Skip to main content

Collaborative silos and history repeating

I've been thinking about, doing, and sharing collaboration in the public sector for around fifteen years. One thing I've learnt in this time is that things go in cycles, and different people will try and solve the same problem, the same way, over and over again.

This week the Local Government Association (LGA) launched its Transformation and Innovation Exchange and FutureGov launched a library of Service Patterns for Local Government; a couple of weeks ago Nesta announced it was starting its Upstream Collaborative.

The Transformation and Information Exchange now sits alongside the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government's  (MHCLG) database of Local Digital Projects, LocalGov Digital's Pipeline, revitalised by Hackney and now supported by the London Office of Technology and Innovation, MHCLG, Hackney and others, the LGA's own Shared Services Map, and many others.

Service Patterns for Local Government in some part replicates the Government Digital Service's Design System, and duplicates some of the aims of Jadu's Library, IEG4's Digital Services Library and other similar resources.

The Upstream Collective is another group, network or association alongside the Society of Local Authority of Chief Executives, the Society of IT Managers, the Local CIO Council, LocalGov Digital, One Team Gov, and others, who already have programmes, initiatives and other work to enable collaboration in local government.

So why do we keep creating new silos and platforms in the name of collaboration?

Why do we keep doing the same thing over and over again and hoping we'll get different results?

The reasons are many, some political, for example perhaps because of an imperative to be seen as an organisation that's leading change, but if you're just rehashing what been tried before, you're not leading.

Some reasons are commercial, being seen to be forward thinking but with a commercial agenda. There are however many people in the private sector who genuinely want to improve local public service delivery, and given those working in the public sector take a wage and therefore benefit financially themselves, let's not get too puritanical about this.

So far this piece has been fairly negative, so I want to end on a positive because in the past year I think the catalyst which will enable collaboration between councils has been proven, and there's probably little surprise that it's money.

An offer of part of the £7.5 million Local Digital Fund generated 384 expressions of interest. As you'd expect, the quality varied, but having read through the 16 projects that were funded, many have the potential to change how councils deliver services. For example changing how councils take payments, how councils manage and deliver information about community services, or using AI through chatbots to ensure council services are designed to support the ongoing move away from accessing the internet via screens to voice.

Of course it's not just money, it's money spent in the right way, ensuring councils work together to deliver outcomes in an agile way, to meet user needs.

So if you're thinking of building a platform to aid collaboration, or if you're having conversations about how to redesign the local delivery of public services at whatever level, please don't create another collaborative silo, research what already exists and which of the expected outcomes it did and didn't deliver. Above all though, think how projects or other collaborative work will be funded, or, in the words of Shirley Bassey, it's all just a little bit of history repeating.

Comments

  1. I *completely* endorse this - this is a huge problem for progress. When we set up the Public Service Transformation Academy, we really wanted to make it porous and non-territorial. We've been somewhat successful but it's hard - not least because others might want to maintain their boundaries!

    ReplyDelete

Popular posts from this blog

Digital best practice checklist

This week I finished the draft of a digital best practice check-list. It's not digital strategy, in fact I'm increasingly thinking organisations don't need a digital strategy, they need a delivery strategy.

My draft has check-list of seven questions and recommendations, with one overall recommendation regarding best practice for delivering digital. Ideally it would be incorporated into a wider service and information delivery strategy.

Below I've omitted the bulk of the content, the reasoning behind arriving at the recommendation from the question because it's still in draft, but here are the seven questions and eight recommendations:

1. Is the council properly promoting its digital services and content, to reduce avoidable contact?

Recommendation: Establish a “digital first” ethos to the promotion of services and better targeting what, when and where they're promoted.

2. Are the digital services the council offers, especially where the design and development ha…

Pipeline Alpha

In September 2014, officers from 25 councils met in Guildford to discuss a platform to enable collaboration across Local Government. A "Kickstarter for local government" is the missing part to Makers Project Teams, a concept to enable collaborative working across different organisations put forward by LGMakers the design and development strand of LocalGov Digital.

Based on the user needs captured at the event, LGMakers created collaboration platform Pipeline and by October people from over 50 councils had signed up. Pipeline is an Alpha, a prototype set up to evaluate how a Kickstarter for councils might work. It is a working site though, and is being used as the platform it is eventually intended to be, at present without some of finer features a live offer might have.

So what have I've learnt in the eight months since we launched Pipeline?

There's a strong desire to collaborate 

LocalGov Digital isn't a funded programme. I wrote about how much it LocalGov Digita…

Superfast highways

You may have seen this slide I put together to help explain digital transformation

This week we launched a new beta service to report speeding traffic. It looks fairly simple but to give you an idea of what's happening in the background I thought it might be useful to show you the before and after.

So here's the before

and as you can see it's completely a manual process. Stuff might be recorded electronically but it takes someone to do something seven time to make the process work and send it to the parish or the district.

Here's the after

What this doesn't tell you is that it's basing whether the request is for the parish or district on three questions. It's also doing a spatial look up to find the parish and returning the parish clerk details using the Modern.Gov API.

Because these are already part of our platform this is data that we currently maintain, so there's no additional work to keep this up to date and we've reduced the human interactio…

Defining transformation to a wider audience

For the past month I've been putting together a paper on the next steps of digital transformation, for the organisation I work for. I'm proposing we look at two capabilities and two business areas, and if approved I'll be writing more about it.

It's been a great exercise in gathering my thoughts and helping me to define digital transformation to a wider audience and how it fits into the bigger picture of service improvement.

Here's some of the stuff I've learnt or had affirmed:
Transformation, digital or not, starts with understanding the needs of the user through research. This should be obvious, but in local government too often I've seen "build it and they will come" approach applied.

It's unlikely a commercial operation would launch a new product without first researching the market, so why would a digital service be any difference?
A couple of years ago I wrote how the phrase "digital transformation" was hindering digital transf…

Carl's Conundrum of Internal Influence

I'm writing this partly as a reply to an excellent piece that Carl Haggerty published about the disconnect between internal and external influence and partly due to various conversations over the past month about how to make using tools like collaboration platform Pipeline common practice.

This isn't really about Carl though, or Devon County Council, or any other council specifically, it's more a comment on the influence of digital teams in local governments, or lack of, and how to resolve this.

So here's the question that prompted this piece. How can someone who's been recognised nationally for their work, first by winning the Guardian's Leadership Excellent Award and who has more recently been placed in the top 100 of the Local Government Chronicle's most influential people in local government, "sometimes feel rather isolated and disconnected to the power and influence internally".

First, let's consider whether is this a problem to unique t…