Local Digital
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Local Digital

Meet the Local Digital team: Leon Ackie, Collaboration and Engagement Manager

In this blog series, we’re shining a spotlight on different members of the Local Digital team to showcase just some of the incredible expertise and hard work that goes on behind the scenes.

In this issue, Leon Ackie takes us through his career journey and the role of a Collaboration and Engagement Manager.

Since joining the Local Digital Team in September 2021, Leon has supported a number of exciting funded projects, such as The Housing Repairs Service, LocalGov Drupal, LocalGov Income Management System, Children’s Placement Portal and Low-code Digital Waste Service.

My experience working in local government

Prior to joining Local Digital, I spent 18 years working at the London Borough of Camden. I’m Camden born and raised, so the opportunity to develop and deliver better services for my fellow residents was a key motivating factor behind my decision to stay with the organisation for almost two decades.

During my time at Camden, which I think of as my apprenticeship, I was able to work in a wide range of roles across the Housing, Social Care and Corporate Services directorates. I mainly worked in Customer Relationship Management (CRM) development and as a Product Owner, helping to build and implement Camden’s citizens portal, the Camden Account. I gained valuable expertise in housing in particular, and was fortunate to work on the implementation of various housing services within the portal, integration with the corporate payment system, and developing a resident authentication process using the corporate master data management system.

The role of a Collaboration and Engagement Manager

I applied for the role of Collaboration and Engagement Manager in the DLUHC Local Digital team as I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to see whether the knowledge and experience I had gained could benefit other councils.

At the same time I saw it as a development opportunity, as I wanted to understand the ways in which different types of councils, such as county, district, metropolitan and unitary councils, operate compared to London Boroughs like Camden.

Each council project that we support is unique, but the key function of my role is to help local authorities to co-design and deliver digital products and services that are user-centred, reusable and developed in line with the principles of the Local Digital Declaration. In a practical sense, I’m there to identify and explore opportunities for collaborative work within local and central government.

Each project team has its own personality and rhythm of delivery, and it’s absolutely essential that this is both recognised and respected. In my role, it’s critical that I’m a clear communicator, flexible in approach, and actively listen to council partners — who are the subject matter experts, after all. I have personally benefited from working alongside diverse teams, who often possess different levels of experience delivering digital projects. In turn, this has developed my knowledge and skills in areas that I hadn’t previously been exposed to.

The challenges of my role

The biggest challenge for a Collaboration and Engagement Manager is often the most common: helping collaborating organisations to meet their immediate local needs while they produce routine assets (code, design patterns, user research and guidance) that can be easily reused by other councils.

Developing products and services that widely meet user needs can be a challenge, but the reward of delivering a digital product that has the ability to benefit service users across the country speaks for itself.

Leon collaborating with a council team

A typical day in my role

There is no such thing! My role is so varied. It’s essential that I’m flexible and adaptable to the needs of the project team.

Activities that I’ve undertaken recently include:

  • advising local authorities on what makes a good funding application
  • offering guidance and support to project teams about open-source licensing options
  • identifying where different projects have similar needs and exploring opportunities for them to work collaboratively with other projects across our national networks

What I’ve learned from my time in government

The experience I gained at Camden provided me with strong foundations in local government ways of working. Admittedly, it took some time to adjust to the culture of the Civil Service, however I’m very pleased that I made the decision to embrace the world of central government.

My role has provided me with the opportunity to work with councils the length and breadth of the country. Probably my favourite experience has been witnessing smaller councils, such as Lincoln, Barnsley and Rugby, lead the development of our Housing Repairs Service, LocalGov Income Management System and Low Code Digital Waste Service projects respectively. The excellent solutions that they have delivered perfectly demonstrate that innovation and talent isn’t solely found within larger councils.

The main lesson I’ve learned is to not be afraid to step outside your comfort zone. It can be challenging, but the reward is the opportunity for continual development.

Follow our work

The Local Digital team works in the open, and you can read more about the work we do and follow our progress on Twitter, LinkedIn, Sprint Notes, the DLUHC Digital Blog or our fortnightly newsletter. You can also connect with Leon on Linkedin.

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Local Digital

The Local Digital team is part of the UK Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities. Read more about our work: https://www.localdigital.gov.uk.