Good morning everyone and welcome to Transitions 2.0 Thank you all for giving up a little bit of your time to spend with us today. My name is Matt Skinner, I’m the CEO of FG and will be your host for this morning.

I hope you’ve had a great start to the week, full of sunshine here in the UK. Hopefully, we’ll be adding to that great start with a morning full of inspiring talks from some of the best in the biz, sharing their stories of change and transition.

Before we start, I want to say a big thank you to our two interpreters, Audrey and Bridget, who you’ll see at the bottom of your window. This is the first time we’ve included this service in our events, it’s so important for inclusivity and I’m proud to offer this service today.

So with all that in mind, let’s get started!

At the end of last year, we hosted our first Transitions event. Coming together for another morning, we took time to pause, take stock and to reflect on how much every one of you has achieved in delivering vital public services over the last year. You were fundamental in getting our country through its toughest year for a century and we all share profound thanks for your hard work.

Many of you attending today joined us for that event, where we heard from some amazing people working across the sector who had been at the front line dealing with change throughout the crisis. One of our keynote speakers Cassie Robinson spoke about dealing with loss and the things organisations needed to let go, and Eileen Burbidge shared her lessons for leading through transitions.

A purple background with a white text overlay explaining that 'an elastic force will soon snap us back, how can we design our places to bring people into a new world?'

Looking forward, Dominic Campbell challenged us to think very deliberately as an elastic force, possibly called a vaccine, begins to come into our lives and snaps us back into the world that we once knew, but in a slightly different form. Encouraging us to welcome people back into this world in an empathetic but different way to how we’ve left it.

Four months on and I know that many of us are already feeling the strength of that elastic force pulling on us, our organisations and our ways of working. We cannot let this snap us back to our old reality.

A colourful graphic with headshots of all Transitions 2.0 speakers

Today, we’re joined by brilliant individuals who will be sharing their stories of leading through this transition, consolidating on the gains from the last year and how they’re embracing the new and leading in their places. People who have lessons for us all about organisational change, societal change and supporting communities and places as they face the most pressing social issues.

Before I hand over to these fantastic people, I wanted to share some of my reflections to frame the day a little. You’ll also now see a poll appear over on the right hand side. Navigate over to the poll tab to feedback as those appear.

For those of you who don’t know us, FutureGov is a change agency working across government and health. We believe public institutions are the catalyst for change to radically improve outcomes for communities in the 21st century.

The astute amongst you will by now have noticed that I am not Dominic Campbell. In the past few months, FutureGov too has been continuing with our own transition, which I shed some light on in a recent blog post that you can find in the library. Stepping into the CEO role at FutureGov at the beginning of this year signified a big change for our organisation, giving us an opportunity to evolve and also to experiment with some new models of leadership.

We’re an organisation passionately committed to the idea that strong modern public institutions remain a force for good in our communities. While FutureGov embraces change, what remains consistent for us is continuing to strive towards bold and ambitious approaches that help our partners solve the increasingly complex challenges of the 21st-century. As we all continue to transition, this is more important than ever.

In that blog post I mentioned is also where we started talking about the idea of the perpetual transition:

We need to embrace change and uncertainty because change is the only constant. As the world gets more complicated and more complex, I think we’ll find that we need to get comfortable with the perpetual transition.

Responding to COVID has pushed many things forward rapidly in the last year. We learned and achieved a lot, and I don’t think anyone can argue now that the need for better-designed organisations & technology is essential to the ongoing delivery of public services.

We’ve said before, most organisations were never designed for the internet era.

White text on a blue background reads 'most organisations were never design for pandemics'

And they certainly weren’t designed for pandemics. Ultimately, they were not purposefully designed. Citizen’s expectations have been rising around this for a long time, and there is no way that they’ll accept us rolling back to face-to-face service delivery in many areas that are now entirely digital facing.

Organisations and entire industries have been forced to adopt new collaborative technologies and cross-cutting ways of working at a pace we’ve never seen before. We’ve seen increased productivity, but also faster and wider collaboration as we responded to community-wide challenges. We’ve had to get comfortable trusting our staff, creating the conditions for them to try new ways of working that are more agile, and being OK with failing fast and learning.

You’ve had to adapt far more quickly to changing conditions, understanding and responding to the changing needs of residents throughout this crisis, standing up new services in days and weeks, not months and years.

