We made a Local Gov CDO Group

Paul Brewer
Feb 10 · 3 min read

Last week, off the back of a tweet, a group of Local Government Chief Digital Officers met to talk about our work, share our challenges and explore what we might do together to help our organisations, our places and our sector truly harness the potential of digital in the 21st century. People are often bemused by how often councils facing similar challenges pursue different answers. So we wanted to learn together as we work to make things better.

Making the time and space to meet was incredibly helpful, and as like-minded peers, we are all very excited about the strategic potential of the group, and the opportunity to help each other in our work.

There are other forums, but we wanted to discover whether a smaller group, comprising councils with similar perspectives at similar stages of digital maturity could provide more intensive learning.

In the room were:

Dan Blundell, Head of Digital at LGSS
May-N Leow, Head of Local Digital Collaboration Unit, MHCLG
Chris Thompson, Director of IT, Northumberland CC
Rob Miller, Director of ICT, Hackney
Ben Unsworth, Head of Digital, Buckinghamshire CC
Kit Collingwood, Chief Digital Officer, RB Greenwich
Matthew Cain, Head of Digital and Data, Hackney
Paul Brewer, Director for Digital & Resources, Adur & Worthing Councils
Emma McGowan, Head of Digital, Camden
Steve O’Connor, Head of Digital & IT, Kingston & Sutton
Ed Garcez, Chief Digital & Information Officer, Camden

It was good to have a decent amount of time together, and we spent it finding out where we sit in our organisations, comparing our functional responsibilities, and sharing our “joys” and “pains”.

We all agreed the role of the local government Chief Digital Officer is extremely challenging, but also has enormous scope to provide strong strategic leadership within the organisation, among partners and in placemaking. It was very clear that working together would help us explore, learn and share with huge benefits to us all and the wider sector.

We recognised the need to weigh working on the future with the present, as we all have significant challenges with “getting the basics right”, from running reliable and effective core IT services, to establishing modern team roles, skills and culture, and the challenges and opportunities of being a part of the wider senior council leadership team.

Our early thoughts about what we will do as a group include:

  • Developing clear “missions”, to ensure we are working to solve the big challenges for local government, our places and communities
  • Exploring the future of the Chief Digital Officer role, learning about strategic design and public service innovation, and developing the learning offer for current and future CDOs
  • Working to map the roles, skills, methods and mindsets needed for successful local digital government
  • Identifying high impact, infrastructural technology and standards projects of national importance, working closely with the MHCLG Local Digital Collaboration Unit
  • Providing leadership on the future of digital government, which we believe is about deep local systemic reform and new public service infrastructures, built on modern technologies and data
  • Using our influence to lobby central government and make clear requests for support
  • Forming a collective voice to influence large incumbent software suppliers, being clear what the sector must have from them
  • Providing a safe, confidential space for senior local government digital leaders
  • Sharing our experience and knowledge, and providing advice to each other
  • Exploring how best to share our work, including user research, design patterns, job descriptions, training, code, applications and models for infrastructure management
  • Prototyping Digital Peer Reviews, where we will each give 2–3 days to visit a peer council and complete a helpful assessment of their position
  • Offering GDS service standard assessments to each other

We don’t intend to create the trappings of a formally constituted group, and whoever is in the room will set the agenda. The Local CDO Group will meet every three months, and online collaboration and support is already well underway!

Paul Brewer

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