For the past 10 years, FutureGov has danced to a different beat. Get in, enthuse, support, retrain and get out, leaving people with a new perspective, curiosity and renewed energy. Our approach is to reach into organisations and create sustainable change. We’re not here to change minds but to fundamentally change the hearts of people in public service. We want to show what can be achieved by adopting new ways of working and creating new habits, so you can dance with us, excited for the possibilities of the future, and continue dancing long after we’ve gone.
Creating the conditions for 21st-century work is often done informally as a natural part of our project work with clients. But increasingly, it is has come to us as a deliberate ask as a way to find new routes to solutions for citizens. It is becoming increasingly obvious that in order to move at pace, we must embed modern, agile cultures. In the midst of a broken and restrictive government that doesn’t get the creative attention it needs, organisations are looking to take the best from outside the sector — to move ‘digital’ into mainstream thinking and make change happen.
Locally designed, nationally networked
In response to the need to create modern organisations and desire to learn our ways of working, this year FutureGov introduced Futures Academy: an organisational change programme we design and tailor to individual organisations to create the conditions for running a 21st-century organisation. This is not:
- a one size fits all offer, dragged and dropped into an organisation
- an external programme for the few high flyers
- a predetermined curriculum of theoretic models, leaving organisations to work out how to operationalise the learning
- a programme of leadership development for the top tier domain, separate from the rest of an organisation
The extent, breadth and scope are decided by the organisation. We can bring perspective on what is important and assess existing organisational culture against that perspective to design the change programme with you. Using our place as a national organisation partnering with many parts of government, we can act as a platform, bringing in senior leadership, organisation design specialists, service design and research practitioners and policy and social change experts to deliver an immersive approach based on using real work to provide the space for learning.
A Futures Academy programme might focus on building capabilities in larger digital or operational teams, or it could be a week-long, immersive learning experience working with a small multidisciplinary team to develop a new set of skills. It could include workshops and advisory sessions with senior leaders and elected members to provoke their thinking or a series of practical project related coaching sessions. Ultimately, every programme is about moving beyond theory to design work that brings individual organisations the ways of working they need.
Testing our approach
We’re already testing different approaches and types of programmes as part of the Futures Academy. We recently worked with a multidisciplinary team from the Corporate Development Department at Essex County Council. FutureGovers Belen (Senior Service Designer) and Ian (Senior Consultant) supported the team to deliver a real project. Introducing new ways of working through a five-day design sprint, each day the team learned by doing through user research and prototyping approaches, supported by agile project management. By trying new tools and techniques first-hand, we helped them to design and test innovative approaches to tackling issues their council faces.
FutureGov is taking the same approach to test different types of programmes, designed with a number of other organisations, to build their skills and capabilities. The Digital Maturity Assessment we undertook at Homes England, highlighted that building digital skills and ways of working as important to help Homes England become a digital organisation. The discovery phase focused on developing a set of skills and capabilities called the ‘digital fundamentals’. These include:
- digital literacy
- user research
- service design
- organisation design
- skills relating to innovation and entrepreneurship
Today, coaching and Communities of Practice have also been rolled out across the Homes England Digital to support skill development and cross-team learning and sharing. All levels are involved, as well as the Homes England leadership team, who recognise that digital leadership skills should be developed as part of a wider leadership offer.
Bradford City Council, Sheffield City Council are in the planning stages for their own Futures Academy programmes, and we’ll be building from our experiences with North East Lincolnshire Council, who also worked with FutureGov to shape a Futures Academy. Our aim is to create immersive learning experiences that changes the way organisations do things; to inspire and inform, remove barriers and unlocking potential.
Ian Hutchison and Belen Palacios will be running a workshop around Futures Academy at LocalGovCamp this September and Anne-Louise Clark will be introducing the Futures Academy at Solace Summit in October.