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Updates to the Local Digital Fund application process

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The Local Digital team recently published the Local Digital Fund Prospectus 2019/20 on GOV.UK, detailing the planned rounds of funding for this financial year. We’ve learned a lot from the last year and especially from the 16 projects funded in round one, so we’ve changed our original plans and timelines.

A separate round of funding for previously funded projects

We funded 16 projects in the first round of the Local Digital Fund and 6 months on, the successful project teams have finished the work and some are ready to move to the next project phase.

On 17 July 2019, we invited these project teams to consider our feedback and use it to apply for further funding. 

As with every round of funding, priority is given to those with the greatest chance of success. By allowing the existing projects to apply in a separate round, we’re aiming to get the most out of these projects.

Changes to the application process

After receiving nearly 400 expressions of interest in the first round of the Local Digital Fund, we’ve decided to make some changes to the process, helping councils to apply and ourselves to administer the fund.

Removing the expression of interest stage 

We have removed the expression of interest stage entirely. Applicants will only need to fill in one application form, which we will use to make a funding decision. 

Partner authorities 

Applications to the fund now require a minimum of 3 local authorities that will work on each project (it was previously 2).

The process for finding partner organisations for each project will be self-organised, unlike in round one. Councils will need to use available channels to discuss ideas and find partners to work with.

Read our optional guidance on finding partner organisations to collaborate with on our website.

Limiting the total number of applications per council

Local authorities will be limited to leading on 2 applications, but there is no limit to the number of applications that a council can partner on.

Senior stakeholder support 

Applications will require proposed projects to provide evidence of senior stakeholder buy-in and support. 

We learned that our funded projects had varied levels of visibility and enthusiasm within their own organisations, which may have been due to the extent that projects “worked in the open”. Support from senior figures within each council is really important, especially in agile service delivery. The governance principles for agile service delivery from the GOV.UK Service Manual give clear advice on this topic.

New application questions

In the Local Digital Fund prospectus, you can read the updated criteria that will be used to assess applications. 

The criteria is focused around 6 key points, which is reflected in the application questions. We hope that these changes will help users to complete their applications for funding in anticipation of running their projects, while also aligning the criteria to the principles of the Local Digital Declaration.

Spending the Local Digital Fund

In the first round of the Local Digital Fund, we were able to fund a higher number of projects.

This was due to discoveries being awarded a lower level of funding and being lower risk - it’s easier to take more risks to find out what works. We also had not yet begun to roll out the GDS Academy training to signatories of the Local Digital Declaration

As we are now allowing applications for beta projects with a budget of up to £350,000, we will be funding a smaller number of projects in both round 2 and 3. This will also allow for us to be more involved in the work.

How to apply

We’re looking forward to more ideas from collaborative project teams across local government to help #FixThePlumbing. More information about future rounds of the Local Digital Fund will be made available on our website.

You can keep up with the #LocalDigital community by following @LDgovUK on Twitter, joining LocalGov Digital and using their Slack community, and by registering to receive our fortnightly newsletter.

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