All Change – New Horizons for Local Government

Improvement and Efficiency West Midlands (IEWM) supports local authorities and their partners in their drive to increase efficiency and improve local public services.

All Change – New Horizons for Local Government was IEWM’s annual local government conference, run in partnership with Warwick Business School and held on Friday, December 9th, 2011.

The event was aimed at elected members, chief executives and senior officers from the West Midlands and beyond. The Conference featured Leaders and Chief Executives Think Tank sessions, topical workshops, an innovative ‘unconference’ and supplier marketplace –all focused on the themes of innovation, transformation and change.

Digital Nomads were commissioned to develop a Live Event Blog, to recruit and manage a team of social media enthusiasts to report the event online and to run the ‘unconference’ discussion session in the afternoon.

By visiting the Event & Live Blog you can view slideshows from the conference, blog posts and some of the comments posted online during the day. The site has since been used at other events including workshops on personalisation and dementia and at the Local Government Association’s annual conference.

Here’s some reflections on the event from our very own Laura Fox:-

What stood out for me

1.  Dai Powell’s session on Social Enterprise

I found this very informative.  Having only a general “feel” for what Social Enterprises are I left the session with a greater understanding of the benefits these can bring not only to those for whom the “social” aspect is focussed (which is the “easy” link to make) but also for the Local Authority commissioning the services in terms of the risk transfer and the common values and goals that the “social” aspect delivers. I was also left feeling re-assured about the set up of a Social Enterprise which is “asset bound” to ensure profits will continue to be re-invested as appropriate and not creamed off into someone’s pocket.

Will I take any action or change my behaviour after listening to this session (a very good personal measure of success for me)?

Yes.  I’m going to find out what social enterprises there are in my area just because it’s peaked an interest for me, and also have a chat with a colleague of mine in our Procurement Dept. to see what scope she thinks there is for encouraging more Social Enterprises in our area.  It may not get anywhere, but there again it may and that’s got to be worth a 10 minute chat!

2.  The “unconference”

Three things struck me about this:

Firstly, I suspect that the majority of people in the room hadn’t experienced this style of delivering conference content before.  It was therefore a bit of a risk to try a something different, and that in itself spoke volumes about the commitment of the IEWM to “change”.

Secondly, even though the majority of people were new to this method, to see a queue of people lining up to put forward their “pitch” for a subject topic was really great to see.  After all, what an opportunity for delegates to actually put forward their own personal topic and have access to a wealth of knowledge and experience brought together from the other delegates to discuss it.  For me that HAS to be a winner for any conference attendee.

Thirdly, the quality of the discussion in the two sessions I attended.  It was fantastic to see a mix of different opinions and levels of understanding around the topics discussed.  Use of social media in Local Gov’t seemed to be a “hot topic” and there was a good mix of people ranging from those who remain sceptical, those who seemed to see that there is a need but remain cautious and those who have embraced it already and could share their experience.

I  learned that Coventy allow their officers a 2 hour lunchtime slot where they have access to facebook and am wondering whether this is something my own authority could follow suit on.  Will I take action on this? Again it’s a “yes” I’m going to find out a bit more about this from Coventry colleagues and send on my findings to my IT and Comms colleagues.  Will it have the desired outcome? Who knows, but again, for half an hour of my time it may be worth a try!

3.  “Culture is everything”!

There seemed to be one prevailing “topic” throughout everything for me. It isn’t rocket science or anything we don’t know already, but it’s there.  All the time.

The need to change the “culture”.  The success of any change implementation always seems to come back to this.  It seems that in general local authorities think they can manage the culture, but on the transformation changes I have seen in my own area the learning always includes a section on how the culture was a main factor in slowing down the implementation. One of the sessions talked about how we seem to be willing to bring in expertise on specifics for IT implementation but we seem to be averse to bringing in specialists for implementation of the change in culture.  Will I take action on this? Yes, but it will be a different type of action this time.  I’m going to use some of this learning to apply to my MSc. Subject on “Managing Change”.