Local government is running out of time to think about how to make services better and prototype options. There is a greater need to take a radical approach and everyone needs to act.

What future do we want?

It’s a truism to say people feel disenfranchised with democratic structures and leaders, voting for any kind of change rather than staying with old models.

Meanwhile technological advance means many tools we’ll use in 2028 won’t even exist in 2019. Data will increasingly be the currency of choice. And homes are becoming more and more automated via Google and Amazon.

But rather than bring us together, access to technology is seen as separating us further. It’s a dismal glimpse at what could be a dystopian future. There is hope, but fulfilling that requires bold leadership.

Reinvention and transformation

The trouble is that austerity is not going away, and small pockets of transformation have only gotten us so far. We need to look hard at the structures of our organisations and fundamentally reinvent them around the needs of citizens.

But organisation transformation at scale is achievable. We already see this happening across central government departments such as the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency and some councils, including Essex CC and Hackney LBC.

Local government has always survived change. Now, it needs to adopt that attitude into transforming itself by working together, focusing locally and learning from other sectors.

Services don’t start and stop in a directorate. It’s a combination of teams, the user and the ongoing support needed to keep them working.

To implement this means more than just resolving the technology used, or sorting things at an individual scale. It’s all interconnected.

The time is now

The right skills to support 21st-century organisations revolve around design, technology, and invention. The right culture and environment will be open, flexible and encourage sharing. And the right ways of working will be collaborative, iterative, and involve data.

Local government needs to be equipped with these things to become the engine of change, promoting better tech and new ways of doing things, supporting the organisation to transform.

It’s never been about selecting technology and building it to save a few pennies, but investing in how we get the right future outcomes for residents to have better lives, businesses to thrive and communities to flourish.

There are no more excuses to why we can’t be proactive to set ourselves up to be more resilient, adaptable and focused on delivery.

This post was first published by the Local Government Chronicle.

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