Transforming the relationship between councils and citizens

October 12, 2018   By Matt Skinner, Managing Director, FutureGov

On 18 July 2018, NLGN partnered with FutureGov to host our latest Innovation Exchange at their offices in London. All of our Innovation Exchanges produce a detailed Insights Report available exclusively to NLGN members. This is the Foreword to the latest Insights Report, written by Matt Skinner, Managing Director of FutureGov.

FutureGov was delighted to host the latest NLGN’s Innovation Exchange in our London office, where participants from local authorities came together to discuss transforming the relationship between councils and their citizens. Through open discussion, we debated what new relationships might look like, identified some of the obstacles and building blocks and shared practical examples of ways we could create lasting change.

It was widely agreed that councils need to move from a transactional relationship with their citizens to a more collaborative one. Building collaborative relationships between a council and its residents is an important and powerful way to have more authentic conversations with residents. It builds shared understanding of the challenges councils and their communities are facing.

Ethnographic research was one of the practical approaches discussed that is helping councils better understand the needs and opportunities of their communities. FutureGov has supported a number of councils with this approach over the last ten years. By immersing ourselves in communities and carrying out in-depth research, we are able to visualise the difference between a council’s perceived problems versus the actual problems residents face. This rich insight helps councils to understand problems from citizens’ direct experience, opening up opportunities to face them in unique ways.

Meaningful engagement with communities relies on transforming the culture and structures in councils. We discussed the new skills, ways of working and governance structures that are needed to work in different ways with communities. Ultimately all of this will require buy-in from leaders, senior officers and politicians and the need to make bold decisions.

FutureGov was proud to partner with NLGN for this timely discussion. At a time when communities are increasingly divided over complex issues such as Brexit, growing inequality and distrust with wider government, it’s important that we work together across authorities to build new ways of working. Only in supporting each other and focusing on citizen needs will be able to build better, lasting relationships.

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