Talking 5 with Local Public Services Member Unboxed

This month's Talking 5 guest is Jo Oliveira, Business Development Lead at Unboxed.

Each month, techUK’s Head of Programme, Local Public Services Georgina Maratheftis interviews a member active in the local government space about their vision of the future of local public services and where digital can make a real difference to people and society. This month we are delighted to be joined by Jo Oliveira, Business Development Lead at Unboxed, as our ‘Talking 5’ guest. We talk about the importance of user engagement and user-centred design in delivering good digital services and bringing collaboration to life across the local government ecosystem. 


Welcome Jo. Firstly, tell me more about you, your career and how you got to this position today?

It’s been an interesting journey that’s for sure - leaving school with a strong desire to travel meant my career had to wait! But being a good communicator and organiser, I fell into digital project management, working with a start-up and then the FT, followed by a few years in central Government at DCMS. Then studied Media and Business Applications at Birkbeck.

Delivering a mix of public and private sector digital projects stood me on good ground to enter “agency world”, where I found the fast pace and breadth of technology innovation super interesting. Though sometimes frustrated with companies shoe-horning products in with ‘user adoption’ being the focus, rather than ‘user needs’. I learned my real passion was shaping opportunities together with clients and transitioned into business development.

When I came across Unboxed almost 3 years ago, I could see straight away they cared about solving real problems and making a difference, enhancing people’s lives through innovation and user-centred design. It was a breath of fresh air! We’re focused on designing and delivering services with user needs at heart, alongside building long-term partnerships and strong relationships based on trust. It’s a very supportive environment and we care about each other as much as we do our clients and ultimately users!

You touch upon the importance of engaging the user to meet and validate real problems, can you tell us more about the opportunity you see user-centred design bringing to digital transformation? 

When we start by validating problems based on user needs - the foundation of service design - there are endless opportunities to make real improvements that save time and money whilst refining the user experience. Ultimately providing digital solutions people want to use! Which is so important when delivering local public services.

A big part Unboxed’s culture is sharing what we do and how, particularly how essential user engagement is and how integrated design and development teams work together. Naturally this filters across projects and we help build capabilities in client teams along the way. I think local authorities can learn a lot from observing what works well elsewhere. Working collaboratively and transparently adds real value, and across local government DLUHC’s Local Digital Collaboration team have provided a great foundation for this. 

Some of our most successful projects have been designed collaboratively across multiple partners. Delivering good services doesn’t always mean starting from scratch, and open-source technologies allow for sharing and reusing solutions across multiple local authorities.

Councils can benefit from exploring new models, for example being part of a social enterprise such as LoGov where, in partnership with other agencies and organisations, we’re currently helping to make existing digital solutions available to implement and invest in.

What is your vision of the council of the future?

Shifting from traditional ways of working to thinking and operating in an agile and user-centred way can mean huge cultural change within an organisation. We’ve seen many councils embrace this and are doing a fantastic job building internal capabilities and skills. Watching councils evolve with strong digital strategies is amazing, and together we can support the right balance between in-house delivery and where it makes sense to build relationships with agencies/suppliers.

Moving forward I think connecting council services with health and other community support is critical and will benefit us all. We’re becoming more joined up but there’s a long way to go. I think collaboration is key, designing and building great services that can be used by everyone.

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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