sort a like another
tool for the municipal council to bring about positive project, but also on the back
of that you can also start talking about other things that are important across the
city as well.

Andrew: Absolutely and if you imagine the complaints that the general public have.

Daniel: Yeah.

Andrew: About any local waste

Daniel: Yeah, I've worked in concerts before I know what it's like.

Andrew: How much we waste how much we don't talk to each other.

Daniel: Yeah.

Andrew: Yeah, how ridiculous our activities are sometimes, and this although it be on a small
scale at the moment, this project helps to demonstrate how we should or could be
working in other ways.

Daniel: Excellent, good one. Okay, and so plans for the future and any advice for others who are going down the same route?

Andrew: Yes, so future plans probably positive to start with we are working quite close to
Zero Waste Scotland and Daniel will give you some update on that on the
25th. We are still looking to applying to their circular economy fund and we're looking
to upscale what we do both in terms of the transfer of assets, but also in terms of
the remanufacture and general maintenance of some of those assets. And included
within that will be things like hopefully upgrading to some of your software to help
facilitate the kind of slightly unique transaction types that the GAS network would
require sort of into public sector transactions. Perhaps introduce a point of sale system and start to work on our marketing because we're not doing much externally to promote this. I think there's probably quite a lot we can do in that regard, and indeed develop things like what you're
suggesting, sort of start up packs for other local organisations or politics in
general. To try and give them a starter for ten.

Daniel: Yeah.


Andrew: In relation to how they would implement something like this in their own area.


Daniel: Right.

Andrew: Unfortunately we'll be subject to funding, although if we don't get the funding or as
much funding as we hope we would still have these ambitions it would just take
slightly longer to implement. What was the second part of the question Daniel
sorry?

Daniel: It was any advice to others who are going down the same route.

Andrew: Yeah, I think speak to your procurement that stands for any project really, but
speak to your procurement and legal teams very, very early on. Make sure they
understand, one of the biggest hurdles we had was getting particularly legal
services to understand what it was we were trying to do. Because, so in the public
sector this is unheard of and it's mostly because of the perceived liabilities.

Daniel: Yeah.

Andrew: So, it wasn't enough necessarily for them to have a decent seize on the open software.

Daniel: Yeah.

Andrew: We have additional checks and balances that we need to go through internally, and
I think we probably could of circumvented some of these issues had we spoken to
legal earlier on.

Daniel: Okay, good one.


Andrew: The entire process has taken far longer than anticipated, I think you'll know better
than me but Daniel this is probably the best part of the two years we've had the
software. We've been dealing with legal and others to get approval for ourselves to
use the software and indeed to establish the GAS network. So, what I would urge
others is to speak to those who use Warp It and to try and learn from
those experiences. Because although we realised that we were a new system we didn't really speak to many people who were using the system.

Daniel: If I put a forum on Warp It so that all admins could talk would that help in that situation?

Andrew: It might well do, but I tell the thing that drove us forward or at least got the ball rolling was that meeting that you held in the school of art.

Daniel: Yes.


Andrew: Do you remember way back?

Daniel: Yeah.


Andrew: That was what got everything moving. So, having a kind of admin forum on the web
portal, yeah that would be a great resource just in terms of asking quick questions
or whatever it may be. But, actually physically getting people together.

Daniel: Yeah.


Andrew: And then you know for example we could act as the admins for the Glasgow region 
or some such.

Daniel: Yeah, yeah.

Andrew: Essentially that's what we're doing for GAS anyway.

Daniel: Yeah.

Andrew: But, getting the groups of people to sit in the same room that was huge.

Daniel: Right that's a really big learned lesson for me throughout this conversation.

About the Author..

Daniel O'Connor

Daniel O'Connor

My goal is where reuse & repair is so convenient and desirable, that organisations do not throw anything away or buy anything new.. Where reusable items are redistributed for their 2nd and 3rd useful lives and when the items fail, they are diverted into repair.

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