A refined picture of the framework

One of the things I wanted to do when I first sketched the framework here – was to get it looking a bit more organised and professional.

So a colleague has taken the sketch and made it look better (see below)

I’ve also decided to adapt it and include reference to the value proposition canvas that Martin Howitt refers to and he states:

places have intrinsic value and we need to understand what that value is before we go about enhancing that value with digital transformations.

I recommend  reading Martin’s post, it is an important componenbt within the framework and It is also a key part of it.

In the meantime here is the latest version of the framework

Digital Climate for Local Public Services Framework v2

Networked decision makers

I make no apologies that probably the majority of my future posts will be linked to explaining and exploring in more detail the Digital Framework for Local Public Services.

So this post is focusing on some of the middle area of the picture…in particular the box around leadership and decision-making. This part of the journey is critical not just in a wider context of leadership and decision-making but in ensuring that we have open and transparent local decision-making as well as a clear accountability in terms of local representation.

Digital Climate for Local Public Services Framework v2

To recap I previously explained this area in this way:

Leadership/Decision Making
We require strong visible leadership to enable transformation and strong decisions that ensure that we all contribute to creating a climate for growth and wellbeing. The leadership can also come from anywhere not just local public service providers
Capacity Building / Networks and Networks of Networks
Stimulating local action and identifying and connecting with networks and networks of networks to generate and create new opportunities and markets.
These connections can and will come from anywhere, this is not solely down to the council or local authority – this is about people and places.

Now all this is easy to write and even easier to say, but the practical implications of this are slightly more complicated and require a shift in thinking about what we should expect of our future leaders and decision makers and how we help those people become networked and connected.

Now the great thing about the internet is that you can always find and connect to people who are in a far better position to dig deeper into the thinking and that is exactly what Catherine Howe has done in relation to the Networked Councillors project. It came out of two things:

  • If we are going to have more networked and digital citizens we are going to need politicians with the right skills – we will need networked councillors but we have not yet really explored what that means

  • Just showing people how to use twitter doesn’t solve the problem

I’m really pleased that Catherine has shared this work as I personally think it validates the wider framework and also adds a layer of detail which I was obviously lacking (on purpose of course)

The report on the website is well worth a read and is easy to digest.

I want to pick out another quote form the report which to me helps to proactively link this to the wider framework and the language of the framework which is:

The qualities that the Networked Councillor should embody are found in the way in which Next Generation Users are approaching and using technology. We suggest that the following qualities, which can already be evidenced online, will be inherent:

  • Open by default: This is open not just in terms of information but also in terms of thinking and decision-making

  • Digitally native: Networked Councillors will be native in or comfortable with the online space, not in terms of age but in terms of the individual adopting the behaviours and social norms of the digital culture

  • Co–productive: Co-production is a way of describing the relationship between Citizen and State which brings with it an expectation that everyone in the conversation has power to act and the potential to be active in the outcome as well as the decision-making process

  • Networked: A Networked Councillor will be able to be effective via networked as well as hierarchical power as a leader

This is obviously one part of a wider complex environment and although this report is focused on councillors specifically it also applies itself to future leaders and decisions makers whether a local councillor or not….however for me this is a fantastic start to the discussion and conversation.

A Framework for the future of Digital Local Public Services

I’ve been thinking a lot recently and actually decided to draw a picture of what I thought a Framework for Digital Local Government might look like…so this post is about that.

The reality is that you can’t really create one just for Local Government as we aren’t designed that way. We are about people and places underpinned with effective democratic governance so any framework needs to be designed in such a way that in encompasses those things and that means it needs to involve everyone.

I’ve been lucky enough to have many conversations with people who have helped/challenged/reflected on which have all helped me refine my thinking and about 4 weeks ago I met Martin Howitt for our usual lunchtime coffee and chat and it was this conversation which sparked a few ideas and helped create a synergy in my head around the stuff I was thinking about and then later that day I draw a picture on my ipad which you can see below (i make no apologies for the quality of drawing 🙂 ).

Since then I shared the picture and explanation with colleagues on the LocalGov Digital Network Steering Group and I received positive feedback so I then decided to share it again and test it wider at last weeks Digital Summit in London and you can read the notes of the session on the public Khub group. On the whole a broad agreement, some people have even created very similar frameworks already which is reassuring but they are looking at it from a different perspective, but yet the underpinning framework is the same, there were some semantic language issues and some challenges about risk, financial landscape and actually making it happen…all great points but I don’t have any answers.  However in terms of risk, I didn’t want to see risk in the framework as it sits around it…your view on risk will influence your view on the framework itself.  The same issue goes for financial climate, if we target savings of 100 million we will only aim for 100 million and we may miss the opportunities which deliver a complete transformation and deliver 1 billion.

