Innovation in Public Services: Small is Beautiful

An interesting item on NESTA’s website, with some accompanying useful resources, summarising the recent launch of the ‘Small is Beautiful’ paper on innovation in local government.

NESTA supported the Local Government Information Unit to analyse the entries to its ‘Small is Beautiful’ competition, which asked local authorities to submit examples of innovation they had implemented in non-statutory services.

Glyn Gaskarth from the LGIU described the entries received and what they suggest about the state of innovation in local government. Glyn noted the number and diversity of the entries received, but also that the key to their success was that they were often led by small teams with small budgets. While some of the examples might seem quite marginal from a national perspective, they have made a decisive difference to their local area (for example, in reducing offending or improving social cohesion), and some of them could be seen as the ‘Big Society’ in action. Glyn outlined the main proposal from the report – that local authorities could establish a new way to encourage and support these types of activities by creating innovation funds drawn from their own discretionary spending.

The Small is Beautiful paper is here (PDF warning).

At the event, Rochford District Council provided a case study of the work they have been doing to support local retailers, called ‘Shop at My Local’. Here’s the slides (again, PDF warning).

In the following discussion several barriers were identified:

  • While there was a shared recognition of the barriers (such as funding, risk-aversion and evaluating the benefits), there was some concern about the risk of painting too negative a picture of the ability of local government to innovate, and so this becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. It was also noted the many large private sector organisations face similar challenges in establishing a pro-innovation culture.
  • Many in the audience pointed out that local government could make more use of the resources and organisations that already exist in order to innovate, from volunteers and the third sector, to funders such as NESTA, in lieu of establishing their own funds.
  • Similarly, there was a lot of discussion about existing mechanisms used by local authorities to support innovation, for example the Innovation Unit described the innovation lab they are helping Knowsley to establish, and another member of the audience highlighted the Local Strategic Partnerships that have innovation boards and funds.
  • There was, however, shared concern that time was against us, and that many of the innovative approaches such as those highlighted in the report, and the mechanisms that can support them (such as local invest-to-save budgets), are now at risk of being cut in the current age of austerity.

There’s more on NESTA’s website – including a whole load of resources for innovation in public services.

Thanks to Dom for highlighting this in his link round up.

C’llr.10 conference – 4 February 2010

The c’llr.10 event is the first ever major national conference specifically for councillors. Organised by the Local Government Information Unit, producers of Cllr Magazine, in conjunction with Ingenium Strategic Events, Cllr 10 will be held at The Emirates Stadium, London N5 on 4th February 2010.

Learning Pool are among the supporters of the event, as we have two great offerings for local politicians – one around the support we can provide helping them get to grips with the opportunities provided by online tools for communication and collaboration. The other is with our Modern Councillor package of elearning – providing all the training a councillor needs in a format where they can do it whenever it suits them. Learning online has a huge number of advantages for councillors, both in terms of flexibility of access, cost effectiveness, the sheer range of learning available, and of course the fact that it can be completed without needing to leave the house!

Here’s a bit more information about the event:

The conference will provide a unique opportunity to hear at first hand some of the most influential voices in and about local government, and to engage in debate on what is important to local communities. The wide variety of workshops will help you to develop your practical skills as a Councillor and your understanding of what key policy challenges, such as the ageing population or environmental change, will mean for your ward and what you as a Councillor can do to give a lead. During the day there will also be opportunities to network with colleagues from all over the country to share your experiences and ideas. In addition to Councillors, the conference will also be very useful for council officers and others who support or work closely with elected members.

I’m on the agenda to speak to those attending, and I am keen that I keep the content as relevant as possible. My talk is titled “Leadership 2.0: why local authorities need to be learning organisations”. What I will be talking about is that despite all the talk of the online revolution and the growth of social networking, the interesting bit remains the implications of the technology rather than the technology itself. The session will explore the opportunities for improvement and efficiency that the new culture of openness and sharing brings – and how councillors can make sure their councils make the most of them.

Should be fun, then!

There are a bunch of other great sessions on the agenda. For readers of this blog, I suspect “Making social networking work for you”, which features Ingrid Koehler amongst others, will be the most interesting.

Well done to LGIU and partners for arranging a great looking conference.

You can book your place using this link.

The web and safeguarding – a new project

Dom Campbell of FutureGov has blogged about the start of a new project around how the web can help improve and innovate in children’s services.

This project will kick off with a get together of interested folk:

To start off with, we are looking to bring together multi-disciplinary senior manager and practitioners, from childrens social services, to teachers, police and health workers, with social web technologist, public service designer, funders – or even just people who have a personal passion for this area – to help us design and run a small Safeguarding 2.0 pilot. Nothing big in the first instance, more a proof of concept if you like, but with the potential to transform the way in which professionals and non-professionals alike might better share information and form the kinds of relationships that might prevent future tragedies.

This seems a great project, and if you’re interested in this area, I would strongly recommend attending the round table event. More details embedded below: