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‘Experimental’ collaboration key to productivity says NLGN



Think tank report says that working with a range of groups and rapid testing of new ideas is key to enhancing efficiency - if councils share what works

Councils need to more fruitfully collaborate with its employees, the public and other organisations to improve efficiency, according to a report published today by think tank New Local Government Network (NLGN). 

Titled Producing the goods, it provides examples of ways in which local government could “be more experimental” to improve productivity, including: hosting hack days with their employees to improve processes; the creation of  ‘collaboration champions’ to help identify new partners to work with; and by forging links with organisations that could identify vulnerable people.

The report suggests that local government uses these insights to experiment and pilot new ideas on a small scale, then move on to new ones if they do not work well. 

“Councils should be encouraged to trial things on the small scale, measure the results, and build their knowledge of what works through peer-to-peer discussion,” the report states.

“Local government needs a culture which is sympathetic to trying something new, and seeks to learn lessons from what has not worked,” it adds, and suggests that councils set up a forum or database showing the productivity initiatives which have not worked, then “be better at sharing these examples of what does and does not work, to prevent unsuccessful ideas and pilots being repeated in other councils”.

Need for honesty

Lucy Terry, senior researcher at NLGN and report author, said: “Doing something new requires experimentation – and councils need to be able to test what works and be honest about cases where something doesn’t have an impact. This will ultimately benefit the whole of the sector.”

Councils could start putting these recommendations into practice by charting all local customer service providers – for example, bus drivers, pharmacists and binmen - and identify which sector they could collaborate with. ­

It says councils are already in a good position to engage with the public to discover what motivates them to engage, so they should be “strategic, proactive and scientific in how they collaborate with the public”.

Senior policy officers and researchers should make understanding the motivations of the public to act or get involved “a high priority,” it says. They could then train the workforce to translate these insights into more effective collaboration with the public. ­

The report includes case studies from Wealden District Council, Suffolk and Waveney Norse, the All Together Better Service, Citizens Advice and the Jersey Post, which outline collaborative projects and what made them successful. It also highlights the pros and cons of tried-and-tested ways to improve efficiency such as shared services and commissioning models.

The research was based on a literature review, workshop and interviews with officers and experts in improving productivity and was carried out in association with facilities management company Norse Group and independent consultancy PPL.

Image credit: By Toni Lozano CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons 


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