This post is about that picture and the explanation about it. The only thing that has actually changed about the picture since i first draw it is the title. I have started to add to it and extend certain bits but I’ve also started to draw more pictures which digs deeper into this picture…more on that in another post.

It is also worth sharing that since I’ve been using this framework I’ve actually discovered that it works just as well when you look internally…starting from the left these represent the key building blocks to ensure that your organisation and people can explore and discover new opportunities and create new services etc. Something that has been validated recently here in Devon with a report to our corporate leadership team around the barriers to digital innovation. The resulting actions have created a massive open door to make progress but we need to ensure that we see the wider picture and framework to help us move forward and not leave anyone behind.

So onto the picture and explanation…

A Digital Climate for Local Public Services – Open by Default, Digital by Design

The following drawing focuses on the underlying proposition that every citizen can and will meaningfully integrate the internet into their daily lives. This level of active and capable participation should allow for new opportunities to emerge which reduce and divert demand to alternative tools which are open by default and digital by design.

The environment will not simply develop, and the transformative opportunities will not unfold, unless people, businesses, service providers, government, community organisations and others fully understand and integrate digital into everything they do.
This requires pervasive digital awareness and education — a ubiquitous digital climate that animates and inspires creativity and transformation and enables growth and wellbeing.

We must acknowledge that a digital climate is different to a transformation programme. It is a shift in thinking in which people and institutions are routinely aware of and constantly incorporate digital technology and opportunity into whatever they do.

Here is a rough picture of how I see this, which I also tested out at the recent Digital Summit.

Digital Climate for Local Public Services Framework v2

Open by Default – Digital by Design

Open by default = Everything we do is open, our processes, our data, our decision-making etc

Digital by design = Digital by default is a channel decision and my personal opinion is that digital by design is a philosophy which we should adopt to ensure that others can build on our open platforms and processes. 


  1. Connectivity:  Access that is high-speed, reliable, affordable and available everywhere (wired, wireless, digital).
  2. Education: Provide access to training and technical support for users to become comfort-able and proficient. Enable a mind shift in citizens that value learning, connecting and communicating through technology, and that recognise the business and other opportunities of expanding Internet participation.
  3. Hardware : every citizen requires the capacity to connect to the Internet and tap into the full range of its resources and content.
  4. Software: that meets the needs of individuals, families, businesses and communities.
  5. Participation:  Access to and participation with local data and intelligence to help shape decisions in communities.

What I want to do with this section is to start to map what activities are happening in each of these areas (internally and externally) to help me understand where we can add value or realign things to increase value. It should also allow opportunities for us to rethink decisions we’ve made in the past which are no longer future proof.

One example here is how are we in the public sector looking to support a greater level of connectivity within communities over and above the broadband roll out…It feels to me that our public sector networks in local government, health and education are providing robust and significantly higher levels of connectivity into communities which we perhaps could unlock. You can have an example where a primary school in a rural area is served by a 10-20mb connection but the community around it is on dial-up or has no connectivity. I know there are challenges with this but we have to and must think differently about our assets.

Leadership/Decision Making
We require strong visible leadership to enable transformation and strong decisions that ensure that we all contribute to creating a climate for growth and wellbeing. The leadership can also come from anywhere not just local public service providers
Capacity Building / Networks and Networks of Networks
Stimulating local action and identifying and connecting with networks and networks of networks to generate and create new opportunities and markets.
These connections can and will come from anywhere, this is not solely down to the council or local authority – this is about people and places.


  • People and communities are unique
    • Design “with” not “for” people and communities
    • Design for Inclusion and accessibility
    • Enable independence
    • Foster health and wellbeing
  • Positive relationships and networks
    • Respect diversity of opinions
    • Connect people and connect networks
    • Co-operate and collaborate
    • Open by default
  • Enabling communities and environments
    • Evidence based research and decision-making
    • Support everyone to achieve
    • Think Local and Global
    • Digital infrastructure for smart communities/cities
  • Learning and development
    • Learn, discover and explore though experience
    • Create space for reflective practice
    • Foster creative and divergent thinking
    • Enable sustained learning

I’ve blogged previously on principles here, here and here and it is something that lead me to the wider framework. Within this section we also need to think about the various ways in which people can discover and explore things…This is where the climate comes into itself. We in Local Government have to accept that we will not be solving the problems we have created alone…this climate and environment is about creating new relationships, new networks, new business models, new value.

One of the biggest hurdles we must get over is we need to stop thinking we have to solve this by ourselves. We don’t and shouldn’t think like that…creating a digital climate allows others to be part of that discovery and exploration and we should focus on creating that above all else.

Everything has a unique value, we should understand this value and look to grow or transform its value.

Basic Example:

A Public right of way (PROW) = value
Local Community Centre = value
Public Transport network = value

We can increase and transform the value of each by connecting them redefining the value and by doing so contributing to a climate of growth and wellbeing.

