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Future Councils: We’re gathering feedback from the sector

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Future Councils, Local Digital

Since May 2023, we have been working closely with 8 diverse councils through the pilot of our new programme, Future Councils

Future Councils aims to understand the recurring barriers faced by councils. We want to understand the experiences of each of the pilot councils and address common blockers when trying to make their organisations more modern and resilient.

In this blog post, we want to outline the challenges we’ve identified with the cohort and invite you to share your feedback and experiences. 

You can read more about the pilot councils and how we chose them in a blog post published earlier this year, or learn more about our ambitions for Future Councils in this interview with Emily Sullivan, Local Digital's Head of Product, published by UKAuthority.

Setting the scene

Risk is needed to make changes and innovate. However, it can be difficult to take risks when economic conditions are tough, the technology landscape is fast-evolving, and citizen needs are ever-changing.

The risk of innovation can come with a high cost, not only financially but operationally and/or reputationally. For example, buying or building a new technology solution could support a council to move away from a legacy supplier, however there is a risk of finding it doesn’t work or cannot be effectively implemented.

Identifying key challenges

Through the Future Councils pilot, we have summarised the impact of this on councils as a set of challenges. Each of these challenges will need to be overcome in order for a council to become modern and resilient. 

The challenges we’ve identified include: 

  • Defining clear prioritisation across the array of critical services councils have to deliver
  • Making strong cases for investment, and overcoming cultural barriers and risks, both within a service area and across the council
  • Moving from reactivity to proactivity, and efficiently allocating funding to drive innovation while ensuring the needs of residents are consistently met
  • Overcoming siloed approaches to support effective, council-wide collaboration 
  • Enabling council-wide digital transformation by closing the gap in skills
  • Incentivising the market to support effective service delivery within an ever-changing landscape

We are working through these challenges by conducting experiments and co-creating case studies with the pilot cohort, to test internally and with the wider sector.

Turning the challenges into problem statements

Together with the pilot councils, we have developed the summarised challenges into a series of problem statements. The problem statements give a short, clear explanation of a challenge, summing up what the council wants to change.

The next step is to gather feedback on these problem statements from councils beyond the pilot cohort and the wider sector. This will help us to validate the problem statements and identify scalable opportunities to help the sector as a whole.

You can read the full problem statements on our website.

How to share your feedback

1. Join our Future Councils Roundtable series

This Autumn, we’re inviting councils to join our Future Councils Roundtable series. At four in-person events, we’ll share more of what we’ve learnt through the pilot, and talk through the problem statements in detail. We will then invite councils to share their experience, including whether they face similar challenges, and discuss potential solutions.

Find out more and register for one of our Future Councils Roundtable events:

The Roundtable events are open to anyone working in digital and cyber roles in councils, as well as council senior or strategic leaders (CEOs, Directors, Heads of Service, and other senior leaders).

2. Share your feedback online

If you are part of the wider sector, or cannot attend one of our events, you can share your feedback on the problem statements via the forms on our website.

What’s next

Later in the Autumn, we will share what we’ve heard, as well as how we are using this work to inform what comes next for Future Councils. 

To stay up-to-date with the progress of the Future Council programme and future opportunities, follow us on our usual channels: 

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  1. Comment by arif devji posted on

    Very interesting 'Identifying Key Challenges'

  2. Comment by john mortimer posted on

    Is this about improving servers, or how best to apply digital?
    'We are proud of the improved outcomes Local Digital has delivered over the last four years in collaboration with councils.'
    It is not all rosy, digital by default has also led to poor outcomes. So I hope this work will not just focus on digital but look at enabling better ways of engaging and supporting people in need?
    Please, please do not think that a modern council means a digital council!

    • Replies to john mortimer>

      Comment by pippadriver posted on

      Thanks for your comment John. Absolutely, Future Councils aims to influence organisation-wide factors that can unblock change, and find solutions through fostering innovation and improving performance across the sector rather than focusing simply on digital fixes. One of the key principles of the work we do in Local Digital is advocating for user centred design over and above 'digital by default'. There is a balance to be found in enhancing outcomes and improving efficiency and this is being explored through the work that Future Councils is doing in relation to effective prioritisation across organisations.