Learning en route
In a previous blog post, I wrote about the process of adapting policy to the new environment we find ourselves in. Some of the key principles I’ve learnt over the last year from these lessons are:
- Many of the key opportunities that frontline staff think should be amplified were started pre-Covid 19 and can be accelerated.
- We will need to build on the shared sense of purpose and urgency to energise people to work across teams on shared challenges.
- We will need to work together across services to adapt and identify where we are best placed to lead, collaborate, or support others to lead.
- Our residents face changing needs that can be invisible, we need to better value their creativity and strengths in tackling those.
- We need to empower people closest to the problem to tackle these issues.
- We will need to continue embedding digital into how we work and rethink how we use our physical spaces in this new normal.
- Even though Covid-19 is still with us, there’s an opportunity to move from working at the pace of the emergency to work at the pace of our communities, to involve people inclusively.
How we work
Covid-19 has radically changed how we work as staff, presenting both new opportunities and challenges. Increased remote working, greater flexibility in roles and increased working together were all areas people wanted to build on. Improvements in technology and support from managers were areas to be developed further. However, clear too is the impact on certain staff groups — including those with caring responsibilities, or with health needs — and how we adapt to accommodate their needs in this new environment.
There is a risk that people start to return to old ways of working, so there is a need to support people to embed new ways of working and understand that we can’t return to the past, whilst helping people feel secure. There is a need to give people opportunities to bring ideas and shape the way forward, rather than just doing this at higher levels — this may include creating opportunities for people from any part of the organisation to work together on practical challenges.
There are opportunities to be more radical and drive change for organisations in how they support staff to work in the future?
What is the future role of our offices if many of us continue to work more remotely? How can we help remote workers feel more like the office?
How can we build the connections or structures between teams to collaborate?
How could we change the principles of how we work, with the tools and support to do this. For example, working in the open and collaboratively, rhythms and working patterns, involving people in developing solutions.?
Lessons so far
Impact on residents & communities
There has been a significant impact on our local communities as a result of COVID-19 and the government’s response to this.
We can see across the country the negative impact on key areas of people’s lives like education, climate change, digital divide, health and financial resilience and the likelihood that existing inequalities will worsen.
These new impacts have significantly altered the context for how councils deliver in the future.
However, residents have adapted quickly to changes in services over the past few months. We know the pandemic could result in greater socio-economic need in our communities, raising questions around the shape and offer of services.
In the medium term, the pandemic could result in a greater demand for services beyond the resources available to councils. That’s why we need to think carefully about our role within a wider state and system–and the importance of empowering residents and building on assets and strengths in our communities rather than focus on deficits and risk unintentionally creating dependency on services.
Working with partners
We can see across the public sector that relationships have been strengthened, in particular with health and the voluntary sector, and in some cases with government.
Civil society has provided vital services, with opportunities to work together with councils in the future. The local government has strengthened its position as a system leader in touch with residents and the voluntary sector, but recognising when to let others take the lead or to signpost to additional support. However, there’s also the recognition of a changing environment with funding challenges are likely to impact our partners going forward.