FutureGov has had to move rapidly from discovery to Live to support councils to set up new services, for example working with partners like Camden Council to create a digital single view of resident needs and foster collaboration. With East London Health and Care Partnership we developed a digital solution to collecting, monitoring and managing PPE stock levels in a matter of weeks. With Buckinghamshire Council and Camden Councils we rapidly built on previous work to deliver a COVID-19 services directory for residents in just a few days.

For us, these are just a few examples from the last year that demonstrate the brilliant new partnerships that have been forged between organisations and their communities to deal with the crisis.

We’re seeing more collaboration and a wider adoption of tools to respond to the needs of citizens, and we’re also seeing a big change in the expectations of the workforce. So many of us involved in delivering public and health services have seen large sections of our organisations working remotely. Our expectations of what it means to work, and work well, is changing. It’s another conversation that’s been growing for decades, rapidly pushed forward as organisations adopted remote working and continuing to change as many workers feel able to advocate for the future work they want.

We’ve had a window, or a webcam, into people’s homes and lives. You can see, I’m lucky enough to be able to speak to you today from our spare room. Others, we’ve seen working from their living room, their bedroom, with kids and pets running into view. We’ve had to face each other’s humanity, shining a spotlight on the blurred lines between personal life and work life.

We’ve had to try asynchronous working, new ways of managing and bringing teams together virtually, and supporting our staff with their mental health. St Helen Council’s Ways of Working programme is an amazing example of focusing on creating a positive culture, through greater collaboration with teams and partners, creating a better workplace and a workforce culture fit for the future. You may hear a bit more about this later.

Many organizations have also been able to recruit new staff across geographic boundaries, opening up a wider and more diverse skills pool, helping us all bring in more diverse backgrounds and specialisms into our organisations that we may not have felt we could access before.

And of course, we’ve had to rapidly build new relationships with our communities and partners. Increasingly, citizens are advocating for the future they want. Residents want a voice on local issues; they want to be involved much more in coming up with solutions and they want to help solve them. From Parish Councils to Whatsapp street groups checking in on each other; to vocal campaigns for/against Local Traffic Neighbourhood schemes, we’ve seen time and time again over the last year; people passionately coming together to make their voices heard and make improvements in their communities.

So that’s a lot of gain. But also, culturally we’re in a position as a society to more fully recognize and react to injustices. For a decade, social media has been connecting us more. In lockdowns, we turned to new tools to stay informed and stay connected with friends and loved ones. But COVID also shone an uncompromising light on rising health inequalities as it disproportionately impacted both the poor and BAME communities.

Our awareness is heightened and over the last year we’ve seen incredibly important conversations and movements come to the forefront in Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ+ rights, inclusivity, Sarah Everard and women’s safety, to name only just a few.

Beyond poorly designed services, people are calling for systemic change. To be inclusive, to actively seek out the most disenfranchised amongst us, recognising that the way we design policy, organisations and services impacts real people.

This is the world that we’re living in. Whether we want to or not, we must create truly 21st-century public institutions that are fit for delivering the best public services in this context. Whilst there are many things that remain challenging, it’s vital that we do not lose this momentum for change.

White text on a pink background reads 'the imperative for change is stark'

The imperative for change is stark.

A generation of austerity in local government means that the cookie cutting and salami slicing approach is no longer viable. Government debt at a post war high means that austerity will continue, but we need to move beyond new public management of process efficiency to much more networked, community-led public service delivery.

COVID exposed the structural inequalities in a way the financial crash did not. We’re moving beyond GDP to inclusive growth, focusing on the large minority who have had stagnant wages and increasing costs for 40 years. The collapse of the high street and the retail jobs requires radically different thinking about what work means and what new models are required to prevent deeper structural inequality and further disparity between richest and poorest.

Our response in the pandemic helped us see what’s possible, but also, what’s to come. We need to get more comfortable living with perpetual transition. We need to accept that we’re probably going to live with COVID for quite some time and live with the reality that future pandemics are more likely as we cause further damage to the natural environment.

Climate change will continue to create genuine emergencies, from flash floods to heat waves. Things like Machine Learning will have a more discreet impact on employment, democracy and public opinion. That means more remote working and rapidly standing up diverse, inclusive, multi-sector teams to respond to the varied, complex challenges that will continue to arise.

