The last year really has felt like it has gone quickly and I wanted to take some time to properly reflect on the progress of #localgovdigital as there were times at the beginning that I really did think it would disappear and fizzle away and the initial enthusiasm and energy would get distracted onto something else.
But that simply wasn’t the case, there were some people who pulled out and stepped back for various reasons but on the whole it has been a really positive year. We have had our moments of asking ourselves “what can we really do?”, “are we the right people?”, “are we just creating an exclusive club?”.
There was a danger of all those things happening, but at the first meeting we had a very open and frank conversation and I remember saying that I thought that we owed it not just to ourselves but for all the practitioners we hoped to stand up for to actually do something of value. It simply wasn’t good enough for us to make a noise and come together in London and then all walk away and leave it there, feeling better that we put our point of view across. We had to do something because I believed then as I do now, that if we didn’t then no one else would.
I think we all realised that this was more than simply an informal gathering of people, it was the start of something that we all felt passionate about and we had all shared ideas about what we thought we could and couldn’t achieve – so it felt like we could make progress and deliver tangible outputs in a collaborative way. We also felt that in order to gain support we would need our own involvement approved by our Chief Executives and managers so with the help of the LGA (in particular Sarah Jennings) we wrote to all of them and asked for everyone to be supported in getting involved.
Naturally we had big aspirations and we felt that if we connected the right people and helped bring people together we could amplify the good things that are happening and help them reach more people. We also felt that we should aim big and start a conversation and discussion about digital public services – this is where the Digital Framework for Local Public Services was really solidified and developed.
The last year has been hard, trying to balance involvement in the group and the day job but it truly been an honour to Chair the group and to work with such great people and we have now started to find focus and deliver things which has helped enormously.
We are also formally part of the Local Government Digital Alliance – which includes LocalGov Digital, Local Government Delivery Council [CEXs], Local CIO Council, Local Contact Council [heads of customer services/transformation]) which has proved to be a real benefit in getting our voice and views into the discussions.
We know we need to keep pushing and we know we need to engage more people and not just those in the public sector – we need to ensure we are not seen as an exclusive club, that we involve people and we contribute to raising standards in the provision of digital services across local government…it isn’t going to be something we do on our own either.
For me the biggest reflection has been that given all the challenges, pressures and constraints the steering group members face on a daily basis they remain committed and that is a real testament to who they are.
The next 12 months needs to see significant and faster progress being made and if I could only see one thing happen it would be to get “Open by default, Digital by design” embedded across the sector.