FutureGov have been at this game long enough now to say that true partners are hard to come by. You know, the kind of ones who might be willing to trust you to experiment, let you take a little risk here and there, let you flex your creative muscles and support you over a long enough period of time to let you show what might be possible.
Having experimented across a wide range of what are often known as Gov 2.0 type projects in (mostly) UK local government, we’ve learned a thing or two about how to do digital and make it meaningful.
But what has often proved to be more difficult is the kind of longer-term commitment we’ve been looking for to try to bring it all together. Frustrated that we’ve never quite had the opportunity to revisit the in-depth change management experience Carrie and I picked up working on the inside of local government for 5 years. Future Surrey at last allows us to do just that.
As a team, it is letting us put our money where our mouth is when it comes to showing what design and technology can do, a public service change programme fit for the Twenty-First Century.
Led day to day by the ever creative Carrie, designer extraordinaire Joe, open government addict Ingrid and geek in chief Anu, Future Surrey combines service design and social technology to bring about organisational change in Surrey Council, its partners and with the people of Surrey themselves.
Surrey, its local partners and FutureGov share a belief that design and social technology will (and already do) play a key role in supporting the public sector to rethink how it delivers services and creates public value. Importantly we also share a belief that it’s about time we started moving beyond ‘nice to have’ innovation and start to tackle some of the most pressing challenges facing government and communities, not just quick wins and showy solutions.
How, in an age of austerity, can design and technology really add value by supporting government to cut costs while maintaining the highest possible outcomes for service users? What does this mean in practice? How can change be managed in such a way that it is targeted, purposeful, inclusive and be made to stick?
From customer service and communications to service delivery and social innovation, the council has expressed the desire to be a “leading edge” local authority in the use of the digital technology and design.
In terms of what we’re working together to deliver over the next 4-6 months, above all we will be identifying and incubating ideas and taking them into prototype, introducing new ways of delivering services for the benefit of the people of Surrey that build on existing capability and capacity across Surrey to support them to pick up and run with our work over the long term. As part of this we’re also committed to putting together a vision, strategy and change model for Surrey and local government more widely, including a local innovation network.
Supporting sustainable local change is fundamental to what we’re working on with Surrey. One example of how this is already happening is the social media surgeries being run in the council. Aware that our resources can only stretch so far, but even more keen not to dominate, we are supporting the social networking savvy Libraries team to experiment with delivering these surgeries to their colleagues, sharing existing local expertise and building corporate connections with it. Designed and delivered by enthusiasts within Surrey for their colleagues.
Autumn is gearing up to be a busy time for the project. Now we are set up and ready to go first up is Surrey Camp, an 180 person event for mostly public sector employees to start spreading the word. We’re starting with the enthusiasts who have stepped forward to hear more about Future Surrey and get involved as we’re aiming to build a change movement, where ‘activists’ (a @johnniemoore-ism) step forward, take responsibility for playing their part in creating the future of Surrey, and role model the change they want to see. We feel this event will be key to that and give us a great platform to extend the influence of the project beyond the current relatively small group of people we are working intensively with.
Above all through the Future Surrey project, we’re looking forward to sharing the stories of the many fantastically enthusiastic, creative and energetic people inside local government determined to make change happen in these hard times. And how design and social technology can provide some of the tools to help make that change happen in a way that is both as human and appropriate to the needs of the people government serves as is possible.
I can’t finish without paying tribute to the support from the top we’ve received in Surrey, one that values creativity, collaboration, networking, and the freedom to experiment. Without the support of the leader of the council Andrew Povey, the chief executive David McNulty and their colleagues we would still be waiting for a council up for going on this journey with us.
And we have plans well beyond Surrey. With Surrey. As our partners. So watch this space or get in touch if you’re a council who would like to know more.