If COVID has taught us anything, it’s that top down responses do not work. Change is often directed nationally or system-wide, yet the impact of that change is felt locally, in people's lives.

We’ve seen this disconnection play out before:

  • the centralised response to A-Level results, that ignored teachers and local schools insights
  • the NHS callout for volunteers generated enthusiastic responses but lacked the community insight to connect this goodwill with actual demand.
  • the national outsourced test and trace system underperformed in comparison to local public health teams embedded in their communities.
  • and the vaccine programme has been reliant on highly sophisticated community engagement to ensure uptake

We need to think differently about the link between central and local, from where policy happens, to where people feel change in their communities. And increasingly, the role of public institutions to deliver this change alongside their communities. And we’ve seen the most success where we’ve devolved decisions and action down to communities.

Our friends at New Local argue that we need to force a new community paradigm, a fundamentally new way of society working. Based on the premise that people and communities themselves have the best insights into their own situations, and that public services need to work with and recognise this if they are to be fit for purpose and sustainable into the future.

This is really about creating better outcomes for people, not just technology or delivery of services.

A diagram shows the power of councils

For public institutions to act as true catalysts for change, we need to look beyond policy and service provision as our main levers of influence. Seeing our institutions as part of a bigger network of assets, strengths and partnerships, considerate of how we effectively bring everyone in a place closer together to increase reach, influence and impact.

What role do our local authorities and local health organisations play as force multipliers within place, taking the same concepts we’ve been talking about for decades around place-shaping or place leadership and actually making that into something real and meaningful that serves the community?

A graphic shows how people and place is centered around transformation

Many local authorities are reframing their purpose, to put people and communities at the heart of change they want to see and make.

The London Borough of Barking and Dagenham are putting community engagement at the heart of their corporate plan. The London Borough of Camden Council has been using neighbourhood assemblies to think about how the future of work might look and their built environment. Oxford Council have set up an impact zone to work with the community and understand how to action its climate response.

It’s happening in other parts of government and health too.

Working with MHCLG and a consortium of partners on the TownsFund, we’ve been helping 101 towns that circle our great cities in the UK, to think deeply about the vision for their places. This means moving beyond just constructing buildings, to nurturing places. As part of the TownsFund, we’re helping capture the stories of these communities to help them understand, engage and influence strategy. We’ve also established a national Place Leadership Programme, bringing together private and public sector leaders to help them understand place leadership and provide the practical guidance to deepen capability and build connections across the country.

Equally, Bloomberg Philanthropies has a worldwide ambition to help political leaders think about what 21st-century city halls look like. We’ve had the privilege to work across 20 European cities to help them think about how they re-engineer their organisations and invite their citizens into a fundamentally transformed, city government experience. How can we help them think not just about service and technology design but fundamentally around democratic legitimacy and the role mayors within our cities play in re-engineering our organisations?

With funding decisions and more flexibility left to local discretion, Integrated Care Systems provide an opportunity to radically rethink the relationship between local gov/NHS and communities at a local level. The work done in North East Lincolnshire by the Council and CCG coming together to integrate as The Union is a great example of two organisations thinking and working differently to lead across their place. Asking themselves; how do we combine our efforts, our capacity and our resources to best contribute to and facilitate local economic growth? How do we strengthen and build resilience in the community and place? These are two organisations, coming together around a common purpose, building on their long-standing relationship to deliver better outcomes for people.

And that’s only a few examples of both local authorities and local health organisations as force multipliers in their place. We know there are so many more.

Text on a blue background shows how we must makes sense of a changing world through collaborations

We believe that with better organising structures between institutions and communities, we can harness the power and resources to better collaborate with communities and places to achieve shared outcomes. Connecting to the DNA of a place and collaborating across organisational and geographic boundaries, we can develop shared insights that help us make sense of a rapidly changing world.

Whether that’s an arm’s-length body using their mandate and institutional capacity to intervene, or a local authority using physical assets and skills to experiment with new forms of participation, our public institutions have a real opportunity to continue using 21st-century tools and mindsets to create new, local platforms for change.

This morning you will hear from some amazing people from across the world talking about everything from rethinking purpose in their places, to climate action, new forms of collaboration with their communities and unlikely alliances. We’re thrilled to have brought together this remarkable group of people to share some of their stories with you all today.

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