Camden Council recognised early that while doing everything possible within the powers of their current service delivery remit, there would be even more that could be done to respond to the entirely new and unique circumstances of the COVID-19 crisis. When dealing with such a community-wide and potentially long-term challenge, they knew a radically different approach was needed.
Commissioned by Camden’s leadership, FutureGov worked with council colleagues from 23 March to 1 May, enhancing the council’s existing service offer in the context of COVID-19. With a focus on early intervention and prevention, strengthened through partnership working across council services and with the voluntary and community sector, FutureGov supported Camden Council to plan and execute a two-week design sprint focused on meeting resident food needs and to identify other opportunity areas to potentially explore in the future as a direct result of the COVID-19 crisis.
Our primary focus was ensuring that Camden’s shielded residents receive the support they need, with an initial focus on providing implementation support to Camden’s Shield Hub and related food offers. Our work has gone beyond this, with a commitment to understanding who the wider group of residents are that could be potentially vulnerable as a result of COVID-19, the nature of their anticipated need and potential service responses required to address these. The work was extended an additional six weeks to address wider needs within Camden’s crisis response. Through this collaborative work, we’ve supported Camden to seek and actively support the most vulnerable, guide people to support, ensure residents receive the essentials they need, support the organisations, groups and businesses within our communities to maximise their impact and prepare for the long-term now.
Working as a blended team with staff from Camden Council, including representatives from the Inclusive Innovation Network, Digital Transformation Team and Inclusive Economy Team, we used agile methodologies, approaching our work with daily stand-ups and end of day check-outs, weekly retrospectives and regular show and tells. We iterated not only on our work, but also the way we organised ourselves as a programme team - recognising the rapidly changing context we were working in and thereby the need for us to adapt our team structure and roles accordingly. Using a learn-test-deliver model allowed us to better understand the needs of those we aimed to serve and adjust our approach based on the feedback we received from Camden colleagues and our own team.
Understanding resident needs
COVID-19 has exposed deep social and economic inequalities within our society. Beyond its impact on our physical health, it is impacting people’s everyday lives. With a considered approach, we needed to widen our definition of vulnerability beyond the government’s shielded group in order to design services that meet the needs of all vulnerable residents.
Together, we identified characteristics and situations that could lead people to become vulnerable as a result of the pandemic, recognising that residents are being made contextually vulnerable by COVID-19. Meaning that there’s a large group of people facing external pressures and changes who have not required council support before. Some people's needs will change, whilst others will not. New potentially vulnerable groups will also emerge as we move into the recovery.