It started in what we called a ‘reflective practice’ session at UKGovCamp.

Myself, Carl Haggerty and  Dave Briggs talked about the presence of the newly formed GDS at the camp, what this might mean for local government in the short and longer term. We tried to find a more proactive way to voice the frustration we’d been sharing over lack of digital progress, and what we saw (and still see) as circular transformation efforts across the sector rather than any true progress toward better public services fit for the future.

We talked about whether eventually local government would be co-opted under the GDS and have digital progress made for them, not with them. We talked about the possibility that a Local Government Digital Service might formally appear in other formats. We somewhat petulantly and definitely impatiently decided we wouldn’t wait for either of those things and instead looked for a JFDI option for ourselves. We also ate quite a lot of crisps.

Nearly a year later we’d been facilitated (by the wonderful Sarah Jennings and Liz Copeland, then at LGA) to meet with other disrupters in the sector and talk about forming a tighter network around individual JFDI effort across the sector.

That became LocalGov Digital.

For the last four years we’ve been a loose and informal network – we’ve been staunch in our refusal to take the path of least resistance and take on some standard and established form. If we did what had always been done, we’d limit our ability to achieve anything different. But we’ve talked many, many times about how we retain a supportive and proactive environment for practitioners inside the sector, while also being a form which allows other agencies to recognise and work with us, and still be inclusive of those disrupters, enthusiasts and fellow Wild Things that find themselves outside of the sector and away from the pack. We’ve thought of loads of possibilities but none of them have been just right.

So, it was great to catch up with Carl last week and hear a consultation was forthcoming which would propose moving the network to a co-operative style membership model. While this formalises the movement it also embeds the ethos in that formalisation. I’ve no doubt of the amount of hard thinking and deep conversations which have happened to get to the point where a consultation can be launched, neither have I any doubt that this is the right move and the right time for this evolution of LocalGov Digital.

Mighty oaks from little acorns grow, or so the saying goes, this certainly seems like LocalGov Digital putting down strong roots for a sturdy future. As a co-founder it’s wonderful to see the the network be carried forward through shared purpose. As a practitioner now working from outside rather than direct employment in the sector it’s great to see a model emerge which would allow the enthusiasm and skills of people like myself continue to be proactively and purposefully aligned with those practitioners networked inside organisations.

This proposal for a way to grow from an informal and loosely structured grassroots movement, to a a co-operative membership model seems to be both in ethos and practicality the right solution for this network. It’s a move I’m fully supportive of as both the network’s co-founder and  as someone still pulled toward work to build better public services.

You can respond to the consultation by tweeting @localgovdigital or emailing [email protected], before Friday 16 December. Read the full proposal on the LocalGov Digital website here.


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