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Collaboration to support the Local Digital Declaration

Guest blog by Natasha Veenendaal, Head of Marketing & Executive Briefing Programme Lead, Eduserv.

In late November, I attended a ‘co-design’ session at techUK for the supplier community to examine its role in the Local Digital Declaration (LDD). For those who aren’t aware, the LDD was launched by the MHCLG (Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government), together with GDS (Government Digital Service) and a host of co-publishers from across local government and associated professional bodies in July this year. Its aim: to define common aspirations for the future of local public services (and #FixThePlumbing).

The LLD is a short, but heavy hitting document. It outlines key principles for local public services that aim to make technology an enabler rather than a barrier to service improvement. Whilst providing key commitments for those working in local government organisations to sign-up to - one list for leaders and one list for transformation, IT and digital teams –, there are also some clear messages for suppliers.

Although suppliers do not yet have the ability to ‘sign-up’ to the declaration, there are many references to the expectations placed upon them, which is why any supplier working in this sector should be sitting up and taking notice – and TechUK is encouraging exactly that. As a co-publisher of LDD, TechUK is working with CCS (Crown Commercial Services), MHCLG and the community to define the supplier’s role in the supporting and embedding the declaration, which brings us to the co-design workshop I attended.

Working in perhaps a ‘typical GDS’ way, the co-design session was a direct follow-up from an unconference that took three ideas and worked to refine a ‘product’ for each. Through our groups, we examined and questioned what a supplier version of the LDD should look like, how our community can be unified to better respond to it and how we can build more positive procurement experiences for all.

In common with the LDD, our starting point was to work collaboratively, with the user at the centre, whilst using this as an opportunity to question the norms and processes that underpin our relationships with the buyer community.

We used a number of different techniques to define the problem, draw out ideas and find a starting point for the solution. The group I was working in was looking at procurement. We shared ‘war stories’ of lost bids and frustrating experiences, but also tried to get to the bottom of what ‘good’ procurement might looked like. Through the session, we weren’t looking for all of the answers, but trying to form a structure for a joint research and engagement project between buyers and suppliers that could result in better outcomes in line with the LDD.

To what end the activity will result is a question that we have only just started answering. In my view, however, one thing the group understands for certain is that anything we come up with needs to be done in close collaboration with those working in local government (our buyers), and with the backdrop of a clear understanding of their objectives and the experiences they are looking to create for their users (citizens).

To my mind, if the emergence of the LDD enables us to ask more questions and get to a place where we are better serving the market and its users, then it has to be a positive step. The impact of the LDD will only be as significant as we are able to make it as a community – not only those local government, but also those who provide services to it.

Eduserv is not-for-profit IT services provider specialising in supporting public and third sector organisations to migrate to public cloud and make the most of the tools available.

Natasha Veenendaal is responsible for marketing Eduserv’s service portfolio and leads Eduserv’s Executive Briefing Programme. Through her work, Natasha aims to increase sector-wide understanding of the impact and benefits of digital, improve digital skills and enable digital independence across the public and third sectors.


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