How can local public services take a long time view?

2 min readDec 4, 2021

After taking part in The Long Time Project community of practice facilitated by Ella Saltmarshe and Beatrice Karol Burks and blogging my reflections, I invited them to share their reflections at the London Policy & Strategy Network on how local public services could take a long time view.

At the session, we broke out into groups to explore what lesson, methods or ideas we took away from the presentation and what challenges we wanted to work on with others as a result.

Reasons short-termism happens in local government:

  • Funding cycles
  • New public management thinking
  • Evaluation cycles
  • Fundraising
  • Client contracts
  • Budget constraints
  • Politics and election cycles
  • Time pressures
  • Challenge of complexity
  • Pandemic

Examples of local government taking long term actions:

  • Climate assemblies
  • Housing projects
  • Urban planning
  • Children’s services, youth violence prevention
  • Foresight analysis tools and driver mapping
  • Participatory futures methods — scenarios, visioning etc
  • Outcomes-based accountability
  • Appreciative enquiry

Questions local government should ask to take a long term view:

  • Long term thinking is powerful. make people imaginative and help them buy in some ideas
  • What trends right now point to growth in a specific industry? Is this good growth? What are the outcomes we can prevent?
  • Can we use the approach/discourse similar to ‘climate change urgency’ in other policy areas, e.g. mental health?
  • How should a person’s living/housing experience feel like?
  • Whose futures are we planning for? whom are we involving? how to make it participatory?

Actions local government could take

  • Selection and promotion criteria — based on competence — not groupthink conformity
  • Prediction competitions — red teams charged with combatting cognitive biases and group-think
  • Create breakpoints in the project to make sure we achieve value
  • Use of meanwhile spaces in regeneration projects and how the space to consider the social aspects of a project in advance of finance and planning can really drive innovation
  • When people are asked to think about their offspring and future generations.
  • In the planning cycle of investment projects and thinking the unthinkable
  • It takes an inquiry, curious focused facilitation skills and another language to communicate and challenge world views




Head of Policy Design, Scrutiny & Partnerships @newhamlondon #localgov Co-founder of #systemschange & #servicedesign progs. inspired by @cescaalbanese