18 Aug 2023
by Emily Douglin

Talking 5 with Local Public Services Member Civica

This month's Talking 5 guest is Emily Douglin, Divisional Manging Director (Local Government) at Civica

Each month, techUK's Associate Director for Local Public Services, Georgina Maratheftis, interviews a member active in the local government space about their vision for the future of local public services and where digital can make a real difference to people and society. This month we talk with Emily Douglin, (Local Government) at global GovTech leader Civica about the role that digital plays in data, accessibility, and tackling the workforce challenge.

Tell me more about you, your career and how you got to this position today?

After university I started in local government (in waste management), spending five years that coincided with the introduction of recycling targets. My initial role was assisting newly formed recycling teams in educating citizens and  businesses about recycling practices. This journey gradually leading me into a role focused on the organisation and nurturing of recycling schemes.

I then moved into private sector consultancy. I kept a strong link to local government, working on the design and procurement of waste services. From there, I joined Civica, initially as Product Manager and now work as a Divisional Manging Director. I’m especially proud of being part of the neurodivergent community here and the increasing role I play in influencing our strategic direction.

Since then, my technical knowledge of waste hasn’t been called on; however, I’ve not gone a day without using my general experiences of local government in some way, especially its culture and mindset.

My time prior to joining Civica has profoundly shaped my perspective and approach. Unless you’ve worked in local government, or very close to it, it might not always be clear how broad the spectrum of disciplines is that they must master, and against an ever-changing backdrop of pressures and limitations – private sector get to opt out, public sector don’t.

I’m passionate that people understand what local government can bring to their career. It needs the best talent and support from the private sector to keep the world turning for citizens, businesses and local communities.

What is the greatest opportunity for local government when it comes to digital?

For Civica, we believe digital should focus on data and accessibility. One of the biggest benefits will be tackling the workforce challenge. Local government struggles to recruit and retain the people it needs; however, we have the opportunity to create software which allows councils to target their valuable resources in the most efficient ways. Smart software and automation will free people up to add more value where it’s really needed – exception management.

This is a question of getting hybrid and flexible working for everyone. As we extend the use of emerging technology and automation, there will be more roles that will be geographically independent, in turn attracting the best candidates. This should be balanced with creating collaborative, in-person workspaces where people can meet, work and innovate together.

Another opportunity is in improving intelligent intervention. There is so much data, but we have not yet mastered how to contextualise it quickly and impactfully. It’s not always easy to know where to start. I’d advise spending what feels like a disproportionate amount of time properly selecting and refining the problem to be solved, then considering what data is needed to solve it. Too often, teams spend lots of resources collecting data and struggle to make use of it.

What is your vision for the future of local public services and places?

From climate change to over-stretched budgets, our local authorities are faced with a plethora of long-term challenges which require long-term solutions. The choice of funding model for local government will be key to making sure those long-term solutions become reality.  A move towards multi-year funding cycles, for instance, could ensure more strategic problem solving, more innovation and ultimately, better outcomes for citizens.

Next, I think growing a community’s sense of self will be key. When we think about the best public services for the future, it’s clear that one size won’t fit all, and local government won’t survive without empowering communities to take more control over their own locality. In addition, the growing number of people just about managing and not managing, not only need their council, but their community too.

An enabler council means public services will become owned by communities. By understanding priorities and engaging on them, we can move towards communities taking ownership of outputs, feeling empowered to participate and take pride in their local area.

Finally, with AI firmly embedded in our lives already, we need to embrace the opportunity that new technology provides. Local government services should be as resilient and responsive as possible, and through the joining up of GovTech solutions I want to be part of this truly transformational future.

Georgina Maratheftis

Georgina Maratheftis

Associate Director, Local Public Services, techUK

Georgina is techUK’s Associate Director for Local Public Services

Georgina works with suppliers that are active or looking to break into the market as well as with local public services to create the conditions for meaningful transformation. techUK regularly bring together local public services and supplier community to horizon scan and explore how the technologies of today and tomorrow can help solve some of the most pressing problems our communities face and improve outcomes for our people and places.

Prior to techUK, Georgina worked for a public policy events company where she managed the policy briefing division and was responsible for generating new ideas for events that would add value to the public sector. Georgina worked across a number of portfolios from education, criminal justice, and health but had a particular interest in public sector transformation and technology. Georgina also led on developing relationships across central and local government.

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Emily Douglin

Emily Douglin

Divisional Managing Director, Local Government, Civica