Blog 06 October 2022

Local Gov Camp highlights: stop, collaborate and listen

by Lynley Meyers

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Manifesto for Local Government

I had the pleasure of attending Local Gov Camp last week, for those that didn’t get along to the event I’ve put together a quick round up to share the highlights. #LocalDigital and its members have an eclectic energy of their own. Forward thinking, enthusiastic seasoned with a pinch of frustration. These diverse, intelligent, caring folks have something big in common. They all know public services don’t need to be vanilla. They can be better. They’re working hard to make the world a better place for citizens. As the day’s energy built, so did the temperature, we all needed some iced water.

Being in person, in Birmingham together after three years was special. The dinner at Manzils was a riot of hugs, deep conversation and great food. You could hardly make yourself heard as news was shared. Friends were made and rediscovered. Most diners were sensible and headed home ready for the big day ahead. Power and a Panadol (or three) to those who made a long night of it!


A committee with a purpose


Thursday morning started with a well-deserved thank you to Phil Rumen the outgoing chair. Then a welcome to Dave Briggs (chair) and Kat Sexton (vice chair). It’s awesome to hear that there are big plans for #LocalDigital to ramp up into the training space and a much needed a source of expert industry opinion. It’ll be great to hear more as plans firm up.

Dave Briggs made a call for constant evolution. He remarked that this needs a change to funding. When you fund the team, not the project you make change a constant, with ongoing incremental change.


Corridor standing room only


The morning was full of breakout sessions, where many were so full that it was standing room only or crowding around the door in the corridor. The feedback and questions flowed thick and fast. So many ideas and post-it notes. It’s always fascinating to hear digital team stories and the progress they’re making.


Collaboration and then more #fixtheplumbing


It seemed there were two under pinning themes first, that no-one can go it alone, and second, that doing things differently with #fixtheplumbing remains a priority. The session on collaboration summed up some principles. It’s clear that the challenges are too big, resources too tight and timelines too short to fight the battles singlehandedly. Several success stories were shared.


Websites fit for every council


The collaboration achievements of the Local Gov Drupal team are evidence of the ability to deliver real outcomes. Will Callaghan spoke about how the workgroups in LocalGovDrupal receive contributions from 30+ councils. This makes it easier for everyone to deliver a cost- and user-effective website.


Four top collaboration tips


Team leaders offered some lessons learned. We found them really helpful, perhaps they’ll help you as you work on a collaborative project.

  • Shared purpose or problem: Is everyone committed to achieving a common goal? Can they clearly define the reasons and desired project outcome? A suggestion is that with well-defined purpose the multifunctional / council team can circle back when opinions are heated. They can then confirm, what they want to achieve and why. Then any proposed action / inaction can be measured against those goals. The purpose, it helps rationalise the tough decisions of a suggestion can’t be accommodated.  
  • Manage time carefully: Delivering any project on-time in-budget demands skill, patience and focus. Managing a project across a group of councils ramps up the level of challenge. Teams need to agree with the prioritisation of tasks and be accountable for clearly defined deadlines. Visibility of all progress, and perhaps more importantly any blockers, is essential.
  • Trust and confidence: Multi council teams are perhaps more vulnerable to a drop-in self-confidence due to distance, time pressures and conflicting purposes. The experienced in the room recommended that leaders keep these in mind. They suggested a willingness to compromise would do much to support project success.
  • Finally, empower the team: the product/project managers should have the necessary authority for their tasks. They need to be empowered to make needed decisions.

No more buy a thing to do a thing


Instead build your own that’s fit for purpose and meets your needs. It was especially good to hear Clare Evans at Tewkesbury Council, Kate Hurr at Cumbria County Council, Vicky Green at Ashfield District Council reflect on their low-code journey. These teams of highly skilled people have service and user design at their core. They focus on outcome success not tech. Their purpose is separate from their IT teams. Their goals include holistic process design that delivers cost effective end-to-end customer journeys for all customers, across all channels.

That brings to an end my local gov camp highlights. To learn more about our flavour of low-code used by Tewkesbury, Cumbria and Ashfield visit our Liberty Create page or our local government page.


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