Making change happen

For over a decade, FutureGov has stood alongside our colleagues in the public sector, supporting their aspirations to make impactful change happen. Designing 21st-century organisations that put new tools, mindsets and ways of working at the heart of everything they do, we’ve been working together to deliver better public services.

But with the internet and technology advancing everything we do, the urgency of the climate emergency and the rapid speed of change, we need to rethink the role of government in the 21st century.

In a time of climate emergency, when the most vulnerable groups will be disproportionately impacted, it’s more important than ever that we consider how public institutions and communities can work together in new ways to build a vision for change and respond to the challenges of the internet and climate era.

Our organisations must be models of the world we want to build.

Umair Haque

The internet and climate era

The internet changed everything. What started as a simple form of information exchange has evolved into a sophisticated tool. And the speed at which the internet has continued to evolve in the 21st century has affected every aspect of modern life. From the ways we communicate to our relationships and the way we access services, it’s clearer now more than ever that the internet is a basic human right.

Digital ways of working have been our inspiration through it all. We embraced uncertainty and complexity, using purposeful, creative approaches to radically rethink how we design human-centred public services, fit for people’s raised expectations and fit for the future. We’ve seen first hand the power of digital and design in shifting hearts and minds, building within and around us the motivation, the people, capabilities and mindsets needed to accelerate movements of change.

We're now applying those same ways of working and mindsets to our most complex social challenges. Undeniably, the internet will continue to be one of the most disruptive forces in our society in the coming years. But another force has at last moved front and centre.

Last year, citizens across the UK called on government to take environmental action seriously. We witnessed a noticeable shift as local government responded and two-thirds of all district, county, unitary and metropolitan councils declared a climate emergency. Recognising that climate change is our new reality, people and public institutions are coming together with a shared voice to devise new, radically different measures to respond.

The speed at which digital has shifted the world and the speed we now have to adapt to the climate emergency is a striking parallel. Facing daunting climate statistics, exponential demand and intractable systems, we need a vision that goes beyond reducing carbon emissions. As we enter an era of unprecedented social, systemic and planetary change, the mindsets, approaches and ways of working we learned from digital now stand us in good stead to respond to these new challenges. Creating a vision for the future and designing regenerative places that improve the lives of everyone whilst balancing the needs of our planet.

Vision for the future

We’ve achieved a lot over the last few decades, adapting to the pace of change, trying new things and responding to people’s raised expectations. Yet we know sustainable and impactful change at this scale isn’t something anyone can do alone. The challenge lies in purposefully creating the conditions for a world that can adapt and deliver on the needs of citizens while protecting our planet and safeguarding our future.

We have a vision of a new, networked approach to creating public value in places. Mimicking much of our internet-enabled world, 21st-century organisations and communities will thrive as small pieces loosely joined around regenerative places. This means applying everything we’ve learned to organise for change.

Organisations as platforms for change

We believe in the power of public institutions as catalysts for change, supporting communities to deliver on their own ambitions and together, radically improving outcomes in the 21st century. But 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. We need to see 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.

This is about more than organisations. It’s about organising; purposefully structuring internally to match the complex reality of the world. Working inside our public institutions to assemble diverse teams, create responsive governance structures, incentivise more inclusive decision-making and enable more opportunities for cross-agency collaboration. Ultimately, choosing to work in ways that allow us to adapt our organisations, providing the tools, resources and capabilities needed for people and places to creatively address their own problems.

With better organising structures between institutions and communities, we can harness the power and resources of institutions 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.

Communities changing places

We’ve recently experienced how powerful self-organising networks can be; small groups using internet-era technologies to mobilise people and build momentum at an increasingly ambitious scale. Underpinned by loosely held organising structures, these communities are forming new types of relationships. Unbound by geographic boundaries or a traditional view of community, they’re organised around a shared interest, passion, or in the case of a pandemic or climate emergency, a shared urgency.

Using bottom-up approaches, these communities have achieved a lot on their own, influencing change across the system to improve the lives of people. They’ve creatively and often frugally, found new ways to increase reach and influence, building deep levels of trust, hope and aspiration in the places they live. Yet, these groups alone cannot achieve the level and scale of change required.

We need our sights set on a world with deep alignment. We’ve seen how the passion of the public and community sector can create better links and legitimacy between public institutions and our communities. From place-based approaches addressing rising health inequalities to using digital tools that support frontline social workers, supporting grassroots community groups to reduce the risk of homelessness or organisations looking at new models of neighbourhood care, we recognise the importance of both organisational change and community organising as forces for good. When we supercharge these networks with the resources and reach of public institutions, their potential for change can be exponential. This means meeting in the middle, focusing on collaboration and working in the uncertain, complex liminal spaces between organisations, communities and places.

Defining a shared vision and organising around it, we can support the transition between where we are today and where we need to be in the future. Creating a future where shared forms of decision making and open, transparent ways of working, together with technology that accelerates community organising, shares power between communities and the people we elect to represent our better interests.

Ultimately, this is about bringing organisations and communities together, harnessing their collective energy and ambitions and working in 21st-century ways to solve very complex challenges of the internet and climate era, together.

Get in touch

We’re always happy to answer any questions you have about FutureGov and discuss how we can work together.

Contact us