On Friday 5th February a bunch of Local Gov folk went to the home of GDS to explore and better understand the Digital Service Standard – the primary purpose was to consider the enablers and blockers to making this a reality for local councils.
Firstly thanks must go to Phil Rumens, Zuz Kopeka, Olivia Neal who were the key people behind making this happen, and the many GDS colleagues who gave up their time to share their insight and learning. Also a thank you to the councils who sent people as this really is a critical piece of work to get right.
Personally the day was a great opportunity to start to unpick the detail of the standard and the practical implications on local government if we collectively adopted the standard moving forward. The conversations were great and I always enjoy listening and learning from colleagues across Local Gov, it reassured me that great things are happening in spite of the overall system we work within and that makes me positive about the future.
My single biggest reflection from the day is this:
“If we truly deliver on a digital standard for local government which can exert the same influence and impact on the delivery of local services as the GDS Digital Service Standard has had on central government services then we will have created one of the most significant enablers for digital transformation – this has to be a priority for everyone who cares about local services”
A few consistent themes emerged for me though which we need to tackle or address individually and where possible collectively.
The issue of accountability and having a mandate always comes up as a key barrier for colleagues in local government as each council is on a different journey and has different timescales and approaches which means it is certainly a mixed landscape in which we all operate within.
However I think this is where a collective approach can start to raise the bar and nudge the sector forward even by a small amount but it will help. The key action will be for those councils who were represented on the day take an active role in signing up to a slightly amended version of the standard and start to demand a new approach and expectation for local digital services. At least that way we can start to collectively challenge ourselves as well as suppliers of technology to the sector around a consistent standard of “what good looks like”.
Not a word you hear that often to be honest, but we have to be realistic and accept that any change in approach will require an investment of time, energy, skills, money and leadership as well as requiring political investment.
But we need to start proving that this stuff really makes a difference to people, we will have to rethink how we measure success as it won’t make sense that individual councils measure success in isolation. The story needs to be one of coordinated effort and one of scale, this will start to raise the profile and attention to the issues local councils needs addressing.
Skills and Capacity
The most significant area for me is that all of this requires a completely different set of…although some of the skills do exist, they will need to be re-purposed and redirected on to the things that matter to people, not what matter to councils.
I don’t know what the answer is exactly for each council as we are all in different places, but my suggestion is we need to start to share our skills and knowledge more openly and around the foundation of a digital standard as this will challenge us all to deliver on the promise of truly user centered services.
So I understand that the actions from the day are to collaboratively create a version of the standard and to actively promote and push this out to local councils. This is likely to happen over the next 4-6 weeks. So look out for the updates…