Navigating different models of local government

Councils are faced with having to reinvent themselves in times of great uncertainty. Of course, councils are more complex than these archetypes, either through choice as they are testing out different models for different contexts or transitions — zones of innovation — or because they have no choice — moving from Local Federations to A&E Zones, as sharing and trading predicated on growth no longer works as a business model, or even when they’re coming out of crisis — moving from A&E Zones to Communities in Control — like Detroit, Bologna or Lille have shown.

We focus on local councils and communities, but what are the roles, choices and actions of other anchor organisations in your local area? Be the other public sector organisations, like a hospital, police, fire or university, or from the civil society sector, like community organisations, charities or businesses.

A business moving out like Ford or Vauxhall have done or a business coming in like Amazon coming into Doncaster, has significant effects, not just on workers, but on the wider economy — the supply chain, hospitality, high streets — which gain or lose massive communities — i.e. loss of jobs, way of life, fixed homogenous generational life of car factory employees versus the zero hours, transient nature of an Uber workforce.

What are the impacts on places of the different archetypes?

1. A&E Zones

People will feel less protected, businesses will have fewer people and workers using their cafes, contractors of services will lose businesses.

2. Local Federations

People may feel fewer employees due to the threat of automation, but other sectors might see the need to use technology better themselves, either to supply newer public services or compete with them. People may need more evidence if there’s a greater focus on commissioning.

3. Communities in Control

You may see more people protesting at council cuts, more people putting their ideas into practice, charities feeling challenged by more democratic and agile ways of providing goods and businesses may be more likely to interact with self-organising networks.

4. Neighbourhood Platforms

While people and workers may feel challenged to adapt, providers of public services will be challenged to deliver more local employment and give back to the neighbourhood. Community-based infrastructure could attract other businesses to invest and use it for their needs — in terms of energy, water or housing, and external investors who want to test new products.

Some councils are reinventing themselves and building new models.

What models can you see emerging on the local government horizon? In the UK and beyond?

What models are other place-based organisations developing that local government could learn from (i.e. Buurtzog, Bromford Lab, Civic Square, etc.)?

Head of Strategy (Communities) @camdencouncil #localgov Director @euroalter Co-founder of #systemschange & #servicedesign progs. inspired by @cescaalbanese