Research Project

Councils should make more use of pilots and trials to test innovative policy ideas
29 March, 2017

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Councils should focus their energies on understanding how the motivations of the public can be harnessed to help councils to be more productive, and then use this information to rapidly experiment and pilot new ideas, a report published today by NLGN has found.

The report, carried out in association with Norse Group and PPL, found that councils should trial new ideas on a small scale, evaluate their success, and move on to new ideas if they are not constructive.

The sector should then be less embarrassed about admitting failure, and better at sharing these examples of what does and does not work, to prevent unsuccessful ideas and pilots being repeated in other councils.

Lucy Terry, senior researcher at NLGN said:

“Councils can potentially increase their productivity and their impact by working with others. We found lots of ways in which councils are already taking a fresh, innovative approach to collaboration and who they partner with.

“But 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.”

As local government comes under ever increasing financial pressures, councils must focus on squeezing more impact from every pound, while still providing quality services. The report focuses on ways they can do this in collaboration with others.

Claire Kennedy, Joint Managing Director at PPL said:

“The twin challenges of an ageing population and financial pressure facing the public sector today are well-known and extremely complex. For us, the key to increasing productivity is about working and thinking differently.

“Coproduction and collaboration are ways that organisations can work in partnership to enable more effective delivery, and to create the services that we need for the future.”

The research also found a number of other ways that councils could improve their collaboration to help productivity, including:

  • hosting ‘hack days’ with their employees to find ways to reform existing processes and make short-term productivity gains.
  • forming links with sectors who provide services to the general public and who could potentially identify and maintain contact with vulnerable people. Local authorities could start by mapping all the universal customer service providers in their areas, ranging from bus drivers and binmen to pharmacists, and identify who they could fruitfully collaborate with.
  • collaborating more widely with non-local government groups in both the private and third sector, in order to gain new insights into how they can be more productive.
  • Introducing ‘collaboration champions’ to lead in identifying new and unlikely partners, and co-ordinate insight into what is most effective.

Norse Sales Director Geoff Tucker added:

“Norse Group has a track record of delivering cost savings to our local government partners. These have been achieved largely though increasing productivity, whilst preserving service standards. Collaboration has been one of the main drivers in improving efficiency, along with investment in innovation.

“Those councils which embrace collaborative working and experimentation will undoubtedly reap the rewards in the long term.”

Publication Date: 29 March 2017
Authored by: Lucy Terry