Today has been a great day in local digital collaboration.
It began with our friends at FutureGov * holding the London event of their ‘Designing 21st-Century Government’ series of conferences / unconferences in Hackney Town Hall. (Check out the tweets from the event here to see what was covered: https://twitter.com/hashtag/DesignForGov?src=hash)
And it wrapped up with the launch of the London Office of Technology & Innovation (‘LOTI’), of which Hackney is a founding partner.
These were opportunities to meet up with colleagues who we work with closely and also new allies in the mission of delivering great local services which make the most of the potential offered by technology, data and service design.
LOTI’s launch feels especially momentous. There are many reasons why I’m pleased to see it launch today and why I am optimistic about what we can achieve together. The three most important are:
- Lots of people have talked about collaborating on digital, but the reality is much more complicated. Shared services have their place, but too often they descend into highly complex governance and relationship challenges. And too often traditional peer groups can drift along without a clear purpose or meaningful outcomes. There is incredible talent across London’s councils, but we need to find more agile and nimble approaches that can help us innovate at scale while also reflecting the local nature of local government. The model that LOTI has taken, based on a ‘coalition of the willing and able’, feels like it has the potential to help us get the best from sharing while minimising the risk of becoming bogged down in complexity.
- There are some things we can only do really well if we do them together. The rapid pace of technology change can make it hard to keep up. And testing out ideas without over-committing (with the risk of expensive mistakes) can be very difficult, even with the scale of a large London borough. LOTI provides the potential for us to pool our experiments based on agreeing common ways that we can learn together. This could help us dramatically accelerate pace and allow us to test out bolder ideas than we would if we are working alone.
- Our areas of expertise vary widely, and together we can be more than the sum of our parts. In the conversations this evening I found myself hugely impressed by the expertise across the LOTI group of councils. While I’m really proud of the work we’re doing at Hackney, there’s only so much we can focus on at one time and I’m really keen for us to learn from the work that other colleagues are doing too. Obviously, there’s nothing that stops us sharing our work without LOTI being in place, but setting this up together creates a catalyst for collaboration that feels much more energetic than the previous groupings.
I thought that Eddie (LOTI’s incoming Director who starts in a few weeks’ time) summed it up really well:
During the discussions to set up LOTI there was a lot of debate about the return on investment that our councils will get from this joint investment. I think the potential is huge but it’s down to us to make the most of that. To mangle a phrase from John F Kennedy – ‘Ask not what LOTI can do for you, ask what you can do to make LOTI a success for London’. It really is too important an opportunity for us to miss…
Tomorrow, Hackney will host an event to kick off the first LOTI project off the blocks – a shared endeavour to scale digital apprenticeships across the core LOTI boroughs, with a working goal of 100 apprenticeships. This is a big step in laying the foundations for the digital skills that London will need in future, and I’m delighted that we are able to help get this under way.
* We’ve been working hard to open up our digital procurement to a wide range of SMEs over the last couple of years. If you’d like to supply digital expertise to Hackney then please make sure you’ve registered on the Digital Marketplace and check out the opportunities we post: https://www.digitalmarketplace.service.gov.uk/digital-outcomes-and-specialists/opportunities?q=Hackney. We’d love to hear how you can help us deliver great services for our borough’s residents and businesses.