Outcomes (a possible future state scenario)

Outcomes will always be up for debate and some will argue that these are not good enough and that doesn’t matter…What does matter is that we agree what outcomes our communities want and allow them to achieve them. The outcome of the framework is to create a climate for growth and well-being underpinned through:

  • A digital climate that inspires transformation and creativity
  • Everyone having universal access to meaningful participation and democratic processes
  • Everyone having opportunity to seize new markets and generate new opportunities
  • Everything is inclusive and accessible

So where do I see this going…The LocalGovDigital Network will be using this framework to help guide our work programme in the coming year, I personally will be using this to guide my work in Devon and I’ll be working with others on developing this further so it is used and helps drive change.

I personally believe that people are either contributing to the delivery of this framework or they are not and if not why not?

More will follow in the coming weeks…

A space to think

I’m planning on looking at and reflecting on the principles I previously suggested here and writing a blog post for each one using my own personal circumstances and requirements to help me understand what applying the principles would mean in practice.

My previous post “the ‘right’ environment” essentially looked at the principle “Enabling communities and environments” so that has now become the first in the series.

This post will look at “Create Space for reflective practice”

I’ve blogged before on the power of reflective thinking here and here but this post will be slightly different.

Firstly let’s be clear about what I am talking about  – Reflective practice is “the capacity to reflect on action so as to engage in a process of continuous learning”.

The concept of reflective practice centres around the idea of lifelong learning where a person analyses experiences in order to learn from them.

So why is all this important in the concept of the future of communities, people and places?

Regardless of what political views you have and whether or not you think local government will disappear or simply change a bit, the reality that needs to exist is that people in communities need the capacity to reflect on their own community in order to be in a better position to help shape it. One current problem I see is that communities don’t really have any “memory” or “capacity to remember” so that over longer periods of time people within communities have the ability to call on past experiences and actively reflect in order to shape future decisions.

In my personal opinion the only experiences which are shared are personal and not community based so they are biased and those people who might have influence push those biases into decision-making and therefore the outcomes and decisions could be inadvertently affected in a negative way.

Looking at my personal life and my personal situation I’m a school governor (Vice Chair of Governing Body and Chair of Resources Committee) and one of the key roles as a governing body is that we reflect as a body on the experiences we have gone through. However I am not able to understand any learning from the period of time before I joined as the practice was not formally recorded or even actively encouraged at that point.

We are fortunate that the current Chair is promoting this practice (not overtly referring to the words and term) and we have reasonably regular governor forum days where we reflect on where we have been and what we need to focus on moving forward as well as learning about new stuff and this is all set in the context of school improvement.

In my personal opinion it is an essential part and role of the governing body to demonstrate reflective practice as this is a key part of showing leadership within the school and wider community. Reflective Practice provides a tremendous development opportunity for those in leadership positions. It can provide leaders with an opportunity to critically review what has been successful in the past and where improvement can be made. (I’m sure Ofsted would love to see this 🙂 )

So what do we need to do moving forward?

Firstly and foremost we need to create that space and time for ourselves to be reflective. Without this we wouldn’t be able to be effective in other situations. How you do this is up to you, but I originally found it hard to do in a semi structured way until I spent time at UKGC12.

What I learnt about the process is that I personally needed four ingredients to make that process work, which are:

  1. The right environment – the space has to be inspiring or at least not clinical in nature…I can’t sit in a boring room with nothing to look at, although if I have to I absolutely need ingredient 2.
  2. The right people – simply spending time with other people who are reflective (and also those who aren’t) is empowering and also uplifting, it can also be awkward and uncomfortable to start with – but you can’t beat a great group discussion.
  3. A place to share – I use my blog as a tool for reflective practice and others uses diaries or journals of some kind but capturing stuff and being able to look back and share that with people is very powerful.
  4. Feedback – what would life be like if no one ever gave you feedback on anything you did…I’m not sure I can really imagine that…but I know that every day we all receive feedback directly or indirectly on actions we take and for those who reflect future decisions change because of that feedback.

So are these things available to you in your community and are you doing this in a way which will help your community?


The “right” environment

For some this may appear a somewhat random post but the right environment goes straight to the heart of feeling good in your job and what you do generally as well as how communities and networks enable co-operation and collaboration. This picks up on the principles which I referred to in my previous post.

Work won’t go away

One thing I know to be true about the future of my job – assuming for a moment that I do indeed stay in employment with my current employer – is that the pressures on the physical work place will be greater and greater as the council reduces the number of offices it has and moves toward a totally flexible and mobile workforce.

In principle I don’t disagree with this direction, in fact if I were a decision maker I’d be suggesting and making the same kind of recommendation – it just makes sense.

