A movement for change in local government
Friday, 15 November 2013
It’s exciting to see a wave of optimism across local government as positive messages emerge about the need to generate innovative solutions to the challenges councils face.
From the Cabinet Office-funded Public Service Launchpad to Labour’s Local Government Innovation Task Force, there is a growing sense of a movement for change. When Nesta launched Creative Councils in 2011, the rhetoric was less optimistic. The sector appeared consumed by the dire financial and societal challenges it faced, rather than the fundamental shift required in local government to meet the challenges.
Wave of enthusiasm for Creative Councils
But this rhetoric didn’t play out in reality. When Nesta and the Local Government Association published an open call for ideas, the sector responded with huge enthusiasm. 38% of authorities in England and Wales came forward with ideas to solve the biggest challenges facing their local communities. From these, we selected 17 and then a smaller group of 5 councils with the most promising ideas to receive financial and non-financial support to develop their innovations.
Through the programme, we’ve helped the councils generate, test and implement their new solutions. We’ve explored new perspectives; peer support and coaching to clarify and improve ideas; and service design and prototyping to bring them to life.
Now, two years on, we have seen some really exciting innovations emerge across fields as diverse as children’s services, adult social care, renewable energy and enterprise education.
Through our Creative Councils programme, we’ve supported a group of pioneering local authorities to experiment with radical innovations that address a long term challenge that matters in their area. Innovating in local government can be a hard and lonely business, but the councils also tell us that is one of the most interesting, exciting and rewarding experiences of your working life.
From Creative Councils, we now know that innovation offers the opportunity to completely reimagine how a council works. It can transform services so staff work with local people, rather than doing things to them. It can build on the assets – people, time and resources - that already exist in a local area. And it can create new delivery models that save money and work better.
The process hasn’t always been easy – our councils have been hit by political instability, challenged by users’ perspectives, and forced to change direction with their ideas. However they have also started to uncover some powerful behaviours, tools and techniques for dealing with these issues.
As this programme comes to a close on the 20th November 2013, Nesta would like to take this opportunity to thank all the Creative Councils, their staff and the supporters of the programme. They were all prepared to take a deep breadth and try something different.
They have learnt new skills, developed expertise and taken responsibility for developing solutions that can transform local government solutions. Their hard work, determination and passion is paying off, leading to greater optimism that less money and rising demand does not mean poorer services for citizens.