Like so many of local gov people out there I was surprised to hear the news about the potential closure of the LGA’s Knowledge Hub platform.
The following is in my role as Digital Communications Manager at Devon County Council. Although I strongly believe that the Local Gov Digital Network can play an active and leading role in helping to find a solution – more on that soon.
Better people have written about the background, context and what could happen, links below and I urge you read them all – however I’m going to take a slightly different view:
- Knowledge Hub Closure: What have we learnt? (Steve Dale)
- Help me save the knowledge hub (Dave Briggs)
- Re-visiting the challenge of networking civil society (David Wilcox)
- Knowledge Hub: Good CoP or Bad CoP? (Mark Braggins)
- Don’t KO the KHub (Phil Rumens)
Initially my reaction was “What the F**K!, how could the LGA be proposing such a decision given all the recent strategic messages around the importance of sector collaboration and digital”.
But since that initial reaction, I went away for a weekend in Cornwall and simply enjoyed time with family and friends with fantastic weather and a few bottles of the wonderful Doom Bar. Now upon returning I have started to see a slightly different perspective (It doesn’t make the decision any easier of course) but it does for me at least, send out clear signals to the sector and beyond that times are hard, finances are under increasing scrutiny and we all are questioning what we are here to provide and what our purpose is.
I can’t knock the LGA for having a strategic conversations where all things should be questioned and assessed and questions asked around why they should continue to provide the same services in the same way regardless of how these things came about.
After all as a local government community we will all be questioning what on the face of it will be sensible solutions and sensible services but when budgets are being cut your only choice is to completely rethink how the same outcomes can be met.
So with that in mind, I actually think the LGA’s decision to question the continuation of the Knowledge as a centrally funded platform is a sensible one and actually shows real leadership when in the face of everyone else it may not appear a good decision.
I would like to think that more of these types of decisions can start to be made…after all as an analogy this is the kind of thing that FutureGov’s casserole project is counting on and rightly so…we need to question and rethink how meals of wheels are provided and if you maintain the same existing platform it becomes financially challenging so a different model needs to be engaged and this might not be how people originally thought the service should be provided but the same outcomes for a large majority of people would be unaffected.
The one issue I do have with the LGA’s approach with this is that in order to close down the Knowledge Hub, they need to play an active part in the decommissioning of it and allowing something else to emerge in its place so that the sector as a whole doesn’t suffer.
I’m not going to talk directly about the people who are also likely to be at risk, although my thoughts are with them and all those staff across the sector who are struggling with the scale of changes and cuts which are affecting us all. These truly are challenging times and they are only really just beginning.
What I think should happen in the next two to three weeks:
- First and foremost people should respond to the consultation honestly and constructively – according to the Knowledge Hub people need to send thoughts, comments and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Those people who care about this topic should share their views publicly as well to help build a wider picture of what people believe to be an appropriate way forward. There are many options which could be realistically considered but we shouldn’t over engineer a response and we should ensure that what ever happens meets the needs of not just local government but all those involved in the provision and development of local public services.
- In parallel people need to start thinking of alternative models across all aspects of what is provided e.g. technology and solution, business and operating model, information and data and also community management. I will be sharing my thoughts on this as i’m sure many other people will be too.
Personally I think that collaboration across all those involved in providing and developing local public services is a critical component in helping us tackle the very big problems that society has. The knowledge hub or what comes next has to be seen as a core part of the future for local public services.
How that looks will be up to us all to decide collectively…It will require leadership, courage and persistence and I’m pleased to say that there are enough of those people involved already to give me faith that we can and will solve this challenge.