However as you’ll often hear people say – the devil is in the detail – I’ve been considering how the detail might look in my own team and the wider team of communications and have also considered things from a number of other perspectives.

One of the challenges that we need to get our head around is “it’s not where you work but how you work” that matters. This might seem really obvious to say but we also need to ensure that the environments we are creating actually facilitate and enable this shift in thinking.  If the environments stay the same but the pressure on space increases  then we simply stay in a mindset that says “I need my own desk, my own space and my hours of work are between x and y”.

When you consider how the majority of current workplaces are set up – they actually foster and reinforce a level of control over the workforce. Essentially we are saying “in order for me to feel comfortable and safe as a manager I need to see my staff at a desk between these hours in order for my to justify that they are indeed working”. This feels all wrong to me, but I can and have to appreciate that there are challenges in adopting a more flexible approach in every job role without really thinking how the job needs to be done…again  “it’s not where you work but how you work” that matters. But often enough any change isn’t supported by a change in how people work…instead people are expected to work flexibly and mobile whilst essentially having the same restrictions on their role as before. These may include things like access to file stores in a network, access to applications from anywhere etc.

I’m not for a second saying that this is the situation where I work, however there are some challenges and some real fundamental questions that need to be asked about what type of organisation we want to be and how we create a working environment that fosters a culture and workforce who are capable of delivering, supporting and commissioning services in the future.

I recently came across a new ways of working week which is promoted in Holland and I wondered whether we need to consider something like that here in order to really test out whether some people can in fact work differently and what we need to do in order to change the working environment to really support those people to work in new ways. Maybe that involves piloting a new piece of technology, working from a different location (home, cafe or another office), adopting a new process or whatever it might be…but for me it feels like that unless we actually try new ways of working we will in fact carry on working as we are but faced with less space, more work and fewer colleagues to work with.

The problem for me is that it is ok to have a broad direction of travel but with the pace of change being so fast we can’t or don’t have time to create strategies. We need to allow strategies to emerge based on how people wish to work and to create and support those environments.

If you look at your organisations policies, I mean really look at them you’ll find that essentially they are there to protect the status quo and not to push forward new ways of working (internal or external) whether digital or otherwise.

But I suspect in a local and central government context many councils are reducing the number of properties they own and operate from as this is an easy way to reduce costs without affecting front line services (unless those buildings are front line of course).

It’s a balancing act

I have a family (Wife, 2 kids and a dog), I enjoy activities such as cycling and karate as well as spending time with my family and seeing my kids grow up. It is important to me to be visible in their lives and that means being present at Xmas nativity plays, taking them into school each morning and helping them with their homework. Having a family is a full-time job – yet I also have a paid full-time job for the council where I want to do the best job I can within the scope and remit I have been given to work within. I also have a couple of voluntary positions (school governor, Exeter Schools consortium mgt board member and NED of Cosmic – it’s all in my about me page) as I want to be able to contribute and give back to my community in various ways as well as gain personal learning and development.

Now the challenge with all of the above is fitting it all in – it is however possible albeit not actually straight forward – AND this is a key issue, it could be a whole lot easier for me and those I try to work with and for, if some basic little things were made simpler and more integrated.  The reality is I’ve created a set of unsustainable and inefficient processes in order for me to simply manage all aspects of my life – something will and has to give in the near future!

One example  – which would make something easier for me would be having a “single unified calendar” where I could manage all my activities without having to duplicate or copy stuff from one to another.  Currently I operate from two main calendars. A work calendar which has my work life in it and the odd appointment (dentist, doctor etc) so I don’t forget it as well as booking the time out otherwise it gets filled up.  I actually used to put everything into my work calendar and tried to categorise it makes things private etc which weren’t work related. That was quite easy to do up until I started the additional roles i now perform…

I also have a calendar for everything else, but this calendar isn’t easy to manage due to the complexity and often conflicting times I need to book things in for. Before i can really accept or book anything into that I need to check my work calendar to ensure that i am in fact free or available on a given day regardless of the time as some work commitments take me away therefore they move into evenings etc so there isn’t a clear break point in any given day as to when work starts or stops.

Now being able to have a single calendar might not seem that much but it would mean that I would actually know where I was supposed to be and help me manage any “spare time” that occurs. But in order to actually achieve this kind of environment would mean that I need to have a level of access to my work calendar which is not currently there due to security and access restrictions. These maintain a position of work being very different to everything else I do. When for me it is part of everything I do and just like my real life it is and has to be integrated for it to work.

The right environment

In order for organisations to adapt and change they need to be able to provide the right environment for people to excel, to manage their complex lives and to be able to feel that there is in fact a work life balance.

I don’t know what the right environment is for you…but for me it needs to allow me to be a husband, father, friend, boss, colleague, community member, volunteer and allow me to manage all aspects of my life. Nothing much to ask for is it? 🙂