At the end of 2020, we ran our Transitions event, bringing together amazing people to talk about the profound challenges and changes their organisations had faced. They shared stories of loss, stories of growth, but also inspiring stories of investing in the journey ahead of us.

What we couldn’t share at the time was that FutureGov was similarly going through a series of transitions. At the end of last year, practising what we preach, we ran an internal transitions programme to help put us in the best possible position for 2021 to deliver on our mission and support our partners on their journeys. That meant a lot of change for the organisation and our team, at the end of one of the toughest years we’d faced.

For me personally, stepping into 2021 also marked the beginning of change. As many of you will now know, at the beginning of this year I took on the leadership of FutureGov as Dominic Campbell moved on from the role of CEO.

Today, I wanted to take a moment to introduce myself to those of you I haven’t met yet in my years at FutureGov, share my passion for this public sector world and the work we do, and share some of my priorities for the months ahead.

My journey in local government

My career started pretty firmly in local government; first at Norfolk County Council in adult social care, then at Lambeth Council in children's social care and later as a Partnerships Manager for the Health and Wellbeing board.

Then nearly nine years ago, this July in fact, I joined FutureGov. Over the years, I've worked in quite a few areas of the business - in the tech and delivery teams, as well in organisational change. For the last four years, I've been proud to be the Managing Director, working alongside Dom to grow and lead the company.

Personally, I’m deeply motivated to help improve health and social care. Over the last ten years caring for my mum who had multiple sclerosis, I witnessed first hand some of the challenges people face in the care system. And recently when COVID-19 hit her care home and she, unfortunately, passed a couple of weeks ago, I again faced the reality so many UK citizens are currently living. I guess I’m sharing this because I want you to know how committed I am personally to FutureGov’s mission to help public and health institutions design better services for people.

Social care & health integration

In terms of priorities, the COVID-19 pandemic shone an uncompromising light on many areas of public service that are broken. The integration of health and social care, or lack thereof, along with controversial policies created in response to COVID-19, is continuously putting the most vulnerable at even higher risk.

Working across health and care, we have an opportunity to help manage patient journeys between community care, hospitals and residential care. There’s a lot of great work happening here, like NHS Blood and Transplant standing up a new convalescent plasma programme in the midst of the COVID-19 response. We’ve been working with them to improve the donation experience, building lasting relationships with existing donors and opening the process to new donors during an urgent crisis.

By understanding resident journeys in full, but also by understanding the larger network of assets available, we can develop transformational plans for place-based health and care services and provide the best care to residents. We’re passionate about this work at FutureGov, and this will continue to be a core part of our work in the year ahead.

Climate continues to be our most pressing crisis

Climate change continues to be our most urgent crisis and pressing challenge. Air pollution alone kills four million people every year and hundreds of thousands die from infectious diseases, which will become increasingly common as the global average temperature increases. The climate crisis is here, and while goals to reach net-zero are incredibly important, that alone cannot begin to mitigate the challenges ahead of us.

We need to start thinking now about the future impact of climate change. We need to be thinking now about how to approach the challenges our communities will face tomorrow. We know that as we devastate more of our natural resources and environment, we’ll face urgent challenges from food scarcity to migration and an increasing frequency of public health issues which, like COVID-19, will inevitably hit the most vulnerable hardest. How will we respond to the next pandemic as these challenges increase? How will we respond to the millions forced to migrate due to a changing landscape?

The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that we can respond in a crisis. We can radically change our ways of working, organising models and ways of delivering to help people get the care and support they urgently need.

Many councils have begun thinking about this, whether it be declaring a climate emergency, setting ambitious net-zero targets or facilitating climate assemblies to engage citizens in the response. We’ve been incredibly proud to support trailblazing councils in this. The question facing us all now is: how do we consolidate those gains of the last year, take everything we’ve learned and apply them to these very real climate-related challenges? And how do we do it now?

Place-based leadership

We have a vision of a new, networked approach to creating public value in places. Moving beyond a top down paternalism, 21st-century public services are ones that put institutions and parochialism to one side and focus more on binding the strengths of place. Mimicking much of our Internet enabled networked world, public services will thrive as small pieces loosely joined around purposeful places.

We’ve talked a lot about the idea of councils acting as a platform in the climate-era and as a platform for community action. What ties this all together is our belief that local councils have the opportunity to transition to being conveners in their place. This will require new types of public service leadership.

It’s something that we’re already seeing happening through some of our work with North East Lincolnshire and through the Towns Fund, where we’re supporting leaders to use new approaches to working with their partners and communities. These new kinds of place-based leadership are needed to help build resilience in our communities to solve some of these complex challenges.

Community trust and power

Integral to that new form of place-based leadership are radically different approaches to how we think about and engage our communities in a long-term way. In many ways, our organisations and local partnerships don’t exist as they did before. In the COVID-19 response, we saw communities move at an incredible pace, doing things in days and weeks that public sector institutions simply cannot replicate. We know that our local public institutions and partners alone cannot respond to the rising and legitimate expectations of citizens, let alone to the complexities of a situation like a global pandemic or the climate crisis without thinking afresh about how best to do this.

Public institutions must continue to engage effectively with community groups to build a future where shared forms of decision-making and transparent ways of working, underpinned by enabling technologies, accelerates community organising and shares power between entities within a place. This isn’t about trying to create more work for heavily burdened councils. Instead, they can be that glue, that convener, that supports and enables co-design and co-delivery of change that people believe in for their place.

From the work that we’ve been doing with councils to support this renewed approach across the country. From Doncaster to Tower Hamlets, we’ve seen clearly that they know that they should engage their citizens to help make difficult decisions and take action on complex issues, such as the recovery or climate change. They often want to. But they often don’t know how to do it. And this is where we are determined to help.

The transition is perpetual

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.

For the last 13 years, FutureGov has always strived towards bold and ambitious approaches to helping our partners solve the increasingly complex challenges of the 21st-century. As we all continue to transition, this is more important than ever

As I take on the leadership of FutureGov - a fantastic, diverse and innovative team, relentlessly dedicated to supporting the public sector - I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do together to ensure that citizens’ voices are always at the heart of change and to make our public services better.

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