The supplier response to the Local Digital Declaration

Last Tuesday was a significant day for techUK as it hosted its first unconference! Ran in partnership with the Ministry for Housing and Local Government (MHCLG) the unconference bought together suppliers large and small, active and looking to break into the local government market, to help shape the commitment to the Local Digital Declaration. 

techUK was pleased to be a co-publisher of the Declaration this summer, and the aim of the event was to collaborate with the tech industry on what the supplier commitment to the Local Digital Declaration will be, in particular to: 

  • Understand what suppliers want out of the Declaration 
  • Discuss the role techUK can play to support the Declaration agenda 
  • Discuss what suppliers could do to support Declaration agenda 

Excitingly by the end of the day we agreed to kick off three starter projects, read on for further details! 

#FixThePlumbing  

After a techUK introduction and a quick rundown of how the day would work from me, CEO & Founder of Shaping Cloud and Chair of techUK’s Local Public Services Committee Carlos Oliveira took to the stage. Carlos shared how we are at a turning point for local government digital, stressing that suppliers also have a vital role in realising the aspiration set out in the Declaration by collaboratively working together with each other, and councils, to create the conditions that enable successful transformation. We then heard from Linda O’Halloran, Head of the MHCLG Local Digital Collaboration Unit, on their mission to help councils move towards more flexible standards-based services. You can read about this #FixThePlumbing mission on their blog. It was great to hear from Linda about the overwhelming response to the Local Digital Fund. Almost 400 applications were received and all the projects proposed can be viewed here.  

The Pitches! 

Moving on to the fun stuff, the pitches. All the attendees were invited to help shape the day’s agenda by pitching ideas for small group discussions. It could range from common projects that techUK or a cohort of suppliers could pursue in support of the Declaration, or for discussions that help flesh out some common needs and common blockers to support the interoperability mission of the Declaration. 

We had a great selection of pitches, ranging from more technical things looking at standards adoption to culture change. Below are the pitches along with a high-level summary of the discussion and outcome. During each group discussion we also took notes of the key points, you can read in more depth what was said here.  

  • Creating Digital Commissioner profession/community 

There was appetite to create a vendor community that helped Vendors better collaborate and support the Local Digital Declaration ambition. It should take inspiration from the active buyer community on Crown Commercial Service. This is part of the mission to make better procurement an enabler to transformation. 

  • Creating standard APIs for councils to adopt 

The group discussed why and how we could define standards around high-volume transactions. Discussion concluded that we need to start by identifying highest value use cases to pilot this approach, Each project needs a strong business case, and there’s an important role for government in kick-starting these projects, as it’s an unestablished market.  

  • Developing a Code of Conduct for the market 

In response to the Local Digital Declaration, what are the basic principles the market can agree on. There was consensus that a code or interoperability charter of some sort would be useful, but we need to consider how this would work in relation to the existing Supplier Standards for digital and technology providers and who would own it.  

  • How can suppliers inspire local government to kick start their digital journey? 

To help kickstart the conversation councils, we need a clear business case for the benefits brought by open standard, user-centric services. The group asked how suppliers can help with this, as well as creating environment to share what good looks like and facilitate collaboration between authorities. It was identified that there is an opportunity for ethnographic research here. 

  • Helping leadership in local government to ‘get it’ 

It was identified that there are existing banks of assets that can be utilized from TED Talks to councils already pioneering training in this area – such as Dorset who have set-up a digital academy. Lots of groups doing fantastic things to tap in to. 

  • Delivering services between local gov boundaries 

This discussion looked to address the challenge that processes don't move across borders, but people do. As such, there is a need to get accurate data across borders and is there is a need for a national body to monitor this.  

  • Persuading local authorities to work the same way and adopt standard solutions 

There is an appetite from councils to collaborate but there are various obstacles in place that often prevent this from happening. One way to overcome this may be to develop a community platform to share processes. Standards were also discussed, but the question of who owns them were tough to answer. It was also suggested that we should focus efforts to develop standard on newer processes or where there will be a change in regulation.  

  • Partnerships with SMEs and small organisations 

It was highlighted that local government can often be a complicated market for SMEs and new entrants to navigate so an eco-system approach can help, especially SMEs partnering with larger suppliers. It was suggested that techUK host more partnering and networking events and invite feedback on what other sessions they can host to help the market. The group also asked that MHCLG continue to deliver their Declaration mission in the open, sharing good practice with the market as well as local authorities 

Some of the sessions were repeated in the afternoon with some new pitches looking at responsible tech and potential for a pattern library. Each group then fed back key points, outcomes and likely next steps from their discussions with representatives from MHCLG and techUK sharing what they could offer/help with. 

Next Steps 

We were keen to come away with some tangible outputs from the day, and after a thorough discussion it was agreed that these would be the first 3 projects that we would take forward: 

  • Vendor version of Declaration (charter/ code) 
  • Discovery on how different council personas make digital procurement decisions 
  • Designing a vendor community attached to Crown Commercial Service (CCS) 

Further details to be announced, but we are looking to host a follow-up co-design workshop on the 20 November at techUK to go into further details on the roadmap and delivery of three projects above. The workshop is open to industry, but places are limited so are on a first come basis. If you would like to attend, please email Georgina Maratheftis and express which project you would like to contribute to.  

A reflection 

With the great work of the new MHCLG Local Digital Collaboration Unit, the fact that they received close to 400 bids to the Local Digital Fund, and the outputs from our recent unconference, it really does feel like we are on to something…I still haven’t decided if it’s the start of an exciting local digital movement or an evolution of all the hard work the community has put in coming to fruition.. but it genuinely feels like a momentous time for local digital collaboration.  

This is an exciting time for local government digital and suppliers as partners to councils have a vital role in helping create the environment for genuine and successful end-to-end transformation. We look forward to working with the supplier community on this important chapter of local digital. 

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