On 29 September, The GovTech Summit will bring together the world’s brightest technological innovators with Europe’s leading public sector decision makers to rethink how governments can operate and thrive in the new post-COVID-19 world. Some of the most prominent political and public figures leading Europe’s accelerating transfer to the digital economy and recovery from the COVID-19 crisis will share their experiences and the lessons to be learned as we go ‘From Crisis to Recovery’
The GovTech Summit is delighted to welcome FutureGov as our Premium Sponsor. Ahead of the event, we sat down with Dominic Campbell, CEO of FutureGov, to discuss his views on public sector transformation and the organisation’s role in driving change.
Hi Dom, Thank you for joining us Today – we’re looking forward to welcoming FutureGov to the GovTech Summit To start us off, could you tell us a little bit about yourself and perhaps give a short introduction to future gov and its work?
Sure, it’s great to be here. My name is Dominic Campbell, I’m Chief Executive of a digital change agency called FutureGov.
What we’ve been doing for the last 10 years or so has been working alongside all levels of government, both in the UK and beyond, to help them think about their change journey.
Technology is pivotal in that, but also, we’re very focused on the organisational change and service-design challenges that come with their ambitions to move into being 21st-century organisations. We’re keenly aware of those things and work alongside government to make sure that design, tech and change are all held as one, coming together to build sustainable change and ultimately, better outcomes for citizens and communities.
The theme of this year’s GovTech Summit is ‘From Crisis to Recovery’, and speakers will discuss how the technology sector and the public sector can work together to ‘build back better’. What impact has the crisis had on the work that you do? And what does recovery look like for FutureGov and its partners?
The last six months has been as intense for us as it has been for our clients and our partners in government. We’ve been very keen to do everything that we can to support our partners to make that move, initially to remote working while also having to respond very fast to challenges on the ground, working in all levels of government both in NHSX at the national level and all the way down to a number of local authorities around the country.
Each of those partners come with their own challenges unique to the types of places, institutions, levels of governments, and each share common challenges around getting the basics in place. Being able to work across geographies and across boundaries in a way that they’ve never done before to truly take advantage of the data at their disposal and use it for good, targeting the most vulnerable in the community and supporting them in particular. We’ve all faced a wide range of challenges and at this point are starting to move into reflecting on the lessons we’ve learned along the way.
I’d say that probably comes in two halves.There’s one side of it which is consolidating the gains. You may have moved to Microsoft 365, as the NHS did almost overnight, or started to use video consultations, but how do you actually consolidate that? Recognising that we have the technology, how do we ensure that our culture is able to make the most of it and actually make the most of the opportunities in front of us.
Alongside that, there’s a lot of thinking happening around transitions. How do we take our organisations and our places from where they were to where they might be? Some of that’s quite blue-sky thinking and to some degree, quite hard for people to get their heads around. For us in this transitional phase, it’s important that we support places, supporting government organisations to better engage with their communities and better work with their staff to embed the approaches for change.
I don’t think anyone truly knows where all this will end up. It’s important that we start to plot the path to the future and start to think about how we put one foot in front of the other, taking one decision after another until we get into a place where we’re ready for the future.
One thing’s for sure though: radicalism is definitely in the air like never before in my 20 years in government. I feel like the leaders across government are recognising that they’ve covered off the basics of technology, but now it’s time for them to think very deeply and differently about their operating models and their ways of working in a post-pandemic age.
At the summit FutureGov will be bringing together a panel of leaders titled ‘The future of London: bringing councils in communities together as catalysts for change’. How should organisations be looking at the diverse assets around them and working alongside the community and other organisations in their places to make change happen?
As an organisation, FutureGov probably spends half its life in central government and half in local authorities and local health systems of different types. When you’re at that sharp end of engaging with your community, it carries a certain sort of awareness of user needs and the needs of your communities. But also, it puts at your disposal a really diverse range of assets across councils, healthcare partners, volunteers and also local private organisations.
I think what we’ve found working in places like Camden, Kingston, Trafford, Northeast Lincolnshire, in Grimsby and around the country, whilst there has been years of great work in place around community engagements and partnership building, really trying to ensure that there’s that sort of social capital in connection between organisations in local places to respond as effectively as people have during this crisis, I think it’s become obvious that there’s some work to be done in areas like health and social care integration, partnership working with the voluntary and community sector, and that actually is better bound together through technology and data than it has been previously.
There’s been very much a reliance on meeting in coffee shops, meetups between senior leaders and organisations, making sure include some of that social capital in a crisis. What we’re seeing now is that many councils in particular – as place leaders – are thinking about how we can better use our technology and data to wire better connections. How to make more consistent, reliable connections between these organisations so that during a second wave, during future crises, we have a much more rapid, effective and reliable platform for understanding the challenges in front of us, peoples real needs and how we best use all the assets at our disposal to solve those problems and really support the community?‘
Finally, the Gov Tech Summit champions the role of private sector entrepreneurs and innovators in improving public services to the benefit of citizens. But technology is only part of FutureGov’s approach, with design and organisation key to your work, too. Can you tell us a bit more about this?
This is a really fundamental one for us. My background is as a bureaucrat. I started in local government and I’ve gone through the cycle of technology-led change rather than problem or opportunity-led change. And that’s something that I’ve made sure that we’ve baked into the heart of FutureGov from the very beginning. We really try to focus all of our approaches on making sure we’re experts in truly understanding the political constraints and opportunities, the financial situation, the employee experience, employee aspirations in a government organisation. But equally, through human-centred design and design research, understanding how we best support the lives of people who are on the receiving end of public services. And, marry up those two positions.
I think, too often, we take an organisation-centric approach to change, which really looks at business processes and efficiency alone.That needs to be overlaid, at this time more than ever, with truly understanding people’s aspirations and needs. What we find is, communities need far less than government might design and engineer from the top-down, baking in inefficiency and ineffectiveness through the policy design process. If we’re truly engaged and truly connected from the bottom-up at the same time, we should be able to build just enough government, enabled by technology, data and 21st-century methods to actually meet the needs of our citizens in the most effective, cost effective and relevant way possible.
If we come at ay problem without looking at it in three dimensions, we’re very likely to either miss a trick in understanding what technology is capable of doing, misapply it to the politics or finances of an organisation, or equally and most importantly, miss the actual needs and requirements of citizens in a way that makes government ineffective in its goals.
So for us, design, tech and change are fundamental in our approach in thinking about what 21st-century public services look like.
Are there any words of advice you might have for public bodies starting out on their transformation journey?
I find design is a useful Trojan horse for change in many respects. If you really go back to first principles, truly engaging people, truly listening to the challenges that people inside organisations face and also the people we serve, you really do start to uncover some very basic truths around what it is that you’re there for and where you might go. That enables you then to focus on the type of technology you might then be able to benefit from, rather than essentially taking it all and trying to make it fit a situation.
My advice is always in taking that step back, understanding the world around you and drawing on the really rich range of technology available to supercharge the solutions that address some of our most pressing social challenges.
Join FutureGov, Dominic along with ministers, policy makers and innovators at the GovTech Summit, 29 September 2020. Register for your free pass at www.GovTechSummit.eu