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Daveslist Volume 3 Issue 8 🤔
Whose job is this, anyway?
I do think that there is currently a yawning vacuum in the strategic advice space around technology and digital in local government.
Where exactly do councils go to find good practice, models to follow, and stories they can learn from?
There are plenty of websites that are happy to regurgitate press releases masquerading as case studies from vendors, generally pushing the message that deals have been signed rather than outcomes achieved. These ‘stories’ are never followed up to see if the promised savings or service improvements ever materialised - nobody is really incentivised to do so.
There are fantastic networks out there - LocalGovDigital, OneTeamLocalGov, and others - where practitioners can get together, ask questions, get support, feel heard. But these voluntary endeavours cannot fill the gaps that require dedicated, professional approaches. We also have the great work done by those teams in councils taking the time to blog about their work. More of this can only help the situation, but again, it’s not the same as professionally curated good practice, scaled to work for different contexts.
The LocalDigital team in DLUHC does a grand job of talking about the various funded projects, highlighting good things happening in different councils. But there is little practical follow up, in terms of how other councils, particularly those with very limited capacity and capability in this space, can replicate them. And of course, central government finds it politically very difficult to tell councils what to do about things like digital and technology.
Then there are the membership organisations, whose very existence ought to be dedicated to supporting local government to make things better.
The silence is deafening.
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I’ve a bit of a theory, percolating away in the back of my mind, that the emergence of the Government Digital Service 13 years ago led to the people who were supposed to be supporting local government to stop thinking.
Those people who ought to be advising, supporting, nurturing and coaching local government technologists just seemed to stop. Go read the service manual! Hire agile product teams! Fix the plumbing! Yeah, OK - but how? Cue tumbleweed.
That this took place during the decade in which local government has been starved of funding, and when innovative advice about how to do more with less through digital and technology was needed more than ever, is I think nothing short of a disgrace. Who was arguing for the protection of digital and technology budgets, strongly enough so that the salami slicing of teams didn’t happen? Who was advising councils on where to invest cash while they still had it, to set themselves up for leaner times ahead?
Since I have returned to writing about this stuff on a more regular basis, the response has been overwhelming. That is equally gratifying and infuriating.
Fundamentally, this is too important to be left to being the hobby of some bloke in Spalding. Something needs to be done to fill this void.
I’m always delighted if the things I write about are of use to people. Sometimes folk need a bit more help - in which case my advisory services might be just the thing they are looking for.
This issue’s links
This is an extremely important thread for anyone wanting to understand the financial pressures felt across local government (and no, it's not related to solar farms...).
Am liking the topic of this upcoming event: “Living with Legacy”.
"How to play Mundane Superhero" - looks a fun way to kick off workshops etc.
Lovely stuff from Simon at Adur & Worthing Councils: "5 Highlights from 5 Years of the Local Digital Declaration".
Another good thread, this time on how we should be thinking about stuff published in 'private' online work networks.
How did I not know about this? Emulated Macs going back to the original, all in the browser. Fairly pointless, but amazing.
That’s it for this issue. Don’t forget to hit reply if you have any feedback, or forward this on to anyone you think may enjoy it.
Until next time,