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LocalGovCamp Unconference 2017 - Turning words into actions

LocalGovCamp is the unconference run by local government, for local government. I was part of a team of volunteers that helped put it together in 2017, and it was great to see six months planning culminate over two days and one night. I plan to write something about Fringe Friday later, but this piece is about the main event on Saturday.


I learn a lot every year, but yesterday felt a bit different.

The start of a productive day came via my first session entitled "Help, I'm an elected member", hosted by a cabinet member from a welsh local authority, asking for help and advice. I've run a session like this in the past, and if the discussion is well facilitated (as yesterday's was) it can be infinitely better than being talked at, or a death by a hundred slides type presentation. Both the host and the participants learn something, as I did yesterday.

We need more councilors at LocalGovCamp, and this was a step in the right direction, seeing an elected member not onl…

Coalition of the willing

If I had a penny for every time I heard the phrase "coalition of the willing" today I'd have about seven pence.

Seriously though, I attended three really good discussions in London today broadly around councils sharing knowledge, innovation and work on digital, where the phase came up a few times, which got me thinking.

There are already coalitions of the willing in LocalGov Digital, the LGA, iStandUK, SOLACE, techUK's Local Public Services Committee, the Public Service Transformation Academythe iNetwork, and more. In fact there's a coalition of coalitions of the willing in the Local Digital Coalition. Yes, I agree a coalition of the willing is a good thing but perhaps we shouldn't create more disparate groups with the intention of enabling joined up working across local government.

The other thing that sprang to mind is, for every coalition of the willing working together there's a disunion of the unable and unwilling. For every small group of councils…

Learning about learning and development

Next week I'm attending an unconference for learning and development (L&D), and organisational development (OD) practitioners. I'm familiar with the unconference format as I've been part of the team who organise LocalGovCamp for the past few years, but both L&D and OD are well out of my comfort zone.

So why am I going?

I've been involved with digital and service transformation for a while now and I've come to realise it's about more than tech. Sure it is you're probably thinking, real digital transformation is about the re-design of function and process around the capabilities the internet and technology provide, and that's true, but it's also about people.

The main driver for digital transformation is often cost reduction, and one way to cut cost is to reduce headcount. Some service re-designs remove the human element completely and create a fully end-to-end digital service, but lots of services councils provide or commission still need peo…

The psychology of rejection

You're planning your wedding and it's time to send out the invites. You decide you'll email everyone asking them to save the date, and send the invites in the post later. Within seconds of sending your emails you receive a polite and carefully worded reply from one of your invitees explaining they can't attend. It's like they didn't even think about it, they just flat out rejected you there and then.

How would that make you feel?

We've been thinking about this. Thinking about the psychology of rejection and how this relates to services we're redesigning. Digital is efficient, it's fast and cheap, but it can also be cold and uncompromising. Sometimes the steely hard edges of "computer says no" need padding.

With this in mind we're redesigning one of our services so that applications that don't meet the lowest threshold of the acceptance criteria are automatically rejected. Not only does this reduce staff workload, it means that we …

Why you don't need a digital strategy

Are you writing a digital strategy for a council? Stop it right now!

Most digital strategies I've seen focus on enabling customers to do things online, I've even seen councils claim they'll be delivering 100% of services online this year. Your strategy needs to be about more than just online.

Many strategies are created as a plan to deliver savings, with success measured in redundancies.  It's important to understand how digital technology can enable organisations do more and bring in additional revenue.

Some strategies talk about digital being a mindset. It's not. The problem is that the term "digital" has been conflated with "the internet" and most importantly service design.

Think about technology, think about the people that the technology supports, think about the service the people and technology support, and above all think about the user (and statutory) needs the service meets.

Organisations will always need specialists. Think about how …

Transforming collaboration across Local Government

Last year, when we were putting the Local Government Digital Service Standard (LGDSS) together Matthew Cain had a good idea. In truth he had lots of good ideas, but this post is about one of them and how we might progress it.

The LGDSS suggests an approach for councils to build good, value for money digital services people want to use. As councils start to adopt it there's an emerging view of what "good looks like" across the sector.

Councils provide different combinations of hundreds of services, but many of them are broadly similar across local government. Now we have the LGDSS and there's an agreed set of principles for transformation and delivery it's a become lot easier for councils to work together.

There'll always be a place for informal discussion, through initiatives like Unmentoring, events like LocalGovCamp, channels like Slack, or just picking up the phone and talking to someone.

As service transformation projects become mainstream across local go…